Cycling Dad with Team WBR Europe at the King of the Downs Gran Fondo, UK

Hey all, hello UK!

Just a quick note to let you know that fellow Team WBR Europe team member Axel and I will ride the King of the Downs Gran Fondo tomorrow, June 1st 2014.

Looking forward to 185km and 2300m cumulative gain in altitude along the way. The route covers the Surrey hills, North Downs, Ashdown Forest and Kent, and notable climbs along the route include Leith Hill, The Wall (Kidd’s Hill) and Titsey Hill.
Looking forward to a great day!

You can check out the ride here.

Also, here’s the ride’s Garmin track:

Remember, every donation helps to mobilize communities in rural Africa through the World Bicycle Relief programme. We need your donations to reach our fundraising goal, and any support will be greatly appreciated!

What activities do you plan this weekend?

Mobilizing communities in rural Africa with the World Bicycle Relief

Friends,

I am supporting World Bicycle Relief, an organization providing access to independence and livelihood through The Power of Bicycles, with a personal fundraiser. Check it out on http://teamwbr.worldbicyclerelief.org/kai

The money raised through my fundraiser helps to provide specially designed, locally assembled bicycles to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in rural Africa; connecting them with education, healthcare and economic opportunities.

World Bicycle Relief is currently working to provide 50,000 bicycles to students (70% girls), teachers and educational workers in rural Zambia and Zimbabwe. For $134 we can provide a World Bicycle Relief bicycle to a student in need. Every donation helps.

As part of my commitment, I will ride the legendary Oetztal Cycle Marathon on August 31, 2014. The Oetztaler is an endurance event that pits 5,000 amateur athletes in the heart of the Alps against 240km in distance, 5,500 meters cumulative altitude gain, four alpine passes and temperature ranging from zero degrees celsius on the peaks to the twenties in the valleys.

In 2013, my finishing time was 10:52:09 (10:18:42 moving time). You can check out my effort at http://www.strava.com/activities/78100762

This year, I will ride the Oetztaler together with my wife Alexandra. Together, we aim to achieve a finishing time below 10 hours.

By supporting this fundraising campaign, you also support our goal to finish the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon together. Remember, every donation helps to mobilize communities in rural Africa.

What are we waiting for? Lets get rolling!
Thank you.

Yours, Kai

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!

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.

2013 Moerbisch Cycle Marathon | 22. Neusiedler See Radmarathon

By Cycling Dad:

April 28, 2013 – Today I participated in my first race since many years: the 2013 Moerbisch Cycle Marathon | 22. Neusiedler See Radmarathon (German original name). Overall, it was a quite pleasant experience, but of course there is always room for improvement. I made position 110 out of 731 starters. Overall, I feel rather satisfied with my performance, considering the long break from amateur cycling and the fact that my legs still felt tired most of this past week from the Team Alpecin training camp in Mallorca (the article about it is still work in progress, but should go online in the coming days).

The Moerbisch Cycle Marathon covers 124k in distance with a comparably flattish 600m in altitude gain (at least that’s the data I get from my Garmin – the organisers even only show 300m – but I will stick with the Garmin data). I finished today’s course in 3:20:38 with an average of 37,4 km/h. Click here for the official results.

Here is the course and my data from today’s event:

Race Report:

I arrived to Moerbisch roughly one hour before the start at 10 am, leaving me plenty of time to walk around and pick up the starter package. At least in theory. What really happened was that after getting the gear ready, installing the timing sensor and putting on sunscreen, I barely had ten minutes left for warmup before heading to the starting line. It sort of worked out, but the first learning of my amateur racing comeback would be to factor in more time prior to the race. Easier said than done with a toddler and a newborn at home…

Arriving to the starting grid only minutes before the start of a race with over 700 riders means that there are a lot of riders in front of you… which was also the case today. As I was riding the Team Alpecin Specialized S-Works Venge and wore the full team kit, I briefly tried to talk my way into the special starting grid with the faster riders at the very front of the pack, but at no avail.

