We last left our not-so-young TURTLE feeling über good about himself after a solid Time Trail (TT) performance at the German Zeitfahren Cup. He even followed up the very next week shaving a full minute off his time on the local Stuttgart Local Area biCycle Riders (SLACRs) course. Oh yeah, June was the month TURTLE would make TT history. It was on!!!
Oh how I get ahead of myself . . .
After two good events I started a back slide. Workouts became sporadic, work became a bit more intense, and a few stressors that I will not mention without alcohol close by began to impede on my quest for bikeROCKstar status. I was loosing focus. My caloric calculus was starting to reverse as I starting taking in more than I burned and my too big clothes were beginning to fit again . . . it’s almost funny how fast the body reverses it’s course when the only thing you find yourself being able to focus on is a bag of chips and a beer on the table.
But again, I digress . . .
The Deutschland Grand Prix is event 7 of 15 in the Germany Cycling Cup Series--almost half way through my season...YES!!! The Specialize-sponsored event is a 2-day Time Trial (TT) effort with individual TTs on Day 1 and a 2-man and 4-man event on Day 2. At the beginning of the season our DragonQuest Racers p/b SLACRs had long looked at this event with a desire to field two 4-man squads. But as you can imagine, a 4-man synchronized TT effort takes time and effort in advance. We failed to herd enough kittens to make this a reality. We did put fourth two 2-man squads to continue our effort for recognition on the European racing scene. The dedicate and committed few continue to ride forward . . .
After a week of good weather, Mother Nature decided the roads needed watering over the weekend. Recalling how cold and wet I was from my first race of the season (The Zeithfahren Cup Prolog) I was not looking forward to the individual TT. Temps were higher than last April but it was still wet out and as I mentioned above, I was out of balance. I was digging deep to amp myself up for the day . . .
After checking into another great hotel where the owner/staff welcome cyclist with open arms and smiles, the sun shined through the clouds and the day started to get a little brighter. The rain turned to a mist and temps stayed in the upper 50s. This was going to be doable . . .
Finding cover I set up and got ready to make it happen. I had to generate some heat and remind my legs what I was planning to do. It was a struggle! My lack of practice and focus bubbled to the surface. I had even left my water bottles in the hotel and found myself running to a local shop in search of a bottle and fluids. UGH!!! This was not starting out good at all . . .
I pushed through the 20-min Team Sky TT Warm Up protocol and struggled to reach my desired Power numbers. The warm up was not going well. My core temp started to rise so at least the TURTLE Easy Bake Oven was working. I just need to install a bigger light bulb one day in order to crank out a bit more than the 175 Watts I seem to fall back on on the road. My calls to the engine room are often ignored and my little bulb tends to flicker under heavy loads. I’m improving but still have a long way to go . . .
I finished my warmup and began my move to the start house with 15 minutes to go. Perfect! Like everyone else I left everything in place and focused on making it to the line. That is one seriously KOOL ‘n da GANG thing about being here in Europe . . . no one messes with your stuff. This was not true on the base this week as some poor soul decided to snag my Garmin 705. I guess they needed it more than I did. If I see some cat posting duplicate K’s and segments in Strava there will be hell to pay . . . but that is another story as well.
I was mentally prepared for the start as I made my way up to the line. The gap between racers was 30 sec. My eyes focused on the guy that started right in front of me. I would repeat my last effort and then some. Today was going to be my day. At least this was the story I was telling myself . . .
Out the gate I went. Making the first turn I wished I had pre-rode the route like 2 of my teammates. I was far from smooth through the first set of turns. Up the road I saw my 30-sec man and I was closing in. Oh yeah . . . the TURTLE Easy Bake Oven was in full effect as power flowed through my legs. This cat was mine!
Did I mention I should have pre-rode the course? Well, I started up a rather long climb digging deep. Driven by the simple pleasure of passing the guy in front of me I dug deeper. I mashed on the gears and told my legs to give me more power. Halfway up the rise the gap was decreasing. Despite the rain, wet roads, and wind. I was making it happen. It was awesome . . .
Then it happened . . .
I over heated the TURTLE Easy Bake Oven and burred the cupcake! My heartrate soared over 190 bpm. Hitting my genetic upper limit -- I blew a fuse. In fact, I blew multiple fuses before cresting the climb as my internal circuit panel lit up like a Christmas Tree. My 30-sec man began to pull away. I was cooked, the cupcake was burned, and still had 25 K of racing to do. The suffer factor was now on . . . my eyes were bigger than my legs and I was paying for it with every pedal stroke.
|A Partially Cooked TURTLE|
I took about 5 K to recover and push my lung back into my chest. At this point I was humbled as folks started passing me.
