- Cycling News
October 01, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:04 BST
Well, the longest, hardest day certainly ended up being long, but wasn't even close to being as...
Route de France Féminine report, August 17, 2006
Well, the longest, hardest day certainly ended up being long, but wasn't even close to being as difficult as everyone had anticipated. We started with a 10km neutral and then 136km of racing. Today's course was supposed to have two category 1 climbs, the only cat 1 climbs of the entire tour. The first one was at 47km. We were thinking everything would splinter over that first climb, having images of Col de la Madeleine in our heads from the Tour in 2001. Maybe everyone else was thinking the same thing, because things were pretty quiet leading up to the dreaded 47km mark.
Anticipation, excitement, dread. But before we knew it, the entire field was still together at 44km, and at 46km. Wouldn't you know it, we crested the top of this dreaded climb all together. What? That was it? I'm still on?
The next cat 1 wasn't until 113km so a little more racing started. A French National team girl and a very skinny, stick-like Spanish National champion got away and had decent gap. Now the Queen of the Mountains leader at this point in time was Svetlana Bubnenkova from the Fenixs team. She has usually been the QOM leader in pretty much every tour I've done with her. In fact, I don't even know if anyone was even challenging her for the QOM points. She was leading the competition by about 75 points, and there were only two QOM mountains left in the entire tour. No one had the slightest chance of stealing the QOM jersey off of her shoulders. Yet for some reason, she had her team go to the front and chase down the two breakaway riders in her hope of winning the next QOM. I don't think they quite caught the two by the next 'cat 1' climb, but she still was third, increasing her lead. And with her team giving her a solid lead out, we flew over the climb like it was nothing.
Now that the finish was near and the 'tough' climbs were behind us, teams started getting antsy for a stage win. Safi-pasta went to the front to reel in the lone Spanish rider. I had to give it to this girl. She really held off a chasing peloton for a long time. So it was with a bit of regret that we came flying around her with just 300 metres to go. At least I felt a bit of regret…. I don't know if anyone else did! It was an uphill finish, a good one for Judith, and she finished second to Diana Ziliute… again. It was unfortunate that there weren't bonus seconds for the stage finishes, since Judith and Ziliute would be slowly moving themselves up in GC!
With the individual time trial as the final stage on Sunday, Saturday's stage looked to be a chance for a breakaway or another field sprint. It came down to a field sprint. Several attacks were attempted but nothing stuck. And again, with 10km to go, Safi Pasta started leading it out again for Ziliute. It was another slightly uphill finish, reminiscent of yesterday, and again it was Ziliute first and Judith second.
The organisation had arranged a 'dinner' for all the riders at a school right by the finish. Of course the dinner wasn't for two hours, so we towelled off and sat around waiting. David started massage since we had time on our hands, and I went with that. I couldn't eat another meal of pasta and greasy chicken. The sandwiches that our soigneurs have been making us have become a staple in my life! Thanks guys!
After the meal, we drove to our final accommodation of the Tour, and thank God it was the final. Another sports school, and although the setting was pretty, as it was right along a river, the room was a bit sub-par. All 5 of us were in one room with three bunk beds with toilets down the hall. I could give further description but it's not pretty, so I'll stop there. I could see that staying at a place like this could be really cool and fun…. If I was 12.
Amy and I went for a walk in the little town that evening and oddly enough we came across a bakery that was still open at 9pm. What followed was like a scene out of 'Seinfeld'. The man behind the counter was very hairy, covered in flour, and was wearing what looked to be ONLY an apron. I just couldn't buy bread from this man although I did buy some wine, as he explained to me it was from the region and very good. Amy really wanted to take a picture, and it would have been a classic one, but we didn't want to be rude.
When we woke up in the morning, we walked over to the dining hall for breakfast. It REALLY felt like I was at summer camp. Sugar corn pops and baguettes were the items of the day. But this was the final morning, we had a beautiful view of the river, and our dear old breakfast box would keep us well fed.
The only girls on our team really gunning for the time trial were Judith and Kim, as they were still in the top ten of GC. The course was 30km and it was a very cool course, with two climbs and lots of rolling hills providing us with lots of room to pick up some serious speed. During my race I only heard, 'Allez Jan Ullrich!' once, but it always makes me laugh inside. I really enjoyed my race. Sometimes I wonder if I don't end up doing a little better when there's absolutely no pressure and I'm just out there truly enjoying my ride. Well, its not like I broke any records or had a phenomenal finishing time, but I did enjoy it.
After the race, everyone was packing up their cars, trucks, and buses to hit the road and go their separate ways. One of our cars was going to Frieburg, Germany after dropping Kim and I off in Perigueux, the other to Paris, and the other to Langerwehe. See you all in two weeks in Plouay at the French World cup. In the meantime Kim and I will be kicking it in Girona, Spain. We cannot wait!
