Quick recap of the 2013 cycling season – and a fresh look ahead!

By Cycling Dad:

Hi all,

The Cycling Parents have been a bit quiet recently. What has happened?

The 2013 season ended with a double bang – first the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon. After the race, I was working on an epic writeup – but woke up to a loss of all data on my hard drive, a move to Berlin with the family and a new occupation to keep me from blogging (and cycling). Bummer.

Here’s one picture to sum the entire Big O up – it was wet. It was cold. It was a tough race, but I made it. 10:52:09 h. Kudos to all of you who completed this race in 2013. It was mad.

Okay, one more picture. It was epic, but it was also fun!

One week later, I was on the starting line for a race in my hometown with my buddies from the old days. Axel, Basi – you guys rock and I bet you can see that I enjoy racing with you:

Two weeks after that, Alex and I participated in the Endura Alpentraum. Here’s another picture to sum it up:

The best part about the Endura Alpentraum was that I got to ride it together with my soulmate Alex. Apart from that, this race is sheer madness. It took me 12:57:47 h to reach the finish line, and I arrived there completely wasted. I honestly do not know how we made it, but we did it.

After these two races, Alex and I spent the rest of the year cycling for pure enjoyment, spent more time with the children and even looked into setting up business in the cycling industry. All of this took time away from blogging. Eventually, we decided to move from Austria to Berlin, Germany, where we arrived in January after two month of commuting between both cities. Life is slowly starting to “normalise” again, with the near promise of kindergarden places for the toddlers. Oh, needless to say that Konstantin and Johanna are taking more of our (and especially Alexandra’s) attention now. ;)
Family always comes first.

As we are slowly getting back in the saddle, this blog shall live up again soon to collect our cycling memories. The Big News is that this year, Alex has won a starting position in the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon lottery and is planning to get in shape for it. Oh, and there are a couple of other surprises, but I will leave it to Alex to tell you more about it.

We are thinking about moving the blog to a German language format – simply so we can produce content faster and hopefully also more eloquently than writing in a second language. What do you think about this idea? Do you think that Google Translator can help you keep up with our voyage? Is there anybody out there still reading this blog?

Keep in touch!

Final preparations for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon

By Cycling Dad:

Only three days to go until the first main event of the season – the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon! Up until around two weeks ago, training took up most of my available time next to job and family. In July, I spent roughly 18-20 hours per week in the saddle, which kept me from blogging as much as I originally planned. Alex and I took turns in looking after the kids. Once I got home, she went out for her training – or vice versa. Since getting back on the bike post-partum, she spent roughly as much time as me on the road. It is a bit difficult, but manageable somehow. I also will have to keep this post short, as either one of the kids seems to be constantly coming up with a new issue. When I started this post two hours ago, Konstantin was pushing his toy excavator across the keyboard. Right now he is in his bed, (still) screaming at the top of his lungs, defying sleep… thanks for bearing with me… Anyways, the main training is done and all that’s left to do is final preparations. Time for a quick recap.

Since the beginning of the season, I cycled around 8,500k and climbed a cumulative 72,000m in altitude gain. As part of the preparation, I raced in Moerbisch, Feldbach, Bad Kleinkirchheim, Berlin, Mondsee and Hohenems (the last two race reports are still missing due to the above mentioned obstacle…). While distance and altitude gain increased from event to event, I could equally feel my fitness increasing. I managed to finish the last event, the ‘Highlander’ Cycle Marathon in Hohenems with 187k and 4000m alt gain in 7 hours and 41 minutes as 289th out of 589 starters, still feeling okay in the end.

On August 8th, the entire Team Alpecin met at Radlabor in Frankfurt for a second performance diagnostics. Three weeks before the Oetztaler, we wanted to find out how much the training over the summer had improved our performance potential. One by one, we took to the SRM ergometer and completed the threshold test. Here’s me closing in on max power:

Without going too much into the details, the long endurance miles paid off – I should be able to tackle all climbs of the Oetztaler with a 230 watt average load. In theory, this should give me a chance to finish the distance below ten hours – but the weather forecast is not too good and a lot of things can happen along the way.

If you are interested to follow my progress online this Sunday, August 25th on the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon – you can sign up for an SMS alert service on the website http://www.oetztaler-radmarathon.com – just click on the red button “Starting List” and yet again in the next window the red button “SMS Service”. My bib number will be 556.

As a kind reminder – I am running a fundraiser for the SOS children’s village in Hinterbrühl near Vienna, Austria. Your donations will be used to build three new houses, where abandoned children will be able to grow up in a loving family environment. A big thank you goes to all my supporters. Here’s the link to the donation site: http://bit.ly/13RGhCl

Race Report – Garmin Velothon Berlin 2013

As on the actual race day, Alex goes first with her race report over the 60k distance. Kai then follows with his race report over the 120k distance. Enjoy, and please let us know if you like this article!

Spinning Mum’s perspective:

On June 9th, 2013 I found myself at the starting line of what initially was supposed to be my cycle marathon debut – the 6th Garmin Velothon Berlin.

When I first heard of this race shortly after Johanna’s birth, I thought that the Velothon would be the perfect kick off event for a roadbike rookie like me. A mainly flat course over 60 kilometres along some of Berlin’s main sights and attractions appeared to be the perfect backdrop to gain some race experience without worrying all too much about speed, technique or elevation.

With hindsight however I am glad that the Velothon was not my first race and that I was able to gain some experience during the Carinthia Cycle Marathon two weeks before since the extent of the event caught me totally off guard. Of course I was fully aware that more starters would find their way to Berlin than to Bad Kleinkirchheim, but I was quite surprised to learn that the total number of participants competing in both, the 60 and 120km races, exceeded the amount of my hometown’s inhabitants.

[Picture your closest 12,000 neighbours, put each and everyone on their bike mix it with a lot of excitement and what you get is the atmosphere you will encounter in Berlin. Okay, I am probably exaggerating a bit, but still I cannot find a better way to describe the diversity of riders and material.]

Registering for the Velothon I was asked if I wanted to start out of a women only starting block – a special arrangement for beginners. Without further thinking I ticked the related box but started second guessing when more and more people told me that this probably was not the best idea as there would be a lot of inexperienced riders around. Thus, I decided to line up early in order to get to the very front of the block, so that I would be able to escape the Gordian knot of tangled limbs and frames which might develop out of insufficiently maintained equipment and poor riding skills. As a result I literally found myself in the front row the very next morning.

Once the starting signal was given the field started moving towards the timing mat. It seemed as if everybody took their sweet time clicking in and getting comfy on their bikes because no one passed me. Well, no one except that one gal wearing a rainbow jersey vanishing into thin air in what felt like a split second. Once the timing mat was passed, I was expecting that a stampede of wild amazons would follow rainbow girl’s lead but nothing happened. I was all alone and if the course would not have been lined with race marshals, I would have thought that I got lost. With my veloferocity switched on, I spent the first eight- or nine-hundred meters dashing through Germany’s capital wandering how to survive without revitalising in someone’s slipstream every now and then. Suddenly the Velothon’s slogan “the city is yours” took on a completely new significance ;)

Fortunately, I was not out there alone for long. Two other girls joined me and stayed within my vicinity for quite a while. Another two kilometres later the first riders of the following starting block joined up and it did not take long until I found a bunch of racers I could comfortably cling on to. However, I virtually had to elbow my way through in order defend my spot within this group.

Whenever I was edged out, I instantly tried to force my way back into the field and even managed to close some gaps bringing me the deference ["Well done! You ride like a bloke, lassie!"] of several of my co-racers. Well, I guess I learned from the best in Carinthia ;) Swollen with pride I gave everything on the two “climbs” people from Berlin might call hills resulting in two Queen of the Mountain titles on Strava :)

Unfortunately, all sweet moments have to come to an end eventually. My flight of fancy ended right at the beginning of the stretch I was looking forward to most: the runways of Tempelhof Airport. The entrance was marked by a narrow bend and after slowing down I lost my group. Encircled by a bunch of riders who too did not want to risk anything, I saw my landmark riders disappear. I blew my lungs out to follow their lead… in vain. Strong headwinds made it impossible for me to go faster and I had to remind myself to save some energy for the rest of the race unless I wanted to be carried over the finishing line attached to a respirator.

