Last year the Zeitfahrcup Prolog and Tour d’Energie marked my return to competitive cycling. I entered the German cycling scene with eyes wide open and legs no where near the task at hand. Our foolish young American group talked about how we would form up and ride to the front of the Peloton, attack, counter and win. We talked about lead outs, sprints, and glory. We read the Team 7-Eleven book and believe we could make out mark. We talked bold, we dreamed big . . .
We were on drugs!!! These European cats are born and bikes are placed right in their cribs. They ride everyday, all day, in all weather from cradle to grave. I am crushed by guys 20 years senior. Base is base and done like religion. We were rookies on a field that is close to Pro. We had and still have so much to learn . . .
The level of competition here is fierce. Each event last year became one of survival as I raced myself into shape other than chunky TURTLE. I never really got there but vowed to change the landscape and make 2014 different and for the most part I have. So after racing four days prior, I lined up for two additional events . . . a short 5K “Prolog” for the 10th REFRATECHNIK-Zeitfahrcup (Time Trial 1 of 3) and the 100K Tour d’Energie (German Cycling Cup race 2 of 14) the very next day. It was on and I would make it happen no matter what . . .
|Tour d' Energie|
Unlike the previous event, I was calm, kool, and collective in the days before the events. Having only ridden my TT once since last October, I planned to just survive the TT and focus on the road race. The road course had two big climbs that just about crushed me last year. I had to hit them as hard as I could and make my goal of finishing under 3 hours . . . last year I finished in 3:26 and averaged only 28 kph. I set a goal of 33 kph and planed to keep it.
But back to the TT . . .
The Zeitfahrcup allows cats to participate as a Team of three where individual times are combined. I reached out to the crew and Trent Minter and Jenn Call were the first two to answer the call to arms for the series. I was thankful for the additional company and this made surviving the TT a bit easier . . .
The weather this year was nearly perfect. Last year’s cold wet light rain zapped a toll on the TURTLE Shell. Heat generation was limited to non-existent. I lined up shivering, finished shivering, and just wanted to die. Yet this year with only the threat of rain on the horizon I was able to warm up and hit the line ready to roll . . .
Well, roll is really an overstatement. I put “0” time into practicing for a TT and it showed as I came off the line in too big of a gear. It was as it I forgot how bar end shifters work as I threw my tank of a bike down the road. It was neither good or bad. It was just plain ugly . . .
However, I settled in and used the knowledge gained from a pre-ride of the course with Coach Quest. I knew when to shift (once I remembered how) to keep my cadence and power up and the end result showed. I took over 45 secs off my previous time. I was stoked! I even did a little TURTLE dance on the pedals as Coach demanded a sub-9 time. I was so there . . .
But did I not say the competition was fierce. My best effort put me in 30th place in my age group and far from the podium and further back when all cats and kittens are considered. There were cats on either side of my age group with times over a 2 minutes faster. That is simply flying on a slightly uphill 5K course. I have a lot of work to do . . . next year I will focus on bringing my TT up to par and at least get a step closer to the podium.
|It's easy to smile at the start!|
But the Tour d’Energie is where I cut my teeth last year. I knew the course, I knew the climbs, I knew what I had to do. I was also blessed to have one of my strongest teammates with me. HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) drove almost 7 hours the day prior to start on this day and offered to lend me a few watts of power to stay in the game. As he had watts to spare I did not feel bad at all. HAMMER had almost bonk’d at the last race being in “no-mans” land alone and unafraid. The plan on the day centred on working together until the last climb and then crushing it home . . .
We were lucky enough to be near the front of the bus and had hoped we would get done before the rain hit. Forecasts over dinner danced from 40 - 70%. We were both hoping for the 40 or better . . .
The neutral roll out was a bit more tame but as some as the cans were lit to start the race the peloton got crazy. Surges, stops, lots of breaking in the middle of the pack and some serous crashes (one looked like about 10 - 15 cats on both sides of the road) marked the first 20 k. It took about another 10 - 15K to settle in as HAMMER and I chased wheels looking for a rhythm. As soon as we were good and rolling the rain started . . .
Pacelines in the rain is far from fun as road dirt and grim pepper your face. You keep your mouth closed and learn to wipe you mouth before taking a drink to remove the grit from your lips. It’s even worse when you are gasping for air at tempo. You have to just suck it up, take the added protein and pedal. This was the few times when I did not mind taking a longer pull . . .
Yet the rain also brought more crashes as cats overcooked turns on the wet pavement. As we dropped off the first big climb I felt my goal of getting under 3 hours slipping away. I had little to no confidence of descending the wet roads at speed. I was grabbing was too much brake and not trusting my bike or myself. Seeing guys slide into barriers was not helping matters much. Time was slipping away and I was starting to feel the agony of defeat with 30k remaining . . .
|Climbing legs required!|
|Chasing the HAMMER up the final climb|
As we started up the last climb of the day HAMMER rolled passed me, lit the afterburners yelling its down hill from the top of this climb….and shot up the road. I did my best to keep him in sight but lost him on a switchback. Cresting the top I saw him grabbing food (recall he just about bonked the previous race) but I kept rolling. He would surly catch me on the way off the climb . . .
The last 20k was truly all down hill and I put everything into the bike on semi-dry roads. I ramped up to threshold and decided this was where I would stay until the line. I picked targets up the road one by one and just kept pushing. I was soon caught by a much larger group of cats that included HAMMER and we started 1 min pulls to continue the leap frog of others. We were making up the time lost in the rain and it was awesome to be on the rivet like this . . .
My lungs just about exploded over a slight bump in the road and I fell back in our group as HAMMER and two other guys turned up the heat even more. It took everything in the tank to stay in the game at this point. I could feel my legs ready to break as I did not come out of the drops at all. At 5K to go I was back at the front taking one last pull of with all I had to keep the tempo up. I prayed the math was correct as I only had 5K left in the tank . . .
We turned for the final 1K and all I could do was pedal and try not to hit folks in front of me. I cross the line in under 3 hours. I was cooked, done, finished, and just about broken…but heart said I was ready for more. A 30 min improvement over the previous year and already looking forward to another road race in just 4 days . . .
In the face of serious competition, I am having a blast on the bike. It gets better each time I hit the line as each event provides an opportunity to excel. I still have a great deal of work to do to make it closer to my goal of a a top 100 finish in the massive fields but that day will come. I know what hard work on the bike feels like and I am ready, willing, and able to put more time into TURTLE development. I’m off to a good start but there is a lot or racing between now and 3 October. Time to turn up the heat . . .
2014 is the Rise of the Rabid TURTLE!