GP Feminas Castilla y Leon, Spain, May 8, 2006
The 'two Americans and a Canadian' spent a great week at home in Langerwehe, Germany. We got quite a bit accomplished too, thanks to Uli Schoberer at SRM. On Thursday, Uli met the three of us girls, Andrzej, and Andy from Giant at the indoor track in Buttgen for time trial position testing. He was going to work us in along with three other athletes that had come for testing. When we saw the other three, we first just assumed that they were cyclists as well. But then when I looked closer, I thought they suspiciously looked like triathletes: the ripped abs, big arms from swimming. Being the closet triathlete fan that I am, I could just tell something was different. So I asked who they were. Holy cow! We were testing with Lothar Leder and his wife Nicole…they are huge in the triathlon world. I knew I'd look like the complete geek if I started rattling off all the pro triathletes I knew that train in Boulder, so I kept my mouth shut. But it was really cool to meet them.
The testing went really well and we owe a huge debt of thanks to Uli, Horst Teutenberg, Andy from Giant, Andrzej, and the guy from SRM that ran out the extra stems to the track. Thanks so much for the help! Our first stage in the Tour de L'aude this year is a 28km team time trial so now we'll be much more equipped to hang on to Judith and Ina's wheels the whole race!
On Friday, the three of us walked from our house to the train station with our luggage. The staff had left the day before to drive to Spain and would be picking us up at the Madrid airport. It was so easy to take the train to the Koln airport, but being the naïve non-Germans that we are, we sat right down in the 1st class section of the train. No wonder people were giving us such odd looks. We had purchased tickets but no one ever checked them. We figured if this was the States, people would risk not buying a ticket all the time. But I just don't see that happening with the German culture. I asked Ina about it later and she said that it indeed is a very serious offense if you're caught on a train without a ticket. It's the equivalent of getting a DUI, and you will have a police record. I will certainly never ride a train here without a ticket. But I may try getting away with sitting first class again.
Andrzej picked us up at the Madrid airport and drove us the 230 km to Vallolodid. How he made it from Germany to Madrid in so few hours, I will never know. The hotel was downtown Vallolodid, a pretty big Spanish city in the seemingly middle of nowhere. We arrived at 9:30pm, just in time for dinner. I would never make it in this country with dinner time so late. And even at 9:30 we were the only ones in the dining room! The dining room really started filling up as we were leaving around 10:15pm. Crazy. They roomed Kim and I together again, which I don't mind at all. We laugh so easily together. But I would imagine she's probably getting pretty sick of me at this point. We were so psyched to find that we get Euro sport here since the Giro starts tomorrow and her boyfriend, Aaron Olson is doing it. Go Aaron!
Friday night we were trying to fall asleep and it was just so noisy in the hotel. Kids were running up and down the hallway the floor above us. And the plumbing system throughout the hotel was making this horrendous noise that literally sounded like a cruise ship blowing its horn. Were we on the Love Boat? Luckily for us, the kids running in the halls finally got Andrzej angry enough that he went out in the hall and yelled in his deepest voice, "Knock it off!" There was complete silence after that.
The race was 123km and consisted of one big 90km loop out in the Spanish countryside and then back into downtown for five laps of a 6km circuit. And we heard the circuit was very difficult… within 6km were three steep climbs. It was either up or down the entire circuit. In our race meeting, Andrzej wanted Kim and me to just sit in the first 90km and really try to help Judith once we hit the circuits. That always makes me nervous. What if I suck by the end and I can't do anything? Oh well, suck it up and just do it.
I've got to admit, it was rather nice just floating in the pack the first 90km. You expend so much less energy! There were a lot of cyclists on the roads cheering for us. And at one point, two guys on horseback started galloping along next to us and kept up with us for quite awhile. It reminded me of the scene from the movie Amelie when the horse is running with the peloton in the Tour de France. Ina was trying hard to establish a break during the first part of the race and I know she was putting the hurt on people. Amy was always there to back her up and it seemed she was always, always at the front. She must have had really good legs!
We came into the circuits gruppo compatto and then all hell started to break loose. I think the first circuit was my worst. I suffered. Good Lord, was I going to be able to do any sort of teamwork in this race? I set my mindset to 'never give up'. Never give up, and went to the front. Kim and I came by each other and we both had the same thought…we need to do something! Kim attacked up one of the steepest climbs and then I countered her. We got absorbed and floated back a bit. I noticed a lull in the group as I was catching back on and took the opportunity to attack. I immediately heard Judith in the radio saying, "Go! Go!" Cool! I was doing something! After a bit, Nicole Cooke bridged up to me and wanted me to work with her. No, that wouldn't really make sense. The group came back and Priska Doppman attacked and got away solo with one lap to go. It was making me nervous so I went to the front to pull, until I felt a tug on my jersey. It was Judith pulling me back. The last time up the steepest climb, the lactic acid came rushing into my legs with full force. Oh the pain! I tried standing, sitting, swerving… nothing helped. A group of about 15 got away on that final climb and Judith was safely tucked in there so we hoped for the best. It wasn't until I crossed the finish line that I found out she had pulled off second place again. "Always second," she said to us. Oh my God, I could only dream to finish second in a world cup! Nicole Cooke won the race, securing her World cup jersey, and forgive me, but I don't even know who finished third [Susanne Ljungskog (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) - Ed]. I was just so excited for Judith and the team.
We were swept off to the showers immediately following the race and then hit the road for France. We've got 800 kilometers to Carcassonne and the start of Tour de l'Aude on Friday. We are definitely getting to see a lot of the European countryside. I know Kim will stay busy in the car checking out the live report from the Giro on her blackberry. I wish there was a live report from Tour of the Gila in New Mexico so I could keep tabs on Chris and the Toyota-United team!
See you in France!