How the World's road race unravelled for Germany

October 5 , 2007

So, the season is over.

About 80 races and lots of hours in cars and planes are behind me. Instead of sleeping in uncomfortable hotel beds and sitting on camping chairs at the races, or on a hard and small thing called a saddle in the races, I can now enjoy the pleasure of my own big bed and my even bigger couch.

I can go to bed as late as I want and sleep in in the morning, or don't even sleep at all. I can eat what I want, and even better: I can eat *when* I want. Or I don't eat at all, which can be really nice for a change! No more gels and recovery drinks for a while now. No more Powerbars, which taste all the same after a while, no matter if it is kokos, chocolate or strawberry flavour. No more packing bags in and out and in and out and so on, and always being worried I've forgetten something.

Well, it's a time called freedom without being tied up in any schedules at all, and I was really looking forward to it! Although it can also include some difficulties, when all of a sudden you have to organize your life by yourself (again). Sometimes I even struggle to go to the supermarket to buy food and make a sandwich myself, because for the whole year somebody else has done it for me. Or that I have to drive the car myself, instead of just sitting half asleep in the backseat with music in my ears. No massages anymore either, and somehow nobody feels responsible to do the laundry. Anyway, now I'm sitting here at home with my head still a bit twisted thinking back to the last race of the season.

The Road World Championships was a big personal goal for me. I was convinced that we (German national team) had a really good chance to get the rainbow jersey back onto the shoulders of a German rider. But then everything unfolded slightly differently.

Felt like team spirit

It actually started really well, with another awesome team meeting the night before the race. We were all got told our jobs for the next day by JoDo, who is our national coach, and by Petra Rossner, who always supports JoDo at World's and brings in all her experience and enthusiasm to the team. World's is a special thing of course, because we all come from different trade teams and nomally race against each other, but for the past few years we really managed to become a dream-team only for one day, and we all were determined to practice this again.

So the meeting was good, I found, because nobody really wanted to leave the room although we actually were done with serious talking. If the meeting is bad, everybody normally rushes away as soon as the last word is spoken. I think we all were really excited to go out and try to win the jersey back!

Next morning: at 9 o'clock the race started and everything went well for us until the end of lap five when half of the bunch - including myself - crashed over a fallen barricade. I had a soft landing, though, on top of two other riders and it didn't take me long to get back on my bike.

Luise Keller was standing next to me waiting already to bring me back to the front group. She was the best, smooth like a cat and acted without any panic. On the next climb Noemi Cantele (Italy) and Amber Neben (USA) attacked, and unfortunately, nobody from the German team was on their wheels when they took off, but Claudia Häussler and Hanka Kupfernagel chased them back. The whole effort cost us two team-mates, but also did wear out two of the riders we had on our "riders-to-get-rid-of-list"; so the situation was still good for us.

In the final lap Cantele attacked again on the same climb, and again I didn't manage to be on her wheel immediately, but I wasn't far away either, and could close the gap to her and Vos, so on top of the climb we were a leading group of seven, including three Italians. Then it started to go wrong.

Our plan was to be in the majority at the end of the race, but instead of us, it was the Italian team that played the cards we wanted to play. So Marta Bastianelli (Italy) attacked, and again I was not on her wheel, so I decided to let my Dutch T-Mobile team-mate Chantal Beltman work, since there were at least two of them in our group. After some attacks and watching each other we slowed enough so a group of 14 riders could get back on to us. Trixi Worrack was in there, too, but all in all the group was too big, and with Marianne Vos (Holland) and Giorgia Bronzini there were two top sprinters still in there, and the race started to run out of our hands.

As we entered the next descent, a Canadian rider crashed and I crashed over her abandoned bike lying on the ground. That was basically it for me. The Canadian and I did get back on to the leading group somehow, but I was gone, only sitting on the bike and pedaling but otherwise totally useless. So Trixi (Worrack) tried what she could, she needed to get away solo, but it didn't happen, so we got away with a disappointing top twenty place only.

No worries, Alex

The Canadian rider, I think it was Alex Wrubleski, came up to me a couple of times during and after the race to apologize that she had caused the crash. I wasn't really in the mood to talk to her at this time, but for sure I want her to know that she really doesn't have to feel guilty at all. Nobody crashes on purpose. So that's alright.

It was certainly bad luck, although I also think you are responsible yourself for your own luck to a certain point. Maybe my instinct was not the best at this day either, being either involved in crashes or never on the wheel when attacks went. But still, the way my German team-mates raced was brilliant. They were all sad after the race, of course, and so was I, but they don't have to be disappointed with themselves.

Their work was really good and reliable; only the outcome was not what we wanted, but that can happen when some circumstances are not perfect. Eva Lutz did the first World's of her carreer and it was fantastic to see her excitement and loyality she put into the race. So even though the result was not even close to our expectations, I will still remember the World Championships in Stuttgart as a good and interesting experience and hope that we can transport this spirit we have through the following years as well.

So, that was it for this year. I think it's not the best timing that the end of the cycling season comes along with fall. Outside it's raining and leaves are falling from the trees, which puts me in a weird mood. It's strange, when cycling has occupied your life for months, and suddenly it's gone and also the people you have to spend all your time with on the road are gone for a while.

I always need some time to get into the rhythm of a different life during the off-season, but I know it will feel the same when the next season starts and I have to leave home again.


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