June 19, 2007
The last few weeks have been pretty eventful.
First we spent two weeks in France, doing the Tour de l'Aude, and directly from there we flew over to Montreal for the World Cup and Tour du Grand Montreal.
So actually I should be fluent in French by now, but unfortunately, it is quite difficult to bring physical high performance into accord with mental creativity. Sometimes, after 10 days of racing for instance, I am not even able to read a book.
"Never give up a race until you cross the finish line, no matter what happens." - The old adage held true for T-Mobile at the Tour de l'Aude's team time trial.
That sounds pretty sad, that's why I want to come up with something funny instead: for example, the team time trial in the Tour de l'Aude. This is a race I will probably not forget so easily!
It was the second road stage after the prologue (third day) of l'Aude and was supposed to be the first big hit-out and selection for the general classement (GC). The start was in the afternoon, so we had plenty of time in the morning to ride and drive around the course to get a bit of a picture of what was waiting for us. In fact, it was only 45 flat kilometres, but they included at least one million 'round-abouts' to make the whole thing interesting.
However well prepared we thought we were, we took off into the course, and everything went really smooth until we hit the third round-about, where everybody took the fourth exit, except me, who chose to take the third one.
How could this happen? Well, there was a motorbike in front of us, which first moved towards exit 3. Anke (Wichmann, team rider, Ed), who was in front at this time, did the same until she remembered that Anna (Wilson - team director, Ed) said in the radio something like "left, then over a bridge", so she saw the bridge coming with exit 4 and stayed in the round-about.
I wasn't really looking for a bridge, though. I was only watching Anke moving into exit, so I did the same, and couldn't turn fast enough and switch back and suddenly the road had changed! I was off the parcours and heading in the wrong direction. So that was one disaster. I had to stop, unclick from my pedals and walk over the sidewalk to get onto the right path again.
Not that I felt stupid at all ... the rest of the team all had to wait for me, as I was supposed to be one of the GC riders. It took me ages to get back on to the team. Once I was there, we picked up the speed again, and I tried not to think of what just had happened.
After a while half of the radios stopped working and we also lost Anke. Ten kilometres later, what was about half-way through the stage, we entered an other round-about, where we were supposed to turn left. I didn't trust my eyes when I saw Ina (Teutenberg) just hammering leaving the round-about one exit too early.
The rest of us went on until the right exit came. I have to say I felt strong feelings of solidarity for Ina, but we decided not to wait for her. Maybe that was wrong, but you need to decide quickly and it was hard to say how long it takes her to turn around and get back on, and if we were able to gain back those seconds at the end.
So we left an unhappy Ina behind and continued with four of us, trying to keep focused on the race and not to collide with the oncoming traffic everywhere on the course. Somehow we made it without any more mistakes to the finish.
With our heads hanging down and quite silent we were sitting in our chairs after the race, when Anna came running all of a sudden to tell us that we had won. None of us really showed any emotions, we just thought that this was impossible or a bad joke, so we just asked her to double check. And then we sent her back to triple check. And then we started slowly to believe her.
It's strange, though, sometimes you do everything right and nothing comes out at the end, and then you have races like this, full of mistakes - and you win. That probably means, never give up a race until you cross the finish line, no matter what happens.
When I tried to fall asleep at night after this time trial, I had to laugh again and again. I just pictured our people in the following car, how they looked and what they must have thought when they saw all their riders nice and close behind each other and then, all of a sudden, one of them shoots into a totally wrong direction. Twice. Well, it was only funny because we still won. Next time we need to be better briefed on those directions to avoid any potential heart-attacks of our team director or staff members.