Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Race Report German National Champs, St. Maergen, Black Forest, Germany

My last race were the German champs – in fact, I am just on the flight home from Memmingen, after about a 5 hour drive from the guesthouse I stayed in near the race venue in the Black Forest (don’t ask, it looked a lot easier and shorter on paper to get there. I just say this much: misjudging actual driving distance, small roads, weekend, holiday and evening traffic and only a bike Garmin for directions don’t make for fast arrival). Adding to this, the weather forecast was rain rain rain and sure enough, it started already on my drive there.

Anyhow, so there was rain on the way there on Friday and rain all day on Saturday, a little better on Sunday when the race was to take place. I did my pre-ride in the rain. It was exactly the same course as last year, just soggier and muddier and slippier. I think in my last year's race report I have described the super steep and slippery and rooty downhill sections with padded trees (still wondering if the pads are supposed to protect the riders or the trees) and a superlong, supersteep slippery climb. Well, you can imagine that this was now almost near impossible to ride if you were not the Olympic Champion (who I was up against).

Inverted hill profile...

At 12pm on Sunday 14 girls lined up under cloudy skies. The race was 5 laps, 1 lap shorter than last year due to the atrocious condition of the course. The course was one big schlomp fest on the grassy sections and the downhill bits in the woods were already ripped apart by the masters races which had taken place in the morning before our race. It was so bad that in some sections you were half a foot deep in schlomp with no option than to get off the bike and wade through the schlomp. Chainsuck and only about 1 or 2 available gears were the order of the day. Here’s a thanks due to Walter for handing me the much needed bottle of water for trying to wash the dirt out of the chain rings – even though it was a mostly futile action.

I didn’t have the best of starts but was able to make up a few places again in the first lap, chasing after Katrin Schwing. I had to get off and run most of the technical downhill and some of the steep uphill, while later in the race I had to run all of the technical downhill and most of the steep uphill. From about the 2nd lap onwards I was riding comfortably in 10th place until I caught up with a girl at the start of my 4th lap, who then pulled out. I was still chasing behind Katrin Schwing who was riding in 8th place – my aim was to come top 8 this year (to improve upon my "lucky" 13th place from last year). She was in my view all the time but instead of closing down the distance, the gap seemed to widen. Then, on the last tricky downhill in the 4th lap I tried to ride the whole bit to not loose any more time. I made it down the whole bit without dabbing, but just as I hit the very bottom which was a loose muddy bit with big hidden loose rocks I lost control and crashed into a course marking post, endoing badly and taking down the post with my neck. I collected so many different cuts, scrapes and bruises on so many different areas on my body in this one crash – it's an achievement on its own!

Anyhow, after I stopped tumbling and regained my sense of up and down and found that none of my pains were life threatening, I checked my bike and started walking up the hill. I was able to get onto the bike at the top, when the course leveled out, but the pain in my thigh told me that I had to give up on trying to catch Katrin. I was barely able to pedal with my right leg, so now my aim was just to try and finish the race and not loose any more positions. I looked behind and could not seen anybody in the near distance behind me. So the last lap was ridden in damage control mode. Half way through before entering the descent I heard the cheers for Sabine Spitz who was about to win the race for her 10th time so far. I walked almost all of the technical descents and a lot of the steep slippery uphill. I made it round without being caught from somebody behind me and so finished in 9th place, only 1 place off my target and 4 places up from last year.

How much harder the course was this year in comparison to last year can easily be seen on our lap times: even though our race was a lap shorter this year (only 5 laps) than last year, the finishing times were almost exactly the same this year. Laps were on average 3-4 min slower per lap for everyone. Actually, my race was only half a minute shorter than last year, even though it was a whole lap less. At the same time Sabine Spitz’s race was 2min longer this year, so that means that percentage wise I improved by 3% - only another 13 to go..... At this rate and taking into account diminishing returns, I’ll be Olympic Champ by 2016...... ;)

Thanks also to Andy from Sport-A-med for doing my bottles and race support and to Ivonne Kraft for the horse cream and training advice. Now back to nursing my various cuts and bruises...

Short results:
1. Spitz Sabine 1:33.56,3
2. Morath Adelheid 1:36.23,0
3. Klein Hanna 1:37.11,5
4. Gradl Anja 1:38.13,7
5. Kraft Ivonne 1:39.05,3
9. Späth Melanie 1:46.16,4

Full results are available on Datasport.

Some pictures are available here. Here's one of me - notice the mud...

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