The starting signal came spot on 10am, but it seemed like minutes passed before the peloton slowly started moving. The first challenge of the course was a 200m climb in altitude over a series of hills that should quickly separate the field into several groups that could then take on the remainder of the course in roughly similar performance groups (at least in theory). As the track was a narrow rural road, it was difficult to pass other riders on the way up. I still managed to wiggle through somehow and must have gained 100 or 200 positions in this section. After roughly 10k, the rural road joins a regular country road which leads to the Klingenbach border crossing between Austria and Hungary. From here, there was a moderate decline for the next 10k. The speed picked up significantly and climbed to the upper 40s until shortly after Sopron. Along the way, we accumulated into a group of roughly 50 to 60 riders.

We just passed a roundabout, when the guy right in front of me took the corner too widely and got his wheels on the sandy shoulder of the road. He slipped at a fairly high speed and almost wiped me out when he came sliding back to the middle of the road. Luckily, he touched the ground on his side with no signs of a hard impact on his shoulders. When I glanced back, I saw him getting on his bike again. I hope he’s fine and finished the race.

After the crash, the speed dropped significantly and lingered in the mid thirties. Three or four of us tried to pick up the pace again, taking pulls at the front, but the majority of our group seemed determined to suck wheels all the way to the finishing line. I was wishing to ride this race together with a handful of teammates in order to be able to split the effort…

We crossed back into Austria near Pamhagen, where we hit head-wind. With only half the race distance left, the group woke up and more people finally joined the pacemakers. From Illmitz onwards, the group had a nice flow and a somewhat functioning alternating pull system installed in the front. We collected more slower riders along the way. Still, there were 40 riders staying in the back, sucking wheel…

On the last 40k of the race, a lot of movement started within the group, often leading to risky situations. Some of these riders were very strong – probably from thousands of kilometres solo training, but unexperienced of riding in a group. Then there were riders that were half blown-out, barely able to ride a straight line. And then again some of the guys were plain and simple idiots, squeezing themselves where there was no space, shoving their back wheels into other people’s front wheels when getting out of the saddle and swiping from one side of the road to the other as in a sprint final. On the final 10k, the speed picked up significantly again, but also the shoving in the peloton got worse and worse. There they were suddenly – all the wheel suckers who never took a pull at the front, getting ready for the grand sprint finale for position 100…

By the time we arrived to Moerbisch, my goal was simply to survive the last few corners unscathed – which seemed rather unlikely. I was just waiting for someone to go down infront of me or wipe me off the tires. It was close, but I guess today was my lucky day. At the end, I did not go all out in the sprint (what for?) and arrived in the front quarter of my group.

All in all, it was a fun race, but I could have done better a) starting from a better position further up front b) riding with a team and/or in a more experienced and motivated group and c) probably also with a bit more experience on my own side. Next year will show. Overall, the organisation of the Moerbisch Cycle Marathon was quite good and I can recommend the event.

Cycling from Vienna to Sölden the route becomes the destination… probably next year

By Spinning Mum:

Some weeks ago when Kai and I were planning our trip to Sölden for the Big O we were discussing the possibility to start off our journey a bit earlier in order to take turns cycling and driving along the way.

Frequenting the Ötztaler Radmarathon Facebook Fan Page Kai coincidentally came across an interesting post. The organisers of the Oetztal Cycle Marathon are offering a long distance rally from Vienna to Sölden for 20 ambitious cycling amateurs. During a period of six days between August 18th and 23rd the enthusiastic participants have to overcome the following six demanding stages:

Baden (near Vienna) – Graz 181 KM; 3,447 meters in altitude
Graz – Großraming 219 KM; 2,050 meters in altitude
Großraming – Abtenau 157 KM; 2,344 meters in altitude
Abtenau – Großglockner – Lienz 171 KM; 3,288 meters in altitude
Lienz – Felbertauern – Gerlos – Innsbruck 199 KM; 2,803 meters in altitude
Innsbruck – Sölden 111 KM; 1,910 meters in altitude

