Lieblingstouren

Get Fat in Tirol

Als wir vom Hotel losfahren hört es sich an, als wären wir in einer Kolonne SUVs unterwegs, so laut rollen unsere breiten Reifen über den Asphalt. Und im Prinzip stimmt das ja auch, auf den ersten Bli Wanderern klappt. Einerseits sitzen die Reflexe - wer eine Fahrradklingel hört tritt zur Seite, auch im tiefsten Schnee. Wir benehmen uns aber auch sehr gut: Immer Vorfahrt für die Wanderer, immer ein freundliches „Servus!“ oder „Danke!“ auf den Lippen und bergab gilt im Zweifel: runter vom Gas! Die meisten müssen bei unserem Anblick sowieso lachen, zu skurril ist das Bild das wir abgeben.

 

Selber machen!

Auch wenn ich jetzt nicht loslaufe und mir ein Fatbike kaufe werde – ich komme sicher noch mal wieder! Als Alternative im Winter zum Langlaufen oder Wandern lohnt sich ein Fatbike auf jeden Fall und ich kann jedem nur empfehlen: einfach mal ausprobieren, ganz großer Spaß! Markus von Velorado organisiert hoffentlich auch 2019 wieder ein Fatbike Camp - ich wäre dabei...

The Longest Night

Really, whose idea was this? Putting on my cycling gear in the parking lot at 0 degrees I can't help but ask myself who is to blame. There are still some patches of snow in the parking lot and the cloudless sky doesn't just promise beautiful views of the stars but also a cold, cold night. And if that isn't enough, the lake will probably add some fog to that – I just hope there is no ice on the road...

 

Under the Stars

Christian and I are in Arco, about to start the “Randonnée del Solstizio d'Inverno”. The last brevet of the year, on the weekend before the winter solstice – the longest night of the year to complete 200km around Lake Garda, with 1100m of climbing. Together with some 180 other cyclists we gather in the Christmas market – then it is one last espresso at the bar, a few words from Fabio (the organizer – thank you, Fabio!) and in small groups of riders we hit the road. As the ride around the lake is only about 150km we start with a loop towards Lago de Cavedine and Lago di Toblino to reach 200km in the end, the required distance for a brevet. These are familiar roads for me, but in the dark it still feels new. There is no moon and the only light we have are our own lamps, piercing ahead into the darkness. Up on the hills around us the castles are illuminated for the Christmas season and in the crisp air we have a clear view of the stars – this is night riding at its best!

I luckily also got my clothing choice right – starting out a bit shivering I am now relatively warm. No need to get out the thicker gloves or use the heat patches I bought for my shoes – on the contrary, on the uphill I even open the outer layers to let in some cold air. I would not want to break out in a sweat with 180km in sub zero temperatures still remaining...

We stop only briefly at the first control, beautifully located at the Christmas market in Santa Massenza. Two cups of hot tea and a couple of cookies later we get back on the bikes and return to Arco the way we came. The second control is back at the bar were we started, and this break takes a little longer. There is cake and tea and hot chocolate to be had and it is warm inside – but we are already quite far back in the pack and there is still 3/4 of the ride ahead of us, so a bit reluctantly we head back out again.

 

Along the Lake

And now it is time to hit the lake. A road that I would never recommend because while the view sure is beautiful there is also plenty of traffic and it would not make for nice riding. Normally, that is – but at close to midnight in the middle of December we have it almost completely to ourselves. Being near the end of the riders means that we do not even see other cyclists and so the two of us pedal alone through the darkness. To the right we have the lake, nothing but a flat surface of pitch black darkness. Above us the stars, occasionally a church or castle bears Christmas lights in the hills to our left and also every town we pass through is beautifully adorned with Christmas illuminations.

But I am still happy when we approach the next control, after now 113km. In Peschiera del Garda we get our brevet card stamped at the local McDonalds and when we roll into the parking lot we are in for quite a picture: Well over 100 cyclists are inside, all clad in their high-viz/reflective winter gear, happily munching away at Big Macs and raiding the McCafé for hot tea and coffee. A few locals are there as well, dressed for going out on a Saturday night, warily eyeing us all not quite knowing what to make of all this....

We take our time again, stopping for almost on hour. But we need to warm up and also eat something. As usual I did not eat enough while on the bike, which is especially stupid in winter as the body needs plenty of energy to stay warm. If I don't want to bonk soon I better finish that Big Mac menu, whether I like it or not....

Heading North

We have now reached the point furthest south of the tour and heading back north should feel something like “almost back home”. But to the cold now comes the tiredness, making the remaining distance feel longer than it should. The strong headwind doesn't help either and we mentally need to break it down to shorter sections. “Not far now to the place where we have to answer the secret control question”,“soon we'll hit the Gardesena Occidentale with the tunnels and galleries”, “almost at the last control”. Even only stopping for a very short time (eating a bar, taking a picture) now takes its toll. The body seems to think “hey I stopped, this is over – time to power down” and a one minute stop means 15 minutes of cold feet and hands before my blood circulation is back into “moving mode” and agrees to supply toes and fingers with enough warmth as well...

But the ride is still beautiful. Riding through the empty tunnels and galleries feels surreal, we see no more than a handful of cars and the opposite shore looks like it is lit up by a string of pearls, so evenly space are the street lights. And before we know it we descend into Riva del Garda and ride the familiar roads back to Arco with the first hint of dawn in the sky. Treating ourselves to cappuccino and cake with other riders and the first locals that are already up early on a Sunday means the sun is already up by the time we reach the car park, pull out the sleeping backs and quickly fall asleep in the van....

 

PS: I am to blame

I had a few small signs of an approaching cold, but apparently that was nothing a hot bath couldn't fix. On Sunday, right after the ride I said “never again – once was nice, but once is also enough”. Writing these words two days later I am not so sure about that anymore. Christian, are you coming again? You can blame it all on me and say it was my idea...

Coffeeneuring 2017 – Or the philosophical question of when is a challenge a challenge?

Coffee and bikes – a combination that is hard to beat. Luckily caffeine is not on the doping list (any longer!), so stopping for a coffee or two midride is perfectly acceptable behavior. I would even go so far to say that for me a ride isn’t a proper ride without a caffeine fix. And maybe a slice of cake while I am at it…

Which makes it even more unbelievable that it took the 7 years (as in: SEVEN!) for me to stumble across the annual coffeeneuring challenge. Hello Facebook algorithms, Big Data and AI – where were you??

The Unknown Challenge

So, what is the coffeeneuring challenge? Basically it is an idea to keep people on their bikes during fall and the bad weather. The rules are simple enough: ride to seven different cafés over the course of 6 weeks and have a coffee (or similar). Nor more than two rides a week and a minimum of 2 miles (yes, 2. This isn’t specifically aimed at roadies). Easy enough. The problem for me was: I didn’t find out until 10 days before before the end. Luckily I already had 4 rides in the books that qualified under the rules. And even 3 of those to previously unknown cafés. But this raised an interesting philosophical question: can you claim to have completed a challenge if you did not know you were being challenged??

