Followers

Friday, June 20, 2014

Revenge of the Lanterne Rouge

Last year I missed Schleizer Dreieck Jedermann as it conflicted with the second Time Trial (TT) in the Zeitfahrcup series.  Both HAMMER (Jeff Pannaman) and DIESEL (Matt Arant) ventured to the historic area and returned with a epic tale of cold, wet, and misery.  Looking at the lumpy, bumpy race profile I almost wished for some bad weather so I could bow out gracefully.  No such luck.  skies were blue, temps in a good range, my legs were freshly shaven, it was a great weekend to race . . . time to man up and do what I love doing!!!

Schleizer Dreieck Jedermann hit part of the oldest natural race track in Germany.  Auto races where held there as far back as 1923.  It was one bit of awesomeness to be in such a historic area that was at one time part of the former East Germany.  Coming off a not so great TT just two weeks prior, I knew I would have to dig deep to make it happen.  Sitting in 95th place in my age group out of over 3000 listed racers in Germany motivated me to battle.  I needed a placing in the top 200 to score more than the 15 participation points that everyone gets.  The Love Roller Coaster course was going to make that a challenge but I figured I was ready, willing and able to answer the call . . .
The Schleizer Roller Coaster!
Fortunate for me I had three other teammates (HAMMER, Danny Havard, and Jenn Call) in the long distance and one (our guest rider and rising start Yosh Rossman) opting for two laps of the 40K circuit.  This was also a bonus as team points are awarded for the top 4 finishers in a given distance.  So in my little TURTLE brain I had to find the strong wheels, hang on, finish in the top 200, earn a few points for me and a few more for the team.  It was a simple plan and I was silly enough to believe it would work . . .

We all arrived on site a day prior and took the opportunity to pre-ride the course.  It was a change front he 70K loops that HAMMER and DIESEL attempted last year in a down pour.  I say attempted as both made a smart call to get out of the rain and not suffer in order to ride and race healthy another day.  Anyway, the reduction to 40K meant three laps and we would put one under our wheels for sure this day so we mounted up for a recon ride . . .

Getting ready to ride we were greeter by familiar faces in the race series to include Saskia Mey of TEAM STEILE WAND.  This was a great surprise and just added to the positive vibe on the day.

As we started out the WX decided to play a little with our minds and dropped a little rain our way.  NO FUN!  I hand not prep’d the TURTLE shell for moisture and started to think I might just melt.  However, we pressed through and pressed forward.  The first half of the course was some serious narrow and roughly paved surfaces.  This was going to be tough.  REAL TOUGH!  The descents were technical and large hay bails lined sharp turns.  In my mind these would all most likely get some use at race time.  I had to make sure I opted out of trying to demo that maneuver on race day . . .

Post recon lap we all rallied in our Hotel down the road and did our usually pre-race story telling, laughs, and good times.  These are some of the best times as we sit around a table and break bread and prepare to have our legs broken as age-group Americans competing in the German Cycling Cup.  Work, bills, drama, and a list of crap just falls away.  This is one of the reasons I ride, train, and race . . . I LOVE IT!!!

With Claudia glued to the TV watching the World Cup, I crashed early.  We were a good 20 min drive from the race start and needed to get up, get fueled, and get on with it . . .

Jenn, DiDi, HAMMER, and Danny
Arriving at the START/FINISH we were surprised to see the Tour d’ France icon, DiDi the Devil.  This was truly going to be an epic day.  Being in my pre-race groove, I miss the photo op and just readied myself as much as I could.  The temps had dropped yet again and I started grabbing gear to wear as the parking area was once again “naked-land” as folks here are not bashful about changing clothes in public.  It is just what everyone does . . . I joined in.

As we waited to start I did my best “deliberately casual” pose, said my prayers, and hit it at the gun.    We started with one lap of the track and to quote my smiling TEAM STEILE WAND Brother Heiko, “…that track is heavy…”  IT WAS!!!  The one loop seemed a lot harder than it should have been.  my legs felt like lead and air was in short supply.  This was not how I imagined a start for my three laps to a top 200 finish . . .


As we left the track I was already off the back of the main pack and it only got worse in the bumpy technical terrain.  UGH!!!  I could feel my 200th place slipping away before my eyes . . .