So, there I was out on my own again and it took me almost 5 kilometres to find a new group I felt comfortable riding with. The rest of the race however passed by quite uneventfully and when I realised that I was about to enter the final straight, I was a bit surprised that this was it for the day since I still felt loaded with vigour and vim. With no reason to conserve any more energy I gave everything collecting at least 10 other riders over the last 1,000 metres just to get a finishing photo with an angry grin and to score a solid 39th place in my age group and a position within the top 10% overall. Wohoo!

To sum it up, I would say that the Garmin Velothon was a great event. The entire organisation was exemplary and I really liked the atmosphere. Hope to be able to join again next year!

Cycling Dad’s perspective:

Once more, Alex took the lead in this race report, and still it has taken us ages to complete this  post. After all, we’re cycling PARENTS of a toddler and a newborn… So here’s only a  brief writeup from my side. I can however, offer you an extremely cool video from the organizers with actual footage from the race and feedback which I quickly put together for the editors at roadBIKE magazine. Unfortunately it is in German, but I trust a fair part of our readership is German or can use the Google translator on the text below.

In a nutshell, with the help of an extremely fast group of riders around our team captain, former pro rider Jörg Ludewig, I completed the 120k in 2:44:32, with a 41.4 km/h average. This is the fastest speed I ever managed to achieve over such a distance, and the race completely blew out my lights around km 110. I literally dragged myself over the final 10k and across the finish line. What an experience!

First, here’s the video:

Witness the scribe at position 0:37 and 0:47 of the video on the left-hand side, BEFORE the lights went out ;) .

And here’s the writeup I sent to roadBIKE magazine:

Unser Trainer Steffan Zelle vom Radlabor hat mir mal gesagt: “Wenn der Startschuss fällt, dann geht das Rennen los”. Fuer das Team Alpecin bedeutete das beim Veloton Berlin Vollgas von der Startlinie weg. Lude ging ab der ersten Kurve in die Fuehrung und schoss seine Giftpfeile ueber das Feld ;) .

Die schienen hauptsaechlich in meinen Beinen stecken zu bleiben, denn die beiden Stefans und Kei-Uwe liessen sich nichts anmerken. Ja, sie gingen sogar mit in Fuehrung und trieben das Tempo weiter unbarmherzig in die Höhe.

Bereits nach wenigen Kilometern war somit die Fuehrungsgruppe deutlich dezimiert. 15 Tiefflieger im Anflug auf Tempelhof. Klangvolle Namen.. Bator, Zelle, Wuest, Seltrecht, Ludewig, Klimek, Singbeil… alle waren sie nach Berlin gekommen, um im Laktat zu baden.

Auf den ersten 60 Kilometern klammerte ich mich größtenteils an meinem Lenker fest und konzentrierte mich darauf, zu ueberleben. Derweil staunte ich ueber die neuen Maximalpuls-Werte, die da regelmaessig aus meinem Polar purzelten. Der Spass beginnt ab Laktat 16…

Bei der Geschwindigkeit immer wieder gerne eine dicke 5 an erster Stelle. Einmal schaffte Lude es scheinbar, zeitgleich Tempo an der Spitze der Gruppe zu machen und mich gleichzeitig wieder an das Ende des Feldes ranzufahren. Magic! Jedes Mal wenn Lude in die Fuehrung ging und das Tempo anzog, starb etwas in meinen Beinen.

Tunnelblick.

Irgendwann tauchte der Rennkommissar auf und sagte dass sich unsere (mit Vorsprung gestartetes Kuriositäten-Kabinett aka VIP-) Gruppe vom Hauptfeld entferne. Wir moegen doch bitte einen Gang rausnehmen. Das hoert man nicht alle Tage… es folgen ein paar Kilometer zum Durchschnaufen. Essen.

Der Bator drängte darauf, endlich wieder Gas zu geben. Marcel Wuest’s Sohn ist Mitglied in meinem alten Radverein Pulheimer SC. Was man sich so erzaehlt wenn man sich am Riemen reisst… Mein Puls war immer noch deutlich ueber 150… der Koerper traute der Ruhe nicht… und sollte Recht behalten.

Eine dreikoepfige Ausreissergruppe schloss zu uns auf. Genug um das Stockerl zu besetzen. Sie fuhren ein wenig von unserer Gruppe weg, dann gibt ab es kein Halten mehr. Die Jagd war eroeffnet. Immer wieder Tempowechsel.

Die Spitzenleute aus dem Feld waren jetzt mit in der Fuehrung.

Dann die Einfahrt nach Tempelhof. Engstelle, scharf bremsen, rechts rein. Lude vorne, Attacke…

Der Mann mit dem Hammer kam aus dem alten Terminal und lief gemaechlich an den Rand der Rennstrecke. Wir sahen uns kurz in die Augen. Dann boxte er mich vom Rad. Aus, vorbei. Nichts mehr in den Beinen. Und meine Blicke folgten sehnsuechtig Kei-Uwe’s Hinterrad, das sich immer weiter von mir entfernte.

Auf dem Zahnfleisch durch Berlin. Noch 10 Kilometer. Tempo 30. Wie sehr ich mir noch Koerner gewuenscht haette. Immer mehr Zuschauer an der Rennstrecke.

Fragende Kinderaugen. DAS soll ein Mann aus der Spitzengruppe sein? Wieso sieht der so müde aus?

5km. Das Hauptfeld rauschte an mir vorbei und riss mich im seinem Windschatten mit. 2km vor dem Ziel ein Sturz im Hauptfeld. 20 Fahrer purzelten vor mir übereinander, schienen aber sofort wieder aufzustehen. Rennfieber. Adrenalin. Zu Ende Fahren.

Zielgerade. Unglaubliche Stimmung. Endzeit 2:44:32. Ein Schnitt von 41,35 km/h auf 120km Stecke. Mein bisher schnellstes Rennen. Ein unglaubliches Erlebnis. Hochachtung vor unserem sportlichen Leiter Joerg Ludewig, und vor jedem einzelnen Finisher des Velothons der bei diesem Rennen ueber seine Grenzen hinausgewachsen ist.

Linda und Andreas wuensche ich gute Erholung von ihren Stürzen. Ich bin froh dass ihr mit “blauen” Augen davongekommen seid.

Looking forward to hopefully joining this race again in 2014!

Video from the 2013 Carinthia Cycle Marathon

By Cycling Dad:

Due to popular demand, here’s the video from the 2013 Carinthia Cycle Marathon that I took with my helmet camera. And here’s the full race report.

In case you have been wondering why there hasn’t been a post on the Cycling Parents Blog for more than a month and we still owe you the Berlin and Mondsee race reports – yes, we’re still in business! Just struggling to keep up with the lot…! The extensive training for the Oetztal Cycle Marathon and Endura Alpentraum later this year is taking up a lot of time, but it also is fun as the long-awaited summer has finally arrived. Both Alex and I are currently spending up to 20 hours per week on the bike, taking turns in looking after the children. We’ll spend the next week in the Swiss Alps to hone in on our climbing skills. Hopefully we’ll find time to post a story or two on the way. Bear with us!

Race Report – Carinthia Cycle Marathon 2013

Today’s post will be a bit different from the previous ones. This is a race report of the 2013 Carinthia Cycle Marathon, which took place on May 25th, written from the perspectives of different riders. Here’s the team:

From left to right, meet Axel, Basti, Alex (a.k.a. Spinning Mum) and Kai (a.k.a. Cycling Dad). Yes, there’s a GoPro camera on top of Kai’s helmet… no questions please…

Axel, Basti and Kai are old cycling buddies from the Pulheimer SC racing club. They used to race a lot together in their teenager years, and even battled Team Sky’s Christian Knees when he was a junior with VfL Rheinbach. Many years have passed since, but friendship and love of cycling remains.

No need to introduce Spinning Mum, who – after giving birth to Johanna only ten weeks ago – is back in the saddle and has set her eyes on several upcoming races.

Enjoy reading Axel and Alex’s race reports!

 

Spinning Mum’s Race Report

There are certain things in my life I still have not realized, yet. Living abroad and having two adorable kids for example and – since May 26th – successfully finishing my first cycling race ever – the Carinthia Cycle Marathon.