Pondering this over a cup of coffee I decided: yes, I find it acceptable in the „spirit of coffeeneuering“. After all, the goal of this challenge as I see it is twofold: first, keep riding come fall. Check, done that. Second: slow down, it’s a ride – not a race. Check again. So I had a week and a half to get in 3 more rides – more than doable.

I would have liked to ride the challenge under a theme within a theme as some people do – trying to combine it with a border crossing challenge, having my coffee always across some kind of border… So already looking forward to next year’s challenge,  when I’ll know right from the start that I am being challenged 😉

The Rides

And without further ado, here are my 2017 coffeeneuring rides:

17/10: 80k to the ice cream parlor Eiseria on the shores of lake Chiemsee. Coffee ok, Ice cream excellent!

19/10: 99k to the small but charming Bohne37, shop meets café. Coffee and cake excellent, highly recommended!

03/11: My usual 80k gravel ride to the Velosoph, bike shops meet café par excellence. Excellent coffee, as usual!

08/11: 109k gravel heavy ride to Dropbar – Bikes & Coffee that broke my bike (different story). Coffee was worth it, go see them!

14/11: 94k in 3 countries, stopping at the Vitra Haus for great carrot cake and cappuccino.

16/11: 64k through the Alsace region, stopping at a French patisserie for café au lait and pastries. Unfortunately and unusual for France: quite disappointing.

19/11: an easy city bike 5k to the Alof bakery. The Franzbrötchen (cinnamon specialty from northern Germany) was ok, but the coffee a big disappointment – the barista clearly had no idea what he was doing…

 

PS:

Of course I do hope that the esteemed coffeneuering judges follow my reasoning and I can claim one of the 2017 coffeeneuring patches. But if not: nothing lost, I still have those rides under my belt and know a few more cafés that I will definitely stop at again in the future.

Ein Langstreckler beim Crossrennen

Letztes Jahr hatte ich noch gekniffen, dieses Jahr gab es dann keine Ausrede mehr: das VPace hat vom Social Cross Ride eh schon die dicken Reifen drauf und vor allem ist die Strecke trocken - ganz im Gegensatz zum Vorjahr (>>>LINK). Damit traue selbst ich als Fahrtechnik-Legastheniker mich auf die Strecke… Und die hat es durchaus in sich - sage nicht nur ich, sondern auch Leute die das öfter machen. Aber schön ist sie mit dem Olympiapark als Kulisse, und abwechslungsreich. 

Warmgraveln

Vormittags gab es quasi zum Warmfahren den Social Cross Ride der Schwalben, „guided by Rapha“  - 40km schöner Schotter nördlich von München, vorbei an der einen oder anderen Sehenswürdigkeit, sehr zu empfehlen! (Bisschen kurz vielleicht kam als Feedback von manchem Teilnehmer, ich bin sicher da gibt es nächstes Jahr auch eine längere Variante.)

Ich gehe schnell noch mal für eine kurze Runde auf die Strecke, um zumindest einen Eindruck zu haben was da so auf mich zukommt. das trägt leider nicht dazu bei, dass sich meine Nerven beruhigen, merke ich doch wieder mal: Technik ist nicht so meins… Aber das hilft jetzt auch nichts mehr, ein paar Schlüsselstelle 2-Mal fahren - das muss dann auch langen. Wird anstrengend genug werden.

Auf geht’s!

Beim Start sortiere ich mich mal optimistisch im hinteren Drittel ein und werde direkt auf der Startgerade von einem guten Teil der Leute überholt… Cross ist Sprint: Vollgas, runter vom Rad, rauf den Berg, rauf aufs Rad, runter den Berg, Vollgas - so in der Art. Jedenfalls gilt: Puls rauf. So richtig rauf! 

Theorie und Praxis

Zumindest in der Theorie. In der Praxis stelle ich schnell fest, was da bei mir nicht funktioniert: zum einen merke ich wenig überraschend, dass ich die letzten zwei Jahre so gut wie keine intensiven Intervalle gefahren bin - mein Puls weiß gar nicht mehr wie er so schnell da hoch kommen soll…

Und das zweite Problem: ich trau mich nicht - bzw. weiß einfach nicht, was ich mir und dem Rad so zutrauen kann. Wie schnell in die Kurve, kann ich hier noch treten oder lieber nicht?? Im Zweifel entscheide ich mich also für langsamer und werde so gerne mal an den technischeren Stellen überholt - bin ich hier schon letzter??

Manöverkritik

Nein, Letzter war ich nicht - allerdings wurde ich von den Führenden dann doch deutlich überrundet und fahre so nur 4 Runden. Was ich gut finde: nach hinten raus wurden meine Runden schneller, ich hab mich dann wohl jedes Mal ein klein wenig mehr getraut. Mit ein bisschen Praxis und ein wenig Intervalltraining könnte das vielleicht sogar richtig Spaß machen???

Und vom Berg rauf laufen habe ich die nächsten drei Tage noch was, meine Waden danken mir die halbe Stunde Radfahren mit einem enormen Muskelkater - jede Treppenstufe erinnert mich wieder ans Wochenende. Gar kein so schlechtes Gefühl eigentlich!

Mitmachen?

Mitmachen!! Wer irgendwie Bock hat und sich unsicher ist: rauf aufs Rad! Von den Schwalben gibt es außerdem Technikkurse, da hätte auch ich mir am Samstag ein paar Tipps holen sollen. Nächstes Jahr! Und auch wenn nicht: 4 Runden Crosserfahrung hab ich jetzt, das sollte zumindest langen um nächsten Jahr keine Bedenken zu haben, erneut zu starten..

Bratkartoffeln beim Schwarzwald Super!

Schwarzwald Super! 2017

Um kurz nach 5 werde ich durch das Surren von Freiläufen geweckt: durch die beschlagenen Autoscheiben sehe ich, wie sich unterm Sternenhimmel die Fahrer für die lange Runde sammeln. Kurz frage ich mich, ob ich auch schnell raus soll – aber dann drehe ich mich doch noch mal um und schlafe noch ein Stündchen. Gestern Abend im Wirtshaus stand schließlich schon das Herbstmenü auf der der Karte, die Saison ist damit offiziell vorbei, da langt auch eine der kürzeren Runden.

Länger, höher, netter als der Ötzi

Ich bin im Schwarzwald, habe in der zweiten Runde noch einen Platz beim Schwarzwald Super! bekommen. Drei Varianten stehen zur Auswahl, die „goldene“ hat es mit 265km und 6500 Höhenmetern besonders in sich. Hat da jemand Ötztaler gesagt?? Der hat vielleicht die höheren Berge, aber dafür halt nur 4 davon.