At a price of roughly EUR 1,000.00 taking part in this weeklong adventure is not quite inexpensive but it certainly beats your mama’s run-of-the-mill package holidays which are often more costly and infamous for leaving you with more than just a little weight gain and training deficit :) Plus, there is much more to the package: Next to a guaranteed admission for the 2014 Oetztal Cycle Marathon all starters receive fantastic goodies and excellent support along the way, including accompaniment by a service car, catering en route, etc.

Following the slogan ‘the route becomes the destination’, pregnant and combative me immediately thought “Wow, that would be a fun way to get to Sölden and with an accumulated distance of more than1,000 km and almost 16,000 meters altitude gain it is even more challenging than the Big O itself” (A fact I could banter Kai with over the next decade^^). Not forgetting to mention that it would be a fantastic story to share on cylcingparents.com :)

I blame it on the hormones that I was giddily thinking I could survive such an endeavour despite of my lack of training throughout the past months. So, I got in touch with the rally organisers from the Oetztal Tourism Board right away to find out more about the tour and would probably have been ending up submitting my application if our little belly dweller wouldn’t have axed this plan.

Actually at that point I was pretty certain that Konstantin’s premature birth would increase the chances of having another premature baby. Don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely NOT wishing for another early delivery, but (given the fact that I was suffering signs of early labour when I was only 29 weeks along) I had a strong gut feeling that Johanna also wouldn’t wait until the estimated date of birth. Against this backdrop the only bright side would have been an earlier start into the season and thus more training which would have been essential for the tortures of such an epic cycle tour.

Well, all the old wives’ tales about having another preemie after a preterm delivery proved to be false and Johanna took her sweet time cycling into this world. At the end she was even overdue and we tried everything to lure her out including a special cocktail mixed from spices, castor oil and cognac. Fie! Unfortunately, all these homespun remedies did not work and upon advice of my obstetricians I agreed to have the birth induced. Alas, this plan did not lead to the desired result either as it turned out that I was suffering from very weak contractions. Hence a Caesarean was unavoidable :( Worse Luck!

Thankfully the medical team did a great job and Johanna and I were both recovering quickly from the rushed operation. Nonetheless, in spite of (or actually due to) the fact that I was still dazed and confused from the anasthetics I was given one of the first things I asked even before I was rolled out of the recovery ward was “When exactly will I be able to start cycling again?” :)  [Since I did not particularly covered a C-section in my previous post about exercising after childbirth, I will share my latest insights by updating this article as soon as the little rascals allow].

But back to the actual topic of this post…
Since I had to revise my plans due to the prolonged recovery time, taking part in the rally to Sölden was no longer an option for me.Too bad… even if it would have meant countless sleepless nights wondering whether I am capable of handling the distance and altitude gain :)

Be that as it may, I will definitely keep the rally on my watch list for the coming year. For this year spending less time in the saddle gives me an opportunity to write more reviews, for example about the book ”Ich habe einen Traum… Ötztaler Radmarathon” by Ernst Lorenzi, chief organiser of the Oetztal Cycle Marathon, who was so kind to send us a copy when he learned about our blog due to my request for more information about the rally.

Thank you, Ernst. We are absolutely enraptured by the pictures, field reports, training tips and statistics you meticulously put together and hope that we will be able to share our thoughts about your book soon.

