Thursday, 30 June 2016

Oberösterreich Rundfahrt

Stage 1

The first stage of the Oberösterreich Rundfahrt started with unfamiliar territory for me. 12km uphill with a mass start. I've done hill TT's before but never with a mass start. Nervousness came over me the day before as I wasn't sure about my knee and two things were certain. It would be hectic and it would hurt. 

The first 6 km were the steepest and I didn't feel great but felt like I could keep up. 5 km in I moved up into the first 15 riders (not that easy when 120 riders chase that line as a mob of starving lions chase their prey) and then suddenly I was "standing like a bucket" as my teammate would describe it. 

About 40 riders were ahead of me and I just had to let them go. I felt like there was a lot left in me but I couldn't go deeper. 
A small group formed around me, of which I broke free again towards the end and sprinted to the line in 44th place, more than a minute and a half down on the winner. 
Not what I had hoped for but it was expected since I was still missing a lot of sharpness from all the breaks I took because of illness and injury. 
A time trial up there would've suited my likes better. 

Warm up

Stage 2
Stage 2 started in perfect weather conditions except for a lot of wind. At the start I tried to get into the breakaway but quickly changed my mind when I saw we would have a headwind almost all day. It would be a waste of energy since it was basically impossible for the break to survive. 

It was super relaxed in the peloton at times and when we came onto the final circuit with 40km to go and the break still had an advantage of 5:40 I almost regretted not being in it. 

One lap to go we did catch them though and the expected bunch sprint came up. Way to hectic for my likes so I kept out of it and finished safely in the pack. Almost disappointed my legs were still feeling so good after the stage. 
Uh oh someone needs to move up a few spots..

Stage 3

The third stage was the first one that could shake up the GC for good. We started with a few pancake flat laps before the first climb of the day came that was about 15km long. 
I really wanted to be in the break, but decided to gamble and not follow a single move until we hit that 15km climb (which was after 30km only). 

It was a good decision since everyone was still together at the foot of the climb and after following a few strong riders I found myself in a 12 man group off the front. It still makes me mad today that I wasn't more aware of my surroundings though. Seemingly I was too proud that I had made the group and managed to stay with the good climbers over the top that I didn't realize how many strong riders were represented (always a bad sign for a break because it means behind many guys will chase) and that the peloton was in fact right behind us. 

Inevitably we got caught again pretty soon but I kept trying to get into the right move. Until one of the strongest riders in the race attacked and I thought: "Ah no need to follow here, no chance they will let him get away.". Which of course they did and the break for the day was set. Without me. 

Things got worse when I hit a drain cover which lead to my handlebar sliding down and my front brake locking up. For some strange reason I didn't go OTB (over the bars) and no one crashed into me although I basically just stopped right in the middle of the pack. 
Naturally our teamcar was right at the back of the convoy and I stood there for quite a while before I received my spare bike. 

A chase that was harder than it was supposed to be followed until I was back in the pack. 10km later I had to call the teamcar again because my chain wouldn't stay on the big ring. Either it fell back to the small ring or straight over on the other side. Less than ideal! 

Luckily my other bike had been fixed, so I had another bike change and another chase back that was mostly uphill. Back in the pack I felt that attacking up most of the climb and changing my bike twice had drained a lot of my energy. But I was sure that I could recover well in the pack and be back to normal once we hit the final circuit. 

However the pace stayed high, I struggled all the way to the final circuit and got distanced on the climb of the first lap already. It was horrible. 
Never say die though, so I kept on pushing and made it back on the downhill, just to get dropped again at the same spot the next time around. At least now a reasonably big grupetto had formed and I rolled to the finish with them. 

Seems like there's still a lot of work left for me to do. 


Stage 4

We've had absolutely stunning weather the first 3 days in Austria, but I might've complained too loud about my helmet strap tan lines, so the last stage started in pouring rain. Be careful what you wish for. And just as dark as the weather was my mood. The stage before had killed me mentally. I was not used to getting dropped like a rock on a climb. I even sent a premature "That's it I'm done with cycling, where can I apply at university" text to one of my friends. Obviously it was all just a little over dramatic. 

My body didn't seem to respond that well either. Not the tiniest bit of nervousness, no stress... Just doing what needs to be done, all with a hint of indifference. 
Sign in, get some oil rubbed on the legs, listen to the strategy, put on shoes, put on overshoes, roll up and down the road a few times, stand at the start, start, neutral over, official start is given... 

After 10km of racing I was a little worried how little attention I was paying to the race. 50 men could've gone off the front and I wouldn't have noticed. Just keeping the wheel in front of me, going with the flow. It took a real effort to wake up the senses and start getting into the racing mood. 

Suddenly as I was becoming more aware of my surroundings, my bike didn't feel comfortable at all. Almost as if someone had lifted my seat and my shoes were feeling strange too, so loose and.... !@#$%^&* I let out a stream of swear words in all languages I know. Since it was raining that day, I didn't want to ruin my newly bought white pair of shoes and took the old ones. Somehow I had forgotten to change the inner soles (which I always do as I have special soles with a higher arch) and was riding shoes without any soles. 

I hated myself that day and I still do now. That is just a mistake you should not make. Plain and simple stupid.  
But it got worse. Without the soles, my knee was moving into the direction it shouldn't move and still having a slight inflammation it soon started hurting again. 

I dragged myself 100km along the back of the peloton, then got dropped 10km before we crossed the line for the first time and had the ride of shame to the finish, where the broom wagon was right behind me all the time and you just feel their stare of "get to the finish faster you snail so I can get on with my day" on your back. I'm sure he was a good lad and didn't think that but that's how it felt. 

The shower of shame followed (which is a shower all by yourself compared to the massively crowded showers by the time the main peloton had reached the finish) and I was glad when that was done and I could hide in the bus. 

A day to forget that's sure, but maybe also a little motivation to be more aware of my surrounding no matter how dead I am. And also to get back to the person I once was, getting up climbs in the front, not getting dropped on them alongside the sprinters. Actually most of the sprinters still got dropped later than me... 

Anyway, Sibiu Tour in Romania is coming up soon and I'm motivated to turn these horrible last few months around into something good. 
It already had a good-ish start with me missing the Strava KOM by one single second on the most famous climb around here. I'll be back to take that KOM, no doubt! 

The squad (bad hair day, don't ask)

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