Und im Gegensatz zum Ötztaler geht es angenehm entspannt zu. Hier fährt niemand mit, um zu gewinnen – eine Zeitmessung gibt es gar nicht erst, auch keine (vermeintlich) einpeitschende Musik zum Start. Stattdessen gibt es einen Stempel, und nach und nach machen sich ein paar 100 Leute auf die lange Runde.

Schwarzwaldnebel

Jeweils eine gute Stunde später starten die mittlere und die „kurze“ Runde – die es mit 175km / 4600 Höhenmetern bzw. 100km / 2700 Höhenmetern auch durchaus in sich haben. Es ist also noch Zeit für ein kurzes Frühstück in der Turnhalle, dann schnell ein Vorher-Bild vom Profifotografen und ab aufs Rad, hinein in den Schwarzwaldnebel. Und war es beim Start mit 5 Grad noch zapfig kalt wird mir schnell warm, denn direkt nach dem Start geht es gleich mal ordentlich bergauf – keine halben Sachen!

Nach und nach klettere ich aus dem Nebel raus in die Sonne, dann kommen mir plötzlich Fahrer entgegen. Bin ich falsch abgebogen? Eigentlich bei der perfekten Beschilderung nicht möglich – und oben klärt es sich dann schnell auf. Am Gipfel gibt es eine Stempelbox, es ging „nur“ um die extra Höhenmeter. Und um einen grandiosen Blick auf den Südschwarzwald: keiner, der hier nicht stehen bleibt und ein Foto macht.

Lecker Frühstück

Nach dem ersten großen Berg stehen noch 2 kleinere Hügel an, bevor die erste Verpflegungsstelle kommt und zu einer ausgiebigen Pause einlädt. Energieriegel sucht man hier vergeblich, statt dessen gibt es ein ordentliches Frühstück mit Käse- und Schinken aus der Region, Hefezopf, dazu Obst, Tee, Kaffee und das eine oder andere Stück selbstgebackenen Kuchen. Das nenne ich mal eine gelungene Rennverpflegung.

Und niemand macht hier Stress – alle machen wirklich Pause, niemand der sich vordrängelt und die Taschen vollstopft, um sofort weiter zu rasen – hier geht es einfach nur ums Radfahren, nicht um Bestzeiten.

Schwarzwald Rundumschlag

Satt geht es weiter durch den Schwarzwald, mal auf kleinen, unbekannten Nebenstraßen, mal auf den größeren Verbindungsstraßen. Vor allem auf den Schauinsland hinauf nervt der Verkehr für ein paar Kilometer, aber das ist wohl leider der Preis den man zahlen muss, wenn man alle nennenswerte Anstiege im Schwarzwald unter einen Hut bringen will. Und das schafft der Schwarzwald Super!, hier gibt es auf einen Schlag einen ziemlich kompletten Eindruck der Region. Und die ist schön, sehr schön sogar – wer den Schwarzwald bisher noch nicht kennt sollte ihn meiner Meinung nach auf jeden Fall auf seine Liste setzen!

Meine Achillesverse: Bratkartoffeln

Durch die Streckenführung und die vielen kleinen Straßen im Schwarzwald gibt es außerdem die Möglichkeit, zwischendrin abzukürzen falls es die Beine nicht mehr mitmachen, das Wetter umschlägt oder es zeitlich eng wird. Auch ich sammle nicht alle Stempel der silbernen Strecke ein – höhere Gewalt, ich konnte nichts machen: schließlich gab es Bratkartoffeln an der Verpflegung, BRATKARTOFFELN!! Da musste ich einfach länger bleiben, keine Chance...

Ein weiterer Vorteil, danach die Abkürzung genommen zu haben: es blieb noch Zeit für die mobile Sauna die im Ziel aufgebaut war...

Schwarzwald Super! Fazit: Super!

Johannes und sein Orgateam – ein großer Teil davon Freiwillige, von Freiburger Radkurieren bis zum örtlichen Gesangsverein – haben hier eine richtig schöne Veranstaltung auf die Beine gestellt. Eine sportlich anspruchsvolle Strecke, bei der aber trotzdem jeder entspannt und ohne falschen (anstrengenden) Ehrgeiz unterwegs ist. Schon gar nicht fährt hier irgendwer gegen jemand anderen. Dazu tragen maßgeblich auch die super Verpflegungsstellen bei, die zur längeren Essenspausen einladen (übrigens ernährungswissenschaftlich abgestimmt mit der Uni Freiburg). Aber auch die ganzen kleinen Details wie die vorher-nachher-Bilder, die mobile Sauna, das Coffee-Bike und die lokalen Craft-Biere. Oder das es statt einer Finisher Medaille ein Glas Honig und eine kleine Flasche Wein – natürlich aus dem Schwarzwald – gibt: Alles sehr, sehr gelungen. Dazu ein Team, dass jederzeit freundlich und hilfsbereit und unfassbar nett ist – chapeau!!

Johannes, vielen Dank! Nächstes Jahr bin ich wieder dabei. Und sammle dann vielleicht ein paar Stempel mehr ein, zumindest bin ich jetzt gewarnt was die Verlockungen angeht...

Racer for a day – scratching at TCR No.5

It has now been a month since I scratched from the Transcontinental Race on day 3, having lost my motivation after the tragic death of Frank Simons, and I am still not sure how that happened. Or what that means – if it means anything at all? I have given it time, I have been back on the bike, I have talked about it with other riders – but I still have not come to any kind of conclusion. Maybe writing about it will help?? So without knowing where this text will lead to, here is my (very) brief TCR experience…

Contagious

It is no secret that I had my doubts leading up to the start, and having to drive up to Belgium instead of riding did not really help either. But once I got to Geraardsbergen on Friday evening the race atmosphere began to take over: all the other unmistakable racers with their fully loaded rigs, the occasional ultra cycling legend, and excited locals: the town was abuzz with a pre race excitement that was contagious. This is really happening, I am about to ride across Europe!

The Saturday was even more so, excitement building up. And at the same time doubts diminished. The bike was packed, my gear was what it was – worrying now was not going to help. And the day flew by quickly – my planned 3 hours of sleep in the afternoon turned out to be a 30 minute nap, but better than nothing. And so, after a solemn minute of silence and a raucous minute of noise for Mike and an emotional good bye from Tina I found myself setting of into the night, together with about 300 other racers.

Into the night

Setting out all at once meant the first few kilometers of the race had a sense of togetherness that you usually do not get (nor expect) on the TCR, feeling more like a local club ride when I found myself rolling in a group of 30 or so. But it sure ended quickly enough when I took a left turn while everyone else went straight. And that was it for company – except for one very brief meeting around midnight and a headlight far off in the distance that was all I saw of any other rider that night.

The night was uneventful in the best of terms. The weather was great, I was happily riding along on small roads, only seeing a handful of cars and was able to refuel at a gas station at just the right moment. I wasn’t tired, and sunrise saw me powernapping for 5 minutes in The Netherlands, without any sign of having crossed a border (political side note: this is what Europe is about!!).