 

Alive and kick… er… pedaling

By Spinning Mum:

Yes, I am still alive and still feeling fairly good, though our belly dweller sometimes limits my actions and inveigles me into rash decisions, such as spontaneously applying for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and Team Alpecin myself, neglecting the fact that the little lady who is forcing me to move like a hippopotamus lately is seemingly taking her sweet time and wrecking the actual realisation of these plans :)

Now that I only have around two weeks to go, my back is killing me and I often feel like a balloon on the verge of bursting. So, I was wondering whether I can elicit our little belly dweller by taking a short spin on the static trainer. I was surprised how comfortable my BMC still felt but I have to admit that it is getting harder and harder to stay the course these days…

So, if you have any recommendations on how to speed things up a bit, please do let me know, as I can hardly wait for our little angel to arrive and being able to romp around the house with Konstantin again :)

 

Cycling for children in need

By Cycling Dad:

As given away by the name of our blog, CyclingParents.com is not only about our love for cycling, but also about our love of having a family. When my wife Alex and I became parents, we knew immediately that we wanted to do something for children who have a less fortunate start into life than our own. We also wanted to see where our contributions are going, so when we learned that there is a SOS Children’s Village very close to where we live, we made the logical connection.

At the peak of the 2013 cycling season in August, I will attempt to finish the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, covering a distance of 238km and 5,500 meters in altitude gain. For each meter in altitude, I will try to raise one Euro in donations for the SOS Children’s Village in Hinterbruehl, Austria. That’s 5,500 Euro for children in need, and will help me keep focused along the way. I am planning to select one meaningful area for spending the donations together with the Children’s Village, and will write about my experiences along the way in this blog.

Please support me in my endeavour and donate as little or as much as you can spare.
To donate, please click here and follow the instructions on the following pages.
To learn more, please visit http://www.cyclingparents.comhttp://www.sos-childrensvillages.org,  the webpage of the Children’s Village in Hinterbruehl (German) and http://www.oetztaler-radmarathon.com.

Please also share this fundraiser on Facebook, LinkedIn, or simply by talking about it with friends and colleagues over a cup of coffee.

P.S.: Your donations to SOS Children’s Villages are fully tax deductible. All you have to do is submit the banking transaction along with the request for tax credit in your annual tax return.

Thank you!

How to get access to the Ferry Dusika Cycling Stadium

Dusika Stadion Vienna
Photo: Florian Ertl

There may be quite a few cyclists out there who are wondering how to get access to the Ferry Dusika Cycling Stadium. I am not just talking about residents of Vienna and its suburbs, but also those of you living close to the Austrian border in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. For all of us, I have assembled the following step by step guide – so you don’t have to go through the research or struggle with translating the available resources, which are mostly in German.

The address of the stadium is Engerthstraße 267-269, 1020 Wien, Österreich.
Here you can find it on google maps.

Getting to the Ferry Dusika velodrome is quite easy. I you are already in Vienna, you can get there with metro line U2, the station is called ‘Stadion’. The much larger Ernst Happel stadium is right next to the velodrome, so look out for the Ferry Dusika Stadium. If you come by car, please note that you can’t park directly at the stadium. However, there are paid parking lots available at the Stadion Center shopping mall, just across the street.

In order to get access to the track, you have to hold a valid UCI racing (or track training) license, which can be obtained from most amateur cycling clubs. With the license, you can apply for an access card to the velodrome, which costs around EUR 50, and gives you access to the track for a full calendar year (Jan-Dec). Contact persons can be found on the website of the ÖRV – Österreichischer Radsportverband. Hedwig Weisz or Christian Langhammer are the right persons to contact. They will also be happy to help you with any English inquiries.

You will need to bring a track bike as there are no rentals available at the stadium, which is a shame and on my list of topics to discuss with ÖRV. Track cycling is a lot of fun, and it would be nice to give more cyclists a chance to give it a try. Shop around for used track bikes on bikeboard.at or other cycling forums. There are also great track bikes available from Dolan, but spending EUR 600 for equipment that you may only want to use from time to time is a tough call. Bikes can be stored at the velodrome, but you will be asked to remove it prior to major events, which take place every couple of months. One last thing, make sure to check out the track schedule before heading out.

Looking forward to seeing you on the track, or on any of the Cycle Marathons in my event schedule (top of the page).

Keep in touch!