My first bike race | Cyclassics Hamburg
And again: What a weekend! Riding along the Elbe with the current and former elite in racing cycling, having dinner between the top teams worldwide and then taking part in a race yourself – a weekend that is not quite so typical, but one that I certainly won’t do so quickly will forget.
When the “Alpecin Cycling” team asked me whether I would like to take part in the “Cyclassics”, my answer (after I googled it briefly, I’m a professional) was immediately: “Absolutely!” I’ve been sitting for a few years I ride my racing bike from time to time, last year I bought my own and completed my first triathlon this year. Admittedly, I should keep it to myself that I haven’t managed 1000 kilometers in 2019 so far, but let’s keep it real.
You now know that moderate preparation does not prevent me from such an opportunity – for me, fun, experience and health are still in the foreground, far ahead of winning, being better than or having to prove something to someone.
At the Cyclassics Hamburg you can choose distances between 60, 100 and 160 kilometers: The golden middle made the most sense for me here. Since the race took place on Sunday, I arrived on Friday, after all there was quite a supporting program on offer! The Alpecin team provided us with test bikes, I tried out a number of Canyon models and frame sizes and finally ended up with the “Ultimate cf slx” in frame size S (at 178 cm).
Besides me, there were a few other bloggers, journalists and of course members of “Team Alpecin”. For the 13th year now, Alpecin has an amateur team that you can apply for and are looked after like professionals. Training plans from experts, material support and the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of races – how cool is that? By the way, the application phase for the Jedermann Team 2020 starts at the end of the year!
The rides along Hamburg’s Elbe dykes were actually an experience that deserves their own report: Not just the former cycling legends Erik Zabel (over 200 victories, including the 2001 Cyclassics, now Performance Manager at Katusha Alepecin) and Jörg Ludewig (now Head of Sports Marketing) accompanied us, Nils Politt, currently one of the top drivers at Katusha Alpecin, was also there on a ride!
Race day! And that brings me to the most frequently asked questions: How was it, how did you feel and how dangerous is a bike race like this?
Admittedly, the other 16,000 participants gave me the biggest headache beforehand and that I could somehow get involved in an accident. I know when and how I have to behave in a group, but I also know from my rides that some racing cyclists have never heard of hand signals or dangers in spontaneous maneuvers. If you feel addressed (or just want to refresh yourself / make sure you still know everything) here is a link that sums it up quite well.
But first of all: Nothing happened to me, there wasn’t a single tricky situation, but there were quite a few falls and injuries in the race.
The start succeed in perfect conditions in starting blocks so that you don’t find yourself in a mass start. Previously, you had specified your desired average speed and were divided accordingly. I think it’s a good solution, you won’t be “overrun” and you don’t have to fight your way forward.
Admittedly, since it was my first bike race, I had no idea at all how best to position myself whether I should ride in large groups, ride alone or join a smaller group. Since I started with Team Alpecin (a everyone’s team that is supported by Alpecin), I mostly followed them and tried to keep up.
But at some point I lost touch here too and was on my own. Not literally, of course, there were always drivers around me and we used each other’s slipstream.
what me absolutely surprised is that some drivers only use the slipstream. I know from my tours with friends that you take turns here and “fight” together – of course, whoever is in front has to expend a lot more energy than those who ride behind and have less wind resistance – about 30% by the way!
It will come with show of hands (which unfortunately weren’t used much here either) that you want/must swap – if nobody takes over here, it’s super annoying, of course!
Throughout the race I tried to catch up with “my” team and fought my way up from group to group – without success. At kilometer 80 I was told by our photographer who was with us on the motorbike that precisely this was an impossible task as the team was behind me and not me in front!
After briefly considering dropping back to ride together again, I decided to complete the last 20 kilometers “alone”. Shortly before the finish I caught up with Daniel – he didn’t let the final sprint be taken away from me, I preferred to play it safe and crossed the finish line without an accident.
101.84 kilometers in 2 hours 37 minutes and 32 seconds were behind me. And thus a competition in which I was surprised by myself for the very first time. My legs were shaking, adrenaline was still in my whole body, I could feel salt crusts peeling off my skin.
It was the first time that I misjudge myself and my achievements. I actually know pretty well what is feasible and what is not and where my limits are.
I entered the race at an average speed of 30km/h and finished at 38.3km/h. That made me 29th woman (15th in my age group) and in the top 5%. You can definitely be a bit proud of that, right?
Lars finished a few minutes ahead of us and was already waiting for us with the obligatory Erdinger non-alcoholic drink. Of course there was also a (really nice!) medal and after the first thirst had been quenched and our legs got a little calmer, we headed back to the finish area where the Alpecin team was waiting for us.
Slowly all the other drivers trotted in, most of them treated themselves to a head massage including a haircut refresher and styling in the Alpecin tent (how cool is that?! By the way, it was of course open to everyone) and there were mutual congratulations.
I then rushed back to the hotel to take a shower and then follow the race of the elite with old freshness. 20 professional teams, each with seven drivers, started to compete in a 216.7 km long race. The race is part of the UCI World Tour, the highest category in cycling, and was therefore important and exciting.