Written by Paul Wojciak Monday, 16 November 2015 00:00
Business took me to Germany. I casually scanned the internet to see whether there were any cyclocross races near enough to where I would be staying. Sure enough, the GGEW City Cross Cup, part of the German national series, was being held in Lorsch on Sunday, November 8. I reached out to a colleague of mine in Germany, asking him to contact the promoter on my behalf. An email exchange later, I was slated in a masters field for the race.
I traveled with my cyclocross bike using the Ruster Hen House. With this arrangement, you can get the bike frame into a regulation size luggage bag and the wheels in a second bag. This allowed me to bring my bike to Germany and not pay anything to travel with it since I was allowed two pieces of checked luggage with my exercise equipment.
I left early on race day and arrived with almost three hours to spare. I had forgotten how sweet the early morning autobahns are when there's no speed limit. Motoring along at 90mph, you really cover some ground fast.
Lorsch Abbey is the center point of the town and also the venue for the race. Much of the course was on abbey property and actually loops around the structure. Weather was sunny and clear with temps projected to rise to over 60 by race time.
My first stop was registration to see the UCI officials. I only had to ask two people to find it! Quite an accomplishment with my limited German skills. They were friendly and quickly got me through the process made easier since I had my UCI license and permission to race form from USA Cycling. So I passed my first test. Turns out one of the officials had a cousin going to Vassar college right near my house in Poughkeepsie NY. Small world indeed.
One thing that surprised me was that I was to race with the next older field, the Masters 3. This race was an hour earlier than I had planned. I mentioned I was early? Well, that was looking like prescience now. I hustled back to the car and joined the tail end of course inspection before the next race. The course was a little moist from dew, but the conditions were dry and fast. There were no hills but lots of technical features, tons of fast accelerations, but also some hammer sections. The start will be a holy dash down the cobbles into a hard right hand turn. That's going to be interesting!
I was soon in the staging area for call ups. Based on riders called, there appeared to be a random draw for staging position. As you pass through the entry into the grid, an official slides a measuring tool over your wheels checking their width. I passed my second test. I had been ready to start in the back of the field. Instead, I found myself in the third row of four right behind the current German Masters 3 national champion. Nice.
The gun sounded and we were off! 150 meter sprint down the cobbles and I cautiously rolled around the first turn. Continuing on the pavement, we shot through an alley up to the first dismount before a couple sets of stairs. Back on the bike and we accelerated through a small school playground, again on pavement, where I began to pass some riders. I got my first taste of European race time emotion as one guy let me know his displeasure at being passed. Onto the grass for the next few stretches of course, I worked traffic using power bursts and smooth turns. The course was indeed very fast. Even though I’m in a foreign country, racing feels natural. By the end of the first lap, we're overtaking U17 riders who started one minute ahead of us. I'm right on the wheels of guys in my class but I see no sign of the front of the field.
Three laps to go. The race is only 30 minutes long for 51+ aged categories so there's no time to waste. I keep moving through traffic and picking off riders. I botch a couple dismounts but am able to keep guys behind me at bay. I'm now on the wheels of the lead three young riders. The intensity is high. I normally don’t go quite this hard this early but I'm fresh since my training load was low in the past few days. We get the bell!
Last lap. Time to use all the experience from the prior laps. Feeling great. Turns are smooth, still able to accelerate, good gap on the riders behind, up the stairs, burn round the long looping field through the cow patties, over the barriers, run up the next 2 meter rise, back on the bike, pass the last U17 rider, no one in sight, keep hammering anyway, past the pit area, round the final turn into the final sprint, out of the saddle, give it all I've got through the finish line, done. Awesome!
UCI was quick and their posted results indicated I managed 8th place out of 30. Sweet! I hung around and watched the pros. Laying on the lawn watching the race and catching up with my family on the phone was wonderful. What a great all-around experience. I’m so fortunate to have gotten this opportunity. Wonder if there'll be another work related reason to come to Germany next year?
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