Well, after meeting my goals in the last two road races, I was ready to raise the bar, crush my enemies, see the driven before me, and hear the laminations of my fellow leg shaven and spandex covered brothers and sisters. With only 3 days in-between race 2 and 3, I was floating on a drug-free high. It was all the best I could imagine of my current quest for a bikeROCKstar life . . .
I had planned to spin my legs out and get ready for the Škoda Velotour: Rund um den Finanzeplatz in Frankfurt. I wanted to be ready, willing, and able to bring the action on the 11 k climb up the “Großer Feldberg.” At 878 m ( ~2900 ft) this is the highest peak in the Taunus mountains and no joke during a race. This was no Sunday stroll or coffee shop ride. This was a beast I had to serve up a Chicago beat down in order to make my goal of finishing under 3 hrs (finished 3:44 last year) . . .
But with most thing, life happens and my three days of desired SIT ’N SPIN (EASY) HELL to keep my legs mobile and fresh did not happen. Stress levels rose, sleep became problematic, and courage in the face of a challenge began to retreat. I was sliding backwards . . . UGH!!!
Although we had 5 riders heading to Frankfurt, I was solo on this quest and that added to my list of challenges. I would have to ride smart, look for the right wheels and cover gaps in the field alone. This was going to be tough. I had grown use to a wingman in battle. Yet it was not in the cards for me at this time . . .
On the drive up the day prior, the weather also started to roll in as Danny Havard and I were caught in a hail storm. Pea and larger sized hail struck my truck and danced on the top tub of my rig in the back of the bed. This was going from bad to worse. I was not looking forward to a climb up to over 850 m and a descent in the rain or maybe hail. Did that last year and . . . “Hated it!” I was ready to turn tail and hide in my TURTLE Shell until the sun shined and the roads were dry . . .
Danny and I arrived at our hotel after the reception had gone to bed . . .WHAT? it was only 2100! I guess others need more beauty sleep than I do. I should have called when we were at packet pickup but we were hanging around with other members of our team and some of the officials . . . SILLY TURTLE!!! However, Jenn Call took care of us and had our keys and all was good in the bike ‘hood. It truly is awesome to have a Team and stay in the same hotel. A bright spot peaked out of the storm clouds . . .
On race morning we had breakfast together (I was late as it took me longer to get pretty shaving my legs), covered down on our rooms, and met in the parking lot for the 3 k spin to the start in a light fog and mist to hopefully meet up with DUMPER (Erich Schmunk) and SKIRT (Alex Ferguson). While not officially on the Evolution roster, the bug bit SKIRT in Köln and he was back for more. AWESOME!!!
As I sat in my start block watching the shorter distances roll out, I saw Danny walking back to registration. I did some quick math and could not figure out why he was not on the road. His start time had passed. Little did I know there was a problem at registration and although he requested the shorter (and flat) distance, he was placed in the 104 k race. In a mix of German and English he was told, “go make the best of your money” and do the 104 k. Danny “manned up” and did just that in an epic ride that I will cover later . . .
As this was all going on I looked over my shoulder and saw HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) joining the field. I yelled and the Germans around me jumped at the sudden break in the silence. In my chilly, grey, and threat of rain world, the sun just started shining. My teammate and wingman was in and attacking this beast in tandem was much better than solo. Confidence started to return and fear began to fade. It’s amazing how quickly I got my cranium back in the fight . . .
Out the gate the pace was high as we made twists and turns through the city. All was going well until about 30 k in I had a mechanical and had to pull off the road. The fix took longer than expected and I lost sight of HAMMER and significant ground. I started chasing as hard as I could with the words of my first cycling mentor, Chris “Der Hase” (RABBIT) Burke . . . “There is no coasting in the chase group!” on auto repeat in my cranium . . .
We covered the first 40 k in under an hour, we were flying to the base of the climb. And there the wheels on the bus got a little wobbly as the rain started to fall. I was without a teammate and climbing in the rain. I was less worried about the climb and over concerned about the decent. I could already fill my sub-3 run fading despite the chase I made . . .
|A BIG BUMP in the middle!|
Over the top of the climb I held back as rain pelted my face. I was not ready to hit the ground as I still had a few more smaller climbs to go over. On the last climb the sky cleared and dry patched appeared on the road. Alone in no-man’s-land I knew I had to put on my best 20 k TT and got down on the drops with all I had left in the tank. I knew I would make the sub-3 hr mark but I still wanted it to give my best effort. I was back in the game . . .
I was soon caught by a strong group of 3 cats and together we started the leap frog to groups up the road. On one such effort the guy ahead of me started to fade short of closing the gap and I finished the bridge to a small group of four. As we made a turn I faded back and almost laugh as I was in a pack of at least 30 riders. There were a lot of cats hanging on and I joined them for a slight break . . .
As I moved back up to the front I hit a serious hole in the road that sent a jolt through the wheels, frame, and my body. I though I flatted as I pulled to the side of the road stopping to check the bike with just under 10k to go to the finish . . .
The wheels checked out fine and back on it I went catching the last group that passed me. It was then that I noticed my handlebars had rotated forward and the riding position was now not only awkward but uncomfortable. I was fighting to keep position and loosing this battle . . .
Snapped off the back of a surge to the finish, I rolled in the last 3 k solo and well over my goal of a sub-3 hr 104 k that had 1300 m of climbing. My total time was 3:20 and some slight change . . . a 24 min improvement over last year. Off my target but an improvement non-the-less.
HAMMER came close to a sub-3 at just under 3:10. Danny on the other hand had an epic ride. At one point a driver decided to run the police barricade and took Danny and 4 other riders down. Danny saw what was happening and slowed before the impact. He bounced across the hood of the car and I believe recalled all of his combat airborne training on how to do a parachute landing fall. He and the bike survived without a scratch. He manned up an additional time and got back going. He and the cats involved in the incident limped home with only a little mis-direction drama. Big props to Danny for making it happen with challenges more than most . . . a number of riders did not finish the race at all . . .
So, with 9 days before my next race, I’ll take the 3rd improvement on time and my little personal hat trick. I will turn my eyes and attention on refining the Rabid TURTLE Training Plan as I need to work on raising the redline so I can surge the TURTLE engine up right to the limit or just over it without falling apart or forcing a lung to jump out my chest . . .
My season is still on track and this is the best of a bikeROCKstar life I can currently imagine . . .