When Kai registered for the full marathon I was still pregnant with little Johanna and never wasted even a single thought on competing in a cycle race myself. So, when we booked our family vacation around the marathon I was just looking forward to go for a ride with Kai while his parents (whom we invited to join us as babysitters^^) would watch the kids for an hour or two. But as you may remember from my previous post, I was lucky to recover from my C-section quite fast so that I ended up registering for the marathon’s short course over 65km with an altitude gain of 946m just a couple of days before the event.

At that point I have not had any great expectations. I was merely interested in surviving and not being the last participant crossing the finish line. Little did I know because someone sent me three angels pushing and pulling me through the marathon, so that in the end I scored a solid 10th place in my age group. Yeah!

But let me start from the beginning…

The weather situation
Ever since we arrived at our holiday home temperatures dropped significantly, sending us rain and even snow with the result that the long circuit encompassing the legendary Nockalm Road had been replaced by an alternative route covering two laps on the shorter course. Very frustrating for those courageous cycling warriors who were enduring long journeys in order to conquer this infamous pass road like our dear friends Cavalier Axel of London (a.k.a. Mr. Eton) and Knight Bastian of Hamburg. Both of them followed Kai’s invitation to Bad Kleinkirchheim for a merciless cycling reunion which unfortunately had to give way to a less epic version.

Alex’s angels
For me however the change of plans was a blessing in disguise. Due to the fact that there were no longer different starting times, the guys decided that it would be fun to support me during my first race, for example by letting me ride in their slipstream. As I did not want to ruin their finishing times, I did not really agree to this plan, but Kai and his buddies were determined to implement their strategy. And with hindsight I am really grateful that they kept their word as I would not have scored such an amazing result without their coaching and cheering. [Thank you so much, guys!]

Pre race anticipation
I do not know what it is with such events. Whenever I enter a sporting competition I am as nervous as a pig in a bacon factory though there is absolutely nothing to lose. Luckily, I prepared my entire gear the night before. With my water bottles already filled, the timing chip in place and my number bib attached to my jersey, I only had to focus on having enough food for breakfast. Quite a challenge when suffering from an antsy stomach… But wait… Where are my sun glasses…?

Two slices of white bread and a scavenger hunt later I found myself in a still snow covered car heading towards the starting point in cold but sunny Bad Kleinkirchheim. Once the car was parked I had a quick glance at all the other participants prepping their bikes. I instantly wanted to hide in the trunk. They were all looking so damn professional… There was even a bunch of riders warming up on a turbo trainer! What the hell was I thinking signing up for this…

But before I could actually find a place to hide the guys put me on my Racemachine for a quick warmup session and only minutes later I found myself in the middle of the starting area. Again, there was no chance to chicken out as I was encircled by my three angels. I felt absolutely miserable and rational thinking became almost impossible. My thoughts kept spinning around all kinds of race scenarios like not being able to click in and out of my pedals as required, crashing and bidding farewell to my hip or collarbones, keeping the guys from going full throttle and thus off the winner’s podium, and, and, and…

Fortunately, my brain and body went into race mode once the starting signal was given and nervousness gave way to something I never experienced before and what from now on I shall call ‘veloferocity’ – a state of mind which does not allow room for any other thoughts than ‘Ride.For.Your.Life’.

The race is on
Only seconds into the marathon Kai and the gang where nowhere to be seen anymore. Probably their veloferocity kicked in, too, and they went off like greyhounds scenting a lure whilst I was still bemused by the flock of furious cycling warriors trying to find their spot in the field. Keeping up with my bodyguards at a sustainable heart rate was simply impossible. Every now and then I could catch a glimpse at one of their jerseys but no matter how hard I tried, I just could not catch up.

But what did I expect? How can a road bike rookie keep pace with three seasoned warriors? Thankfully, they noticed that I could not cling to their back wheels and adapted their speed, so that I could keep up and let the field do the work. A quick glimpse at my Garmin revealed that we were close to flying: 45km/h – 50km/h – 55km/h – … Holy cow, I never thought that I could go this fast on plain grounds!

I was handed energy bars and gels from all sides, every now and then the guys reminded me to take a sip from my water bottle and Kai soon enjoyed himself pacing Basti and Axel, so that I would not fall behind. As you can see, I was looked after really, really well :)

However, when we reached the first steep descent towards Himmelberg, I decided to slow down a bit as there were too many roughshod riders speeding irresponsibly into the hairpin bends meandering down the slope in front of us. After a short reunion with my angels, who waited for me at the foot of the hill I found myself at the beginning of the 10km climb up to Klösterle and the first food supply station. Again, I decided to ride at my own pace rather than belting up the ramp.

Strange enough I even passed several fellow sufferers who overreached themselves and thus were already on their last legs. But apparently one brave chum in a light blue team kit wanted his bread buttered on both sides as he was heading downhill for another round… To my surprise that dude turned out to be none other than Cavalier Axel of London who was looking for us after running riot :) [Take a second to imagine the looks on our competitors' faces... ]

More or less reunited we carried on until we saw a sign-board announcing the first food supply station. Suddenly everybody seemed to be in a feeding frenzy… Kai mumbled something about fetching me some food and within a fraction of a second there was only a trail of dust where he took off. Next thing I remember is that Kai handed me a banana whilst we were passing many other riders including Knight Bastian and Cavalier Axel at the Klösterle check point.

Pretty sure that they would join up within seconds Kai and I did not bother to sojourn and started burning some rubber on the course’s second big descent towards Afritz. For some reasons there were hardly any other riders around and since the race marshals clearly indicated all danger spots, I mustered all my courage for this downhill passage. Again, I felt like flying crossing the 70km/h mark. But reaching Kai’s pace was impossible. Dressed in his all black ninja-like race attire, he clearly had the advantage of his super aerodynamic Lightweight Meilensteins at his hands…

Unfortunately, this descent was not meant to last. About 15 minutes later we found ourselves back on almost level ground. Soon reunited with the rest of the gang we continued as we started: in a strong group collecting rider after rider and group after group until we reached the second food supply station in Radentheim just before the last climb of the day.

Though I told ninja Kai and Cavalier Axel to take off for their second lap, they stuck with Knight Basti and me until the very last, encouraging me to give everything on what appeared to be the longest kilometre I ever had to overcome…

Seriously, I abhorred every single metre of this final straight and almost missed the turn towards the finishing line because I was so focused on cursing the incline, my feeble chamois and the guy complaining about Axel’s pub-trained cheering. But all this misery was forgotten as soon as we were greeted by Didi Senft in his devils costume at the finish line.

After the race is before the race
Wow, I made it! With a big smile on my face and an even bigger lump in my throat I was looking for Knight Basti when someone held a microphone in my face. Interview? Me? Now? OMG! No time for tears of joy and relief… Always look and act like a pro :)
I hope I was not stuttering too much sharing my thoughts which I can only repeat once again in a less awkward situation:
The Carinthia Cycle Marathon was a very well-organized race and the perfect event for a rookie like me. A heartfelt ‘Thank You’ goes out to all the selfless helpers, cheerful spectators, cautious drivers and especially to my three guardians who made this race an unforgettable debut just nine weeks after Johanna was born. I will definitely be back for more ;)

 

Axel’s Race Report

Spinning Mum has already shed light on the weather developments leading to the route changes and the Dream Team’s strategy for the Carinthian Cycle Marathon 2013 in her own race report, so I will not bore you to death with that J

What I will (at least try to) talk about here is my personal experience of what was, in hind sight, a race full of “firsts” for me.  My first experience of Alpine road cycling (previously, my only encounters with these mountains were either in transit in a car or on a plane or, at the most, one a very enjoyable mountainbike holiday several decades ago);  my first ride with a climbing effort of more than 2,000m – no, not just this season, but probably in forever;  my first ride in a proper peloton in a loooong time, seeing as usually, the groups I ride with these days are around the 20 people mark and certainly never more than 40 souls – here in Austria we were to set off with more than 560 people at (more or less) the same time.

And last, but not certainly not the least daunting: this was to be my first race since I hung up my licence all these years ago (and like in CyclingDad’s case, we are talking many, MANY years).

