Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The big city of Ausfahrt

Last Thursday, Serge and I headed out for the 4-hour drive to Herford, Germany (direction Dortmund.) The trip there was rather uneventful – we listened to pop tunes most of the way down with a little Flemish folk and classical thrown in. Oh, and we practiced our five german words – danke, bitte, goeden dag, ja, ne.

That night, we walked through downtown Herford only to see we got there a day too late for the Christmas festivities. There were a bunch of stripped trailer booths with only one remaining – the alcohol stand adorned in tiki d├ęcor. We bypassed the booth, stepped around the wobbly drunk guy and settled into an Italian restaurant. Upon leaving the restaurant, a table full of patrons chanted, “Auf Wiedersehen” (yes, I’m sure the spelling is ridiculously off.) I almost laughed aloud because it reminded me of that TV show America’s top designer – or something like that – where heidi klum kicks the contestants off the show with an “Auf Wiedersehen” and a kiss. Now we know six words!

The next morning we awoke to rain, rain and more rain. Cold day. We parked in the Herford race site’s designated parking area - which also doubled as an actual Trailer Park where people lived - next to Suzie Godart of Luxembourg and her family so we had double the support for us gals! Luckily, there was an abandoned tiny decrepit shed next to us that Serge emptied to make room for my trailer.

As I made my way over to the start line, I heard the announcers on the loudspeaker – oh my God, it’s Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live! The accent was over the top! At that point, I realized I had never really spent any time in Germany before this trip to hear an animated German voice.

The start of the race was fast – we were unleashed onto the descending pavement that connected to an even steeper fireroad descent. Then the fun started – technical mountain bike singletrack – lots of it! I was in 5th going into this section. I passed one gal in the woods and then a miracle occurred. I bridged to the gals in 2nd and 3rd on a long muddy runup and passed them both easily on a long deep mud section – two types of riding I thought I was inept at. Maybe it was always in my mind – quite possible. Anyway, one gal eventually caught me and I traded spots with her until just before we hit the muddy runup that leads into the long stretch of mud. I figured I’d try my luck to see if I truly got better at this stuff. Wow, I held her off to finish 2nd behind Reza Hormes-Ravenstein.

After making it through the whole race relatively without incident, I smacked my knee on a “bush” made of thick immovable branches. The spot immediately swelled up to the size of a walnut! Otherwise, it felt really good to be on a podium again – especially a euro one!

As we were leaving Germany, Serge told me his Ausfahrt story. When he was in Austria a couple of years ago, they kept passing exit signs on the freeway that read “Ausfahrt”. Finally one of the guys muttered, “Ausfahrt is one big city!” They soon figured out that Ausfahrt just means “exit” and had a good laugh! We, too, had a good laugh at every exit we passed after he shared that story with me!

After the race, we drove directly to Suzie and Marc’s house in Luxembourg so we could save driving time for the race two days later in Luxembourg. The next day, Suzie and I pre-rode the race course then headed over to see her kids race in a local cyclo-cross event. I screamed so loudly for the kids (Franz – 15 yrs – kicked butt and Trixi – 17 ½ yrs (we know how important that ½ is when you get to be that age!) – won! )

I was flattered and embarrassed when the race organizers announced that I was in the crowd – like I’m some sort of celebrity! Haha. The real celebrity of the event was Suzie – their sole top World ranked rider!

Happy new year.

I planned to wake up for the race at 8am so I could do all my rituals and set up all my unctions like Beljum Budder, sunscreen, etc. Someone once told me – I think it was Geoff Williams from Providence – that plans are just that. When I awakened at 10am, I was sure he was right. After a quick and SMALL bowl of oatmeal (the course is a climb-fest) I was kitted up and on the trainer in the garage awaiting the caravan’s departure.

Again, rain, rain and more rain but it was a little warmer than yesterday. The hail pellets begged to differ. We warmed up in the garage of the last – and possibly only – Luxembourg wearer of the infamous Tour de France yellow jersey. His garage was truly a cyclist aficionado’s dream! He had newspaper and magazine clippings, cycling caps, bicycles, trophys, race numbers, etc. His collection must have been all inclusive of the whole 1900’s! As we rode the trainer, famous faces from years past were riding with us as they were taped onto the garage door.

After I completed my pre-race rituals, I put the skinsuit on. It was all white but with black side panels on the shorts. It had some german words in red across the boobs which we duct taped over so it was just a simple white skinsuit. I did plan to wear the Organic Athlete skinsuit for this race but unexpectedly went direct to Luxembourg from germany without passing Belgium. It would have only mattered for the first two minutes anyway before us gals had uniform brown jerseys.

Oh, by the way – great news! This was my first official day racing for my new UCI Trade Team – Pruneaux D’Agen. They are based in the SW region of France. BUT like many other teams, the clothes haven’t arrived yet. I should have the kit for the next race, though. More about the team later…

The course was set up like a typical Norba National Course – straight up, then straight down. The uphill was a combination of pavement and dirt while the downhill was completely mountain bike singletrack – roots, rocks, mud, trees, and more mud. Many people bit it hard on the descent. I walked away with two front tire flats. Note to self: 14psi is not enough when tackling roots and stumps at high speeds.

I hit the first mud patch in about 6th or 7th, got passed by a couple of folks, passed some back and finally settled into 7th only to pass one more girl for a final placing of 6th. Maryline Salvetat won while Marianne Vos won the sprint with Daphny Van den Brand for 2nd. Reza finished 4th while Birgit Hollman was 5th. It’s a good feeling when you recognize all the girls in front of you – and even better when you recognize some behind you too!

I am still working on “feeling the pain” when I race, but these two races felt as though I am once again heading in the right direction.

As I showered, picking pockets of mud out of my orifices, Serge pitted for Jonathan Page who had only his pregnant wife, Cory, to help him! If I were rich, I’d give him (and me) the support he deserves for paving the way for American Cyco-Cross racers to race in Europe!

While watching the tail end of the mens race with Marianne Vos’ brother Anton, I told him that Franz wants to have a date with his sister. Franz came over to us just as Anton confirmed that he will set it up! I have never seen Franz so candy red as he was when he figured out what transpired. Hahahahahaha! Later that day, he got me back. Anton walked up to me and shook my hand as he said it’s a done deal. According to Franz, I now have a date with Anton! Hahahaha! I told Franz we will double-date.

That’s all for now. I have a lot of gluing of Easton wheels and a bunch of bike work and errands that I have put off for the last few weeks to focus on racing.

Thanks for reading.