- Cycling News
October 01, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:04 BST
At the end of the 2005 racing season, when the future of the T-Mobile women's team was still up in...
World Championships report, September 30, 2006
At the end of the 2005 racing season, when the future of the T-Mobile women's team was still up in the air, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to race at least one more year. So when the sponsorship came through and our team moved it's headquarters to Germany, it was like a dream come true. But all season long, I knew this would be my final season of racing. I love racing in Europe and, honestly, I would love to live in Europe. But I've reached a point in my life where I feel I need to accomplish new goals in a new realm and attain success in a different field. And with my husband racing on a top domestic squad, I get too lonely with us living on separate continents. I love to ride my bike. That will never change. And knowing all year that this would be my last racing season really gave me a chance to look at the bigger picture and appreciate all that the cycling life has offered me.
One of the greatest things I will take from cycling is the friends that I've made throughout the world. I've met so many people through this sport - most very cool but some not. All my best friends in the world, including my husband, all came to me through sports. University cross-country, triathlon, duathlon and cycling all provided me with the gift of life-long friendships. This past August, at the French World Cup, I came down to breakfast and sitting there at the next table was a great friend that I hadn't seen in over two years. Anke Erlank, a great South African cyclist and triathlete, was my teammate on both Autotrader.com and Saturn. We'd travelled and raced together all over the States, Bermuda, Australia, and Europe. The past few years our paths had crossed randomly and when we did meet up, we'd start chatting like we'd never been apart, which is exactly what we did there in Plouay. We got to see each other again briefly at the World Championships and although I have no idea when I may see Anke again, I know that I will.
My final races of the season consisted of three world cups, Tour of Toscana, and the World Championships. We went to Toscana to use the stage race as final preparation for the worlds. Judith, Ina, Magali, and Amy had already been named to their respective Worlds' squads, but Kim and I were still waiting to hear from our federation. I was so relieved when I finally heard Kim and I had been chosen for the U.S. team because I really didn't want my career to end with Toscana. We were hit with so much rain during that race. The roads were so dirty and greasy that we were absolutely covered in filth by the end of the rainy stages. Our team was dwindling fast, too. Amy had to drop out after the first stage as her body was just so tired from a season of racing. Magali left about two stages later as the rain really got to her. Judith crashed on a wet descent on the longest day and although she started the stage the next day, she called it quits soon after. By the penultimate stage, it was just Kim, Ina, and I. Kim and I knew we weren't racing the next day since our flight to the worlds was before the stage was even scheduled to start. This was going to be my final stage ever! Unfortunately, about a third of the way into the stage, it started to pour rain again. I just couldn't take it. Thank God I was going to the worlds so I wouldn't have to end my career on this note. I pulled out early and was later grateful that I did. Ina and Kim finished the stage in the rain but both woke up sick the next morning. And we were on to Austria!
The venue for the world championships in Salzburg was absolutely beautiful. Definitely the best world championships I've ever been to. Having my husband on the team as well was icing on the cake. I hadn't seen Chris since July 11th so I practically tackled him when he came in from his ride after Kim and I first arrived. The U.S. team was staying in this incredible guest house about 10km outside of Salzburg, run by an incredible man named Fritz. Fritz took such good care of everyone and we ate like kings.
The U.S. team this year was top notch. I knew our three women in the time trial would do well, and it was nerve-racking watching the race on Eurosport. But when Kristin crossed the line with the best time, I knew she could not be beaten. A world champion! Watching the medal ceremony on TV, with Christine earning the bronze, and then seeing Kristin in her world champion jersey was surreal. I've ridden with Kristin since she made the switch from triathlon, and her progress in the sport has been incredible. She is a true champion. That night Fritz threw a big party for the whole U.S. team and we drank cake and champagne in Kristin and Christine's honor. It was such positive energy. It was so motivating.
The next day I was able to ride in the follow-car during Chris' time trial. I was so proud of him yet so nervous, and I couldn't even look up when he was going through the technical corners at top speed. But honestly, how cool to be watching my husband race the world championships. I know he was really disappointed with his race, and in my heart I know, if the circumstances had been a little different, he would have had a hell of a ride and result. It was a great experience for him though, and I hope he'll aim for Stuttgart next year.
Dave Zabriskie carried on the American medal momentum with his silver medal and Fritz threw us another party. He also gave Dave a very special gift - a brand new pair of lederhosen. I hope he wore those while he was at Interbike. Those things are cool, even if you are never supposed to wash them.