I took the lesson, settled into my groove and got back on it. Making the turn around, I pushed hard (close to but not over the redline) to get a negative split. I had to redeem some portion of my dignity. On the way back I spotted another piece of my lung on the side of the road. I left it there as a memorial . . .
My finish reminded me of the World Championship TT in which I finished 79th out of 81. Here I was 40-something out of 40-something. I was not last but very close to it. UGH!!! Not what I wanted or expected. Need to regain my focus and get back on it . . .
I took a few verbals from my Coach that added to my lesson on the day. Dragon Quest Coaching was not happy with my effort either. I manned up as best I could and made a promise I would redeem myself on Day 2. It would just have to happen . . . no excuses.
At this point I really need to give serious props to Doni Anderson. The lone female racer on our crew finished her individual TT in a complete downpour. She showed true mental toughness. I need some of that . . .
After a free open air concert from a local band, Day 2 of the Grand Prix started GRAND! The sun was out, the temps were up, and I knew what to expect from the course. Redemption time!!!
I was paired up with Jeff HAMMER Pannaman. HAMMER finished 7 minutes ahead of me on the individual TT. We had practiced a few time together but still lacked true elegance on the road. We were a very sad set of spandex covered unsynchronized swimmers. But at least we were in matching kit!!!
It was impressive to see the 4-man teams line up and roll out. This will remain out goal for next season but we had to get through today first!
HAMMER and I warmed up out of the sun and between intervals on the trainer, we discussed the course. I would attempt to lead up the climbs, not blow up, and leverage HAMMER’s power on the flat sections. I would take pulls when I could to give him a break. It was all good in theory . . .
We made our way to the start and were off. I took the first pull and got us through the first set of turns. We started up the long climb and I geared accordingly. I could not afford to blow a fuse today. HAMMER on the other hand was on fire! He had a great warmup and it showed. He would pull away from me on almost every pull. I had serious trouble pulling through. I was on the edge of my limit and he was not even in the yellow. He was a BEAST!
|HAMMER making it look easy!|
Before the turn around we were caught by the group behind us and then another. HAMMER yelled, “there goes 1st . . . there’s 2nd...we are still on the podium TURTLE...let’s go!”
I was crushed when the 3rd group passed us. HAMMER yelled, "...Darn it, we are off the podium now!" Unable to contribute, I was holding HAMMER back...UGH!!! We paired a Ford Escort up with a BMW and it was just not working. However, forward I went. “We” had to finish . . .
The turn around was a 14% down hill, around a church, and back up. I was doing my best to cook any descent to make up time. At the turn around I overbaked a turn, locked up my rear wheel and started a Tokyo Drift towards the curb. With Hammer a few meters behind me I thought to myself, “...this was going to leave a mark!”
Though only an Angel’s pity, I did not lay the bike down, I regained control finished the turn and started up the climb with HAMMER leading the way through a flurry of cow bells and cheers. There was an announcer in the crowd and our names and team name was called out across the speaker system. Words of encouragement followed yelling “GO! GO! GO!” over the speaker system. This was amateur racing with a pro feel . . . it was AWESOME!!!
|My "One" good pull!|
HAMMER was still on fire and called out the terrain and turns. I found some spare Watts and took a few pulls as we headed for home. We hit the final crest with 2 K to go and let it fly. We finished 3 min slower than HAMMER’s solo effort and 4+ min faster than mine. I gave over 100% in the effort. I was cooked from head to toe . . . HAMMER was barely breaking a sweat. Did I not say he is a BEAST!
Thanks to HAMMER we were not last. However our 56+ min time was a long way from the 47+ min winners. These cats averaged 43+ kph over the course. This is “Jedermann” (everyone) racing . . . AMAZING. I had truly underestimated the level of competition of this field. This may not be the major leagues but it is not the minors either.
The head of the German amateur cycling effort spoke the day prior and praised such events as great places to compete. That is true and then some . . .
We are half way through the season now and I am reflecting on what I can do better next year. I need to get my focus back and finish stronger in order to build a platform to move up next season. I refuse to let setbacks blur my vision. Delays will happen but my quest for bikeROCKstar status will continue. My legs will catch up to my eyes one day and I will finish in the top of the pack if not on the podium Of this I remain certain . . .