- Stage 3 was highlighted by a monstrous climb that topped out around 9,000 feet, which was both above treeline and the snow line. Needless to say it was a little chilly. Photo: Jason Sumner
- TransAlp champion Karl Platt's full carbon hardtail 29er Bulls bike. Notice the ultra-slammed stem, yet another indication of the road-race nature of this 8-day MTB stage race. Photo: Jason Sumner
- Platt runs a full Shimano XTR drivetrain setup with double chainring and a 24-tooth inner ring to make spinning up the endless (and steep) climbs a little more comfortable. Photo: Jason Sumner
- Platt runs Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires mated with, take a guess? If you said Stan's wheels, winner, winner, chicken dinner. Photo: Jason Sumner
- One exception to the 29er rule is Topeak-Ergon's Sally Bigham of Great Britain, who's piloted her hardtail 26er to a place atop the women's standings along with teammate Milena Landtwing. Photo: Jason Sumner
- German Robert Mennen (bike pictured) and teammate Alban Lakata of Austria scored the stage 4 victory aboard full carbon Grand Canyon CF SLX 29er hardtails. Photo: Jason Sumner
- German brand Kreidler provides the hardtail 29ers for the Black Tusk racing team, which includes the third-placed squad in the mixed team competition, Germans Katherina Alberti and Matthias Gartner. Photo: Jason Sumner
- Even the number plates take a beating here at the TransAlp. Photo: Jason Sumner
Considering a run at a 2013 TransAlp finisher’s jersey and want to know what bike to bring? Well, if the front of this 1,000-ride field is any indication, grab the ultra-light 29er hardtail and book your plane ticket to Germany.
Indeed, during an afternoon stroll through the race expo on Tuesday after the conclusion of stage 4 in Scuol, Switzerland, Singletrack.com found that a large percentage of the top riders are foregoing rear suspension and embracing big wheeled bikes.
That includes 2011 TransAlp winners and current 3rd place on GC occupants Karl Platt and Tim Bohme (Team Bulls), and stage 4 winner and second-place overall teammates Alban Lakata and Robert Brennen (Topeak-Ergon).
As for personal experience, your author can’t argue with those choices. The vast majority of this race is spent on non-singletrack terrain. In fact, according to the race bible the surface totals are as follows: gravel (45.5 percent), tarmac cyclepath (27.2 percent), tarmac road (11.3 percent), singletrack (9.5 percent), hiking trail (5.9 percent), and everybody’s favorite, push/carry (0.6 percent). Needless to say, leave the trail bike at home and do a ton of monstrous hill climb training for this adventure.
Here’s a look at some of the bikes from the front of the race, plus a few other interesting tech (and scenic) sights at the midway point of this 8-day stage race that traverses the main chain of the Alps from Germany to Italy, concluding July 21 in Riva del Garda.