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!