Das Erste Radrennen
Drew glanced behind, the main bunch was continuing to slip back, slowly but surely their little breakaway group was climbing away. There were a few spectators scattered up the climb from Niederzissen but they were the last thing on young Bond's mind. You couldn't get much more local than the Jüngere Rond du Vulkan, the circuit was less than ten kilometres as the crow fly's from Bond central so Drew was pretty familiar with the roads.
However the wunderkind was quite nervous, this was after all his first race in Germany, his first race on the open road if you discount that thing at Easter and his first race for his new team. The one thing in his favour was that he was as unknown to the other riders as they to him. His National Champions jersey meant nothing here and the anonymity was actually quite nice, back at home the title was a double-edged sword and success this year was rare.
They were on the second of three 24km circuits based on Königsfeld and their little group of seven had slipped away on the Adert climb after about 18km. The road snaked into the woods below the white tower of Olbrück Castle which gave some much needed shade on this warm morning. Things weren't much different to races at home, with his Elite under sixteen licence events like the Vulkan were now on his calendar. Of course that didn't mean he'd be racing on the road every week – far from it, next week it's the Mittel Rhein crit series and in a few weeks there's even a two-lap event on the Nurburgring!
The breakaway was working well together and Drew took his turn on the front without extra effort. To be sure, Drew rated his chances of winning pretty slim but after best part of a month without competition he was just glad to be here. Of course that was largely due to the move but then there was the debacle over his racing licence too. Where they got the idea he was a girl was anyone's guess but it did mean he missed making his German debut last weekend up at Bonn. Jules of course thought it was hilarious when he asked her to translate what it said on the slip of plastic, Jüngere Mädchen, Elite Kategorie - how am I supposed to know what that says? Some of these German words really are complicated!
“ Come on Drewbie! ”
I glanced across to where Jules and Dad were stood cheering me on – at least some things are just like home. Most of the spectators were on this bit of a climb at the Adert, no doubt they would follow us down to the finish area so they wouldn't be here next time round. The course turned into the sun for the drop to Königsfeld and even with his shades Drew had to squint a bit in the bright sunshine. From up here the views across the Hohe Eifel can be spectacular but the breakaway was too busy to take in the scenery.
For Drew, sweeping along like this was ecstasy, the Tintwhistle race was never like this and the tight circuits most UK under sixteen's race on never come close. Of course you can do things like this when you are training but if you are racing it brings in another dimension, the roadside banners, the gleaming race bikes, the multi coloured jerseys, the race cars and today at least Polizei escort – they all add up to an extra adrenalin boost. For the first time Drew really appreciated the buzz his mother got from riding, it wasn't just the winning and adulation, no it's much more than that. It was no wonder Mum had been a bit depressed for the last couple of months even if she had returned to full training – you just can't simulate racing!
As they swung right in the village Drew noted one of the lead cars had pulled over, that generally means a gap of over a minute, kewl. This next bit has a couple of dodgy corners and that level crossing at the bottom had already floored a couple of riders on lap one. There was a hairy moment before they got to the crossing when the lad at the front had a blow out which nearly had them all on the deck but some nifty riding and even a bunny hop by Drew meant their number wasn't further cut.
The Polizei had the road at the bottom stopped and clear allowing the teens to use the full width of the road to make the turn – this was real Tdf stuff! The Vulkan Express tooted a greeting as they headed to the start of the long climb for the third and final time. Drew once again sized up the opposition, they were almost by default all bigger than him but size isn't everything! By the fact they were in the event they had to have some experience and they all looked like they knew what they were doing. The bikes whilst bearing names like Storck, Schauff and Felt rather than the American and Italian brands popular at home, were all clearly top notch. These guys wouldn't be even close to a push over.
Drew wasn't the only one making assessments. The Germans were all a bit bemused by the presence of this obviously capable newcomer. They all made the same gender assumption, after all Apollinaris sponsor a women's team and this girl has the same sponsor. What really threw them was that most of the girl racers were bigger – taller at least and there certainly weren't any locally that could ride at their level. There was that girl over in Cottbus who won a medal at last years Worlds but she was an exception. This slip of a thing was certainly good though and with her braid flying behind her looked pretty damn cute too!
‘Hmm, big effort and hope or leave it to the sprint?' Drew mused as they once again passed the white tower of Olbrück Castle.
Being a Bond not trying to win was anathema but how you went about it was another thing. Safest would be to just hang in there and go for the sprint but it was downhill to the line which would give the bigger riders an advantage. More risky would be to launch an attack on the Adert and hope for the best. The bends at the top would help but the last four kilometres are pretty open and exposed. The others looked to be content to leave it to the dash, unless there was a really cool customer in there, there hadn't been any of the usual tell tale glances, these guys obviously knew each other pretty well which made them predictable.
Attack it is then. He'd already decided on the spot and recent training rides meant he knew the road well enough to be confident in his move. The road to the Adert climbed steadily between the forest, the sun casting short shadows almost directly under their wheels. Although the pace was quite high, around 30kmh even on this drag, Drew was confident there was enough left in the tank to make his move.
He missed a couple of turns and took on some liquid, the ruse seemed to be working, his companions almost seemed to grow in confidence. Drew inwardly smiled to himself, ‘just wait fellas!'
The departure point was approaching and Drew made sure he took a final go at the front to further put off the others, just slowing the pace a little which the others seemed content to leave it at. The road started to get a bit steeper and there was a round of gear changing and leaving the saddle which was the signal Drew was waiting for. A quick up change and he launched himself along the outside of the breakaway. The others, clearly taken completely by surprise, tried to pick up the pace to chase but they were now both too lowly geared and moving too slow to change up.
Dad kept trying to drill it into him to not look back and for once he followed the advice. By the right hander he was a good 50m clear, he swung wide to lessen the gradient then sprinted hard for the next corner, the tactic worked, he was basically out of sight of the chasers even if he was only a hundred metres in front. His breathing was becoming a bit laboured but the road leveled some so he sat back down and went into time trial mode.
The cars in front sped away as he reached the top, the next couple of k's would be so much easier when he could pick his own line, by default the others would be hampered in their descent. He nearly overshot the first right hand hairpin but that panic over he turned the screw back up and soon the computer was showing over 70kmh! He zipped through Vinxt and his speed died back to a more sensible 50kmh, did he risk a look back? No, the few spectators weren't looking behind him, just at him; he still had a stretch of clear tarmac between him and the chasers.
If they caught him now that would be it but at the end of the day they were all on the same gearing so at these speeds it would be difficult to gain much. The last couple of kilometres were only vaguely downhill so if his legs could hold out it would be in the bag!
Behind him the chasers were all over the place. His sudden departure had effectively blown them apart as they gave chase, which meant that instead of a bunch of five they were now a leading duo and three chasing to get back in contention. That little girl is gonna be one to watch that's for sure! They could see her but although they were now gaining a bit, the kilometres were passing rapidly.
Drew spotted the banners across the road at Königsfeld and despite now blowing more than a bit pushed a bit harder. It was still very tempting to look back but he recalled his Mum telling him ‘only losers look back!' the actual finish was at the far end of the village which meant there were quite a few locals cheering as he passed their homes. He straightened his jersey out and then there it was, the finish line.
“Get on with it Drew!”
I heard the family cheer team and with a grin the size of Cheshire I crowned my first German race by crossing the line first. I was barely across however before the chasers joined me, sugar, another twenty metres and I would of have been taken!
Maddy Bell 01.05.07 © 2007
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