Olpe and Away!
You would have thought he might have learnt something from our previous encounter, but clearly not hence I'm the champ and he's an also ran. We turned left in the village to start lap two and now my ire was well ire-y. There wasn't really any way of telegraphing my new game plan to Roni but I'm pretty sure she won't be content to just sit back in the bunch with a holding brief.
We kinda worked together on the descent back to the water, I let macho man do most of the pace making - if he thinks I'm an opportunist bimbo well he's only got things half right! I allowed myself a look backwards; the chasers were holding position but despite their numbers hadn't clawed anything back. At the turn onto the next climb I sliced the corner for a few metres lead, Wupper of course then had to expend energy to rejoin me.
In a bunch of fifty or so the climb was a drag, in an escape with one other rider it was less fun and decidedly harder going. There's no point in making a move too early, on the descents he has a body mass advantage although I think I have more technical skills - I'm relying on it!
At the top of the climb we had actually gained some extra ground, I slipped in behind gob-a-lot as we started the descent down through Repe, it was far nicer being able to choose my own line on the twisty bits. A quick slug from my bidon, check my gears, lights flashing like Billy O ahead, sit back off his wheel, go!
He led through the turn and like many a wannabee before him, failed to follow through on his effort. There was just room to squeeze by on his blind side; I had ten metres before he realised what was afoot. I kept the pressure on through the lower slopes, the speed not dropping below thirty even as the gradient increased.
'I hope he's okay.' Ron mused as she took her turn at the front of the now more attentive peleton.
It wasn't that she didn't think Drew could handle himself, far from it, no it was whether he was well enough for this kind of exertion. Hopefully he'd have the sense to pull up if things go awry but knowing him the adrenalin would get the better of him.
There shouldn't be any looking back once you've made the commitment and whilst that can be frustrating… I moved my hands onto the hoods and started ‘honking'* as the road hit the start of the steeper stuff, cutting as close to the white line as possible. I stayed up around the following right-hander before returning to the saddle on the straight.
A glance to my right told me everything I needed, Wupper boy was already a good two hundred behind and the main peleton, I could see Roni up near the front, were only about the same behind him and looking quite determined. The art of successful climbing is getting to the top quicker than everyone else, I clicked up a sprocket and semi sprinted through the next corner.
The next few kilometres will be crucial, I'll lose advantage after Attendorn but the descent – well I can use more road on my own. With the road levelling somewhat towards the summit I went into time trial mode, a tight tuck to cut through the air and a fast but even cadence for efficiency. The lead car disappeared over the brow and I started one of the fastest descents I've ever ridden.
Click, click…. click one gear left to go. I turned on the power and soon the comp was showing fifty, fifty-five. I dabbed the brakes going into the first bend of the series then made the last gear change as I resumed the acceleration. Remembering that the next bend is pretty square I took a wide line on the approach before turning to almost clip the kerb on the inside.
Seventy-five kilometres an hour – scary exciting! I hunched low over the bike, slinging my weight to the side motorbike style through the long sweeping left-hander that followed. Needing to shed some speed for the next corner I sat up, using my body as an air brake to supplement the rubber compound dragging on the rims.
I thought I'd overcooked the next corner, I started too tight but fortunately the camber pulled me out enough to get round. Constant dabbing on the brakes slowed me enough, to under sixty K to slide through the next curve, which led almost immediately into the last sharp turn before the bottom. Scrubbing just enough speed to safely make the turns I took the crossroads like a cork out of champagne!
There could be no let up in my effort, the first few pedal strokes were agony after the long descent but as the climb started to make itself felt the pain eased to more normal levels.
The lead car flashed above them, Roni looked to see Drew, there on his own, so where is the Wupper kid? The now diminished bunch climbed easily out of the saddle, Gloria Schlepper and Joachim Hemer were both on board and looking quite business like. Drew's fellow escapee appeared a good distance behind him and clearly struggling with the effort.
Thankfully the climb up to the top of the dam wasn't too steep, I managed to maintain over thirty all the way up then finally I eased off a bit as I joined the lakeside road. A slug from my bottle emptied it, it's a good job there's a feed in a couple of K's. I daren't slow too much; I've got another lap to do before I can even think of easing up.
I resumed the tucked position and concentrated on maintaining a good forty average along the rolling lakeside road. Then the lead car sped up a bit and the feed zone hove into view, I hope there's some banana chips this week. Angela waved and held up my musette.
“Keep it going, Drew, you've got over a minute!” Dad yelled.
“Dig in!” Angela added as I grabbed the bag of goodies.
A few spectators shouted encouragement or clapped in approval as I passed through. Bottle, figs, yay banana chips, Go bar – not your usual Sunday lunch but you can hardly stop for a roast mid race can you? I quickly stowed my goodies and dumped both empty bottle and bag in the drop zone where a couple of volunteers would pick up the drops.
I used the fast level road to get some snap down my throat, a quick glug of energy drink then as I entered the loop towards the lake I was back to business. A minute, it's not a lot, five hundred metres, six possibly, any error on my part and the advantage is gone. I've been out front for a full lap now and half of that solo; hopefully my legs are up to another forty K.
The bunch that followed Drew certainly contained the rest of the race's big hitters, a dozen riders all told.
“Two minutes! Keep it steady!” Dave shouted to Roni as she passed. It was a ploy that could work, Drew was really only just over a minute ahead but in the confusion of the feed time checks were few and varied.
Roni nodded in understanding, steady was team talk for keeping a lid on things, clearly the lead was more tenuous than Herr Bond had stated.