Our U.S women's road-race team was the best it's been in years; Amber Neben, Tina Pic, Kristin, Christine, Kim, and myself. I was honored to be a part of it. We really enjoyed each other's company too, laughing together at meals, training and getting lost together in the hills around Salzburg, singing Sound of Music tunes. THIS is what I'll really miss. And having the chance to watch the men's race on Sunday, cheering for my husband as I rode around to different spots on the course, well
how cool is that?
Now Chris and I are finally back home, together, and it's a great feeling. I'm not sad. I'm quite excited, actually. I've just about completed my studies for my real estate license in Colorado and hope to start working in the field later this fall. With my teammate Mari Holden working real estate in CO Springs and me in Boulder, we hope to take over the Front Range one day! I have a lot of irons in the fire too as far as something to keep me within the cycling realm. Hopefully something will come through.
So thank you to all my teams, my sponsors, my family and friends, and especially my husband, for supporting me these past eight years of cycling. And thank you to all the people that read my diary on Cyclingnews.com and told me they enjoyed reading. That's a great feeling. It's been an incredible ride and I hope to see you all down the road.
Kimberly (Bruckner) Baldwin
- Cycling News
August 11, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:04 BST
I love small world stories. Now I have another one. We have a second soigneur with us for this race....
Route de France Feminin, August 11, 2006
I love small world stories. Now I have another one. We have a second soigneur with us for this race. It's Magali's French boyfriend, Francis. Francis lives in Paris so I was telling him how my husband raced on the Beauvais amateur French team. Even though this was nine years ago, Francis remembers him from racing. He had this look of sudden recognition, saying "He's blond, tall, skinny…Chreese Baldwin….yes, I know him!" Crazy. I didn't even know my own husband then.
Maybe this is only funny to Kim and I, but there's a mechanic on the Belgian Capri-Sonne team that we think looks exactly like Jiri Mainus, our logistics director. Every morning before the race, we see him in the same position, leaning against his car, just kind of staring. We always say, "hi Jiri!" but he never even looks…for the obvious reason that Jiri is not his name. But it makes us laugh and we need all the humour we can get during a Tour like this. I tried taking a stealth picture of him today but it didn't turn out, so I will try again tomorrow.
Tuesday's stage was just 105km but with more climbs than the other days. It's been great positive energy on the team, as all five of us are always up front, taking turns going with attacks, and really trying to force a break. Its motivating when you see all the pink around you, knowing your team-mates are there to back you up.
The roads were very twisting when we raced through towns and often times, the field would split, as it normally does, around roundabouts and divided roads. At one point, however, the field split on a divided road and for some reason, I was leading my side and Amy was leading her side. When we came to the next roundabout, her lead motorcycle led her to the left and my lead motorcycle led our group to the right….right into each other! No one crashed, it was more comical than anything.
Finally with about 40km to go, Kim followed an attack by Sarah Grab of Univega, and a six-woman break went up the road. They quickly gained a minute on the chasing field and it looked really good for Kim. Since Bigla was in the yellow jersey, they chased the rest of the race and with about 10km to go, it looked like they were about to reel it in. They brought the gap down to 30 seconds and we could see the girls ahead of us, but all of a sudden they lost steam, and the gap blossomed again to 45-50 seconds. Kim knew she probably couldn't win out of a sprint, so she attacked the break with two km to go, and ALMOST held it off. We could hear Andrzej yelling in the radio and we were all hoping she would win. But the girls came around her with just 500metres to go. Oh so close! Kim finished fifth, still a great finish for her, and it moved her up to sixth overall in GC.
After the stage, we had a 150km transfer to our next school, our housing for the next two nights. We were travelling along these small French roads, speeding along, and started noticing these very eerie black figures set up along the road. They looked like silhouettes of a person, totally black, with a bolt of red through the head. David, our German soigneur, who is also half French, explained to us that these figures were called, 'the black men'. Wherever one was posted meant someone had died there on the road due to a car accident. It was supposed to be a sign to drivers to be careful. It was really, really eerie though and personally, if I had a loved one die in a car accident, I would not want that place to be signified by a 'black man'. I asked Magali if this was everywhere in France, but she said it wasn't. Just in this area for some reason.
I must admit, this school was much better than our last one. It was a sport school, so I assume young people would stay at this school during sports camps since there was a big swimming pool, large soccer fields, etc around the complex. Our showers were hot, we had actual towels, sheets were clean, and the food was relatively good, considering what we've been served so far. So we were pleasantly surprised. Marion Clignet had written me after my last diary and said that one time in Switzerland, their team had been housed in a nuclear fallout shelter! So things can always be worse. When compared to a nuclear fallout shelter, I feel like I'm living the high life here.
