Last year the Eiger Bike race had to be the most miserale mountain bike race of my like. This was due to the appalling weather conditions. So it's kinda crazy that this year I returned for more punishment. Last year I raced the short course, a mere 56km. This year 88km! Besides the additional 32km there was 1400m more of vertical climbing - a total of 3900m!
This is the 6th year that the Eiger bike has been running and had a record number of over 1500 riders participating. The number of people involved must be huge as the event ran very smoothly and everything, and I mean everything is provided for the benefit of the rider. At registration everyone received a gift of a jacket, vest or shirt and a personalised number plate. Race day starts with a free breakfast at 4am. There are 11 feed zones with sportsdrinks, water, cola and food. There are 6 mechanical pits and 2 massage stops. There is a free pasta lunch after the race and free massages were provided by Dul-x. Showers were set up especially for the event and my bike was washed by Motorex (Oil of Switzerland). We had a special area for free camping. And last but not least, it was an UCI category E2 race and there was prize money.
Grindelwald is just beautiful. Quite different when it is not raining and there is a clear view of the snow capped alps. It's a popular tourist destination with the spectacular Jungfrau towering at 4158m. Not that I could stop for a cuppa and enjoy the view during the race.
It was very cold when we started the race at 900m in altitude at 7am (probably around 10 degrees). The first climb up Grosse Scheidegg was 13km rising to 1961m. This took about 1 hours and 20 minutes! Then there was a little respite of a couple of kilometres before kicking again to climb a futher 200m in 1.5km up to "First" at 2167m. I had a pretty solid climb sitting in 3rd place. For all our climbing we then got a decent descent mainly on open roads with a little technical section.
As we started to climb the 9km (770m) up to Feld at 2170m Andrea Kuster and I paced off one another and battled the climb together. This was a bit of a technical climb on a loose rocky track. By this stage it was getting real hot and I knew hydration would play a huge role in the enduring race so I downed as much sports drinks as I could at every feed station.
The descents were fun though it did take me a bit of time to be less cautius with the high speeds. Andrea pulled away from me to move me into 4th place. The next 15km or so were up and down through a river, over some bridges and down a pretty singletrack between the trees and next to the river. The climb up Bort at 1640m was gruelling - 400m vertical climb in 2km. The sepctators were amazing with cow bells of all sizes making one hell of a noise and all the cheers of "hup, hup, hup". The steep grassy climb near the top was forcing a lot of riders off their bikes but with the fantastic reception I could hardly get off and push. There was an atmosphere that words can't describe.
But then I was brough back to realisty - to face the dreaded Kleine Scheidegg, a 15km or so climb with some 1200m of vertical climbing. This climb was a mixture of asphelt and rocky 4WD track and the heat was unbearable (guessing 35-38 degrees). I started fading. I got a time split from a marshall - 3rd place was 5-7 minutes ahead.... and during the climb I could not see any women behind, so if I kept at my pace I would hold onto 4th.
At 6 hours and 19 minutes I crossed the finish line in 4th place - very relieved that it was over. It was one long race (the longest race in my career to date). Anita Steiner, winner from the past 5 years took the win again in a slower time of 5 hours and 48 minutes. Andrea Kuster was 9 minutes behind in 2nd, then Dolores Machler-Rupp was 15 minutes ahead of me in 3rd.
This has given me some experience for the World Marathon Champs on August 31 in Lugano. At 78km it is shorter in distance but will be no shorter in time. As I still recover from the Eiger Bike, I forget about the hurt and remember the awesomely run event. A huge thanks to Fritz Haari who gave me entry to the race.
Saturday morning in Stuttgart, Geramny as we sat in Schleyer halle watching the Track World Champsionships I wondered 1. if we would make it to Dissenhofen in Switzerland for the afternoon criterium and 2. since I had not pre entered whether I would be able to race.