The thing is: ever since signing up for the Carinthian Cycle Marathon and transferring the starter fee, I kept telling myself “This is not a race, it’s a sportive.  A pleasant ride through gorgeous countryside with a bunch of friends all just happy to be out on the bike for the day.  Possibly a bit hard at times (i.e. uphill…), yes, but with plenty of food stations as a compensation.  And you know that you can’t fault Austrian food, so you’ll be fine.  It’ll all be grand!”  Nonetheless, the closer the date got, the more nervous I became and the harder it got to believe my own mantra…

So, you can imagine the state my nerves got in when the Dream Team was greeted in Bad Kleinkirchheim by what can only be described as picture perfect organisation.  Even by Austrian standards.  I mean: sign-on and number/ starter pack collection for all these hundreds of people?  Not a glitch.  It took all of the Dream Team combined(!) something like 10 minutes to be fully set.  What’s more impressive though: the whole town “felt” like something big was about to happen that next day. It truly felt like a storm was coming.  There were posters and flyers advertising the race everywhere.  And I mean everywhere:  on virtually every vertical area in and around the town, walls, trees, shop windows, post boxes, you name it (probably on your car too if you parked somewhere too long…);  you were given them at the cash register in supermarkets some 15km off the actual race route;  I think I even heard the event mentioned on the radio (though not sure).  Didi Senft, El Diablo himself , was in town, busily putting the final touches to the finish line (and still finding time for a brief chat with the Dream Team, that’s how awesome and adorable we are!).  And cyclists milling around everywhere, all of them looking super-serious, very well-trained and (very believably) conveying the notion that they all had resting heart rates in the low teens and were equipped with material straight out of NASA’s labs.

Let’s just say, your truly did not sleep well that night.  And it was not due to the pre-race wine and Nutella pizza… (another first, that, by the way)

Inevitably though, race day dawned.  So, following a quick breakfast, lots of bottles were prepared, kit was donned, jersey pockets were stuffed with all manner of energy bars and gels, legs were prepped with “StartOil” (more for that genuine “race smell” than for any performance increase), and we found our way to the start…

And then, suddenly, time just shifted gears.  Where a second ago there was apprehension and nervousness (“OMG, so many people – and they are ALL better prepared than me, surely!”, “What if there’s a crash?!”, etc. etc.) – as soon as the peloton began rolling out, all of a sudden there was just… nothing!  I just found myself in the zone.  Straight away my only thoughts were… well, not really thoughts anymore.  More like intuitions, reactions of an almost instinctive nature.  “Gotta follow that wheel!”  “Where’s Alex, where’s Kai?”  “Ah, there’s Basi, good man!”  “Ooh, a gap, better close that.”  “Legs feeling good, awesome!”  That sort of stuff.  Nothing but brief thought-flashes about cycling and staying upright and performing well.  Certainly nothing about the job or child care or money and all these other daunting real-life things.  Those things did still of course exist, outside, off the race track, far away – but for the moment, they were gone.  And let me tell you: after weeks and months of thinking, yes, often worrying, about seemingly everything under the sun (as you do when you have a new baby), it was bliss!

And quickly the initial post-start hullabaloo had dissolved somewhat, the Dream Team had found together by the end of the first downhill and we started tackling the rolling hills that laid before us like a well-oiled machine.  A really, really well-oiled machine:  over the course of the next couple of kilometres, we were picking up group upon group of competitors.  It felt like we passed hundreds of riders with ease.  And what a great feeling it was J

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and so, after an exhilarating descent down towards the village of Himmelberg, the climbing began.  Some 10km of pure uphill laid in front of us.  Needless to say, fuelled in equal measure by youthful arrogance and endorphins from the downhill and the positive start to this race, I started hammering up the hill, collecting more and more riders on my way.  The rest of the DreamTeam were much more prudent and tackled what was, effectively, only the first climb of many that day, in a more relaxed fashion.  Not me, though, I disappeared up the hill, my heart beating in my throat and my power meter showing values I found hard to believe…  Luckily, I did eventually come to my senses and realised that the DreamTeam was somewhere behind me – and that this was not how we wanted to ride this race.  This was, after all, to be a team event and I would not be of much use to our cause of delivering SpinningMum to the line with a respectable time if I’d blown myself up on the very first hill and had thereafter been unable to perform any work for the equipe.  No, I decided that enough of this tomfoolery is enough.

And so I performed a beautiful U-turn and swung around.

The faces of the people coming uphill, the same people I had just passed with what must have sounded to them like my lungs were about to explode, the look as they saw me leisurely rolling down the hill again in the opposite direction was absolutely priceless.  I would highly recommend it for your next event, but as you’ll read below, I ended up paying a high price for it…

Anyhow, a short while later (longer than I had thought, though) I was reunited with the rest of the DreamTeam and we carried on up the mountain together like we had said we would.  And not only that, but we stayed in close formation for the rest of the lap – apart, obviously, from the large downhill section towards Afritz am See, where Basi and myself were desperately trying to reel back in the combined force of the CyclingParents who had left the feed station at the top of the previous hill slightly earlier than we had.  To explain: when Basi and I saw the two of them leave the feed station we were not concerned – after all, whilst CyclingDad does have, well, certain gravitational advantages over us light weights on any descent, he’d also have to assist SpinningMum downhill and, we thought, this would impede his usual rapid progress enough to allow Basi and I to catch up with both of them swiftly.  However, unbeknownst to us CD had slipped into full-on, take-no-prisoners, death-defying race mode – and so, apparently, had SM.  Basi was leading the descent and even in his slipstream, I had to push quite hard indeed.  I’ve looked at the data later and discovered that I was pushing upwards of 350 watts at that stage of the race with a heart rate well north of 160bpm – and remember: that was downhill and in Basi’s slipstream!  There certainly wasn’t any rest for the wicked, like I had hoped (and banked on!).  And to make it worse: despite our best efforts, we did not manage to even catch a glimpse of the CyclingParents until we finally reached the valley floor.  I can’t for the life of me imagine what sort of devilish descent they put on up front.  I am pretty sure, though, that they must have treated the laws of physics with the contempt a Frenchman would usually give a set of unpoliced parking recommendations…

Finally though, the DreamTeam was reunited: a SpinningMum energised rather than exhausted from the descent, a CyclingDad seemingly fresh as a daisy and eager to get going again (“Where the heck were you two?!”), a Basi who’d seemingly just finished his warm-up programme – and myself, totally knackered from my earlier (yes, totally unnecessary) attack on Alpe d’Huez, cheated out of my well-earned rest on the downhill by our hell-bent attempt to re-attach us to the CyclingParents and therefore having dipped deep into the Red Zone well before even the half-point marker of the race… fantastic.

Luckily riding as a team allowed all of us to play vital and equally important roles.  There was SpinningMum, of course, the be-all and end-all of our strategy for the day – she had to ensure to keep the pace, let the rest of the Team know whether she wanted to go faster (God forbid!) or slower (never happened!) and alert us if she encountered a technical defect (also never happened).  Then there was CyclingDad, probably the only competitor to also take on the role of Directeur Sportif and thus constantly occupied with issuing orders of the highest strategic relevance to all other members of the DreamTeam: “Alex, use a different gear!”, “Basi, go to the front and set a high pace!”, “Axel, go to the rear and make sure Alex stays on!”, and on it went… Thirdly, Basi, taking up an all-important role of steam engine, motorbike and pace maker.  Before the start, he’d told us all that the previous week was the first one he’d been back on his bike since last winter – but either that was a load of b*ll*cks or this whole racing business does keep people in a very good shape even if they decide not to do much for a couple of months… either way, when Basi put himself onto the front, things got quick for the rest of us.  It was as if someone had just turned on a tap: he pedalled to the front and with seemingly no effort to him at all, the speed of the whole group jumped up.  And just stayed high.  And stayed and stayed and stayed…  Meanwhile, my own invaluable contribution to the DreamTeam’s success was to get in a spot right behind SpinningMum, ready to pass her and drag her back into the slipstream of the guy in front should she ever lose contact and a gap open up (once again: never happened!) and else just ensuring that no one coming up from the back tries to push her out of her position in our little chain gang.  So, essentially, I was sucking wheels.  It was a tough job, but someone had to do it J

Eventually, our group reached the beginning of the next (and for SpinningMum and Basi the last) hill of the day, the ‘Wall of Kleinkirchheim’ as it could and should have been known.

