Monday, June 29, 2009

Trans Germany Pics

Typical size lead bunch (I'm in there - white helmet to the left of the red guy!)

Jochen looking fast in his German National Champ jersey (that's me again two places back behing the Team Bulls rider)

Definition of 'sketchy' - cornering fast in a group on wet, polished cobbles

Me on the front of the fast guys bunch - it wasn't always that way!

Team and room mate for the week - Andreas Kugler (with green climbers jersey and German mud; we all got a lot of the latter!)

The Phantom Blog

Trans Germany is over and done - and so am I! The last few stages were again very tough, and the problems for me lay more in the body than the bike. Stage 5 was 'easy' stage for the GC favourites, with a big group staying together till almost the end. Unfortunately I got dropped on a long hard climb near the start, and had to chase hard to catch back up, which I did, but then blew up big time near the end. Unfortunately Jochen flatted with about 5km to go, and could have used my help if I had still been up there. In the end he lost almost a minute to the leader, but still kept 2nd overall.

Stage 6 followed a similar pattern; losing touch with the leaders on the first big climb I then spent the rest of the day with a small group until the final 12km (550m gain) climb where I backed right off to save anything I had for the last day when I might be able to do something.

The last day was Jochen and Hannes final chance to mount an assault on the leader Thomas Dietsch from Team Bulls. The plan was to start hard to whittle the group down, then keep on attacking him. After a series of attacks, Jochen, Hannes, Dietsch and Bohme (also Bulls) were off the front, and I was still with Kugler who had to try and make up 30 seconds to get 4th overall. On a long slippery descent towards the end I pushed a hard pace and we made a gap to the rider Kugi needed to beat. I kept pushing hard until some steep climbs, where Kugi took off in an attempt to make up the time. In the end he only fell a few seconds short, leaving Multivan with 2nd (Hannes), 3rd (Jochen), 5th (Kugler) and 20th (me). Jochen and Hannes each won 3 stages, meaning there was only 1 stage that the team didn't win! We also won the Teams classification despite my best efforts to lose time with mechanicals.

Overall it was a very tough week, but made much easier by being looked after by the Multivan crew. I now will be based in Stuttgart for a few weeks; spending some time working at DLR (German aerospace research centre) for my PhD.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Return of the Blog

Trans Germany Stage 4; one i'll be happy to forget soon. 120km was never going to be easy - but it is always better when your bike stays in one piece. After about 70km of sitting on the back of the Team Bulls driven bunch at a very solid pace, we were hammering through an area that had been felled, braches and sticks everywhere. Riders amongst you will guess what happened next; crack/bang and in an instant my rear derailleur was gone in a mess of spokes and chain. I quickly took off all the necessary bits to let the bike roll freely, and proceded to walk/roll the 10km to the next spot one of the Multivan team guys was. Being a professional mechanic, it didn't take him long to fix things up and get me rolling again, but the damage was done and I had lost more than half an hour. With the gears not working too well still I met up with a group with a few of the women and also Mike Blewitt from Australia and tapped out the last 40km home at a pretty easy pace.
On the up-side Jochen again won today and is now only a handful of seconds behind Dietsch in 2nd overall. Hannes is still 3rd and Kugler 4th after Lakata again flatted and lost a solid chunk of time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Blog Strikes Back

My plans to update the blog daily during Trans Germany were unexpectedly thwarted by not being able to get an internet connection in the little backwaters we have been staying in.  The 1st stage was a bit of a strange affair, with 103 km listed in the book as the race distance.  However the first 28 km were neutral and the whole field was stopped and regrouped before the real racing began.  I felt pretty good, and found myself in the 2nd bunch on the road with a group of 5 ahead.  There were 2 Multivan guys (Andreas Kugler and Hannes Genze) in the front group, and I was with Jochen Käss.  The bunch worked well and I was surprised to find the time gap was only a few minutes well into the stage.  Kugler was 2nd in a sprint and I was 12th.

Stage 2 started badly for me; after sitting with the (large) lead group up the long first climb I flatted just over the top.  It was a gash in the tire, and after trying Pitstop foam I had to put a tube in.  Problem was it was so cold my hands wouldn't work properly, so when the CO2 froze the valve, I couldn't close it quickly enough and I had only around 20 Psi in the tire.  Luckily it wasn't too far to the next feed, and after a quick wheel change I was left with the hard task of trying to catch groups of riders on my own on a very fast course.  I didn't dig too deep, but it was still tough riding most of the 82 km on my own or in groups of 2 or 3.  In the end I was almost 15 min down on the stage.  On the plus side, Hannes attacked on the last techo descent and stayed away to win and take the overall lead, with Kugler again 2nd on the stage.
Stage 3 was a bit of a ball breaker; 96 km with quite a bit of climbing.  Stayed up with the front bunch for about half the stage, working hard as one of Hannes main GC rivals had been dropped with a mechanical. Once the big guns started to hammer I had drop off, but ended up in a good group to get back to the finish.  Quite tired now, and happy I have been able to land myself in a good spot with the Multivan guys.  These guys are a serious outfit, and it is nice to have someone take your filthy bike away as you cross the line and hand it back sparkling new :)

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Friday, June 19, 2009

A New Blog

Just like Star Wars started with "A New Hope", which was actually half way through the whole Star Wars saga, I have started "A New Blog". If you scroll down you will notice that my last post was quite some time ago now, and rather than try and fill in everything that happened over summer I think I'll just start with right now.
You find me typing from Stuttgart, Germany; 12 hours after I landed in Frankfurt and having just returned from the Merida Europe headquaters. After 2 epic flights, 1 swine flu scare, 3 trains and finding a hotel in the maze of Stuttgart University I was quite pleased with myself that everything had gone to plan, the only hiccup was getting lost in the hotel and not being able to find my room after checking in!
My first major appointment in Europe is the Trans Germany stage race, and I am being looked after by the Merida - Multivan pro team for the week. Stuttgart is where I will spend time working (PhD work that is) after the race, and it just happens that the Merida Europe headquaters is just down the road, so I knocked the bike together and pedalled over to introduce myself.
So that's about it for now. Updates will be as regular as I want this year as I have my new EeePC mini laptop with me, so keep tuning in for more episodes of the "Blog Wars" saga!

Shiny new bits for the long Euro tour, and most importantly all straight and working at the other end.