The first few kilometres along the Rhein whilst not super fast were quite intense as after the first attack several more riders attempted escapes so we had a bit of a slow go ride. We didn't have a particular game plan today, there's nothing at stake so Dad's giving us a free hand.
“Any ideas?” Roni asked.
“It'll be difficult to organise this lot if we need to chase.”
“My thoughts too.”
“There's a climb in a couple of minutes, lets get to the front and just ride it, I'm sure we'll lose a lot of these.”
She nodded her agreement and we both set about moving up the order. I soon recognized the approach to the town and in short order they turned us under the railway and into the usually pedestrian only main street. Its not overtly steep but there's no let up now for best part of ten K.
Our move forward meant that we were both able to pick our own line up the narrow street after which we emerged from the cobbles onto the good tarmac that would take us up to the summit. I glanced back as we exited the town and sure enough my prediction was born out, apart from a small ‘elite' group of maybe ten riders, the rest of the peleton was strewn in ones and twos back down the hill.
The road climbed into the forest at something over 10%, which made standing too much and sitting too little. Our little lead group all seemed happy to stick together – at least for now although the pace was quite high. The road swung left then we were out of the saddle on the first switchback. I decided to test my companions a bit so as we approached the next hairpin I clicked up a sprocket and took a trip along the white line to give me the widest possible entry point into the corner.
From the noises behind, curses and gear changes, I knew I'd stirred things up some. I kept the effort up through the village and on towards the top. According to Dad, Vettelschoß is 300 metres above Linz and by the time I got there my legs felt like it was twice that at least. My lead never got much more than fifty metres so I eased off a little and let the puffing pursuers come up to me.
Ron gave me a look to which I shrugged, no point in wasting energy just yet. The road rolled along, climbing again over the new ICE line and the Frankfurt autobahn. The Schmidt lad from Koblenz took a flier as we started the drop towards Buch-holz, could this be the move?
My teammate certainly thought so as she gave chase with some vigour, dragging another couple of riders in her wake. I held off following immediately but as they were soon chased by more of our little group I could dally no longer. I clicked up and sprinted past the others closing the gap swiftly on the now three leaders.
The best way to tackle this is to attack myself and make a bit more clear road for the break so after getting my breath back I sprinted up to and past Roni's group. As I guessed, they all reacted and once more I eased a little for them to join me. Ron nodded with a grin, enough for her to convey her understanding of my ruse. Four of us, just enough to complete the job.
Down into Altenkirchen we got a bit of a rotation going, the others having realised the potential of the situation. Behind us – well who cares! I don't mean that really, the rest of the field were actually coming together and some sort of chase starting to take form.
“What you thinking?” Ron asked as we left the town for the run towards Neuwied.
“Only one more serious climb, keep it going and attack there?”
“Thirty five, forty.” I guessed.
The road bucked up and down a little before dropping into the Wiedtal. The nature of the road changed immediately we turned on to the valley road, the drop isn't steep or even but constantly switches back and forth. Our companions were, for now at least, holding their own and with gravitational assistance we were holding fifty most of the time.
We zipped through Neustadt and back under the railway and motorway and into another series of short straights and tight turns, cutting across loops in the river at one turn and tracing its line at the next. It was on one of these turns that I was a little surprised to spot a sizeable chasing group barely a hundred metres behind, sugar.
She glanced back, “bugger!”
“Yeah, still at least ten to the climb.”
“Not much we can do, they have more pace on the straights.”
There was no point trying to up our own groups pace as our companions were starting to flag a bit and we could find ourselves hanging off the front on our own. Damn.
We were swept up a couple of K later at Roßbach, this lot visibly relaxing and easing once we were swallowed up. There were about twenty in this new lead group and now we were back in the fold any kind of organisation was gone.
“What do you think?”
“Stick to plan A, rest in the middle for a bit.” I suggested.
“I'll stay close.” She agreed.
The road followed a lazy right hand bend of the Wied then at Waldbreitbach we turned sharp left climbing through the village. We dropped back towards the river and the climb reared off to our right.
“Bugger.” Roni noted.
“At the bridge.”
She nodded and we concentrated on making the turn onto the Bad Hönningen road.
Unlike the climb out of Linz a couple of hours ago, this one gained the same height just about in barely half the distance. The plan was dented some as we couldn't get in position at the bridge, the road quickly steepened and I made my move.