Now, this was one steep and long m*therf….  And it came at just about the half-way point for CyclingDad and myself, so I thought better of it this time and went up deliberately holding back and ensuring we’d get up there as a team.  Heart rate never above 160bpm, power output comfortably below 200 watts.  I knew that the next lap, the one I’d be doing with CyclingDad alone, would be just as long distance-wise – but it would hurt significantly more.

And boy, was I right!  As soon as we had passed the finish line for the first time and left SpinningMum and Basi behind, CD hit the gas in an utterly unholy fashion.  I’ve seen similar feats of acceleration at air shows I’ve visited, when a lucky display pilot got the chance to demonstrate a Typhoon’s awesome thrust-to-weight ratio, lighting the afterburners and accelerating whilst going up vertically…!  (A sight, by the way, that should be made mandatory for people to experience in real life!)

The thing is, at these airshows I’ve never seen anyone trying to hang on to the tail fin of the plane – but I assure you this is exactly what it felt like to me, trying to stay in CD’s slipstream for the next couple of kilometres…

I did manage to hang on to him – and apparently, I wasn’t the only one amazed by his efforts!  When we finally caught up with a group that, for all intents and purposes, should have been uncatchable to us, an Italian rider came alongside and offered his heartfelt admiration and ‘felicitazioni!’ to CD – and I couldn’t agree more with him, it was an awesome ride that probably Spartacus himself would have been amazed by…

Well, we recovered our breaths for a short while whilst riding with the group we’d just caught up with, but then we left them in our dust again – on the next downhill.  CD clearly was on fire, he claimed later that his Garmin showed speeds in excess of 100 kph – mine did not, but I assure you, we were going down that hill really, really quickly nonetheless.

Now we got to the bottom of the first major hill, the one that I had so viciously (and imprudently) attacked in the first lap.  This time, CD and I would ride up together, not holding back (certainly no more U-turns!) but not deliberately dropping one another either – still, I knew about CD’s awesome advantage going down the hill on the other side, so I decided to push the pace and thus buy myself some respite for the descent.  Initially it worked and I left CD behind for a bit – only for him to then re-appear, as if by black magic, on my back wheel and then not letting go again.  Clearly, there would be no breather for me at the top today…

So then, how did both ascents compare, the first lap vis-à-vis the second?  Have a look for yourself!

As you can see, they are both pretty similar – giving you an idea as to the effort I put into both climbs.  Obviously, I “lost” circa three minutes doing my little U-turn on lap 1, but it turned out that the final time difference on the top of the climb was only some five minutes.  In other words:  had it not been for the U-turn, my second climb would have been only some two minutes faster than the first – and that’s despite the fact that I was not holding back on any part of the climb in lap 2, seeing as I was trying to get some distance between CD and myself so I could rest on the descent…  I guess one can already see the effect of fatigue creeping up quite visibly at this point?  Well, certainly on the bike at that moment, my legs did not feel fresh anymore at all…

So it was with a feeling of on-setting cramps that I hit the feed station on top of the hill like a man possessed.  Several Red Bull and energy gels were downed without even swallowing, my bottle refilled with more Red Bull – and all just in time before CD demanded a hasty departure again…  And needless to say: there was no bumbling along on this descent either, trying to hang on to CD’s back wheel.

By the time we reached the valley floor, I was toast.  We had at that point almost 3:30hs of riding in our legs, virtually none of that in the flat, and in my case, a lot of it at or even above my pitiful lactate threshold…  clearly, I was going to have to pay a price for my earlier cockiness up that hill.  Especially, as the last hill of the day was still ahead of us.

But for the time being, getting to the foot of that hill was my only concern.  Luckily, CD had no problem with me sucking wheels for a bit – or at least he didn’t let it show.  He just got to the front and started rolling like an unstoppable machine.  Rider upon rider we met – and we passed.  Most of the guys were happy for some company (and slipstream I suppose), so soon enough, CD and I had amassed ourselves a group of some five to ten people.  Some of them even still able and willing to put in some work at the front, giving CD a very well-earned break – I for one, however, could only sit in the back.  No chance of me putting in an effort at the front – it would have been the end to my day.

Soon enough, with burning legs and lungs in my case, we reached the bottom of the final climb.  Knowing that the finish line was awaiting at the top, I decided to put everything into it… even if it meant tapping into energy reserves within my body that are usually safeguarded and not to be trifled with;  stuff, which is only to be dipped into and used up when chased by a bear or a shark or in some other life-threatening situation.  Think one of thos “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” boxes…  J

Well, I did break the glass.

And still, CD had to wait for me!  More annoyingly, when compared to the first ascent on lap 1, we weren’t even that much quicker.  Have a look for yourselves:

Whilst CD and I were indeed climbing consistently faster on lap 2, the total time difference at the finish amounted to only circa two minutes…  I’ve looked at the power data back home: the charts made it seem like I had held back on lap 2.  I rarely managed to push more than 200 watts, my heart rate hovered at, but did not go much beyond 170bpm (I max out at circa 185bpm) – so it looked to me, in retrospect, like there had still been room.  You know, room for having gone quicker.

But I can honestly say that it was simply not possible on the day to quench even another tenth of a kph out of our speed going up that final climb.  By the time we reached Bad Kleinkirchheim for the second time, I was hyperventilating and… well… crying.  I’ve never experienced this sort of emotional elation at any sporting event I’ve taken part in so far.  Ever!  But when we crossed the line, I was just spent.  Totally and utterly spent.  There was no ounce of energy left in me and my whole thinking was focused on getting my breathing back on track and the shaking to stop.

Once that was done, though, a rush of endorphins hit and a sense of achievement overcame me like I’ve rarely known before.

And it may well be due to that endorphin rush, but as soon as the bikes were stowed, the post-race pasta was eaten and a warm shower had, the plan was hatched to come back again in 2014 and try to better our times – and by then to hopefully get a shot at the famous Nockalm Road, too.

Performance Diagnostics | Functional Threshold Test at Radlabor Munich

By Cycling Dad:

Earlier this year, I hit jackpot as I was selected to become one of the amateur riders to the 2013 Team Alpecin. Part of the team package is a professional performance diagnosis and training plan from Radlabor (the Cycling Lab). Radlabor is a spin-off from the University of Freiburg’s sports faculty, which offers diagnostics and coaching for recreational, amateur and professional cyclists, and a key partner of Team Alpecin. They operate testing facilities in Freiburg, Frankfurt and Munich.

With the help of science, my training for the remaining three months should become much more effective. Unfortunately, I am a bit late to take the test due to professional and family obligations, but in the end a more structured training should help me get through the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and Endura Alpentraum with at least some less suffering…

So on May 10th I took a day trip to visit Sophie Fleischer at the Munich lab. Sophie was already looking forward to punching my ears with needles for the lactate test.

Here is an inside look at the Radlabor’s Munich testing facility. It is compact in size, but everything you need to push yourself over the lactate threshold is there, including a top-notch SRM ergometer.

What happens during a performance diagnosis?

Testing procedures may vary between testing locations and athletes tested. However, what happens essentially is that someone puts you on a stationary bike and asks you to pedal at a rate of around 90 to 100 revolutions per minute. She then increases the resistance – in this case every three minutes. Resistance is measured in watts per hour, and increased in increments of 20 watts. At the end of every resistance level, a small blood sample is taken and analysed for lactic acid, which is a chemical compound produced by the body from breaking down glucose for releasing power to the muscle tissues. It is a complex process and I have to point to specific resources for explaining the details. However, when lactate is produced faster than the tissues can remove it, the lactate concentration in the blood begins to rise. Sports scientists use the lactic acid concentration as an indicator of fatigue in the athlete’s body. The so-called lactate threshold marks the level up to which an athlete can metabolise the lactic acid that is created under effort while it is produced. Beyond the lactate threshold, lactic acid starts to accumulate, which leads to fatigue and eventually forces the body to recovery. It will let you know gently, once you reach that point…

What does a performance diagnostic look like? Well, it’s not pretty. Send the kids out of the room before you watch the following video ;) .

Here is what the results look like: Radlabor Leistungsdiagnostik (click to download PDF). You receive a detailed report, outlining all the data from the threshold test. Unfortunately this document is in German, but Iet me summarise the most important information.

