You know it’s a bike race when you hear a drone buzzing overhead and a dirt bike kick starts behind you. Standing on a sharp upward slope beneath an enormous Rothaus beer inflatable arch, in start block D is where my Rothaus Bike Giro finally got underway, after a start to our 2018 European trip so Pythonesque, so dreadfully unlucky, that the only comfort we can find is that maybe someday we’ll look back and find it funny.
The dream holiday
I’ve been unable to ride with some mystery female pain that saw Mike and I drive, after 50 hours of travel and nearly no sleep, to a town 45 minutes away from the hotel we’d just checked into so I could get an ovarian ultrasound at midnight. On a Wednesday. By a real ob-gyn. Over three days we’ve learned a lot about the SUPERB German health system, and benefitted from the generosity of a lot of professionals. Pain (which I thought would end our trip altogether) somewhat sorted though, Mike’s bike got stolen, which apart from incredible inconvenience to our sponsors and to Mike, presented a big emotional challenge.
All this went on amidst the fantastical Euro delights we’d anticipated in the two years we’ve spent planning this trip: perfect sunny days, chocolate box villages and towns, incredible floral displays, oh and amazing trails that just happened to belong in a bike race that we weren’t doing (but were meant to). Sigh. Sniff.
Rothaus Bike Giro – away!
So after another night of epic jetlag I thought fuck it. I’m here to race. I’m going to race. Mike was disappointed but happy to keep up the media work and appear in the feedzones, and off I went to start block D, standing far down a steep slope at the immense Rothaus brewery among bum bags, compression socks, and lots of mysterious german chatter. And I waited for the gun to go off for the 76- kilometre Queen Stage, with 2200 metres of climbing.
The gun went off! And nothing happened! It took me a while to work out that start blocks B, C, and D set off a minute behind. No worries, the gun went off again! And nothing happened again! It takes another minute for traffic flow to actually trickle back to start block D. But off we were and after overtaking most of my D fellows things suddenly got fast as we descended a road and headed onto some speedy sections of schotter (that’s gravel in Euro). I felt terrible, absolutely wretched, but was SO HAPPY to be riding that it didn’t matter. I tried sitting on the front, tried sitting in. Gosh my legs hurt. We did some more descending. And then a bit of climbing. We crossed farm tracks and onto cobbled roads between farmhouses, and eventually made our way into the gorgeous Black Forest.
Black Forest – better than cake
The Black Forest’s eponymous pine forests really are enchanted places. Fairytales surely just pop out from between the trees and from under mossy rocks. Riding in the forest, the magical pine forest, with its fresh Euro smells, its soft ground, acres of mossy undergrowth, diffused light – what can I say. After all the difficulties, it’s worth it just to be here.
I really got my fill of pine forest! The first part of the course took in what looked like a lot of jagged climbs on the profile, but were actually relatively gentle slopes between the trees on old forest roads. I made friends with a really nice group of competitors and we chatted a little, until, even while going uphill, my race started to go down! Mike wasn’t at any of the feedzones (turns out he’d been incredibly lost). Now, the Rothaus Bike Giro feedzones are soooo good that it was all okay, really, but I wasn’t feeling well. My legs powered down, and as we headed into the day’s epic singletrack climb straight up through the forest at the 45-kilometre mark, I slowed up and let my group go, then another, and another. By the time I was at the top I could barely turn the pedals and my Wahoo computer reported terrifying wattages below 100. I know the signs of a bad day, and I know when it’s so bad that it’s doing damage, and the writing was on the wall. I got to enjoy, however, an epic descent through the pine forest, over roots and over, under and around huge fallen pines, out onto the gravel below. By the time we started another upward drag, I decided to give Mike a call and see where he was. Not far away. I was close to the finish – 20 kilometres – but couldn’t hang on for the last couple of climbs and I bowed out before the last feedzone.
At the front of the Rothaus Bike Giro
It was another close race at the front of the Rothaus Bike Giro, with groups still together until the very last section of trails before the finish. Adelheid Morath bested Christina Kollmann-Forstner for another stage win and to retain her leader’s jersey, and Simon Steibjahn again took victory in the mens, also consolidating his lead. Full results are available online.
What an amazing race. It’s run by Germans so everything is perfectly put together. It’s very large, but it’s also friendly and although German is definitely the language out on course there’s an international vibe, with lots of other European nations here racing, and a few from further afield. I sorely wish I could have raced this world-class event at my best, but the way things have been going lately, I’m just happy I can sit on a bike and participate at my worst. And I’m really happy I could experience the race, and the magical forest, today, if not all four days.
Tomorrow is another day. I know my race legs are in there somewhere and it’s just a matter of dealing with the jetlag and putting the last week of horrific luck behind us. My Worlds campaign is really shaky now, but if I do everything right in the next week, play it smart, and get some rest (hahahahaha), it might get back on track.