I landed in Germany at 1200 on a Friday, still on the bikeROCKstar high from a successful Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long & Foster Training Camp and 10 days of time with my friends (and some great IPA…YUM!!!). I was a changed TURTLE. My heart and legs were ever so ready to show the European field the new and improved TURTLE Shell. I was rebuilt, faster, stronger, and better than before. I was eager, I was confident, I was bold and unafraid . . .
I was an idiot!!!
Turning and burning from trans-Atlantic flight to a bike race starting line in less than 24 hours is perhaps for the legs and warriors of the Pro peloton. It was not for the mortal TURTLE. Yet I packed my truck and hit the road with Claudia down to the third race of five in the Schmolke Carbon Cup. The over zealous TURTLE race schedule called for races both Saturday and Sunday. The weather was crap and getting worse. I had the gear, I had the legs, I had no excuses, I had a lot of things . . . I just did not have a working brain cell in my cranium.
Yet to the race I went. As Claudia and I drove south to the wonderful region of Lake Constance (Germans call it the “Bodensee”) for the circuit race, I tried my best to ignore the rain and chilling temps. It looked as if I had brought the bad weather from D.C. back with me—UGH!!! Yet we put RULE #9 into effect and a fabulous 5 (TIPSTER, SHAFT, HAMMER, Jenn, and TURTLE) set out to make it happen.
|Trying to spin away the cold...|
I was ever so happy to have dropped the coin on a 10x10 canopy. At least for a short time we could warm up a bit out of the rain. To this end I was already struggling to reach my power numbers. I was less than 100% but refused to admit it to myself . . .
As we waited to start, the prior race was ending and we each peered at the mud covered faces. For a flash second I thought I was at a cyclocross race. I pinched my tires to confirm I was not dreaming. This was going to be epic . . .
Arriving late I failed to make a run a lap of the course so lap one was discovery learning. And learning did occur on the first little rise on the course. I took it hard and stayed with the group. I wanted a solid first lap with not regrets . . .
Well . . . regrets were going to happen. The rain brought fear to me core. I took turns slower than normal. I grabbed brakes on the descent as fear leaped out and danced out of the TURTLE shell. I was failing and riding backwards. This was all bad and getting worse as my mind focused on the elements and not racing. I could not find my groove . . .
TIPSTER took a lap, maybe two out of me. SHAFT took another. I was not in a happy place. On the final lap I could not have been more relieved. I crossed the line rolled back to turn in my timer and number and just about went into a hyperthermic shock. I was getting cold. Very cold. My speech stuttered. My body shook. My hands trembled. I was falling apart . . .
Back at the vehicles we stripped out our wet gear and I did not care who saw what or where. We dropped the 10x10 that kept us out of the elements to warm up and exited stage right. I did not care about results (finished near the bottom of the group) or anything really. I just wanted someplace warm and fast. Staying at Lake Constance was the saving grace as Claudia booked us into a great place. I may not have raced like a bikeROCKstar but I sure can live like one . . .
Had dinner with HAMMER and his Frau and the evening was filled with laughs as my jet-lagged body tired to cope with the time change and the damage done trying to race. A good night followed the hardest conditions I have ever raced in. This 1 hour was harder than last year’s 126 km that started in a hail storm . . .
The next morning we woke to cold rain and then snow flakes. I bailed immediately on the fourth race. I avoided all attempts and onslaughts of peer pressure (a first for me…I normally fall like a house of cards) and just said, “NO!” I had 24 other races on the books. This one could slide and I would man up later. We drove back w/ my head low. Jenn, HAMMER, and TIPSTER put on their big boy/girl pants, invoked RULE #5 and hit the line for a race in rain, cold, and a little hail. BEASTS!!!
I had 5 days to shake the funk and did my best to do that. Race 5 of 5 was on deck for the coming Saturday and the weather was set to be perfect. It was time to start our tan lines (RULE #7) . . .
With a bit longer to drive I contacted TIPSTER, the best cat on our squad who was sitting in 8th place for the series, and told him I wanted to go ugly early. He stepped up to the call to arms and off we went blasting serious heavy metal in the truck. We arrived early, set up our 10x10, registered, and took a few laps of the course. It was exactly what I needed . . .
I started to get my game face on and during my warm up I was surprised to see Danny Havard roll up. We were set to put 5 riders on the course for the 5th and final race of the series. Life was good and getting better. This was awesome . . .
|Smiles before the pain . . .|
Out the gate the young ones do what young ones do and TIPSTER went up the road. SHAFT followed and HAMMER and I were stuck to chasing wheels. We latched onto a good group for the first 3 laps and things were working well. I even got yelled at for being out of position in the pace line. Unwilling to ride point just yet, I tucked in and peddled hard . . .
After another lap or two this group got away from me and even with HAMMER we were unable to close the gap. In “no man’s land” for a lap we picked up another group and soon I was at the front for a full lap. SILLY TURTLE! I should have dug deeper and held the wheel of the group that dropped us—one day I will learn to suffer better!!!
There was the lead group, the TIPSTER group, the SHAFT group and then TURTLE and HAMMER. We were all pretty spread out on a 3K circuit. Yet is was seriously KOOL ’n da GANG to come across the START/FINISH and have the announcer say in German, “On point is one of our American riders Theodore Wilson from Evolution Cylcing Club-Long & Foster.” Talk about an ego boost. I dug deeper and rode harder. This was the best motivation one could ask for . . .
Less than a handful of rider came around me and I pushed to move up. It was at this point that HAMMER reminded me that I had pulled this group a full lap and I should sit in . . . I listened. With 1 lap to go HAMMER came to the front of our little group and drug me around to the climb. As he pulled off he yelled, “It’s all you now, go TURTLE!”
Up the climb I went and drove to a 17th place finish in the series competition. My best effort in a European race and my best finish since 2009. The finish provided 3 point for the series and I moved into 20th place after only doing 3 of the 5 races. I’ll take that, smile, and set my eyes on 21 April and the Rund um Köln. I will not fail this time . . .