Wednesday was a double stage day, which always means getting up very early, racing, sitting around for 3-4 hours in a parking lot, and then racing again. Today was no different. Our first stage of 90km started in the town of Gien, which was really beautiful and had a lovely chateau as it's centrepiece. It was situated right along the river, and our stage pretty much followed the river the entire time. About half way through the stage, we hit a construction zone and the road became very narrow and full of gravel. Someone at the front of the peloton took this opportunity to attack, and by the time we were able to get ourselves OUT of the construction zone, a break of 10 women was up the road. Very sneaky. Amy was in the break, but since two big GC riders were also in the break, she was able to sit on. She later told us only 3 girls were really working the break, which was impressive because 3 teams were chasing behind, and the break kept putting time into the field. It gave us a chance to motorpace behind the chase, really spinning our legs out for the team time trial to come in the afternoon.
Our two soigneurs and mechanic set up our team tents in the gravel parking lot after the race and hung up blankets all around to keep out the sun and peeping Toms. The mix of gravel, dust, blankets, and tents made me feel like I was in the middle of Saudi Arabia, not that I've ever been there of course. But it just had that feel. The organisation served us a box lunch after the stage and it was a box lunch unlike anything we've ever seen before. Judith lifted off her plastic lid first and the biting odour of smelly cheese hit our noses with a bang. She put the lid straight back on. We peered through the plastic to see what was for lunch. Nothing looked very good except for the crème caramel or apricot tart. So we ended up going through boxes grabbing out the desserts, and just eating our sandwiches that Francis had made us.
I honestly can't remember the last year that I did a team time trial. It may have been in 2001 when we did the women's Tour de Feminine. But this year, it seems to be the 'in' thing to do! This will be our third team time trial this year, and we've still got one more to go at the Tour of Holland. We were at a disadvantage for the TTT since we had only five riders and most of the other teams had six. But we have always been at a great advantage with our aero equipment so we have no complaints there. Some of the women's teams only have clip on bars to add to their road bikes, so when we roll out in full aero gear, I feel very lucky.
Overall, we rode the 28km course really well and everyone stayed strong and hung on until the end. The hardest part for me was actually AFTER my pull. Judith followed me and since her pulls are so incredibly strong and long, I had problems just getting back on to the back of our train! Every time Amy would come by me, I'd have to stand up and sprint to get back on to her wheel. I'm sure my SRM had an interesting read after this race. When we finished and realized that we were only five seconds out of second place, and only three seconds out of third place, however, we were really disappointed. We are really in need of a podium finish, and a total team effort to a podium would have really boosted the spirits. We all kept running the final two corners over and over in our minds, as things had gotten a little rattled there. But it doesn't matter how hard you kick yourself. It is what it is. And we've still got four more days of racing to get that podium.
We arrived at the start of Thursday's stage to a scene that was reminiscent of a county fair. And to top off the fair atmosphere, they had on display the absolute largest bull I have ever seen in my life and I grew up in Wisconsin so I've seen my fair share of bulls! I don't know if this was a bull on a ton of testosterone or what, but he was absolutely enormous. He apparently had won a lot of medals and blue ribbons for his size as well, as they were posted right next to his head. Kim commented that she has never in her life seen as ass that big. I would have to agree.
Today's stage was the longest and hardest yet. We started out again with a 10km neutral, which I never can quite understand. It's not like they're running the neutral through streets full of fans cheering for us. It's usually run through barren country roads. What is the point?? The course was up and down all day. The field continued to be very active, and about 30km into the race, I bridged up to a break with Liv Gollan from Nobili. We really thought this break was going to stick. With two Univega riders, a Frenchie, a Safi-Pasta rider, a Fenix rider, Liv, and I, all absolute non-GC threats, all rolling through smoothly, I really thought it would stick. But of course not. The Buitenpoort team all went to the front and started rotating to bring us back. Liv rode by me at one point and said, "Yes Kimberly, they must really be worried that we're only 13 minutes down." My thoughts exactly. Maybe we should be flattered!
The two hardest climbs came near the end of the stage, at 92km and 101km. The second climb was where things really started splitting up. Poor Judith. She had asked me to attack in the midst of the climb but I was having such a hard time even staying with the front group, I wasn't even able to attack. When I saw her attack, I knew first, that she was probably very frustrated with me, and two, now I was going to come shooting off the back with her attack! Somehow I managed to cling to the wheel in front of me but by the time we got to the top of the climb, Magali, Kim, and I found ourselves in the 'second' group. Judith had made the front group, so we let the others chase to get back on. It was a very fast final 24km after the climb. Buitenpoort drove it hard, leaving not much chance to attack and go for the solo win. Judith rode super strong today though and finished second in the "field" sprint to Ziluite of Safi Pasta. This was Ziluite's third stage win. And we finally got the podium finish we've been in the hunt for. Nice going Judith!
Tomorrow's stage is the hardest and longest yet. So how are we preparing? We're kicking back in the Camponile hotel, complete with hot showers, towels, and wireless. It may be for only one night, but we are making the most of it. I hear that more schools are in our future.