Racing after all

What surprised me when the day went on was the mindset I was riding in. With all the caveats I had given myself that “I will not be racing the TCR” I was, in fact, racing it! Not against the other riders or for the fastest time possible – but against myself on my set route. Occasionally a rider would pass me on the road while I took the bike path, or I overtook someone twice, having “lost” time because I had chosen a smaller and hillier route instead of the busy main road. And that didn’t bother me at all, I wasn’t tempted to hit busier roads to be faster. But without even having to try I kept stops to a minimum, maximizing my moving time. And in my head I was already optimizing my bike and equipment, shedding weight and decreasing aerodynamic drag for the TCRs to come (yes, I know: preposterous, very!).

Making plans

So when it was time for lunch on Saturday afternoon I was quite happy to see that I only had a little under 2 hours of non-moving time in the almost 17 hours of racing – an unheard ratio for me! With 320 km down at early afternoon, legs and spirit feeling strong I sat down at a large hearty lunch and made plans for the rest of the day: Another 90 km of easy terrain along the Rhine would see me to Bingen. That would be a good 4 hours at current pace, so my plan was to get another good meal in there, stock up for the night and then keep pedaling into the sunset, seeing how long I could go before I was too tired to continue. It was going to be a warm night, so I wanted to give my bivvy setup a try, seeing if I could get a good – and restful – five or six hours of sleep out in the open. Maybe 450 or even 500km would be possible before hitting the hay??

Frank Simons

Then I got the official e-mail that Frank Simons had died in a collision with a car and all plans became obsolete.

I did not know Frank personally and had not talked to him before the start. But I had sat with him in the race briefing only hours ago and he wore the same cap I did. And with that e-mail all the motivation, all the joy of riding suddenly left me, like a balloon hit with a needle. I rode on very slowly, not quite grasping what had happened. It was yet undecided what would happen with the race, but that did not really matter anyway – even if the race officials made the decision to continue with the race I would still have to make up my own mind about what to do. I talked to other racers I met, all of them shocked. Some spontaneously said that they would drop out right then and there, some said they would go on – in touring mode if the race got cancelled, but riding no matter what.

Everything seemed suspended: Riders rode side by side, talking about what had happened and what that meant. I stopped a lot more frequently, basically whenever I met someone else. General consensus was that the race would surely be canceled. Via the Facebook group a few riders organized a get together in Bingen, so I reserved a hotel and slowly made my way there. Most of that time I rode alongside Roger (cap #34), talking about what had happened. He wanted to go on, but said he couldn’t – he had been left lying unconsciously in the street after a hit and run with some broken ribs just weeks ago, and his little girl was already super scared for him. With a fatal crash now on top he needed to get off the road and back to his family.

What do I want?

That evening 10 of us met for dinner in Bingen, sitting outside until late, talking about Frank and the race and personal choices, all thoughts of racing put aside for some time. By now the official decision to continue with the race had been made (in the spirit of what Frank would have wanted), but even so three of us said they would drop out, one had in fact already done so. I had not yet come to a decision myself, so decided to sleep over it and get on the bike the next morning, trying to clear my head while pedaling. Usually that works quite well – in this case it did not.

My “race mode” was gone and I was in touring mode. Stopping for whatever reason became common. Taking a picture (another one), getting ice cream (another one), just a quick coke at the gas station (another one). Progress was slow and turning the pedals did nothing to clear my mind. Arriving late at check point 1 I talked again with other racers, a friend who had come down from Stuttgart and race director Juliana – but was still unable to come to any decision. So again I decided to have a proper sleep on it and see what the next day would bring.

A difficult decision suddenly easy

I did not wake up with a made up mind. But after a long phone call with my girlfriend at the gates of Castle Lichtenstein I made the conscious call to try and get back into race mode for the next 150 kilometers, up to the town of Kempten. From there it would be either dead south into the Alps or take a left towards Munich, heading home.

To make a long story short: it didn’t work out. It took me almost 12 hours to ride those 150 kilometers. Yesterdays touring mode had turned into a leisurely bike ride. Even more pictures, more ice cream, more coke stops. And when I sat in yet another ice cream parlor in Kempten that evening I realized something: The decision was not whether or not I should quit. It was if I still had the heart and the commitment to stay in it and ride hard. Which the last two days had clearly shown I did not, and unfortunately I saw no signs of this changing. I did not want to ride the Transcontinental at a touring pace, that was something I was sure of. It was “pedal my heart out” or nothing. Once I had embraced that difficult truth the decision all of the sudden was very easy: After 2 days, 20 hours and 840 km on the road, cap #153 scratched from the race.

No regrets

Looking back I am still certain that this was the right decision. Of course I am disappointed that I did not get to ride the TCR. And following the other racers’ dots made clear that I did miss most, if not all, of the adventure. Comparing my reason to scratch (“loss of motivation”) to what riders experienced further down the road illustrates that nicely: angry dogs, bears, getting run over by horses (!), struck by lightning (!!), battling a heat wave called “Lucifer”. And I only rode in countries I knew, my legs were still fresh and I had gotten plenty of sleep. I did not have to overcome any obstacles like broken wheels or pedals and the more “interesting” stretches of my route planning were all still to come.

But “broken motivation” will end your race more certainly than a broken bike.

The question of “why”

I have tried to understand if there is some deeper meaning in me quitting like this.

With Mike’s death in March going into TCR No. 5 the possibility of someone dying during the race was clear on my mind, so while of course not expected a situation like this should not have come as a surprise to anyone racing. And it wasn’t that I felt unsafe on the road all of the sudden – passing cars didn’t scare me and I was confident in (most of) my route choice, steering me away from heavy traffic. So it wasn’t fear or concern for my own safety that made me scratch. (I have of course been back on the bike since: no special road fear.)

Was my heart maybe not in it from the start, was the adrenalin and thrill of the start simply masking it and Frank’s death brought it to the surface? I very strongly doubt that. I enjoyed the first day too much and too consistently and was looking forward to the adventures to come. Heck, I was already planning my equipment for next year’s race!

So no, I do not know what this means. But I have stopped worrying – I think time will tell. When the time comes to apply for a spot in TCR No. 6 I will know if I want to give it another try….

THANK YOU!

A huge “Thank you!” to the “TCR family” and all the volunteers who made TCR No.5 possible and gave me this chance – even if I didn’t use it as fully as others. To Anna, Patricia, Russ, Juliana, and Tom – and everyone else involved, be it behind the scenes as dot watchers or check point volunteers. If I am not back on the bike I will be back amongst the volunteers in the years to come.

Final thoughts before TCR No 5 – and why I will not be racing it

At the time of writing it is exactly 72 hours until I will stand on the Muur in Geraardsbergen (Belgium), together with some 300 other crazies, and set off into the night to ride the Transcontinental Race No. 5. About 4000 km across Europe, visiting 4 iconic climbs as checkpoints and finishing in Meteora, Greece. No fixed route, self supported and the clock never stops – whoever gets there first, wins.

