The Mur de Huy played a large role in Lutz' life this week, as she wondered whether the team bus would make it all the way up and later took captain Amber Neben to the foot of the climb.
Here we are again in Belgium. Right now we aren't seeing its best side: everything is built up, lots of industry and traffic. You can barely see anything green.
Tuesday afternoon we went to the team presentation in Huy, which will be the start and finish for us women. On the marketplace we jump on the stage as a team. Accompanied by a live band we wave nicely to the crowds and then we may go home. No, wait! We have something else to do! Lotte (Charlotte Becker) is here for the first time. She only knows the Mur de Huy from hearsay. So we make a short detour. Will the bus even be able to make it all the way up? You can almost hear our soigneur Gerben's heart thumping away as the bus goes up the up-to 23 percent steep street The Mur looks pretty impressive...
At 11 o'clock the next day we drive through the city in the direction of the start. In Huy we ride by the marketplace, and the people look at our auto convoy with curiosity. An odd feeling. A race in the middle of the week. Tension, excitement and concentration within the bus, while outside the normal life is taking place.
The closer we come to the start/finish, the more fans we see along the way and the more difficult it is to get through. We have barely parked before we are thronged by fans.
Who wants to win today must be very clever - and very good! Every bit of strength you lose along the way will cost seconds on the Mur!
Somehow my legs feel very tense today. Usually I am a little nervous and my heart races. What is different today? We forgot to play my favourite song at top volume on the team bus. Lotte never wants to hear it, because it then stays in her head the whole race. I pull it up in my memory and hum it to myself "El Kilo" by the Orishas. That helps!
Our tactic is to ride offensively. Trixi (Worrack) attacks on the first climb. That forces the hands of the rest of those who want to win. As the race goes on we make our final decision: we will ride for Amber (Neben). We jump into groups. Lead the way. Close the gaps. We work well together - this is fun!
The finale! The peloton is getting faster and faster... and smaller... we are approaching Huy! I look for Amber and take her with me. Somehow I have to bring her forward through this confusion.
We approach the Mur at the head of the field. The road begins to climb. My legs are burning. I want to bring Amber even further - and just a bit more...
Then the race is over for me. My work is done, it is up to Amber now.
Trixi passes me. I would just as soon climb down and walk the rest of the way, but she "convinces" me to accompany her to the finish. Side by side we make our way up and hope that Amber is first over the finish line.
In the end she finishes fourth.
This weekend we will ride before our home fans at a Bundesliga race in Karbach, to be followed by a stage race in the Czech Republic. The next World Cup race is May 10 in Bern.