- Cycling News
August 08, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:04 BST
Vive la France. Hmmm. The five of us T-Mobile girls came to this race with a bit of trepidation. The...
Route de France Feminin, August 8, 2006
Vive la France. Hmmm. The five of us T-Mobile girls came to this race with a bit of trepidation. The Route de France was announced back in February. I clearly remember because I was staying at our team manager, Bob Stapleton's, place in California at the time and Bob was confirming our participation in the race. So I've known for months that we were coming. But still, our racing experiences in France haven't always been the best, so we came with open minds but a bit of anxiety for the French experience nonetheless.
We left our house in Langerwehe, Germany Friday morning and arrived at our closet-sized hotel in Harfleur by late afternoon. We drove 40km to the team presentation in the coastal town of Fecamp. The presentation was supposed to start at 7:00 but by the time we arrived, the time had changed to 7:30pm. And apparently they were trying to headline and hype the up-and-coming French singing talent and tied her into the team presentation, thinking maybe this would help her career to take off. This woman would sing two songs, then the announcers would introduce three teams, then the woman would start singing again. We were getting antsy. Everyone was hoping they would be the next team called, so they wouldn't have to sit through anymore French singing. Thank God our team was called up after the second encore. Some teams had to sit through two more!
The town of Fecamp is really beautiful and is situated right between these amazing white cliffs. It was really crowded with vacationers and Magali, our French connection, told us that many people come from Paris to vacation here since it's only a few hours away. We got to see Fecamp again the next day as well, since that's where the prologue took place.
This was the shortest prologue I have ever done. It was only 2.2 km. So even though I finished an incredibly crappy 55th, I was only seconds behind my teammates due to the short distance. It seemed like so much work for all our staff for the day! A forty km transfer there and back, tune up both time trial bikes and road bikes, get the trainers set up, prepare the drink mixes, etc. I really give the guys credit for all they do.
The next day's stage started back in Fecamp, so after a slow morning of drinking coffee and packing up for our 'hotel' transfer, we headed back to the seaside. The fog was really rolling in as the field rolled out of town. Speaking of field, it is especially small here with only 75 women and 13 teams. Missing are some of the bigger European teams like Nurnberger and AA Drink. But that doesn't take away from the depth of the field. With riders like Diana Ziluite, Nicole Brandli, Edita Pucinskaite, Susanne Lungskold and Amber Neben, and of course our own Judith Arndt, there is no lack of talent.
The stage was 118 km long and very fast. Since we were headed south from the coast, it felt like we had tailwind almost the entire day. By the end, we had averaged 48km an hour I believe! It was a very active race and attacks were going all day, but nothing was getting away and we came in for a field sprint. Diana Ziluite won her second stage out of two.
We were dismayed after the race to find that we were not staying in a hotel as promised, but in a school. Staying in a school can mean many things, but usually in France, it doesn't mean anything good. And it wasn't. My husband had texted me asking me to call shortly after we arrived there. I texted him back saying, "Probably shouldn't talk to you right now. Staying in a school. Just took ice cold shower and had to dry off with a bed sheet. I LOVE France."
We actually made the best of it though. Our staff set up the grill outside by the team truck, set up the chairs, and we all sat around together after dinner talking and laughing. It felt like we were camping. Actually Bernard and David, our mechanic and soigneur, DID camp outside and thought it best to sleep out under the stars. The school was only one night though so I'd like to believe I can handle anything for at least one night!
Monday's stage was an adventure, to say the least. Forget the tailwind. Today it was crosswinds. They were so strong that it brought back horrible memories of Tour of Holland for me. You'd look up as the field was completely strung out and guttered to the side of the road and see nothing but straight road for as far as the eye could see in the same direction. The only relief came when we'd hit a small town. Buildings would block the wind for maybe a minute and I'd be praying that at the next round about, we'd head in a different direction and get maybe a tail or head wind. But no. Straight through and onto another suffer fest. I haven't suffered like that in a long time.
The team stayed strong though and after a lot of separation, four of us found ourselves in the front group chasing two breakaway riders. Oh thank God, this was good! But then it went downhill from there, at least for me. I got a rear flat at a most inopportune time. Our director, Andrzej, was stuck two groups behind us, and could not get up to me. Amy was in a group behind and told me she would give me her rear wheel. I waited for Amy as my other teammates kept flying up the road. She gave me her rear and took a spare rear from neutral. By the time we got going again, we were about in the middle of all the splintered groups. We tried our hardest to chase back on to Judith, Kim, and Magali's group, but then I felt the rear going flat again. Was this for real? I had to drop back again but neither Andrzej nor neutral was anywhere to be found.
