Friday, April 24, 2009

World Cup Offenburg Preview and living like a pro....

OK, so after the Bundesliga race in Muensingen I stayed on until Thursday in the holiday flat (so that I could make use of the 7-day offer there). The weather was beautiful everyday, lots of sunshine, and the area is probably one of my most favourite areas in Germany, the “Schwäbische Alb”. It is so beautiful and romantic, with rivers snaking through valleys and rock formations – even caves, the geological history of this valley is superinteresting (it used to be a sea!), castles and ruins every few miles on either side of the valley, and those beautiful “Fachwerkhäuser” (typical house structures here: with dark wood criss crossing the white washed walls – beautiful!). And on top of all this, it was a cyclist’s paradise. If you want to go steady and flat you go along the many walking/cycling paths along the river (and stop for a huge ice cream bowl at a river side beer garden). Or, if you want to have a bit of a hilly workout, you can just go straight into the woods and follow any of the hundreds of small walking paths (read: first-class singletrack). You didn’t even need a map, the trails basically started from your doorstep. I looooove the “Schwäbische Alb”!

Anyway, on Thursday I made my way to Offenburg. I went straight to the course to pre-ride it, because my next hotel was about an hour the opposite direction from where I came. However, I noticed I had no water with me, so I drove to the next village, but it didn’t have a shop. I went on to the village after that, this one was slightly bigger and voila, there was a shop. BUT, the shop was closed! Flippin shop is closed from 12pm to 2:30pm! It was 1:30pm…. When I turned my car I saw Burry Stander and another few riders standing before the closed door scratching their heads… So I had to drive all the way back to Offenburg, and the first shop I found was a health food shop. Ah well, better healthy water than no water.

At least the weather was absolutely fantastic, blue skies and sunshine. I went back to the course. I had seen online that the course and in fact the whole race is hailed as one of the best to go to, so I had great expectations. Also, it’s supposed to be one of the most technical trails in a World Cup (in contrast to South Africa, which I didn’t find very technical at all, just steep). You can have a look at to see the description of the race course (click on “Strecke” on left hand menu, there are some spectacular pics of the drops). Well, I did a lap round and I can say that all my expectations have been fulfilled. It’s such an amazing course, I think it may actually become my new favourite course! There are no super steep climbs (wohoo!), but there is still a good bit of climbing in the course. Most of it is very flowy, twisty singletrack through the trees. The flow is one of the best I’ve ever experienced in a course. But then of course, there are the 5 highlights of the course (the REALLY technical bits):

The Dual Speed (a choice of two separate singletrack lines with several drops in a row)
The Northshore (an amazingly flowy bermed singletrack descent + drop, suuuper fun!)
The Worldclass drop (3m straight down drop from a corner into a corner)
The Wolfsdrop (a rooty trail towards an even rootier 3m drop – the hardest in the race)
The Snake Pit (a labyrinth of roots with deep holes inbetween followed by a drop)

My first thought at any of these drops was “OH MY GOD!!!”. Apart from the Dual Speed and the Snake Pit I didn’t ride any of the drops. At each section I waited for some riders to go by to watch them go down, but I was too scared to go down. So I finished my first lap and then chatted to Githa Michiels (Belgium national champ) who had just finished her pre-ride, to see how she is able to go down those drops. After a bit of confidence talk from her, I decided that in my next lap I’ll do ALL of the drops. I came to the doubletrack and managed that allright. Then I went off and I was so surprised by the drop after the bermed singletrack (I forgot that there was one) that I had no chance to stop and had to ride it down. Well, that wasn’t too bad! Then on to the Worldclass drop. I stopped to see how other people rode it. This was the only drop that had a chicken run, but the chicken run was so longwinded and tricky enough as well, so that you would loose about 10secs if you didn’t do the drop. So I waited and waited and watched and considered and looked and waited and gathered all my confidence and went up to it and (this feels like jumping off a 10m board or out of an airplane)…. – I made it down!!! Ryan, you can be so proud of your girlfriend! Wow, the adrenaline hit was amazing. I actually can’t believe I made myself ride it down. I am really scared of steep descents and this one was way longer than the one in Cyprus that I didn’t dare to go down. Anyway, I went on to the next one, the Wolfsdrop and again stopped to watch which line people took and how they went down it. And again I gathered all my confidence (it didn’t take me that long this time round) and made it down safely. And because it was so much fun I did it again! The rest of the course I rode without problem. Now, to see if it wasn’t just a freak moment, I rode the course another two times, this time without stopping at any of the drops. Wohoo! I was so happy that I could do all the drops!

After the pre-ride I got my squeaky brake fixed by SRAM (thanks so much guys, your service is amazing – the help at the World Cups in general is amazing, people fixing your bikes for free!) and they noticed that my bearings at my front wheel were mostly gone (which also lead to the front brake dragging). Unfortunately Specialized didn’t have any spare bearings, so I drove to the next bike shop, but they couldn’t help me either. I tried to get to another bike shop, but landed straight in rush hour traffic, so I had to forget about that too.

After the pre-ride I drove the 40km along the only road to my place, with 80kmh or even 50kmh speed restrictions the WHOLE WAY! On top there was the rush hour traffic and it took me over an hour to arrive at the country hotel I am staying. When I booked the place I was just happy to have found a place because I had looked for a place near Muensingen for 3 hours before that and everything around Offenburg seemed booked out as well (or was super expensive). I was told you need to book in November the year beforehand to get something near the world cup!

Anyway, what I had forgotten was that I booked myself into a room, not the holiday flat, so I don’t even have a possibility to cook myself some food, I don’t even have a kettle! The hotel is in the middle of nowhere, the room is pretty spartanic and dark and the Internet is slower than over IP over Avian Carriers (I wonder if they send messengers on horses) – that’s why there won’t be any photos until I’m back home and connected. And the ONLY vegan food is the ice cream sorbet with fresh fruit, hmm, not sure if I can survive on that ☹.

Ah well, I’m trying to see things positively: at least I’ll have lots of time and no distractions to work on my PhD…. :-s

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