The German-French duo consisting of Steffen Thum and Rémi Laffont were already victorious in 2016, making them favourites to win the tour again this year. The long-distance specialists put on a masterful performance to end up on the winners’ rostrum after the tour through the Pyrenees, which starts on the Mediterranean coast and ascends through the mountains to finish on the Atlantic. “This isn’t one of those everyday bike races that you just take part in for the fun of it. Crossing the Pyrenees on a mountain bike is about a lot more than pedalling. It’s the personal challenge, your bike, team spirit and connecting with your partner,” says Rémi Laffont about the seven-day race, which involves tackling more than 100km of gruelling mountain tracks and an average of 3000 metres of ascents per day.
Although Thum and Laffont held back a bit in the early stages after the start in the Mediterranean coastal town of Roses, they still ranked among the top ten teams after the initial stages. But it was only after the midway point that the experienced World Cup professionals started raising the pace, not only notching up the stage win for the longest and most challenging stage from Jaca to Auritz, but also clinching their place on the podium for the overall rankings. “You’ve got to be careful not to push it too much on the tricky terrain. Even if you’re determined to go for it, you have to know your own physical limitations and respect them. We knew our day would come, so when it did, naturally we were ready to strike,” says Thum, summarising the stage win. Actually, the gruelling part on the longest day of the tour came towards the end as the stage entered the mountain passes. It was at this point, after around five hours of pedalling, that Thum and Laffont shook off the competition, leaving the duo to tackle the last ascent of roughly 1000 metres by themselves.
By the time the duo completed the tour on the Atlantic coast, their consistent performance over seven days and of course the stage win on the longest stretch resulted in a well-earned position on the rostrum for the overall rankings. For MTB Racingteam, the result is a hugely successful start to the summer season of stage races. Commenting on their achievement after finishing in Hondarribia, the team captain said, “This success really boosts our self-confidence and it’s even more of a motivation to sink our teeth into the rest of the racing season. The TransPYR is an unbelievably difficult race, but it’s also pretty amazing.” Looking back at the seven stages – no less than 800 kilometres of pedalling and an overall ascent of more than 20,000 metres – Thum says: “It was a bit of an ordeal, but bottom line we came away from the week with more positive energy in us than the race managed to take out of us.”