My poor soigneur David was in the team car behind me saying, "but I don't have any wheels!" Finally David left me and I think by this time I was absolutely DFL in the race, riding my flat. I just wanted to cry. I thought for sure I would be time cut since I still had 30km to go and really, how far can one ride on a flat tubular? Thank God David drove up to the closest neutral support car he could find, grabbed a rear wheel, and then waited for me to ride up to him. And thank God as well for the nicest gendarmerie I have ever me for allowing me to motor pace back up to the laughing bunch so I had people to ride in with. It was just a lot of bad luck.
I came to find out later that absolutely everyone on our team flatted. Judith flatted shortly after my first one. Then Kim, then Magali. And Amy would have if she had actually kept her wheel. The Univega team had us beat though with six flats. Apparently there's a lot of glass on these French roads.
I came in with a decent sized group, dejected, but none the worse for wear. Shit happens. What can you do about it? I still felt myself fortunate though because after the race, I heard that two girls went into the rear window of a car and were taken away to the hospital. I really hope that they are okay. After hearing that, I consider myself lucky.
Tonight's hotel is an actual hotel and we even have wireless. So we are really feeling spoiled. Although there ARE three of us in this tiny room and Amy is sleeping on a cot on the floor. I did hear though that during the men's Tour, the hotels were often not exactly up to par and the Gerolsteiner boys sometimes slept on their bus.
I'll report back on the rest of the stages the next chance I get. Hopefully there is more wireless to come!
- Cycling News
August 01, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:04 BST
This is the first year of the Swedish world cup and I think everyone is excited for the chance to go...
Scandinavia, August 1, 2006
This is the first year of the Swedish world cup and I think everyone is excited for the chance to go to Scandinavia. After Thuringen, we all went to Leipzig for a few days, home of the famous Petra Rossner and Judith Arndt. Amy, Magali, Kim and I really wanted to be tourists for a few days and we pulled that off in fine fashion. Then on Wednesday we flew from Leipzig to Goteberg, Sweden. Luckily I had a window seat so I could get a good view of the lay of the land. Were we landing in northern Wisconsin? It looked exactly like it
thick green forests, tons of lakes and not many roads. This area of Sweden really is beautiful.
The World cup took place in the town of Vargarda, but the teams were all staying in Alingsas, 20km away. After arriving from the flight, some of us went for a short spin to help the blood flow in the legs. There were bike paths everywhere, lots of water to ride around and a really fun looking town to explore. Besides Swedish, almost everyone here speaks English as well, making it very easy for us to get around.
Surprisingly, the world cup race wasn't held until 4:30pm with an estimated finish time between 7:30 and 8pm. We knew we would be wired tonight! Most girls went for a short spin in the morning and we happened to get rained on. I've never enjoyed riding in the rain so much in my life. For the first time since arriving back in Europe, I actually felt cool and almost even cold. Everyone on the team is really dragging from not sleeping well for the past two weeks. It's been so hot that our hotel rooms never seem to cool off. Ina's been coming down to breakfast looking more and more tired and I'm sure I'm right there with her looking pretty haggard myself. I think I may even be looking forward to this winter already.
The race was a most interesting chess game. It was hard from the gun, strung out single file and it felt like it stayed that way most of the race. Even though the climb on the circuit was only one kilometre at five percent, it still made the race. Breaks usually went at some point on the climb. About three laps into the race, Kim got in a great break with about seven other riders and the field really sat up. We thought, mistakenly, for a bit that it might be the race. But that only lasted for about half a lap. I should have known Buitenpoort wouldn't be happy with the break when I saw the Swede Susanne Lungskold still in the field. I figured since this was the first world cup in her home country, with all her fans holding signs on the hill, she would really be gunning for the win.
As the break came closer and closer back towards the field, Kim attacked out of the break and went solo. It was a great move for her. The next bunch to break away up the hill in pursuit of Kim had Magali in it as well so we were happy with at least two riders up the road. Eventually, after some more reshuffling, Magali was away with Susanne and Nicole Cooke, the current world cup leader. Susanne and Nicole ended up getting away together, with Susanne taking the win and Nicole retaining the world cup jersey. Magali was able to stick in the break behind them, finishing seventh. Although it wasn't a podium finish for the team, we all rode strong and felt we rode well as a team. The best part was back at the hotel after the race. The chef, who some said was a world champion in barbecue, made a great dinner for all the riders. Even though we weren't eating until 10pm, we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
The next morning all the teams left to head to the Swedish coast to catch the 11am ferry to Denmark. What a process! I couldn't believe how many cars were lined up to get on the boat. It had to be hundreds of cars. The ship was like the love boat. There was a movie theater, many restaurants, a library, a big shopping area and plenty of decks to hang out in the sun. It was a three hour journey to the Danish coast so we were able to sit out in the sun on deck 11, then move down to deck 9 for lunch, deck 8 for some shopping and then back to deck 11 to watch the approaching countryside. After that all the teams had another 200km to drive to the Danish hotel. We certainly couldn't complain that we were at a disadvantage with travel since all the teams did the same thing. If we had bad legs for the TTT world cup, most likely other teams would too.