The following chart shows, by column: effort (watts), relative effort (watts per kilogram body weight), heart rate, lactic acid concentration, energy consumption per hour.

Upon applying cycling-specific calculations from sports research, my functional threshold was at 207 watts (2.5 watts per kilo) and a heart rate of 144 beats per minute. The diagnosis software estimated that my maximum rate of oxygen metabolisation is 4.7 litres per minute, which puts my relative VO2max per minute and kilogram body weight at circa 57 millilitres. My maximum effort was 360 watts, but I could only keep this for around 90 seconds. This places me among the top 25% of all athletes tested in my age group on Radlabor’s testing software Ergonizer - across all sports disciplines. Sounds quite good, but when looking specifically at cyclists, my results place me in the 15% percentile. This means that 85% of all cyclists who completed the test have a higher anaerobic threshold per kilogram body weight. I console myself by the thought that performance diagnosis today still is used to a large extend by professional athletes. It is okay to be better than only  15% of the pros ;) . MTN Qhubeka’s Gerald Ciolek for example managed to average roughly 400 watts over almost 12 minutes on the Cipressa Climb of Milan-San Remo 2013, for which I will admire him eternally. Also, in the same race Gerald achieved a mind-boggling 1386 watt effort on his race-winning sprint, while the test in Munich pegs me at roughly 625 watts maximum sprinting potential. For more details, check out this interesting post.

Back to the test. From the results, individual training heart rate zones can be derived. These will be important when drafting the athlete’s training plan. Based on my results, mine are: (KB = Active Recovery, GA1 = Endurance, GA2 = Tempo, EB = Threshold – the second column is effort in watts and the third refers to the heart rate zones)

Here’s another interesting graph from the report, showing the lactic acid build-up over time (lower-hand black line) in relation to the effort spent (x-axis) and the heart rate (y-axis).

At 206.5 watts, I reached my (anaerobic) lactate threshold at roughly 59% of my maximum sustained effort 350 watts. As Sophie explained to me, with appropriate training I should be able to delay the buildup of lactic acid up to 80% of my maximum effort, which would give me roughly 280 watts before reaching the lactate threshold. This is the recipe for significantly improving performance in the long-distance marathons.

Shortly after I returned to Vienna, Team Alpecin trainer Tim Böhme from Radlabor Frankfurt called me up to discuss my personal training plan. Based on the results of the threshold test and my personal time constraints, he assembled a training plan which contains a lot of long-distance endurance rides in June and some interval sessions, which will gradually increase in July as we move closer to the main events Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and Endura Alpentraum. The training plan is online (screenshot above) and requires me to feed back my training information at least on a weekly basis. From the heart rate information collected, the system calculates time spent in the different training zones and presents the results in summary overviews. According to this information and personal feedback, adjustments will be made by Tim. Also, there is an option to conduct another test in August to evaluate progress made and determine the perfect pace for both races.

Perfect preparation for the marathons to come!

Back to sports eight weeks after delivery – serious cycling on the Nockalm Road

By Spinning Mum:

Wohooo! I am back on track :) And a lot has happened during the past few weeks, so let me share my plans and experiences with you.

After a bunch of early morning sessions and several long rides on the weekends I am now officially back in the saddle and my new playmate – the oh so racy BMC RM01 I got late last year – won’t collect any more dust hanging on our bedroom wall. Instead it will be seen in it’s natural habitat a lot these days since I giddily signed up for my first cycle marathons ever after I came home from my first 100+ km tour this season.

Shortly after the endorphins wore off I was close to admitting myself to a mental institution for making such a lightheaded decision. But by then the admission fee was already paid for and I told myself that if I can run a mountain marathon with only two weeks of half-assed training on the treadmill, I might as well survive the ~60km routes of the Carinthia Cycle Marathon this month and the Garmin Velothon in June.

With only a few days left, I am currently using every minute I can spare to prepare myself for these ordeals. So let’s see if my plan works out…

The good thing about the baby alarm which by now goes off almost precisely at 04:30 a.m. is, that I am all geared up and ready to hit the road for two hours around fivish which surprisingly does not bother me all too much. In fact, I really enjoy the peace and quiet knowing that Kai is dealing with the daily morning madness of getting both kids dressed and fed. If you have young kids too, you know that this could be a bigger challenge than riding a Dutch bicycle with two flat tires. Especially now that Konstantin is walking and enjoying his newfound independence, the difficulty level of putting him into fresh nappies is comparable to catching a salmon with bare hands.

But seriously, taking turns in using the early morning hours to work out enables both of us to squeeze in some training no matter what the day will bring, e.g. long office hours (5 out of 7 nights); the feeling of being at the edge of a nervous breakdown due to a cranky toddler who is trying to use his new teeth on your big toe whilst you are comforting a querulous newborn and thus almost accidentally prepare the family hamster for dinner (2 out of 7 nights) or simply the fact that it is raining cats and dogs outdoors and the bad weather bike is locked miiiiiles away in the basement (luckily a less frequent sensation)… ;)

So, what shall I say… heading towards the sunrise on top of a high-class racer, iPod in ear, just feels awesome and allows me to gather the energy I need in order to take care of the kids, manage the household, get a bit of freelance work done and – if I am lucky – write a blog post in the hours to come.

On the weekends Kai and I usually have to split up if we want to get some serious training. While one of us is holding the fort (or playground) the other can go for a long ride. Unfortunately, family time is therefore limited to the mealtimes and evenings but we will certainly put our Chariot to use regularly for trips at a lower intensity like we did the other day.

Another idea to spend quality time together in the future would be to define a nice destination for a day or weekend trip, mount the bike rack, pack the kids and take turns riding and driving along the way. We did not actually try this yet, but I believe that the Live Track function of my Garmin Edge 810 will ensure that that the rest of the family has an instant update about when to leave home in order to arrive at the designated venue roughly at the same time or where to pick up a totally exhausted spinning mum :)

So, as you can see you do not necessarily have to be a superhero to control the catch-22 situation of spending time with your family and participating in a time consuming sport. However, being with a supportive partner who (ideally shares your interests) helps you to check the tire pressure and to prepare the kids’ breakfast the night before, helps tremendously ;)

Initially, I wanted to write about my first training sessions and improvements throughout the my first four weeks of training at this point, but as usual, it took me almost a decade to finish this article and I do not want to bore you with endless statistics, while I have a much more interesting story to share:

Currently we are staying in the region where the Carinthia Cycle Marathon is going to take place next weekend, which enables us to get used to the altitude and to check out the routes. On this account I had the chance to ride the renowned Nockalm Road, which is part of the long marathon route, Kai is about to master.

Actually, I did not plan to engage in some serious climbing lunacy when we got here, as I wanted to save my power for the actual race on Sunday, but after Kai went for a training ride along this legendary pass road and came home totally exhausted but also loaded with endorphins I couldn’t resist trying to tackle it myself.

As mentioned, the Live Track function of my Garmin would enable Kai to come to my rescue anytime in case my legs would explode, so I had nothing to loose and started my epic journey early this morning in rainy weather from our holiday home close to the Turracher Höhe.

I was shortly considering to chicken out as I was not eager to ride steep descends and hairpin-bends on wet tarmac and was already peeing my pants anyways because I was scared of my weaker self. After all, I have never tried anything like this before. But in for a penny, in for a pound… Jaunty Spinning Mum had a mission to complete!

So, I left the warm and cozy cottage and had to start climbing right away in order to get to the beginning of the Nockalm Road. Getting there was already a little adventure itself since after a short 12% warm up climb a steep and winding descend of 24% led me to the actual starting point of today’s torture. What a dreadful but exciting experience! I couldn’t help but scream when the digits on my speedometer passed 75 km/h.

Luckily the rain stopped when I arrived at the actual starting point legs still shaking with fear. After a quick glance on the steep road in front me, I was literally asking myself what the hell I was doing. But since I was also shivering from the downhill airstream I thought it might be a good idea to brace up and start to sweat. And hey, I was really curious to find out why so many riders talk about the Nockalm Road in awe.

The first few kilometers were not as bad as I initially thought but once I passed the toll booth an average gradient of 10% led me up to the first summit and I was counting the serpentines to the top. I do not know how often I was screaming along these seemingly endless 12 km – at first because my legs were burning later because it started snowing shortly before I reached the first crest. WTF! Wearing shorts and leaving the leg warmers behind was not a good idea I suppose and suddenly it occured to me why the guy who came down the road wrapped up like an Eqyptian mummy gave me funny looks.

