By Larssyn Staley, Andeer Cycling Team
It’s crazy how easily the schedule of a bike racer can be changed. We all want to know our race schedule at the beginning of the year so our training can be laid out perfectly, but I don’t think much is guaranteed in this sport. Last Tuesday I went for an 80-kilometer ride in the morning and then raced track in the evening. Once I was home from racing and getting ready for bed, I got a call from another team here in Switzerland, Team-Next 125 . They were headed to Germany the following day for a stage race, but were short on riders. Most of my own team, Team Andeer Interflon Scott would be there racing for the Swiss National Team, so, I very happily agreed to go with Team-Next 125. Consequently, late on Tuesday night I found out I was starting a stage race, the next day!
Wednesday morning I quickly prepared my bike and then rode to my team director’s house to pick up my license. I had just enough time to make that 40-minute trip, pack, and grab something to eat before the Team-Next 125 bus rolled up in front of the apartment. We loaded up the bus and were off to the races.
The race was super well organized. All teams stayed in the same hotel, which was actually a sports school. None of the stages were far from the school; everybody rode to and from the races. Afterward, we could quickly shower and head to the cafeteria where every team had its own table. When my teammates from Andeer saw me they were surprised by my last minute-chance to race. I told them I couldn’t let them have all the fun without me.
The first stage started that evening. It was a circuit race on a loop that was about seven kilometers. The start/finish was at the beginning of the steep part of a climb. The course went three kilometers up with a tailwind and then turned left to go across the top of the hill with strong crosswinds and then back down the hill on a tiny road through a forest. It was good that there were people in orange vests at every turn. It was so dark in the forest we could have easily ended up off course and turned it into a mountain bike race. Still, for all of its challenges, the loop was really fun.
Nicole Brändli got things going on the second lap and from then on everything was split up. At that point the winning break was established with Brändli and a few others. There were tons of small groups. After about five laps my group could see a few cars from the group in front of us. For the next few laps we rode super hard. I thought my legs were going to fall off, and that was only the midway point. We never did make it to the front group. We would catch riders falling off the front group pace, but we never actually made it there. Anyway it was a fun, hard race. I was almost afraid it was too hard because it was only the first day and I think I left my legs on the course, but it was ok because I had my self-confidence back that I could really race with these girls.
The next morning was a three point six kilometer, hill climb, time trial. I felt decent but didn’t want to give everything because I had four more races to go over the course of the next two days. So, I set out to ride a strong smooth tempo, but not to sacrifice everything. I felt good in the race too, really efficient, making sure to have a steady rhythm and to breathe smoothly. I ended up fifteenth in the TT. I was pretty happy with that, since the previous day in the road race I think I was 30th. Also it was the first time the team director really commented on my racing. It was short; all he said was, “You were fast today.” But it pleased me, because I don’t think he really wanted to take me to this race.
That evening was a forty-eight kilometer crit. It was fast and hard for me. I think I need more races in my legs to go that fast for that long. My body isn’t used to it. My average heart rate for the race was 179bpm, but it was fun. Mirjam from Team-Next 125 won the crit, plus we were leading the team GC ahead of Bigla, Nicole Brändli’s team, and Equipe-Nürnberger. That made the atmosphere in the team really good. We celebrated Mirjam’s win a little bit by chatting in her hotel room, and then headed to bed for a good night’s rest before the next day of racing.
The fourth stage was another circuit race. It was just a four kilometer loop essentially flat, and once again on tiny roads with everybody pushing and shoving just to make room to ride three abreast. On the third lap Andrea, from the team, crashed. She was in the top ten on GC so I didn’t hesitate to wait for her. She was the last to get on her bike after crashing. She took forever, and I was afraid that she might not get back on and I’d have waited for nothing. Eventually she got on and we were flying. I had a really good rhythm and my eyes were on the field. At that point the most important thing was just to get her back. We quickly returned to the group, but I was dead and didn’t last for long. Unfortunately for me, in the same time as we were arriving back in the group the winning break was initiating. The field was strung out single file and I ended up in the second group. I was dead for the next lap but then recovered and found myself disappointed to be in the second group because I was stronger than the rest, and knew I was losing time on GC myself. At that point there wasn’t much I could do because the gap was too big for me to get across to the front group alone. I was stuck in the second group, but it was ok, because I’d done my job for the team. Now I just need to get stronger so that I can work for the team and recover quickly enough to stay in the action!!!
After that race the director was satisfied and happy he’d brought me after all. Tanja Hennes who was also riding with Team-Next 125 , as a guest rider from Buitenpoort-Flexpoint, was in the break. She finished third on the stage and we still led the team GC so things were good all around!
That evening was the last stage in the race. It was a crit on the side of a little hill with rough roads and lots of paint on the street. The race started with thunder, literally, and pouring rain. There was running water on the streets. I felt like I was back home in Oregon. The race wasn’t anything special for me. I was a bit timid on the course with the conditions. Hennes had a super day. She wasn’t so satisfied with her third place in the morning and took the win that evening in the crit.
After the crit, we packed up quickly to get back to Switzerland. We had a hilly road race early the next morning. That night I was dropped off at home by Team-Next 125 at 12:30 a.m. and picked up by my team at 6:45 a.m. All I can say about that road race was that it was hard to get the legs going again. About a third of the field had been in Germany for the stage race and you could have picked out every single one of us by the droopy eyes.
It was good though. With my track racing on Tuesday it made five days of racing and seven races. And as I lie here in bed typing I can’t wait for the next race whether I have half a day to prepare or half a year.
To quote my teammate Bettina Kuhn, “No race, no fun.”