This was the first team time trial held as a world cup and it was a pretty cool experience. Seventeen teams competed and the final three came down to just seconds apart.
In honour of our downed soigneur, Jeremiah, who is still in the German hospital with his broken leg, I listened to some of his redneck music while I warmed up on the trainer. Jeremiah just went through his third or fourth surgery and is really hoping that he'll be able to go home to the States soon.
The team time trial is so beautiful. Even in the midst of it, with my heart rate at its limit, I could still appreciate the beauty of it. All six of us were riding so smoothly and comfortably (well, it looked like that anyway!), in such a rhythm. I envied our mechanic Bernard in the team car behind us being able to watch the whole race. It was a great course too, 42km, that started and finished in the town of Arthus. We realized afterwards that we had started out a little too slow in our first seven km, losing most of our time in just that first part of the race. Because after that we held our time pretty well. We finished fifth overall, 14 seconds out of third place, losing only Magali in the process. I think this was a great accomplishment for our team considering we only finished with three at the team time trial stage in Tour de L'aude.
Univega won the race just two seconds over Buitenpoort and AA Drink took third just two seconds over Nurnberger. Directly after the race, all the teams packed up and headed on out of town. Now we're already in the car on our way back 'home' to Langerwehe. As we got south of Hamburg, many of the men's pro teams passed us on the highway, having just finished the German World Cup. We've got just four days to recover at home and then we leave for France to start the 10-day Route de France. Magali is really excited about this one since it's her home race.
Open de Suède Vargarda, Sweden, July 28, 2006
The Ladies Golden Hour, Denmark, July 30, 2006
- Cycling News
July 31, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:04 BST
Race results Kim [Anderson] and I returned to our team house in Germany after our U.S. Nationals....
Thüringen-Rundfahrt, Germany, July 18-23, 2006
Kim [Anderson] and I returned to our team house in Germany after our U.S. Nationals. The Nationals didn't go as well as we had hoped, so we were fired up for the start of the second part of the European season. The best part of coming back to Germany was that my parents were already there, half way though their summer vacation. Amy, Kim, and I had a great time showing them around our home away from home in that first week back in Langerwehe. It made us get out and see things we hadn't even explored yet. Mom cooked dinner for us, which was a real treat, and we really enjoyed the beautiful summer weather sitting out on our deck.
Two days before Thuringen started, we took the party south and drove 500 Kilometres to Zeulenroda, Germany. It was hot, damn hot. The host hotel in this old East German city is beautiful and just a few years old. It has everything racers could want except one thing…air conditioning. We still haven't quite figured out why Europeans are so against air. It's what helps you sleep comfortably through the night! The hotel, Seehotel, was considered a 'bio' hotel, serving many organic foods, offering lots of walking and riding trails through the woods, among other amenities. The biggest thing it was missing though was some cool air. One night I was having dinner with my parents in the beautiful upstairs restaurant, gorgeous view of the lake, great bottle of wine. But we sat there just sweating. It wasn't pretty.
The team presentation the night prior to the start was the most organised, professional presentation I've ever been a part of. This was due to the sad fact that the presentation marked the one year anniversary of the death of Amy Gillett of the Australian National team. A beautiful presentation complete with full orchestra was given in her honour. Present were both of Amy's parents and her husband. Many words of remembrance and love were shared and many tears were shed. It was a beautiful way to remember and honour a beautiful young woman. I will never forget that night last summer when I first heard about the accident. I was meeting my Aussie friend, Katie Mactier, at a local Boulder restaurant for dinner. Katie was late, which was very unlike her. When I finally saw her walking up to the door, tears streaming down her face, I felt the biggest pit in my stomach and I knew something terrible had happened. Amy's death affected all of us in our small, close-knit, cycling community. She will never be forgotten.
Thuringen Rundfahrt is historically a very hard stage race and this year was no different. Historically speaking, I think this was even the 19th running of the event. Considering that just five years ago, when I first did this race with Saturn in 2001, all the teams were staying in old workers' barracks. I can't imagine how different this race and this entire area must have been 19 years ago.
The first stage was a short prologue through the town of Zeulenroda on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, our T-Mobile team was missing one of our star riders. Judith Arndt has had the worst luck lately. It started the day before the Wachovia Classic when she and Ina were hit by a car while we were riding the course. Judith still rode an incredibly strong race at Philly despite having broken two fingers in the accident. But then shortly after arriving back home in Leipzig, she came down with a horrible virus and was out for a number of weeks. Still weak from her sickness, she had decided it best if she stayed out of Thuringen and built her strength back up for the upcoming World Cups.