HAMMER, Mr 400+ FTP, was riding very strong.  He recalled every turn like clock work.  It was if he photographed the recon ride.  It was awesome.  I stuck to his wheel!!!  As we made it onto smoother pavement for the second half of the circuit I was in difficulty.  I could not keep the pace and told HAMMER to go on up the road as a strong group was just a few meters away.  Instead he sat up and brought me back into the fold.  This yo-yo action happen a few more times and two others joined us and we started really working well together.  Well, they were working well…I was in suffer fest!!!  I was barely hanging on as we approached the final climb of the first circuit.  I got snapped from the group like a dried twig and had nothing at all to get me back on.  I was riding backwards as we finished the 1st lap.  I had two more of these to go . . . OUCH!!!

Jenn’s chase group caught me in the rough technical first third of the circuit.  I dug deep to stay in with this crew and figured I could hang out here for the remainder of the race.  I was tail gunning this group like no other.  My legs had nothing and my lower back was starting to go too.  It was as if I never trained and just decided to race one day.  This was not the theorem I worked out in my little brain.  This was supposed to be an easily executed plan.  It was not . . .

Well, the alternate plan of sitting in evaporated on the same climb that I lost the HAMMER’s group.  I went out the back hard and found myself solo as I crossed the line for the last circuit with DiDi the Devil yelling at me . . . EPIC!!!  I wanted off my bike in a major way.  Just when I was about to hit the breaks I heard a whistle from the barrier and looked up to see Heiko smiling on the side lines.  Most know, I smile and laugh a lot…like all the time, Heiko has me beat in this hands down!!!  He even does it at 40+ kph on the bike…HE’S A BEAST!!!  Between DiDi and Heiko I summed up the motivation to continue and I accepted my fate that 15 points for participation is better than zero.  I knew DANNY was behind me and believed it was a mater of time before he caught me and I would roll with him to the finish if I could hold on to his wheel.  At this point is was all about putting 4 finishers across the line . . .

When DiDi says "go" . . . you "GO!"
The last lap was a serious flash back to my first races. TURTLE parts (legs, arms, lungs, and even a few valves of my heart) were hitting the ground in massive chunks.  I have not been this far back in a race since I started racing in Reston VA as a CAT 5.  It was perhaps more a mental blow than a physical one.  I had crushed my previous times in the first 4 races this season and slowly moved up the points board.  Why was this not working today?!?!  I tried to stand on the pedals and power over the slight climbs and had nothing.  I limped across the line, put my cranium down and was thankful I at least got 15 points and the team would get a little boost in the rankings . . .

My plan had fallen apart.  No glory, no top 200, no extra points.  I made my way back to my car and headed back to the hotel.  I wanted a shower and a “real” beer!

So there I sat beating myself up and looking for excuses.  I had a good list.  It took a text exchange with DIVA (Luis Infante) to smack me out of most of it.  A few of my teammates wondered if I had lost too much weight, was I too lean?  Well, the response I got from others made me laugh like the fool I am . . . “Are girls ever too pretty? Are fast cars ever too fast?…You can never bee too lean as a cyclist!”  Another set of excuses gone.  I think I will get leaner :^)

But wait . . . the results post and the field was much smaller than expected.  I finished 66th out of 67 in my age group…yeah, it was just that bad!  However, this meant more than 15 points for just showing up.  The suffering to finish and push through that last lap and finishing just before last in my age group was worth the effort.  I moved up from 95th place to 68th in my age group.  My worse performance on the bike ended in a positive.  I’ll take that!  Who wouldn’t?  Consistency, constancy, constancy . . .

In truth and to quote Coach Quest, I “overcooked the TURLTE Soup” and fractured the shell early in the season.  I did not rest and recover my 46 year old frame enough and the last two races showed that.  So back to basics I go.  I have 4 weeks until the next big race and that is more fun than racing as we compete for 24 hours on the historic N├╝rbrugring Formula 1 track and attack “The Green Hell” . . . a 17% climb that is wicked hard.

Time to put fun back into my cycling and more swagger in my stride.  I have achieved a goal I set out at the beginning of the season to be in the top 100 in my age group.  This minor beat down reminds me that I am human (I so hate that).  I can and will rise above it.  I’ve also moved the bar up as now my goal is to finish in the top 50 riders in  my age group by the last race in the series on 3 October.  So let it be written, so let it be done . . .


The Lanterne Rouge came back with a vengeance at Schleizer.  This race is on my “must vanquish” list for next season.  I refuse to be defeated like that . . . 

No comments:

Post a Comment