With two races in the 15 event series for the German Cycling Cup under my belt, I looked forward to race 3, the “Rund um Köln-Challenge” . . . basically “Around Cologne - Challenge” like no other. The venue was set to provide 124 km (77 miles) and 1390 m (4560 ft) of climbing. I was going to race my way into the best shape of my life. It was on and Dragon Quest Coaching was helping . . .
Claudia and I rolled 4+ hrs North to the wonderful city of Köln and the magical mixture of Kölsch beer with a day to spare. Having visited Köln before, I was determined not to indulge (too much) as I remained focused on a mission and purpose. I was light, lean, and faking lethal. I had 2 of the 3 great components and hoped few would know my secret . . . “...fake it ‘til you make it...”
So after a day in town I went to sleep putting my game face on. Showers had come and gone a few times during the day and the weather forecast for Sunday indicated an 82% chance of rain. I almost did a back flip when I woke and saw the chance was only 50%. I will take those odds any day. I am the king of the coin toss and actually passed many exams when flipping a coin to determine whether or not to choose answer B or C . . . C always won!
As I rolled out of from the hotel I almost gave Claudia my cycling jacket. The roads were dry and the temps right around 50. This was perfect! Yet the cycling gods knew better and after listening to the little angle at my side I took the jacket w/ me as I rolled to meet my 2 DragonQuest Racers p/b SLACRs teammates . . . HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) and DIESEL (Matt Arant) . . .
I was able to hook up w/ DIESEL as we were both slated in the same start block. HAMMER was two blocks behind so mentally I told myself I had to ride my backside off to stay in front of him. Over the first two courses HAMMER’s time has been consistently 30 min or more faster than the TURTLE . . . BEAST! I need to stay up the road and when he came through I would jump on and ride the wave. Or so I thought . . .
In the minutes before the start a light rain started. I was thankful that I had my jacket and quickly put it on as we started our slow roll to the start line. The announcer started his countdown and as soon as the start gun was fired it started hail pellets started playing “Stairwell to Heaven” on my helmet and top tub. First few meters into a 124 km ride . . . this was going to be epic!!!
For about the first 10 minutes we rode through hail and then rain at a near rocket pace out the gate. Riders were all over the road to avoid painted lines, cross railway tracks without falling, and just not loose the wheel in front as you ate dirt. At some point I lost DIESEL and settled into my groove as the climbing would start 10K (6 miles) into the race. I figured I would join a group and catch up with him. However that did not happen. He settled into his own groove and motored forward . . .
We got through 1500 ft of climbing in the first 2 hours and I was riding my best despite the weather conditions. We even went up a cobblestone section that sent many to their feet to walk up the incline. I dug deep not to fall and pressed forward. My legs were working it . . .
However, my hands were starting to freeze. I soon lost feeling in my finger tips (it’s now 4 days later and I still don’t have feeling in a few fingers--crazy I know). It was at this point my hands just stop working. Shifting became a chore, breaking even more so. And I still had 2 hrs and another 60K to go. I have to dig deep into the TURTLE shell . . .
About 3 hours in the sun finally gave way but it was only a tease. It later hid and was replaced by more rain and more hail. It was at this point I was hoping for something to go wrong on my bike, someone to run into me, or someone to just catch me when I fell. I was starting to break. What started as cracks in the TURTLE shell were becoming large rips and crevices.
At the 4 hour mark and about 15K from the finish the official car rolled up along side me and announce that the race was over and the roads were now open for traffic. I could keep riding or get in the bus. I turned to the guy next to me and for some reason said, “I’m not getting in that bus!” . . . Wet, cold, and equally broken he responded, “Me neither...”
So the Broom Wagon was on my 6. As it and a vehicle full of bikes passed, it was packed. Faces were pressed up against the window showing the resultant pain and misery from the weather conditions. I started the mental gymnastics in my cranium to motivate and propel me forward. I had to finish. The cracks and tears in the TURTLE shell would heal and I would one day get warm so ahead I pushed.
|Still Faking It!|
Having to now stop for lights and traffic drug the last 15K out. As I rolled up to the finish the course was closed for a U23 (under 23) circuit race. Thus I had to pick my way along the barriers to the end of the course with a rag tag group of other broken cats that refused the bus . . . we were even talking trash now.
I made it to the finish and to my surprise there was Claudia. She had braved the weather and best of all she had a piece of Apfelkuchen. I devoured it with my frozen fingers in defiance of the Broom Wagon!
Next event is 140 km (~87 miles) but a lot less climbing. Hope the feeling in my fingers returns soon. But it really does not matter as the TURTLE shell is repaired and I have a race to do . . .