My parents were there at the start cheering loudly, ringing their cowbells, which was good for our motivation. It was a blazing fast brief effort through town…five minutes for some, six minutes for others. And many in between. It was a good opener for the long stages to come.
Wednesday afternoon we had a German oom-pah band to send us off on our first 130 kilometre trek, a fitting start to a tough day. With the course going up and down all day, the final group to come into the finish in Greiz was only 35 women strong. Kim, Magali, and I managed to hang on to the front group but since none of us are very good sprinters, we couldn't really pull off anything stunning in the finish. We got the worst news of the day though when we got back to our team car. Our soigneur, Jeremiah, had been hit by one of the official race cars in the feed zone, and his leg was broken. The ambulance took him straight to the hospital in Gera and due to the extent of his injuries, he needed to have surgery straight away so that he didn't lose his leg. We couldn't believe it. It was a horrible hit to the team. Jeremiah's always so enthusiastic, always has a smile on his face, and to lose that for most likely the rest of the season is truly a loss to this team.
Apparently, there's a heat wave all over the world right now, but it was hitting especially hard in the Thuringen region. During the next day's stage, I looked down at my SRM and it said it was 41 degrees Celsius. Wait…isn't that approximately 111 degrees Fahrenheit? Okay, maybe it wasn't quite THAT hot, but that's exactly how my left foot felt. Due to my shoes and the extreme heat, I was suffering badly from some serious pain. It starts in my foot but then the pain becomes so extreme, it sends pain shooting up my ankle into my knee. It honestly feels like knives are digging their way into my skin. I noticed during stage one that the pain started approximately one hour into the race. Stage two - it started 45 minutes into the race. Considering these stages were taking us around three to five hours, it was a long time to deal with the pain.
Then to make matters worse on stage two, we hit a QOM climb approximately 30 Kilometres from the finish. A group of seven made it over the climb first, but I managed to get into the second group just behind. As soon as we crested the climb, our group started chasing. Unfortunately, an Aussie girl turned to look behind her. That was a mistake. She crossed wheels with the girl in front of her and went crashing down. Since the Aussie was only two girls ahead of me, I had a choice to either send myself catapulting over her onto the pavement or hit the cornfield to the left. The Belgian girl and I chose the cornfield. I wish I could have seen the picture. Kim was in the group behind me and she says imprinted on her mind forever is the image of me riding my bike like a bucking bronco across the corn stacks and dirt. We were going so fast at the time I had to veer off the road that I went quite a ways into the field. When I finally was able to stop and turn around, I just kept seeing group after group go flying down the road. I knew I was going to be stuck out there alone when I finally got back to the road. It was a long 30 kilometres but luckily a group came up behind me, so at least I had company.
During stage three we were determined to try and get into a break and to try and go for a stage win. Unfortunately, the heat took its toll on another team-mate and Ina had to pull out about 30 kilometres into the stage. I think about 30 women had already pulled out due to the extreme heat we were riding in. I felt like I was going to be next, as the heat was making me nauseous and the pain in my leg kept getting worse and worse. Luckily for us, Magali got in a non-GC break, and the break stuck for the rest of the stage. Mag just missed the podium with a fourth place finish, and the field came in about three minutes behind.
No rest for the weary. Saturday was a double stage with a morning 18-kilometre time trial and an afternoon circuit race consisting of four laps of the time trial course. This was no easy feat. And my remaining team-mates, Kim, Amy, and Magali, were much stronger than I. After completing the time trial, I decided not to start the afternoon stage. I really wanted to be on top form for the following weekend's World Cups, and I didn't feel continuing would help me with that. Athletes come to know their bodies well and I knew mine wasn't doing very well. I don't think I was alone either, as 98 women started the race and only 47 finished. Kim, Amy, and Magali rode strongly through the last two stages, especially Kim. She's really been a strong force on this team this year after having surgery on her back at the end of last season. I've never seen her ride so well.
Thuringen gave our team a chance to get our legs back under us, gain some race fitness, and hopefully come out that much stronger as we head up to Sweden and Denmark for the next two World Cups. We're just hoping it's either cooler up north or they at least have air conditioning!
Till next time,
- Kimberly Baldwin
Last year wasn't one of her best. After a close call with cancer at the end of 2003, newlywed Kim Baldwin (nee Bruckner) was hoping to come back and represent her country at the Athens Games, but apart from a podium finish at the Tour de L'Aude, 2004 didn't quite live up to expectations. However, cycling's all-American gal is looking to the future with new objectives and a new-look T-Mobile cycling team. Let's see how she goes... Australia UK USA