Well, school was back in session as I packed my car for a short drive north to the Hockenheim Formula 1 course for race 8 of 15 in the German Cycling Cup. I had already convinced and prepared the TURTLE shell for 90 km of pure speed on a course that would loop through sections of the track. No hills and only a light breeze in the forecast . . . the conditions were set for a power play of legs, carbon, and spandex. I would need my A++ game to ride smart, find solid wheels, and cover the 90K in just over two hours . . .
Yet, my run up to the event was again less than ideal as my ability to balance all things TURTLE is becoming increasing difficult. I was only able to get two training rides in early in the week and this is just not good enough. I considered bailing on the day as I was just not prepared as much as I wanted or should have been. However, that would mean bailing on a DragonQuest Racer p/b SLACRs teammate and was in itself a non-starter. I recalled BRICK’s words and to the Ring I went . . .
As I said, the weather conditions were perfect! After all of the races in rain and cold, I was considering applying sunscreen for the first time in months as I got ready. Wrapping a towel around my waist to slide my bike shorts on I looked around and once again realized I was no longer in Kansas . . . this was Europe!!!
While I was trying to be a bit indiscrete, my fellow racers would have nothing to do with that. Guys and gals were dropping clothes and changing in public. While I am pretty secure and open, I did not expect a trip to “Naked Land” in the Hockenheim parking lot. I considered doing the “when in Rome . . .” but decided to remain indiscrete and behind my towel. This gained a few stares as I was the only idiot hiding his private parts. So once again a TURTLE stands out in the crowd . . .
|Hockenheim Formula 1 Track|
Dressed and ready to roll I waited for HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) to arrive and start and easy spin around the parking lot with a few fast pedals and a few accelerations prior to going to the line. In hindsight, I should have found a shaded area and hit my full warmup protocol. This was yet another lesson relearned on the day . . .
As we made our way to the start I noticed that everyone was grouped together in one massive bunch. With two races going on, a 60 K and the 90 K, our numbers separated us into two groups at each distance (an A and a B). This seems to have been all ignored and we all lined up together. The mass resembled a large CAT 4/5 race x 100. Way too many cats on the course at one time . . . my TURTLE shell was starting to tingle. This did not feel right.
I was and remain spoiled by the first few races in the German Cycling Cup series. Well organized, orderly line ups . . . VERY German. This did not the case and far from my expectations. Having no chance to pre-ride the course, I assumed all would be good. I was soooooooo wrong!
An announcement was made on how the 60K riders should exit the course and after a delay the starting gun fired and we began our slow roll forward. After picking up a bit until we reached the start line and the official timing for our laps were on . . .
Guys and gals were joking for position through the mass. As we reached the 1st turn I had a CAT 5 flash back as cats began standing on their brakes to turn. Bikes were moving accordion style from right to left. Lines were broken and shouts (in German) were made. UGH!!! Why did I blow off the cornering drills the past few weeks? I was again out of practice in this domain. One wrong move and to the pavement I would go leaving scratches and scars on the TURTLE shell. I thought to myself . . . “this is going to leave a serious mark!”
After pushing to get away from a few wobbly riders, I started looking for solid wheels to follow through the turns. As the turns went both right and left, it was hard to find the best position in the pack. Add some very narrow sections of the course made being in the pack a bad idea. My attempts to get up to the front were failing. I was burning every match in the book . . . to include the wet ones in this ordeal. Lining up in the back of a mass start is a lesson I should have remembered. Another re-learned activity. More demerits on my grade sheet . . .
Crashes were starting to happen on almost every lap. The cringing sound of a “curse word” (by the way the word “sh**” seems to be universal) followed by carbon and aluminum hitting the payment echoed through the masses. Focusing forward I rolled up behind a guy missing the entire backside of his shorts. Not a pleasant sight for anyone on the back of the bus. I made my way pass the guy as he shoved his number in his shorts to cover the hole. He was determined to keep racing . . . of this I have to give serious props!
After about 5 laps the race was neutralized to allow a helicopter to medevac out a fallen rider. At this point I had already expended every watt of power from my body. After 20 minutes turned into 30 and then 40, I started to head to my car to drive home. HAMMER convinced me to stay and I lined back up to finish the race with 4 laps for the 60K riders and 7 laps for the 90K crew. By my math, this was cutting the race short. I figured I could man-up to make it happen for the shorted distance. I gave in to peer pressure . . .
The restart was a “kindler gentler” affair for the first lap. I was fortunate to find a solid group of three cats and join them in setting a tempo around the course. I have no idea how long the train behind us was but it was surely much safer being in the top 4 – 5 positions as we hit turns. Corning muscle memory begin to wake from its deep slumber as I geared for sprints out of the turns to either remain in position or take over a few others. Our group of 4 added a few others to the pace making and we started covering more ground. Taking my turn at the front and drifting back a few bike lengths, I felt like a bike racer again . . .
|Taking my turn . . . but still at the back of the bus!|
Things were going great until the final lap for the 60K riders. A few were mixed in our group and started a surge to the line. Riding the wave was fun . . . the cats sitting up after crossing the START/FINISH line was not. As some cats sprinted for 500th place . . . another CAT 5 flash back, wheels locked up to avoid crashes as riders slowly moved off the course. This was another accident waiting to happen. By the grace of the Angel I so little deserve I made it through the mass, regained my group and pushed to the complete the last few laps.
At this point I was riding hard and strong. I should have been this way out the gate. Circles in the parking lot are not a proper warm up. I need to listen to my Coach and my growing instincts and do what I know and believe to be right and true. I racked up way too many demerits at this race and know I can do better . . .
So, my grade on this assignment was a C-. I passed but only because HAMMER talked me into getting back on the bike. I have a race every weekend for the next 5. I will improve my score . . . I will finish the season a bikeROCKstar!