I have been looking forward to this for about a year now, ever since I volunteered at one of the checkpoints in TCR No. 4 and basically knew that I would get a spot at the start line. The level of excitement varied greatly over the year, oscillating from anticipation to doubts and right now knowing basically just two states that change about three times a day: from thrills of exctasy to get this going to outright panic.

Mike

But things for me have also changed over this year, affecting how I have been riding lately. I don’t know if it is me getting older or if things really are getting worse out there on the streets, but I find it less and less enjoyable to ride my bike on larger streets with even just a moderate amount of traffic. Passing cars seem to be getting closer and there seems to be less respect for cyclists. So I found myself gravitating to small roads with almost no traffic whenever possible, loosing my dislike of gravel, in fact starting to look for it.

Then Mike died. I was on Mallorca for five days, giving my training a much needed boost. Checking the race status of the Indy Pacific Wheel Race before going to bed I watched with horror as someones harmless tweet (something like „road block on road such-and-such — hoping Mike isn’t forced to stop“) turned into certainty that  there had been a crash and Mike had been killed.

Motivation at a low

Motivation was low after this – not just because of the uncertainty whether or not the race would actually go on, but because Mike’s death all of the sudden turned that vague, undefined feeling I had into a brutal reality.

I know all the figures and statistics and am convinced (and can statistically proof to you for all what it’s worth) that cycling is a relatively safe sport – but feeling that is something different.

So for a while my heart wasn’t into it. Add a horrible bike crash in the family (all good again, phew!) and for a while I would rather ride an hour long detour – including a 17% incline on a blocky MTB single trail on a loaded road bike with 25mm tires for good measure – just to avoid a 15 minute climb up the Fernpass. Which is not a nice road traffic wise but definitely not that bad. Riding like this eastern European roads would be challenging…

Change of approach

Luckily that improved and I am more relaxed again. As I said, I know the figures. But the ease of riding comfortably on a road with more traffic still isn’t back, and I doubt it ever will be completely. So the two overnight endeavors I started as training rides (Candy B. Graveller – text in German only – and Rando Imperator) were gravel events. And the route I have prepared is definitely not the quickest or flattest, but what I hope will have the least traffic. I also expect myself to look for alternatives while I ride, occasionally trying out smaller roads and cycle paths.

So in a race context this translates into: more km, more climbing, less gas stations and McDonald’s (fuel!) on the way. More chances to get lost, hit gravel or catch a flat due to road debris. Not really what you would plan if you wanted to ride across Europe as fast as possible.

„This is not a Tour“

The thing is, I would never have raced for podium or a place in the top 10, 20 or even 50. I don’t have the legs for that (even if training would have been what I wanted it to be) and I definitely don’t have the mind for it. I like sleep too much, I like good coffee and cake too much, and it is difficult to resist the urge to stop and indulge if I pass a good locking ice cream shop (Italy will be full of temptations!).

Mike once wrote a great article titled „This is not a Tour“ (read it, it’s great!), explaining how racing – instead of touring – something like the Great Divide or the World Cycle Race doesn’t make it less enjoyable, but maybe even more enjoyable. And I totally understand what he says, and when I signed up for TCR No. 5 I thought that I would be able to properly race it. I thought I wanted to race it. Not against the likes of Kristof or Björn or the other big shots, but against my own clock. Get to Greece as fast as I can.

„This is not a Race“

That changed for me, and I hope the words above explained that. Writing it down certainly made it clearer for myself. So when I get on my bike this Friday and set off into the night with 300 others crazies I will not race them. I will ride my heart out, I will pedal through the night, I will get up too early and I will eat too much fast food. But I will not ride the fastest route, I will chance gravel where I wouldn’t have to and I will definitely stop for ice cream more often than is necessary.

So for me, this is not a race. And that is perfectly ok for me.

Post Scriptum

Well, this post turned out a little different than I had expected. Originally I wanted to write a few words about the training, gear, route and last minute niggles. So here is at least a little of that in a nutshell, a proper post about this will follow after the race. Including a what worked and what didn’t.

Training: not exactly what I wanted it to be – but it never is, so that’s ok. At least a few long distance overnight rides in there. And the doc says I am pushing more watts than last year, so legs should be ok.

Gear: The bike has been tried and tested for years now (VPace T1ST), so no worries about that. But I have to admit that knowledge of my bivvy setup is at least in part theoretical. And the new navigation (Wahoo Elmnt, thanks!!) hasn’t been properly tested, so I carry a Garmin as backup. But I am confident. Oh, and it is of course way too heavy, coming in at 21kg all in – without food and water! No idea how people get their stuff down to 16…

Route: Around 4100 km with 43.000 m elevation gain (according to Komoot). When possible I chose smaller roads, even if that meant extra km or some extra climbing. I relied on strava heat maps and google streetviewed some of it. But I am far from a complete walk through on streetview, so there will be surprises…

Last Niggles: Getting to the start line was supposed to be a leisurely 5 day bike trip, scouting some of my route along the way, occasionally taking a local train. But a broken through axle in the girlfriend’s bike saw us stuck in Munich for 4 days, so it will now be a car ride up to the start. So much for the final test of my final setup and accustoming myself to the Elmnt.

But looking at the torrential rains we are having at the moment it might even be better for my motivation, so maybe that’s a good thing, who knows…

Follow me: You can watch the race unfold here at Trackleaders. Most likely I will be dot number 153.

I won’t take the time to post blog entries while I am on the road but will try to give quick updates on the Facebook page  and share the occasional photo via Instagram. If you want to shout out some encouragement, please do so – there will be times I will need it :)

Thanks!

A great and loud Thank You!! to the organizers team that stepped in and made it possible for the Race to go ahead. Dealing with the personal pain of loosing Mike and still putting this on is incredible. Thank you for the opportunity of the adventure of a lifetime.

 

Additional info:

If you didn’t know: Mike Hall was THE long distance cyclist and the organizer of the Transcontinental Race. He died on his bike in a collision with a car this March, during the Indy Pacific Wheel Race in Australia

More info about TCR? Let Chris White explain here.

Rando Imperator MMXVII – Via Claudia Augusta from Munich to Ferrara

What happens if you roll close to midnight into the best hotel in Bozen, completely drenched and shivering to the bone, dripping onto the marble floor and pushing a horribly filthy bike? You are of course treated like a royal guest! They even insist you bring the bike into the lobby over night, leaning it against an antique cabinet that’s probably worth more than the bike. 

And yes, they do have a room available. That’s music in my ears, and a few minutes later I have managed to make a total mess of the bathroom (dirt and dirty clothes everywhere) and stand under a steaming hot shower, washing off six hours of riding in the rain, slowly becoming warm again. When I am tucked in bed (stuffed with pizza and under two blankets), quickly drifting off to sleep I have already half forgotten how awful the descent down the Reschenpass felt in 2 degrees and all thoughts about scratching (yes, those were there) are quickly forgotten - lets see how the world looks after 5 hours of good sleep and a hearty breakfast!