I kept the pressure up for the length of the climb into Rhode, a lone break of this distance can succeed, complacency is the usual cause of failure. I stuffed a couple of figs down my gullet as I dropped back towards the water for the third time on this road. The gears remained high as I tried to consolidate my advantage.
With the sun on my shoulder and a cloudless sky it was turning into a near perfect day – for hanging at the pool. For cycling it's getting a little warm, the shade of the trees mid way up came as welcome relief. Over another summit to start another fast downhill stretch, I upped the speed again on the road down into Repe to gain any advantage I could.
The third ascent of the ‘mountain' started somewhat slower than last time, this time I wasn't trying to escape I already had . I got into a steady cadence and sat solidly climbing at around thirty. My legs certainly didn't have quite the same zip as last time around but even so I felt pretty good in myself.
At the switchbacks I took the chance to look down to see where my pursuers were, two minutes would be hopeful, a closer guess would be one thirty. Not enough to ease off much but I reckon plenty to get me to the line if I keep at it. I slipped out of the saddle and dug a bit deeper on the steeper turn.
For a second time I slogged up to the summit then it was once more into the scary drop into Attendorn. Even without trying you gain speed quickly on this road and once more the speedo was jumping into the high sixties long before the mid point. I was a bit more circumspect this time round managing a much smoother line on the lower bends although my terminal speed at the crossroads was pretty much the same as last time round.
What I considered to be the last major climb of the day really had my legs feeling leaden.
“Keep it going , Drew.” Angela encouraged.
“One forty! Keep it smooth!” Dad shouted out as I crested the brow.
Like I'm giving up now! There was a twinge of cramp in my left calf, a leg stretch eased it off, hopefully it won't develop more.
The chasers had lost a couple of bodies over the last lap; two had snapped their elastic on the big climb, a third succumbing to a puncture. They certainly weren't giving up on the lone escapee even if Roni was doing her best impression of a sea anchor! No, at times they could see her teammate ahead of them and at this stage in proceedings they certainly had nothing left to lose.
Dave and Angela cheered Roni through then made a dash for the bus so they could take the fast road back to Olpe and the finish.
“You think he can hold on , Dave?”
“Truthfully, no, that last leg plays into the chaser's hands, he's been out on his own too long, at least a lap.”
“The bunch did look pretty determined.” Angela agreed as they hit a ton in their efforts to get ahead of the race.
I took another glug from my bidon, the heat causing as much discomfort as the small climbs. Whilst my speed is pretty constant it's definitely slower this time round, I only hope the others are feeling it the same. Thankfully there was a slight cooling breeze each time the road joined the lake.
Last lap is was the feed, this time it was the ten to go banner and suddenly my chances of success seemed brighter. Ten kilometres, six miles, fifteen minutes or so riding, I once more assumed a crouch over the bars and dug a little deeper. This time the lead car continued straight past the dam turn off and continued up the valley to where Olpe could now just be seen.
The bunch was thrashing along, everyone bar Roni giving it their all. Ahead, the flashing lights of the lead car could clearly be seen, from time to time the race leader was even visible. It was all the incentive needed and long turns were taken at the front by a couple of the lads.
Somewhere along the lake Gloria was finally shelled out leaving Roni the only girl left in the running – unless you counted Drew! At this stage it was still a collective truce, the target being clawed back with just about every pedal turn. Ron was now having to take her turns a bit more seriously just to stay in contact.
Five to go, whew! I emptied my bottle then lost the rest of the food from my pockets, its all biodegradable! I didn't seem to be making any headway towards the town then we passed under the bypass and the road started climbing into the town. Come on Drew, you can do it! At the Bahnhof the lead car swung left for the long straight up to the finish.
I dug in and left the saddle to keep my momentum going; somewhere behind I heard the clatter of gears, shitza! Not this close, please? There must have been no more than four hundred to go when they made contact, it's not over yet! They swarmed around me but here they showed their inexperience by easing up, not a lot but just enough.
“My wheel!” Roni hissed.
I needed no second invite as she took off like a scalded cat.
Our move caught them totally by surprise; they hadn't looked beyond catching me so our departure really threw them into disarray. We crossed the line together, arms held high as the rest made the best of a messy finish.
“You have to do things the hard way don't you?” Dad noted a few minutes later.
“Well he pee'd me off!”
“You didn't have to chase him in the first place, he'd have got caught anyhow.”
I shrugged, “Maybe it was a bit far out.” I admitted.
The judges gave me the win, by a tyre, not that Ron or I were racing by the time we hit the line.
“You okay Drew?” Angela asked joining us.
“Yeah I think so, YAAAAH!”
My yell startled everyone nearby.
“What's up?” Dad requested urgently.
“Cramp! Left leg.”
Well at least I'd made the finish.
“And in third place Joachim Hemer, Sporting Club Essen.”
My leg was still stiff as I waited to be called onto the stage, flippin cramp. The crowd cheered and clapped, the MC waited for it to quieten before continuing.
“Second place goes to Veronike Grönberg of Team Apollinaris who takes the girl's prize too.”
Ron climbed up next to Joachim to more applause not least from Angela and Dad.
“Our winner of the Metalloy Biggesee Jüngere GP 2005, Drew Bond, Team Apollinaris.”
Yes! So okay, Ron pretty much let me have it at the line but it still feels good.
“You could have taken the win.” I noted as we returned to the bus.
“If you say so.” Ron shrugged.
“You know so!”
“Okay, if that's what you want to think.”
“But I don't have to clean the silver!” she giggled.
* Standing on the pedals to climb, you use your body weight to help you climb whilst keeping your centre of gravity closer to vertical.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 17.11.2011