|Flat, Fast and VERY Furious!|
Last year crashes stopped the racing mid execution and I had to really “man up” to get back on my bike. My little TURTLE sticks were close to breaking under the pressure of this race. I really don’t know how I managed to finish 60th in my age group last year. It must of been a timing error . . .
This year we had a Fantastic 4 Evolution Cycling Club p/b Long & Foster-Euro Division riders hitting the track and one guest rider from US Military Cycling. Over twice the numbers of the previous year and with great weather, the day could not be better . . .
|Our token Britton...TIPSTER|
Smiles before the carnage!
Our token Britton, James TIPSTER Tipler was our star on the day. This would be his last race with the Team here in Germany. The kid is pure speed on the bike and I made a mental note to not let him lap me on the 6k course. Jenn Call, our other team star, was sitting fairly high in the over all Jedermann ranking and I told her to stay close to me and I will carry her through the day. She joked that if she stayed on my wheel she would win the women’s category . . . we both laughed at the thought as we made our way to the start.
The mass start at Hockenheimring is scary. All groups (A and B, and both a 60K and a 90K distance) are started together. CRAZY!!! It is a mass of carbon, aluminum (some steel) and a lot of colorful spandex as close to 750 riders hit the line all starting at the same time. It is and can be certainly intimidating to the unprepared soul. We found ourselves grouped in the back of the second wave. UGH! At the back of the bus again I thought to myself as I was already dreading the first tight turn . . .
As we rolled out I was separated from the Team but watched TIPSTER go up the road doing what fast young fast riders do . . . ride faster!!! I was certain HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) was on my six as I made my way through the pack. However, I did not look back as I feared the slightest break in concentration would make TURTLE hamburger and the last thing I wanted was a crash. LT DAN (Dan Schmacher, our guest rider from US Military Cycling) was also in the mass behind me. He had opted for the shorter distance and with legs like tree trunks, I figured at some point he would blaze by me and I would sit on his wheel as best I could . . .
|Carbon, Aluminium, and Spandex|
prepare for battle . . .
Through the first few laps the field was already into 3 major groups. The super fast riders on the front led by the super teams, a small chase group with TIPSTER in the middle, and my chase group bringing up the rear. I soon made my way through the mass and up to Jenn and told her to stay with me as best she could. already riding at speeds well over 40 kph, she yelled back that the tempo was bit hot . . . and that it was.
Yet I felt great and moved up the inside to get to the front of my very large chase group. Riding about 5 or so bikes off the front I went with a group of 4 off the front in an attempt to bridge up to the next group. I yelled at my fellow riders to work it together and one guy joined in. The other two cats were duds and the effort failed as the group seemed to surround us like a group of killer bees. I did not have the power stores to do it alone . . . need to work on that!
Back in the mass group I wondered how many matches did that effort cost me. But I still felt great and the tempo was still high as we were cursing at just over 40 kph. So I sat in and thought through the scenarios as it appeared I was alone in the mass. I knew it was a matter of time before HAMMER and LT DAN rode past me. With any luck I would have the energy to join them and maybe bridge up to the group up the road . . . it was a dream and the only day dream I allowed myself to have as I was determined not to loose contact with this group.
|The Lady in Pink|
I spotted Claudia on almost every lap. She stood out in the crowd wearing bright pink. My eyes could not miss her and I actually found myself looking for her each lap. This was the first race of this sort that she watched. The numbers, the crashes (and there were a few) was most certainly unnerving to her. I made no effort to wave or smile, even though I saw her every lap. I had to stay on the rivet and keep pushing . . .
With 5 laps to go and the surge to the line for the 60K racers, my legs began to suffer and the TURTLE sticks began to smolder from the heat the pace was making. Muscle spasms shot through both quads. It took everything in me to keep the pedals moving. I had to gear down to spin out of the turns and stay in contact with my group. I moved back a bit to give myself a little break and surround myself with wheels that I had watched over the last hour or so . . .
It was at this point that Jenn came up along side of me and put her hand on my shoulder. She had hung about 5 - 10 bikes behind me the entire race so far. AWESOME!!! It was the motivation I needed. I internally yelled (it was really a mumble), “Shut up legs!” and grabbed a gear or two and moved back up near the front of my chase group. I took my turn at the front and did my best to kept the pace high . . .
With 3 laps to go the leaders came around and those that could caught the wave and hung onto their wheels. They most have been really flying as we were still averaging 40 kph on the 6k circuit and they had just lapped us. I saw all the big teams crushing the rest of us mere mortals as they went by . . . I knew TIPSTER would be next so I had to really put myself in suffer mode . . .
As much as I put myself in the TURTLE HURT LOCKER, I was at my limit and little to nothing in the tank, I could not respond to this second big surge. After the carnage in the wake of the lead riders, I spent at least half a lap just on the front of my chase group with Jenn close behind. Fluids were gone, legs were throbbing and I wanted this end and end quickly. I just had to keep pedaling . . .
On the last lap I told Jenn to follow me to the final turn and I would put every last amount of energy into my pedals. There were 2 other women in the chase group and I told Jenn she had to beat them both to the line . . .
I moved out on the final stretch and put my head down and into the wind. Behind me was Jenn and one of the girls as we pulled away from the rest of the pack of about 20 riders. Hitting the final turn with 100 m left to go I was done. There was no more push and I think I just coasted to the line. I had emptied the last and final drop of the TURTLE tank. However, Jenn followed the gal that was on my wheel to the line and dug even deeper to finish a bike length ahead of her. SWEET!!!
On the day I took 130th overall and 30th in my age group. However, Jenn scored big! She took 5th overall for the women and 2nd in her age group (Master 2). Our joking at the beginning became a reality. This was the first Evolution Cycling Club podium in a European Jedermann event and a great day had just come to an end on an awesome and epic venue. We averaged just under 40 kph ( 25 mph) for the 90 k. It was and remains my fastest effort on the bike and two days later I still feel it . . .
Yet my eyes are focus on a time trial this coming weekend. Time to man up again and dig just a little deeper as my season is far from over . . .