Rolling out - into the fog and the sunrise

The day had started out really good - it wasn’t half as cold as expected when I (and around 100 other riders) rolled out of Munich at 4 o’clock in the morning. Some 650 km ahead of us, along the old via Claudia Augusta, all the way to Ferrara in the Po valley. Mainly on roads away from the traffic, including some gravel parts and lots of dedicated bike paths. All scouted and organized by Simone from Witoor (http://witoor.com/en/), thank you very much! After last weeks DNF at the Candy B. Graveller I didn’t have a real plan for this one. Just to test the knee and see what is possible, maybe in one go without sleep…

The chilly fog along the Isar soon is burned away by a beautiful sunrise and in a large group we roll along nicely, ignoring the good cycle path at this early hour. Soon we are off the streets anyway, rolling on nice gravel roads towards the first control behind Garmisch. Breakfast time!!

One climb down…

Freshly fueled by Nutella sandwiches and Italian ham we tackle the first of two climbs - the Fernpass. All stories I had heard about the Fernpass was that there is heavy traffic - but we climb away from the road, on quiet gravel roads. Only for the last part we decide to switch to the road, because we want to descend on tarmac. While I have been told the gravel downhill is well rideable (in dry conditions), some of us are on 25mm tires and we also yearn for a bit of high speed. So we brave the traffic (not that bad), take the obligatory picture with the Zugspitze and down it is!

… one more to go

Back on the original track in Nassereith we make our way towards the Inn valley and the second climb, on easy rolling terrain and with virtually no traffic. Occasionally the cycle path closely follows the motorway and we get to see the cars whizz by - I would not want to switch sides!

After a short stretch in Switzerland we tackle the second climb - the Norbertshöhe. The knee holds up, the climb is never too hard and when we arrive in Nauders we have basically done it - we crossed the Alps, all downhill from here!

Here comes the rain… 

Unfortunately the weather on the other side of the Alps doesn't know that it is supposed to be better in the South and what starts as a slight drizzle soon turns to proper rain, plus it is getting colder. But we aren't far from the next control (and Pizza!), even Mike’s broken chain doesn’t stop us and we cross into Italy. Pizza feels great and we order extras, extending our stay a little and not wanting to head back out into the rain. Which is a mistake, because when we finally get back on the bikes the body has cooled down - and with a downhill ahead of us there is no real chance of warming up…

After the - again obligatory - picture at the Reschensee I find myself riding alone. I have a small defect, and in this weather waiting for someone will only cool you down, so the unspoken idea is to meet again on the track after the downhill. 

I am by now shivering pretty bad - the Garmin says it’s 2 degrees, and I need get to lower (=warmer) ground fast. So I descent on the main road, not sure about road conditions on the official track. I have later been told it would have been perfectly fine to follow the track, but I just didn’t want to take any chances.

… and it is here to stay

I rejoin it in Glurns and from here the next 220km are easy riding: following the river Etsch all the way to Lake Garda this is first downhill, then pancake flat, aside from the occasional bridge and pretty much without any traffic at all. So in theory this should be a piece of cake: but it is still raining, switching from drizzling to heavy rain, but never dry. Luckily I find part of my group again, and all I am thinking about is reaching the next control in Bozen, hoping for a hotel there and fantasizing about a hot shower… 

It really is head down and pedal - in the short stops we make I force myself to eat something, my mood is at a low, which also shows in the fact that I didn’t take a single picture for a whole 6 hours…

Now comes the sun!

When my alarm sounds after 5 hours of sleep I wake up relatively fresh and in a good mood. There is even a bit of blue sky to be seen! So I quickly pack the bike, do some damage assessment (camera didn’t make it - lesson learned here: if it has a zipper it is not REALLY waterproof, no matter what it says!) and head of to breakfast. Were I stumble upon Bernd and Carsten! Coughing badly last night they had also decided to be in need of a shower and a real bed and with breakfast being included they weren’t going to leave without it. So it is 3 of us rolling out at 7:30, with 314km to go to Ferrara.  

On autopilot

The bike path along the river Etsch can be quite boring - but with yesterday in my legs I am happy to be just rolling along flat. Wind can be an issue here, but this early there is none at all and we are lucky throughout the whole day. Which means we make good progress - which is good, because we are unsure of the time limit to officially finish this brevet. I don’t care but my two companions do - so my plea for a pasta lunch is ignored and all I get is a quick stop and a slice of cold pizza and bread. Fuel for the body, not so much for the spirit. 

Before reaching Lake Garda (and finally stopping for some proper food, thanks to my nagging) we have a smaller climb through the wine hills to best, but nothing serious. Not far now to the next control in Mantua, and another dead flat 100km from there to the finish!

On the homestretch 

Most of the route now directly follows the river Po, often on a dyke that is again virtually traffic free. We are lucky and have a slight tailwind blowing us into a magnificent sunset! Everything here looks not just Italian but very Roman to me, like Asterix and Obelix would be coming out of the woods any minute, chasing some Roman legionnaires. But all stays quiet, and after 42 hours and 665 km we reach Ferrara! Tired and knackered, but happy!

Der Candy B. Graveller – eine offene Rechnung

Letztes Wochenende fand zum ersten Mal der Candy B. Graveller statt - auf 640km geht die Strecke self-supported entlang des ehemaligen Flugkorridors der Rosinenbomber vom Luftbrückendenkmal in Frankfurt zum Luftbrückendenkmal in Berlin. Das Ganze ist von Gunnar als „Gravelfahrt“ angekündigt - ich rechne (und die meisten anderen wohl auch) also mit hauptsächlich Schotter und vielen Wald- und Forstwegen. Um es vorweg zu nehmen: das war falsch, vielleicht sogar vorsätzliche Irreführung von Gunnar! Und um den zweiten Spoiler auch gleich loszuwerden: ich bin nicht mal annähernd in Berlin angekommen…

Aber von Anfang an 

Im Januar taucht die Veranstaltung erstmals in den sozialen Netzen auf und ich denke mir, klingt doch nach einer super Veranstaltung: ein historischer Bezug, für eine gute Sache (Spende statt Teilnahmegebühr, außerdem transportiert jeder Fahrer ein Care Paket) und den self supported Modus muss ich eh üben für das Transcontinental. Also neue, breite Reifen drauf auf das VPace, dann läuft das schon. Dachte ich mir jedenfalls so. Anmelden und Reifen, Iosmatte und Biwacksack kaufen - damit war für mich die Vorbereitung dann auch schon erledigt. Rennradler-Arroganz wie sich rausstellen sollte….

