Rick Zabel rides the Grossglockner on a Taycan road trip to Austria’s highest charging station
With a Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo for support, the pro cyclist takes on the highest road in Austria
Man cycling up mountain with Porsche Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo
Rick Zabel drives a Taycan Cross Turismo to Austria’s highest mountain for a cycling training session
Nestling in the clouds at 3,798m above sea level, the Grossglockner is Austria’s highest mountain. Taking you there is the soaring Grossglockner High Alpine Road, a winding route that twists and turns dramatically into the sky. The road is so high that it’s only open for six months of the year. The rest of the time it’s covered in snow – there’s still some on the peaks even in the height of summer. Making the journey even more arduous is unpredictable weather that, in an instant, changes from torrential rain to strong winds and, eventually, sunshine. In a car, it’s a thrilling drive, especially behind the wheel of a Porsche Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo. Epic landscapes, sheer drops, ear-popping altitude changes – the drive is not for the faint of heart. But what’s it like to cycle up the highest mountain road in Austria? To find out, we’re following pro cyclist Rick Zabel on a climb up to the clouds.
Man rides bike on mountain road closely followed by a Porsche
As part of his training, Rick Zabel is riding the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, the highest road in Austria
Can you carry a bike on a Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo?Rick is here to train for upcoming races in Germany and the Czech Republic – and the Grossglockner is the perfect base to hone his skills. “I’m training for the last stretch of the season. That's why I’m cycling up the Grossglockner. It's a huge mountain, and it's a great place to test your skills,” says Rick. Fitted with a Porsche Tequipment bike rack, the Taycan is Rick’s support vehicle as he ascends the gruelling Grossglockner trail. Inside is his coach, on hand to provide motivation, equipment and much-needed refreshments throughout the journey.
Man cycling road bike, mountains behind him
Rick is a natural sprinter, but he’s enjoying ascending the majestic Grossglockner
It’s an unseasonably damp start at the bottom of the climb – but then as a cyclist, Rick is used to how quickly the weather can change in the mountains. At 48km in length and with 36 bends, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road climbs and climbs before flattening out to reveal Austria’s largest national park. “It's a big challenge,” adds Rick. “It’s a very steep climb – the incline is about 10 per cent on average – and you climb non-stop for about an hour. It’s a tough challenge – both physically and mentally – because the climb is so steep all the time. The weather changes a lot the higher you get and the air gets thinner, so it’s a big test for my body.”“First your legs hurt, then your lungs start to hurt the higher up you go,” Rick continues – although the way Rick rides, you wouldn’t think he’s struggling. He climbs up the steep mountain pass at a brisk pace, effortlessly overtaking slower cyclists, with the Taycan close behind to provide support. “In the Taycan I have my energy gels and bars, water bottles, rain jacket and arm warmers, which my coach hands out to me while I’m riding. Having my coach with me helps me mentally, especially when I have to dig deeper on the steeper parts of the climb. So it’s very important to have a support car with me up here in the mountains.”
Cyclist takes bottle of water handed to him from car
The Porsche Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo following Rick up the Grossglockner provides much-needed mid-ride support
The Zabel family cycling legacyTo say that cycling is in Rick’s blood would be an understatement. His father, Erik Zabel, is one of the top riders of his era, with more than 200 professional race wins and 25 Grand Tour finishes. His grandfather and uncle were also professional cyclists. “Everyone, at least the male part of my family, spent a lot of their time on a bike. I grew up around bicycles and started racing when I was 12. I turned pro when I was 18, and I’ve been doing it for over 10 years now. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved so far. Being a professional cyclist doesn’t really feel like a job: it’s like a beloved hobby, and that’s a beautiful thing. I’m living my dream.”
View from inside a car as cyclist corners mountain bend
The high-altitude hairpins of the Grossglockner are the perfect place for Rick to practice his racing line on the descent
Rick, who rides for the Israel Premier Tech pro cycling team, has competed in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia four times each. Renowned for his sprinting ability, he’s been described as one of the top five lead-out riders in the world, the rider whose job it is to guide their team’s lead sprinter safely to the front of the pack in the last few hundred metres of a race. As a sprinter, Rick naturally prefers the descent, but he’s enjoying the climb up the Grossglockner. He says: “It’s a long process. At the foot of the mountain you feel like, OK, it’s going to be hard to get to the top. And then minute by minute, kilometre by kilometre, you get closer to your goal. When you finally reach the top, it feels like a great achievement.”
Man plugging charging cable into Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
A quick pit stop for man and machine to refuel and recharge
Cycling up the Grossglockner With the summit in sight, Rick reflects on the climb: “The Grossglockner is one of the toughest and certainly the biggest climbs in Austria. I’ve done it twice on the Tour of Austria – it’s always the ‘queen stage’ because the landscape is so dramatic and tough. Riding the Grossglockner feels like pure freedom.”Not far from the highest point on the road is F.A.T. Mankei, a restaurant that pays homage to automotive culture and serves up what is probably the best coffee in the Alps. There are a couple of chargers here to top up the batteries of the Taycan, but refuelling is kept strictly to espressos. Rick and the Taycan then push on to the charging station on the other side of the mountain. Connected from here by two long tunnels, it’s the highest charging station in Austria – and soon we’re ready to dock. The Taycan still has plenty of range despite the arduous climb up here, but the batteries are given a top-up while Rick enjoys the views and solitude of this breathtaking Alpine scene.
Porsche Taycan with rear cycle rack on mountain road
The ascent makes the descent so much more worthwhile… whether driving a Porsche or riding a bike
He who goes up must come down – and this is the part Rick enjoys most. “I love the descent – it’s the best part of the climb, the reward at the end. It’s fast, there’s less struggle, but you need to have a lot of concentration because you can go really fast on the straights. 70 or 80km/h is normal.” After a few corners of perfecting his racing line, Rick couldn’t resist switching to the Porsche. After securing his precious carbon fibre racing bike to the towbar-mounted bike rack on the Taycan, Rick jumps into the driver’s seat for the remainder of the descent. How similar is the feeling of riding to driving, you wonder?“On a bike it’s a bit different because I can take the racing line, going from the outside to the inside of the corner. In the car there are different rules that I have to follow,” laughs Rick. “But it’s a great feeling. The Taycan has so much power as soon as you push the pedal. It’s like sitting in a rocket. Driving back down the mountain was a lot of fun.”
How to fit the Porsche Taycan bike carrierThe low-slung Porsche Tequipment rear bike carrier reduces aerodynamic drag and is easy to fit. Simply remove the two small panels from the rear apron, insert the support tubes and rotate them 45 degrees. The carrier can then be fitted and unfolded in three quick steps. Each step locks onto the previous one, so if you don’t complete one, you can’t continue. Mounting the bikes on the carrier is also easy. With almost 15 inches of clearance, handlebars and pedals don’t interfere. The boot remains accessible when the carrier is mounted, as the rack folds away.
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