With chattering teeth I did not take the time to enjoy the scenery and just quickly gobbled up my first Squeezy Bar before I started my descend. A glance on my Garmin told me that the temperatures dropped to freezing 0 degrees Centigrade. Apparently these conditions were even too harsh for the marmots to leave their dens. Damn! Seeing some of these adorable little critters was one the main pull factors getting me up here.

Here’s a picture of what I did not see:

But only minutes later I had different things to worry about: the snow changed to hale (ouch!) and the airstream was numbing every uncovered bit of my body. Believe me, by now I was cursing and swearing aloud and I had to stop half way through the descend because I could not feel my fingers anymore and pulling the brakes became almost impossible. I can’t remember that I ever felt so cold before.

Thank god, the weather slowly improved and when I entered the second ascend I was feeling a bit less miserable. To my surprise I still wasn’t fully recovered when I reached the second summit though my heart rate went up to 175 bpm and the last few meters to the top were really challenging. But the Sufferfest decal saying ‘IWBMATTKYT’ (I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow) I put on my top tube gave me the much needed motivation though my legs were burning and there was no lower gear left. And now guess what? Reaching the second last bend before the top, it started snowing again! As the marmots still were nowhere to be seen, I did not bother to sojourn at the top. Scared of slippery road conditions I quickly munched another energy bar trying not to look too jealous at two fellow maniacs with a support vehicle providing them with warm clothes. Lucky bastards!

Although the hailstorm failed to appear this time I had to pause the otherwise really nice descent again in order to defrost. And though I really wanted to complete the same route Kai finished the day before, I could not resist to ask him to pick me up. Freezing terribly and shaking like a leaf I continued my journey for another 10km after leaving the Nockalm Road until I hit the wall due to insufficient food intake. Thankfully Kai arrived just in time and found me the very same moment I decided to collapse on a bench on the wayside.

This is the point where I just did not want to go any further:

Looks as if Kai was speeding here a little too much before :)

Well, maybe I did not find out if I could have finished Kai’s route this time, but I am certain that I could have performed better if I would have watched my food intake and if I would have dressed wisely (lessons learned!), but I am extremely proud that I survived the Nockalm Road – which leaves me with a total of roughly 60km and a total altitude gain of 1,900m – just eight weeks after Johanna was born.

Guess, now that I know what I am capable of and survived all possible stages of freezing (freezing from anxiety, freezing from cold and freezing from exhaustion), I do not have to be scared of the upcoming events anymore… So, bring it on!

Team Alpecin 2013 Training Camp in Mallorca

By Cycling Dad:

Earlier this year, I hit jackpot as I got selected as one of the amateur riders to join Team Alpecin for one cycling season. So far, I received a bike worth more than I would ever have on my bank account, a professional bike fitting and support along the entire way to the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon in August and Endura Alpentraum in September.

This post is about the next goodie on the seemingly endless list of benefits for the chosen few. As part of the 2013 Team Alpecin package, I had a chance to spend one week in April along with eleven other lucky team riders at the Robinson Club Cala Serena on Mallorca. Mallorca is the largest island of the Spanish Balearic Islands archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea and has a reputation for being the Eldorado for road cyclists from all over Europe, because of its climate and diverse topography. After one week of riding on this beautiful island, I must agree. You’ll see why – but let’s start at the beginning of the trip.

You would not necessarily have to bring your own bike to Mallorca. There are dozen of rental stations all over the island that rent out everything from beginner’s to current high-end models. As a member of the 2013 Team Alpecin however, of course I wanted to bring the team bike along ;) .

As I did not travel a lot by air with my bike so far, I had to get some sort of transport box first. There are tons of choices available, but I figured the easiest thing to do would be to rent one from the local bike shop. In my case, I rented an EVOC bike travel bag from Bernhard Kohl’s bike store in Vienna. Time for a mini-review:

The EVOC is a huge soft-shell bag on wheels with reinforcements in strategic locations to protect your bike from impact during transport. You essentially have to take off the saddle, the pedals, rear derailleur, handlebar and take out the wheels. The wheels are secured in two separate compartments on the side of the bag, again with paddings and special reinforcements. It took me less than 30 minutes to get the bike disassembled and packed into the bag. As there still was a lot of space left in the bag, I also packed all my regular check-in baggage to the bike bag. Nice!

I took the Air Berlin Tuesday noon flight from Vienna to Palma de Mallorca and arrived to blue skies and 25 degrees temperature. What a bliss after a long, cold and dark winter! Mallorca, here I come!

It took a bit of waiting at the baggage claim, but after an hour or so the bike finally arrived. Next, I met Kei Uwe, my roommate for the week, at the airport. Before coming to Mallorca, we already worked out a nifty model for the rest of the day that would allow us to save money (airport shuttle would have cost 60 EUR per person) and spend time on the bike at the same time. Here’s how. First, we rented a car for half a day. Then we went to the hotel to assemble the bikes, drop off the bike boxes and change into cycling gear. We then headed back to the airport to return the car, taking the bikes with us. The ride back to the hotel already got us 70k on the very first day. The transfer set us back by 30 EUR in total expenses. Not bad.

We arrived to the hotel a bit late, immediately plundered the buffet and got to bed. The days ahead would be packed with activities!

I felt a bit guilty, as I lay there in the big hotel bed – slowly sinking into a restful sleep. Everything was quiet around me. My last thoughts were with Alex, who was struggling alone with our lively toddler Konstantin and newborn Johanna at home. Live is not fair.

Before I left, Alex reminded me time and again that I owe her a favor from this day. The day would come, and no matter what the request, I would have to grant her this favor. She seemed pretty serious about that… ah well, for now – good night world ;) .

8 hours of deep, deep sleep. Again, I woke up feeling a bit guilty thinking about the family at home. I made a short call to Alex. Her night was horrible. Both kids conquered the bed and gave her a tough night. Check out H is for Hell, provided by HowToBeADad.com for a remote visual reference… Alex then told me the fifth time that the day will come when she’ll ask me that one favor. Whatever it is… has to be done… shudder…

I decided to make the best of the current situation and joined Kei Uwe for breakfast. We met quite a few of the last few year’s riders at the buffet, who have been invited to come along from the team managers. Sort of a Team Alpecin Alumni Club! We also met our Sportive Director Jörg Ludewig and former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich. Wow, what a start – we were completely starstruck!

At first we were expecting being introduced to the harsh dietary prescription of a cycling team in training camp. But there’s nothing further from that. Yes, there were epic tales of hunger during training camp from the former pros, including hotel room raids for hidden snacks and athletes eating directly from the buffet so that the team coaches could not count the calories. But at the same time Jan and Lude stunned us with their healthy appetites. We decided to join then and shuttled to and fro the buffet tables. The food at Robinson Club was absolutely amazing and I think I can proudly claim to have overeaten on every single meal that followed during the week. As it would later turn out, the training camp cost me 2 kilos on the scale… but it was worth it ;) .

After breakfast we got ready and went for a first ride with the team and our special guest Jan Ullrich. What an experience, riding next to him and chatting along. I can confirm that Jan is an all-around normal guy, apart maybe from his supernatural cycling talent. I am sure that even without any training he would be able to beat me up in any race.

The rest of the team arrived in the meantime, so I finally got the chance to get to know everybody. They assembled their bikes after lunch and we went on another group ride that same afternoon. We only covered roughly 40k, in order to get everyone acquainted to the new conditions. Time flew, as we rode and chatted the afternoon away. Soon, we were back at the hotel, got fresh, had a huge dinner and our first daily team meeting. The team management introduced us to our trainers Tim Böhme and Stefan Zelle from Radlabor.de along with the schedule for the coming days. During the first two days, there would not be much time for riding as we’d be busy taking pictures for RoadBIKE magazine and other media outlets. The rest of the week would be free for longer rides, a visit to the RoadBIKE festival in Playa de Muro and technical training. Happy and overeaten, we retired to our rooms and were looking forward to the next days like kids before their first day of school.

