Haha, so I made it to the race successfully, now there was the little task left of racing....
Leah and me went to the race course just outside our typical German in-the-middle-of-nowhere-in-the-Schwarzwald village (2 hotels, 2 cafes, 2 roads) and had a look around. I had loads of time for building up my bike, since there were races on all day and therefore riders weren't allowed on the course to practice. So we went off to find the feedzone, start area, finish area etc. We had some lunch and I retrieved my start number.
Leah - my (feed zone) angel :) (Photo: Leah Kennedy)
Then I tried to build my bike back up - I had told Ryan specifically to not take off the chain, in case I don't know how to put it back on, but I still had some little problems of figuring out how to put the rear derailleur back on.... ooops!!
Leah and me walked around a little more, trying to figure out where the course went. The first bit was all very fast flowing easy and nicely bermed singletrack in the open grassland, very visible to the spectators and then a bit of a grass connector followed by some downhill stuff that we couldn't see and then the climb back up to the feedzone. Well, it looked like they just went into this dip at the end of the course and came back up again on the other side. What we hadn't noticed, was that the elite course didn't just go down that dip, no it went down a super steep and very technical, rooty and muddy slide section loosing about 100m of height in only a minute or so with a huge super steep climb back up and some more descending and climbing. Well, I found out in my practice lap... It was soo steep and technical, I saw lots of men running it.
Mattresses around trees... the steep! (Photo: Leah Kennedy)
In the meantime we also discovered that the inside of the sports hall had all kinds of kids attractions, a climb-the-crates, sand everywhere, a bouncy castle and a bungee running thingy and Leah made me do it with her, and it was sooo much fun!!!
After practice I quickly dipped into the hotel's swimming pool and then we had a nice dinner and went to bed early.
The next day it was d-day. A few last things to do (fill bottles, label them, attach gels, get all gear together etc.) and we set off to the race arena. I situated Leah into the feed zone and started warming up. Then it was time to line up. Only about 19 girls of the 24 that were on the start list were lining up (maybe some got scared when they saw 2 people airlifted away the previous day...) and the gun went off. Jesus, the speed!!! They all raced off as if they had the clappers! I was a little shocked by the high speed frantic start, but know that I usually find my speed and that they won't be able to keep it all up. The fast start though was a shock to my system and it was hard for me to keep the fast pace. The start loop already strung out the field into a long line due to the single track on it. I've also been introduced to a more aggressive way of racing, with being blocked and almost being pushed into the side of the trail. I managed to get through most of the steep downhill bit OK, just at the very last corner I fell (as I did in 5 out of the 6 laps). I run down the last drop and jumped back onto the bike - practicing my Cyclocross mount, which I did every time I had to run down that bit and it worked every time!! So cool, it just looks sleek to jump onto the bike like that. Then the uphills again, sooo steep and I really wasn't doing well on them. 3 out of 6 laps I had to walk parts of the uphill bit, because if you didn't ride the correct line and got caught in the muck at the bottom or were in the wrong gear, it was too steep to get back onto the bike and cycle. But hey, at least all the Germans were cheering on everybody, I think I had earned some pity points. And they had a list of all the riders, so a few laps down they knew my name and cheered me on :) So nice :) :) And it really helps to put out those extra few watts to fight up the hill.
Ladies Elite lining up (Photo: Leah Kennedy)
Then the long draggy steep climb up the feedzone - people cheering and shouting on both sides - I never dared to look, just concentrated on going up and not loosing my line. I was always so happy to see Leah at the top of the climb giving me a my bottle and gel. In the first lap I was in position 17 but I worked my way up to 15 in the second lap. I had a bit of a battle with 2 girls, but by lap 3 or 4 I could stay clear ahead of them. Eventually I was in position 13, I think because some people dropped out. I kept in this position for the remainder of the race and it was pretty uneventful. The singletrack was nice n easy, the descents super technical and the climbs killed me. I definitely need to loose some weight.
Startloop + 6 laps - a lot of descending and climbing in a very short time!
Well, I was afraid of being lapped, which on such a short course with lap times of sub 15min for the winners would be possible, so I kept an eye out for threats from behind. However, I made it to the finish line without being lapped and started my last lap - a few minutes into it I heard the announcer calling out Sabine Spitz taking gold - and I wasn't even half way through my last lap! Ah well, how much would I have liked to have been finished by that stage, but had another about 15 minutes to go. At that stage I was on the tail of the girl in 12th position and would have almost gotten her, but lost my gear when I changed it and had to stop to turn the pedal. That's when she got away. I saw her a few meters ahead of me on the final climb, but just didn't have the power to get close to her again, so finished a fine 13th.
Me going through the finish - yay!! (Photo: Leah Kennedy)
Post race analysis: During the whole race I didn't have my legs nor my strength. Everything was a struggle and I just couldn't push myself. I felt as if somebody had closed the tap on my energy. And the really steep hills (one of my weaknesses, especially since I am quite heavy with about 64kg) were just disheartening - I overtook girls on the flat bits and they got me again on the climbs. I also saw on my profile that my heartrate was really high for the first few laps, but then steadily declined. I think I was going too fast for my own good in the first few laps. Facit: I didn't have my best day, maybe because it was that time of the month, maybe because I didn't have the best preparation for it, maybe both and maybe more. In addition the course didn't suit me at all: it was either too easy or too technical and steep. So in the end, I am actually quite happy with my place. I was down by 14:45 min from Sabine Spitz, which is 16%, which is around what I had expected to be. It shows that I didn't have a totally crap race in the end.
After the race Leah force fed me - thanks Leah!! - and then we just made it to the hotel and I showered and we both laid down for a while - we were both so wrecked!!
Dream Team Torq (Photo: Leah Kennedy)
Then we had a good time in the one and only local pub and had an early night (not that I could sleep after those guarana gels and all the hype!!).
The next day I packed the bike and we drove to Stuttgart for some ice cream and shopping. I also met my little sister there who came up from Augsburg just to meet me even though she was super busy with last minute preparations for her 9 months trip to Argentina. I hadn't seen her since March and was very happy to see her :) We had a HUGE ice cream together :)
My icecream was as big as my sister's!
So, time to say thank you to a few people: To Leah for agreeing to come onto this adventurous little trip with me and for supporting me before, during and after the race in any way possible - I couldn't have imagined a tougher support person ;)
Thank you also to Harald Glaser who was really really nice in helping me out: I asked if he could have a quick look at my gears and he changed the whole gear cable! They worked perfectly afterwards! By the way, he's also a specialist in building up super light and power effective wheels: http://www.fahrrad-glaser.de/
Harald Glaser - Rublx Cube Genius and Bike Mechanic Master(Photo: Leah Kennedy)
Thanks to Ryanair for letting onto the plain even though I was an hour late.
And last but not least thank you to Ryan for putting up with me.
Results can be found here.
The next event is just around the corner: This weekend Ryan and me will take part in the twentyfour12 competition.