Crème de la Crème der Szene 

Freitag um 16 Uhr rolle ich also zum Terminal 4, wo wir vom Verein Luftbrücke noch eine Wurst ausgegeben bekommen, viele Dank dafür! Es scheint die halbe Deutsche Bikepacking Szene da zu sein, wenn nicht mehr. Die Chance, ein paar Leute die ich bisher nur online kannte auch mal persönlich zu treffen und sich die Hand zu schütteln. 

An Bike Setup gibt es alle Variante zu sehen: Vom Fatbike mit vollem Programm an Taschen bis zu Martins Rad, der so aussieht als ob er kurz mal Brötchen holen fährt (und der 30mm Crossreifen montiert hat!!). Ich bin irgendwo in der Mitte mit meinem Setup, auch wenn ich für meinen Geschmack zu viel dabei habe: einen Satz Zivilklamotten (will evtl. noch einen Tag in Berlin bleiben), ein kompletter zweiter Satz Radklamotten und volle Biwackausrüstung mit Isomatte, Schlafsack und dem noch original verpackten Biwacksack. Aber ich sehe das ja auch als Materialtest für das Transcontinental, das ist schon ok.

Ready for take off 

Nach lecker Wurst und Fachsimpelei über Fahrräder sowie jeder Menge Understatement und Tiefstapelei („ach, ich will einfach nur entspannt Rad fahren, ist ja kein Rennen, soll Spaß machen“ - so in der Art) geht’s dann für ein paar Worte und offizielle Fotos - die Presse ist da!! - zum Luftbrückendenkmal und um 6 heißt es: ready for take off, es geht los!!

Im Pulk rollen wir los, aber schnell zieht sich alles auseinander - ich wollte Martin eigentlich noch viel Spaß wünschen aber der ist schon vorne weg und wurde bis Berlin auch nicht mehr gesehen. Die ersten km scheinen meine Vermutung zu bestätigen was die Strecke angeht: schöne Waldwege, leichter Schotter, alles gut zu fahren (verfrühter Gedanke: „ich hätte doch die dünneren Reifen nehmen sollen…“) und ich kann sogar den Aerolenker öfter mal nutzen. Fängt doch gut an!

Erstens kommt es anders…

Das bleibt allerdings nicht so - schnell mogeln sich erste Singletrails dazwischen, die sich teilweise auch erst auf den dritten Blick zeigen. Dann kommen Wurzelpassagen (jetzt eher so: „danke für die dicken Reifen“), wir passieren ein Sumpfgebiet („echt jetzt, da lang???“) und sollen laut GPS Track Wege fahren, die in meinen Augen keine sind: da ist vielleicht vor zwei Jahren mal ein Harvester durchgefahren und hat eine Schneise geschlagen, mehr aber auch nicht. Jedenfalls trage und schiebe ich mein Rad auch immer mal wieder. 

… und zweitens als man denkt

So bleibt die Strecke die nächsten Tage: gut fahrbare Wald- und Feldwege wechseln sich mit Singletrails ab, ab und zu muss man über Wiesen, wo Abdrücke von Treckerreifen einen Weg nur andeuten. Hin und wieder wird geschoben und getragen. Und irgendwann ist auch klar, wo die knapp 6000 Höhenmeter der Strecke herkommen: kurz vor Mitternacht schiebe ich meine Rad eine 30%-ige Schotterrampe (oder mehr? Der Garmin zeigt längst keine Steigung mehr an, weil ich zu langsam bin!) in die Weinberge hoch und fluche: über mein Gepäck, über meine Übersetzung, vor allem über Gunnars Streckenführung! Aber die Aussicht von oben ist super und immerhin regnet es nicht! Ich überlege kurz, hier zu biwackieren, fahre dann aber doch weiter. Müde bin ich noch nicht und die Beine spielen auch noch mit, ein paar Stunden will ich noch. Es folgen: Waldwege,  holprige Abfahrten, ein Tankstellenstopp, Trail Magic (Danke für die Haribo!!), ein verlockendes Lagerfeuer und ein Singletrail bergauf durchs Unterholz der aussieht wie ein olympischer Mountainbike Downhill Kurs. Ich wollte noch ein Foto machen, aber brauchte beide Hände für die Bremsen, damit mir das Rad nicht den Hang runterfällt… 

Als ich dann doch müde werde suche ich mir eine Schutzhütte (schon belegt von 2 anderen, aber Platz genug auch für 3) und versuche mehr schlecht als recht ein paar Stunden zu schlafen. 

Aua. Aua aua aua.

Nach vielleicht 1 1/2 Stunden fühle ich mich erstaunlich erholt und weiter geht’s: ausgekühlt behalte ich erst mal alles an Klamotten an was ich dabei habe, bergab ist es trotzdem noch recht kühl. Das dürften auch der Hunger und die Müdigkeit sein - Frühstück (und Kaffee!) in Fulda helfen dagegen.

Inzwischen zwickt mich immer mal wieder das Knie. Ich habe die Übersetzung nicht gewechselt und mit dem ganzen Gepäck und den Anstiegen auf Schotter reiche auch die 34x32 nicht um einigermaßen rund zu treten. Ich vermute mal, dass die Schmerzen daher kommen und beschließe das einfach erst mal zu ignorieren, bzw. öfter mal zu dehnen und ansonsten weiter zu fahren. 

Panzerplattenalptraum

Wobei „fahren“ heute oftmals auch nicht stimmt: die Candy B. Strecke trifft hier auf einen Streckenabschnitt der Grenzsteintrophy, die sich auch Gunnar ausgedacht hat: auf dem alten Todesstreifen geht es auf Panzerplatten entlang der deutsch-deutschen Grenze durch das Biosphärenreservat Rhön. Wunderschön zu gucken und ein absoluter Alptraum zum Fahren! Bergauf fasse ich schnell den Beschluss zu schieben (das Knie dankt!), bergab wünsche ich mir ein Fully und bin abermals dankbar für die dicken Reifen. Was ich jetzt auf jeden Fall weiß: die Grenzsteintrophy werde ich wohl nicht fahren, danke nein!

Eindrucksvoll ist es aber schon entlang der alten Grenzanlagen, das man hier Fahrrad fahren kann ist im Prinzip ja eine super Sache und verdeutlicht noch mal die historische Idee vom Candy B. Graveller. 

Schwere Entscheidung

Auch wenn der Panzerplattenweg endlich vorbei ist - einfach wird die Strecke trotzdem nicht und das Knie zwickt weiterhin. Bzw. wird schlimmer - ich krieg kaum noch Druck aufs Pedal ohne Schmerzen und fange langsam an dran zu zweifeln, ob es schlau ist so weiter zu fahren. Sobald es etwas steiler wird steige ich ab und schiebe - und ca. ein Drittel der Höhenmeter kommen noch, der Rennsteig ist nicht mehr weit und da geht es rüber. Mit jedem Anstieg wird es etwas schlimmer, mit Schmerzmitteln will ich nicht fahren und die Saison geht ja auch erst los, vielleicht lieber nichts riskieren… 

Ich habe die Idee, Berlin auf der Straße statt dem Track zu erreichen und verlasse für ein paar km den offiziellen Track - muss aber schnell feststellen, dass ich auch auf Asphalt nicht schmerzfrei fahren kann. Nach kurzer Pause am Straßenrand fällt dann die Entscheidung abzudrehen. Bahn statt Berlin, nach ca. 240 der 640km geht es für mich schweren Herzens zurück zum Start. 