The third day started with another novum. Probably as a result of watching our eating habits, our trainers decided that we all needed to strengthen our core muscles. This was most likely in order to keep us from bursting apart after another sumptuous meal. Our trainers Tim and Stefan showed us some basic positions for strengthening the core body muscles and we followed their moves. We would repeat this early morning activity almost every day of the training camp. Needless to say that most of us were rewarded with sores from our neglected core muscles. However, professional experience and anecdotal evidence from the hobby athletes shows that well trained core muscles will be a key success factor during our epic ten-hour rides during the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and the Endura Alpentraum Transalp Cycle Marathon.

As announced during the team meeting, we spent third and fourth day of the training camp with photo shootings. Unfortunately I can’t post the professional photos as they are not released yet. But I can assure you that they look stunning. They will be used in the upcoming RoadBIKE Magazine articles, and maybe I will be able to share them all with you in a few months. In any case, we had tons of time to enjoy the sunshine and hang out.

During the entire time, we were extremely well taken care of by our sponsors. Not only were we dressed head to toe in the finest Assos clothing, riding the 2013 Specialized S-Works Venge on devilish Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer wheels, but there was also a seemingly unlimited supply of Squeezy Sports Nutrition to be consumed at will. Great stuff – I’ll post a detailed review soon.

Also, we had a team of world-class bike mechanics from Lightweight on service to help us make all final adjustments on our bikes and overhaul the bikes on first sign of wear. The mechanics service was also offered to the team Alpecin riders of the previous years who joined us during the training camp. It was absolutely splendid, and I need to take a moment to give a huge personal thank you to our team mechanics Oliver and Daniel. You guys are magicians on the wrenches ;) !

Once the photo sessions were done, we spent the rest of the training camp with some long rides that mainly focused on building base endurance. However, we also spent a few climbing sessions on Puig Sant Salvador, which is a large, beautiful hill in the South of the island with guesthouse-turned ancient monastery on top.

The road leading to the top is stunningly beautiful and first meanders through pine forest before giving a view across the island and the Mediterranean Sea.

The trainers introduced us to various interval training techniques and practiced fast descending with us, which was fun and gave everyone insights into ways how to safely improve the speed downhill. It was amazing to watch Jörg Ludewig taking on tight turns at high speeds, using skills honed in countless pro races. Also, we had a celebrity commentator with us as sprinter legend Marcel Wüst stopped by to share some of his wisdom with us.

On Friday, April 19th we went on one of our longest rides – 150k from Cala Serena to the RoadBIKE Festival in Playa de Muro and back through the heart of Mallorca. The scenery along the way was stunning and we rode in three large groups with a lot of the previous years’ Team Alpecin members. Jan Ullrich again joined this ride and there was a chance for everybody to have a picture taken next to him.

The RoadBIKE festival itself is a three-day, pop-up consumer fair right in the heart of Playa de Muro, one of the (Geman-speaking) cycling tourism hotspots on Mallorca. The big tour operators like Max Hürzeler Cycling Holidays have their main bases here. Some of the big brands in cycling give consumers a chance to experience their products first hand here, including Specialized, Sigma, Continental, Squeezy and Canyon to name but a view. Also, visitors have a chance to meet cycling stars first hand, including Eric Zabel and of course Jan Ullrich. It is quite a nice event, but what I found stunning (also considering that I am running an Austrian-based, English-language blog) was the fact that all communication on site was conducted in German. No sign of English or Spanish whatsoever. I wonder how many non-German speakers were lost along the way.

The rest of the week in the training camp brought more long rides, and a chance to enjoy the amenities of the Robinson club, including a splendid wellness area and the beautiful coastline. This place must be great for swimming during summer, but at this time of the year still was a bit chilly…

Also, there was a glitch in the secret cover-up operations of the secret billionaire lifestyle of a certain Swiss member of our team. The crew brought the yacht too close to the shoreline, so the rest of the team could catch a glimpse and establish the logical association to the owner. As a result, we all received personal invitations to his royal mansion in Switzerland for high-altitude training. We’re all looking forward to it, Matthias Count of Niederhäuser ;) !

For those of you who made it all the way to the end of this extremely long post, here’s a special goodie for you – a short video sum-up of some of our rides. It gives you the chance to experience parts of the training camp from the participant’s point of view. We had an amazing time. I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all our sponsors and supporters, and of course our families at home who missed one week with their dads, husbands or girlfriends.

P.S.: I started writing this post on April 16. The date of publishing, today, is May 13. In other words, it took me almost a month to finish this post – a striking evidence of the challenge to manage family, profession, training and blogging next to each other. No wonder that there aren’t that many bike bloggers around. To those of you who can manage everything at the same time, here’s my respect and deep appreciation. You guys rock!

Cycling Parents Family Bike Ride

By Cycling Dad:

After three races over the last two weeks, my body is sending me signals that it’s time for a break. So Alex and I decided to take the kids out in their Chariot Child Carrier and made a short video about it.

What’s your recipe for happy kids?

2013 Volcanoland Cycle Marathon | Vulkanland Radmarathon

By Cycling Dad:

May 6, 2013 – Today is Monday. I feel fried and at the verge of falling sick. Yesterday, I rode the Volcanoland Cycle Marathon (“Vulkanland Radmarathon”) in Feldbach, Styria, Austria. 124k in the pouring rain with 1466 m alt gain. Quite tough – especially after last week’s race in Moerbisch and a short, but fast run of the Vienna Woods time trial series on Friday. The Volcanoland Cycle Marathon must be a lot of fun in nice weather. Just look at the bizarre scenery above and imagine sunshine. Every race gives me the chance to travel to beautiful places in Austria and meet new people. I came in 22nd out of 35 starters in the <40 age bracket in Feldbach and 4th out of 7 in the time trial, which sounds much less spectacular than 110th out of 700+ as in Moerbisch. I guess I could have done better with a bit more training. Here’s the data from the Cycle Marathon:

Race Report:

I’ll have to keep it short as I already feel like falling off my chair any minute. Race day started early at 4.30 am. I was in the car by 5, driving till 7 so I could make it before registration cut-off time at 7.30 am (I know I should have registered weeks before…). Plenty of time to warm up, unlike Moerbisch last week. No need to put on sunscreen either – the race started at 8.30 am in light drizzle. There were merely 200 brave guys and gals at the starting line. The first kilometre leading up to the first 100 m alt climb was neutralised, so it was a very save start without any pushing and shoving. As there were two laps with a combined 124k ahead and almost 1500 m alt gain, I thought it sensible not to go full-out on the first hill, but rather settle into a somewhat sustainable pace (which turned out to be a GOOD decision..). The leading group with the first 50 riders immediately took off. In the meantime, the rain started pouring from the skies and made me really uncomfortable on the first fast descent that followed. Even though my Lightweight Obermayer wheels have superior braking performance in the wet (compared to other leading full-carbon wheels), there still is a huge difference to aluminium rims in heavy downpour. Nothing to worry about, but definitely something that takes time to get used to…

What followed was a constant change in incline, speed, heart rate and road conditions. I was hanging on to my handlebars, wondering when there would be time to have a safe sip from my bottles on this course. It took over one and a half hours for this moment to arrive. Clearly, this rough-rider still has a long way to go to find back to past glory…

Our group made a good pace. Over time, we collected more and more single riders and smaller groups from ahead and behind of us, amalgamating into a second peloton of roughly 40. We roughly stayed in this larger group for the remainder of the first lap, finishing the first 62k in roughly 1:50, with a 33.6 km/h average speed which I found quite impressive on this course profile.

On the second lap, more and more riders blew up on the hills and fell behind. It happened to me around 3:07 into the race. Left leg to brain: running out of glucose. Brain to right leg: do you have any left to share with lefty? Right leg: BOOM! You must have been able to hear the explosion in Vienna. Too much workload over the past weeks with too little previous training?

I was left with 45 minutes to go until the finishing line, seemingly running on the energy left in my thumb that’s normally used to push the button on the remote control. Pouring rain. Feeling miserable. The rest is history. 3:52 finishing time, 22nd out of 35 starters. Congratulations to all the fine ladies and gents who finished today’s ordeal.

I know that I will be back next year, beating my ass until then to improve my finishing time. This is a beautiful course, but today the weather did not quite comply.

Off to bed with a cold.