The 2009 Tour de Ephrata, in the great American state of Pennsylvania, was the last time my TURTLE sticks attempted a 3-stage race. That race include a road race, a hill climb Time Trial (TT), and finished with a criterium. I believe that event is no longer held but it most certainly deepened the cycling hook into my side. So when I saw the Rothaus Riderman on the race schedule last year, my mouth once again wrote a check that my legs would have to pay the balance on in full . . .
Rothaus Riderman is event 14 of 15 in the German Cycling Cup. The three stages, a TT and two road races of 92 and 85 km marked races 16 thru 18 for me. I was tired thinking of the effort ahead but forward I went. Silly TURTLE!!! I had set the event apart as my primary race for the season. All roads were to lead to Riderman and I was going to crush it. Oh yeah, my mouth was in full projection mode . . . my knees on the other hand were shaking.
Initially a mass of riders stepped forward to race under the “DragonQuest Racers presented by SLACRs” title. But as with all things extra on our plates, life steps in, schedules change, and commitments go to maybes and some excuses like, “I don’t do that race thing” are thrown in as a nice way of saying “shut up TURTLE and leave me alone…I just want to ride my bike.”
Well, I too had a list of excuses why I should have stayed home. Unfortunately my legs were compelled to push the TURTLE Shell forward and make good on the smack my mouth continued to talk. Four others dedicated to the task and a Fabulous Five made the drive south to the closest race venue of the GCC series. While far from the eight we had in our 1st race, the math had improved over our average of two riders per event so I was happy to have the companny. We even talked race strategy . . . we were sooooooo foolish!
Despite our bravado, the Rothaus Riderman is a class act. There is an overall leader’s and best young rider jersey for both sexes. With real-time GPS tracking and over 3000 m of climbing, there is also a King of the Mountain jersey for both sexes. And to top the chain . . . there are leader jersey’s for each age group (Masters I - III) male and female. These blew me away and strengthened my resolve to one day wear yellow as a bikeROCKstar in my age group.
I looked at the course profile and consider the Friday TT a short and sweet affair in which I would make happen averaging as close to 40 kph as I could on the first run of my rebuilt TT rig. I was dreaming!
While short, the bitter climb out the gate began to chip away at the tiles on the TURTLE shell. My attempts to turn the cranks on the large chainring was quickly becoming a concept my legs were simply refusing. Half way up the grade I wondered why was I not on my road rig. This was not for the faint at heart or the ill prepared. I was ill prepared and it was starting to hurt my heart. Although my SKY TT Warm Up was picture perfect, my lower back wanted nothing to do with the climb. Yet I pushed on, up, and over. Rocketing down to a traffic circle I was quickly reminded that this was a TT rig and not my road rig as I over cooked the turn and headed for the curb. The Cycling Angels swooped down and kept panic to a minimum as I grabbed for breaks . . . UGH!!! Brakes doing a TT are a bad thing. This was bad!!! Somehow my transgressions were overlooked, I kept the bike up, executed the turn around, and headed for home (up the backside of the intro climb).
Screaming down the climb that said, “Wake up TURTLE, this is bike racing in Europe!” bugs were slamming across the frontal lobe of my helmet . . . OUCH!!! I narrowed my profile as much as I could. My back was locked and the key was nowhere to be found. I could only get so low. This was not looking good . . .
Coming across the line, the results were less than spectacular. I was over 6 (almost 7) minutes off the leader. My hopes of “crushing it” were crushed. I was crushed. I dropped my head in my hands. This was not how I wanted to end my season. I moped for a few seconds and refused to give in. I would make up time on Stage 2. My climbing has improved all year long. I was ready for this and this was mine to have. My mouth was writing more bad checks . . .
|My number flopping in the wind was the least of my problems . . .|
Stage 2 was a beast in hiding. Yet I felt confident I could slay the 92 km demon as I have raced over this distance all season. My confidence calculations violated simple math rules as I failed to factor the amount of climbing ahead. My poor TT performance had relegated me to the back of the bus. I tried to look at the positive . . . I had lots of targets up the road. Reality said I would have to chase them down. I had hoped to have a teammate at my side for this effort but a misjudgment of the time and space continuum had one of our riders arriving late and chasing the field on his own. Thus I was once again the lone TURTLE in the pack.
|Where's TURTLE?(...at the back of the bus!!!)|
The first climb woke my legs up and I started to find my groove. It was all going well. I was with a good group and even taking my turn on the front to keep the pace up. We were catching others and the ride from the back of the bus was showing promise. My little TURTLE brain said I was making up time. OH YEAH! This is bike racing and I was on top of the world . . .
Well . . . on top until the 70K mark. At this point my world started coming to an end. Math said 20K to go so pick it up. Legs tried to go into action but my lower back got a vote and shut down the move. It was a pure suffer fest as I lost contact with my group and hung out in “no man’s land” trying to catch any wheel coming by. It was riding backwards. When done, I had given up serious ground on the race leaders and questioned if I could ride the final stage.
At home I took a bath (I hate water), popped fluids, vitamin M (Motrin), RECOVERITE, and anything I thought would help. I grabbed my recovery tights (Claudia did not find these sexy at all...she once again questioned my maleness) and tried to roll out the pain in my legs. Sleep that night sucked. Stage 3 was no going to be fun . . . I was having nightmares!
I did not even look for my start block for Stage 3. I knew I was once again at the back of the line. However, this day was different as the event was expanded with a number of day riders. Fresh legs covered the field and I would take advantage of them all. Or so I thought . . .
I stuck to the plan the first hour of madness and felt great. TURTLE sticks were tender but far from the breaking point. I found myself with the same crowd as Stage 2 and we worked the field. The first 60 K went like clock work as the climbs seemed a bit less painful than the day before. At 20K to go I knew I would survive this beast . . .
But that was before a serious pitch in the road . . .
The picture here does not do this climb justice. We were in a valley and could see riders ahead on a ridge line. The run up to the ridge line cracked the TURTLE shell to pieces. At the top, I had nothing left I was beyond burnt as I once again watched my group ride away from me without even blowing a kiss goodbye.
I limped my rig to the finish line and exited the stage beaten by the 3-headed beast. Yet Rothaus Riderman is an epic event and one I will conquer. I survived my beating this year and with that comes wisdom. I will not stay down and I will return as that is what I do . . .