Unfinished Business

Was klar ist: ich muss da noch mal wieder kommen. Dann mit weniger Gepäck, mehr Bergtraining in den Beinen und vielleicht sogar einer kleineren Übersetzung.

Denn auch wenn ich aus meiner (Straßen-) Rennradlersicht so manche Streckenwahl nicht verstehe - da werden perfekt asphaltierte, kleinste und verkehrsfreie Nebenwege verlassen um Umwege über holprige Wiesen zu fahren - das Ding will ich schon zu Ende bringen! Und da es Gunnars Veranstaltung ist gelten eben Gunnars Regeln. 

Mein Care Paket geht für dieses Jahr jetzt mit der Post nach Berlin, aber der Plan steht schon mal: Candy B. Graveller 2018, ich komme!

Und wer den Track haben möchte um ihn selbst zu fahren: Gunnar ansprechen! Ich sag mal am bester über die offizielle homepage: www.candybgraveller.cc. Da der Route sich sicherlich noch etwas verändern wird gilt: wer den Track will soll nach dem Gegenseitigkeitsprinzip etwas für den Track tun, und sei es nur das man anschließend die gefahrene Strecke einschickt.

 

 

PS: Für die Materialgeeks

Mein Materialtest fürs TCR war erfolgreich würde ich sagen - die Sachen haben gehalten oder zumindest ihre (kleinen) Schwächen offenbart die ich jetzt abstellen kann. Gefahren bin ich das ganze auf meinem VPace T1ST, als Reifen den WTB Riddler in 45mm aufgezogen - evtl. hätte auch ein 40mm Reifen gereicht, aber die rollen wunderbar und schön bequem. Den würde ich nächstes Mal wieder nehmen.

Ich hab eine Schraube beim Gepäckträger verloren, da half ein Kabelbinder als Ersatz, nächstes Mal kontrollieren ob alles mit Locktite festgeschraubt ist. Meine Lenkertasche (Revelate) sitzt etwas tief für mein Licht, da muss ich noch mal ran. Und die Lösung mit den Biwacksachen auf dem Gepäckträger funktioniert zum Fahren gut, braucht aber viel Zeit zum Aus- und Einpacken. Da denke ich auch noch mal drüber nach…

Was auch erfolgreich war: der Versuch zu biwackieren. Ich war am nächsten Tag gut fit - mal abgesehen vom Knie. Allerdings braucht man doch etwas Zeit mit Auf- und Abbau, das kann man noch verbessern denke ich. Bzw. wenn man gegenrechnet, dass die Betten im Hotel für einen gemacht werden ist man mit Hotels gar nicht so viel schlechter bedient, zumal der Schlaf sicher erholsamer ist. Ich denke da bleibt es bei meinem Plan, Hotels und Biwak abzuwechseln fürs Transcontinental…

Why it would probably be an excellent idea to start panicking RIGHT NOW

153 – that’s what I wrote on my bathroom mirror this morning in big, blood red numbers. 153 days to go until the start of the Transcontinental #05 in Geraardsbergen. That sounds a lot, doesn’t it? But it also translates to less than 22 weeks and only about 5 months. FIVE. MONTHS. Suddenly that does not sound that long any more, especially considering the amount of preparation needed. Getting the gear, adapting the bike and obviously training. Training would obviously be a really good idea.

But what do I do? Procrastinate. Instead of planning my route I am reading bike blogs and other people’s TCR adventure stories. Instead of getting (and testing) the extra gear I need I get lost looking at online galleries of beautiful bikes on the Radavist. And instead of putting myself out there on the bike and ride I am watching six day and cyclocross races…

What should have and what is

There were big plans for training in the winter: I signed up for the gym again, even though I am not a fan of indoors. I had all intentions to extend my daily commute from a leisurely 20 minutes on my folding bike from the seventies to a good hour or two of proper riding. And of course – what I believe every cyclist plans for the winter – my regular core workouts…

I haven’t been totally lazy, have done some sessions on the trainer or in the gym, and there were a couple of days when I actually rode, even the occasional longer commute as planned. But when looking at all the hours over the winter I have probably managed to get about half a TCR-day worth of training into a week, max. HALF. A. DAY.

I just don’t get it

For some reason the full force of what I have signed up for hasn’t really hit me yet. That racing unsupported across Europe is a little more than the average spin to the ice cream place down the road. And I have tried quite a few things to drive the point home. I watched all videos about the Transcontinental (and again! Say procrastination…), I am following plenty of rider’s training on Instagram and Strava (just looking at the leaderboard in the TCR group should give me sleepless nights), I bought that red pen to write on my mirror – but I simply don’t get it. Hell, I am even blogging about it, but nothing!!

What the therapist would say

And I believe I even know the reason: Paris-Brest-Paris 2015. There’s a whole blog post or two in that idea, but the short version is this: it felt too easy. Sure it was tough, but I had no real troubles worth mentioning. Ride 620km, sleep a few hours, ride another 620km (with the occasional power nap). Plenty of fun and laughter and friends along the way, a wonderful way to spend 3 days (@74 hours I wasn’t super fast). Sounds cocky, and maybe it is – but that’s the way it felt to me (more about that here – German only unfortunately). PBP shifted my perspective. Already the preparation leading up to it did that, the 600km brevets and all the long distance riding – all of the sudden a 200km ride (300? 400??) just isn’t scary anymore, but part of the normal routine.

And even though that new perspective – that anything is possible on the bike, there is no such thing as too long – hasn’t been properly tested again since PBP I am still stuck in that mindset. And of course that is wrong. Not just because PBP cannot be compared to TCR at all, being organized and a signposted route, with the best support possible and drafting allowed. But also because fitness is obviously lost and I wouldn’t have felt that fine doing PBP without the proper training. So I know it is wrong, but I just don’t feel it!

Time to walk the talk

Now what, except complaining about it but not getting my ass off the couch?? I have about three more weeks of good excuses (work, travel) to keep training at the current low level. But then I intent to go on a long ride and suffer properly to show myself that my fitness is not what it used to be – hopefully driving home the point that I need to do more!! And starting in April I have a lot more time to ride my bike (watch this space, news coming up…) and some long distance rides and brevets planned.

I am confident that I will be fit enough to not just finish the TCR in time for the party but also to enjoy most of it along the way. Basically this off-season was like all of my off-seasons – doing only the minimum of training to not feel like a total bum. I did have serious hopes that having signed up for TCR would actually mean I train more consistently through the winter. Well, guess it didn’t…

So here’s to hoping I have enough lifetime mileage to play catch up quick enough!