My experience of hill climbs back in blighty let me balance my effort as we climbed up into yet more trees. Rather than a fantastic sprint up the hill, I just kept a high pace and riders were soon dropping off the back. I went into the ‘Zone' and concentrated on the climb; about halfway up a switchback gave me a view back down the climb.
Riders littered the road behind but I was not alone, three riders were shadowing my effort, Schmidt, Ron and the lad from Mainz. The MC clearly had inside information. I let them past, truth be known, it was less let than they had more pace as we approached the 300 plus metre summit.
Over the top we were still quite tight even if we were in line astern. It's a slightly longer descent but the height we'd just gained we were about to lose and then some! I sat on the back through a couple of tight hairpins then it was eyeballs out down through the trees towards the Rhein.
Almost before I was ready we were back in Bad Hönningen and looping around the town to approach the finish on the waterfront. I decided on a long one today so as soon as we hit the straight I went. I even caught Ron on the hop as I accelerated past along the roadway.
The MC was getting all unnecessary but my third eye told me it wasn't because I was about to be caught. I eased slightly and punched the air as I crossed the line. Moments later the others followed, no fairy tale ending today though, Ron being pushed off the podium by half a wheel by Torweg.
Roni did get a consolation though, first girl, she's been gathering a collection of those as big as my wins. Three wins out of the last four starts – even I can't believe it, the nice thing today is the margin, not a tight sprint like Stuttgart or Bremen.
“You riding home or coming up to Mettmann.” Dad asked after the presentation.
“Let's get the bikes loaded then.”
The drive up to the Grönbergs place was quite easy; we got onto the Motorway at Königswinter then bypassed the worst of the Köln roadworks on the way up to Dusseldorf.
“You two staying for dinner?” Angela asked as we approached Mettmann.
“If it's no trouble.” Dad returned.
“You know it's not, but if you're eating we need to make a diversion to pick something up.”
“Sure, just tell me where.”
Result! No cooking for me when we get home and we might even get some of Angela's choccy cake!
We were directed into the town centre then into the streets of the old town, climbing up above the centre.
“Anywhere just here Dave.”
“Looks like a sit in chip shop.” I noted.
“Well they do sell frites but the speciality is frikadel.” Roni told me.
“Get a dozen Ron.” Angela instructed passing her daughter a twenty.
“Come on Drew.”
We left the bus and crossed to the un-named store and joined the queue for comestibles. People were eating a variety of traditional German fast food in the café part but equally a fair number were ordering takeaway.
“You caught me out at the finish.” Ron mentioned as we waited our turn.
“Doesn't pay to be too predictable.” I noted.
“Well the only prediction we can make with you is winning.”
“Luck is all.”
“Maybe some. Ooh our turn.”
It might serve traditional German food but the staff were of decidedly of Middle Eastern origin but despite the temptation of kebab meat everyone seemed to be ordering, wurst, schnitzel or frikadel, cooked fresh to order.
“Zwölf frikadel bitte.”
“Danke, that course was a bit weird eh?”
“Difficult to judge, I never expected the peleton to come back like that.”
“Let's sit down to wait, the smell of all this food is getting to me.”
“Me too.” I admitted.
“Maybe we rode a bit too soft, you know on that first climb?”
“Maybe afterwards in the middle sector.” I allowed.
“It was a good race though, I enjoyed it.”
“No crashes, no punctures, podium finish, that's good in my book!”
“That's us.” Ron sprang up to collect the food wrapped chip shop style in paper.
We walked back out to the bus.
“Food!” Ron announced climbing in.
Gott, all this food and I've still only had a currywurst after the race.
“So what have you guys been talking about?” I enquired of the ‘rents.
“Oh this and that.” Dad allowed slipping the van into gear.
“I was telling Angela about France.”
“Sounds great Drew, I bet you're looking forward to it.”
“Should be ace.” I agreed.
It wasn't very far to the Grönberg's place; we were there in five minutes.
“I'll get the food started, Roni, put the kettle on please.”
“I keep telling you mum, it doesn't suit me.”
I groaned at her attempt at humour.
Ron took her kit bag and her Mum took charge of the frikadel leaving Dad and me to unload Ron's bike.
“Drew, can you not make an issue of France in front of Ron, I know Angela's finding it difficult to make ends meet, things are tight yeah?”
“But if she asks Dad?”
“Just don't go on about it please.”
to be continued....
Maddy Bell 11.06.11 © 2011