We arrived with plenty of time to spare - enough time for Christian to get the Scott clean and shiney and switch the training tyres for some fast Michelin Pro-Race. Seven swiss francs and I was entered for the race - not a problem. 44 women had entered - only a couple of names I recognised - Barbara Blatter, top Swiss Mountain Biker and Brigit Evans, an Aussie road racer.
We started at 4:45pm and were up for 60 laps of a 760m course in the middle of the village which took us through a clocktower and over cobled corners. All the commentary was in German so I was a little in the dark as to the points system but later worked out that every 5 laps was a sprint lap that earnt points towards the final position.
It was a stinking hot day, probably around 35 degrees and I was feeling kinda lethargic and not really feeling like racing. In the first few laps I sat near the back - it took a while for me to get used to the close racing again. There was one fast sweeping corner then 2 slow corners over the cobbles - both of these caused crashes, putting 4 riders out of the race. I found myself bridging gaps.... so as the race went on I eventually moved up the field. There were quite a few teams - team Zollinger sport, RSS-Rheintal-Schlossgarage, team next 125, RV Russikon and quite a few attacks but apart from stringing out the field, no one managed to get away. Many however were dropped off the back.
With 3 laps to go I knew it was going to be a crazy finish since the line was only about 90m from the last corner. There were 22 of us left and everyone had the same idea so the pace was incredibly high for the last 2 laps. I sprinted in for 9th place taking 15th place overall (since I didn't earn any interim sprint points). I was stoked. And I even got a little cash for my efforts! We raced 46 km in just over an hour. My average heart rate was well up there at 177 bpm and maxing out at 192 bpm in the sprint. A memorable experience for my first road race in Europe.
We arrived in Male, in Val di Sole, Italy after a long haul drive from Friborg, Switzerland. This was my first race in Europe and my first ever race in Italy. We were unsure what effect the one week off the bike to sort out the camper in Germany would have on my form. It would have been nice to have an extra week to prepare, but here we were and ready to race.
This is the 3rd year of the European Cup, and the Val di Sol race was the final race of the 5 race series which started in May. The womens field attracted rdiers from Italy, Holland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Slovenia, Switzerland and Great Brittain. The race was category E1 so some valuable UCI points were available.
Race morning dawned. A 9:30am start ensured at least one hour of racing before cool 20 degree overnight temperatures soared well into the mid 30's. I had a great start position on the front row of the grid. The plan was to go out steady, test the legs out and hold a good position.
The start loop took us straight up a tough 1km hill. Then onto the race loop, which incidentially was the course proposed for Italy's failed bid for the 2001 World Championships. I went into oxygen debt on this hill while jostling for position and with lactate in the legs I was a disappointing 9th.
It was a fast, tough and challenging 6.8km course through the "wood of the Emperor." It was a technical yet a fast course with a bit of everything. As my legs recovered I started passing riders on the climbs. There was a cross over point on the course and by the 2nd lap I realised the gap to the leaders had opened up. I continued to ride solidly and after 4 laps finished in 6th place in a time of 1 hour and 50 minutes. The course took its toll on 9 riders who didn't finish the race.
First of all, a huge thanks to Karri, Nige, Calli and Grant for their hospitality in Vancouver. We had a great 2 weeks there and loved your company! Thanks heaps.
We got a very pleasant surprise when flying out of Vancouver. Our Lufthansa agent upgraded us to Business class for the 9 hour flight to Frankfurt. Things like this never usually happen to me! I think being a Silver airpoints member helped! And while on the subject of travel agents, a big thanks to Bruce Blacklock at the Holiday Shoppe in Lambton Quay for arranging our flights with our bikes. We've had some great seats and no problems with the bikes. Leaving Vancouver our luggage and 3 bikes weighed in at 68kg - not bad eh.
Needless to say we had a most enjoyable flight in business class with great food, very find wine, Port, Baileys and a selection of movies. Its got to be one of the few flights that I haven't slept....and that includes one hour flights from Wellington to Auckland.
The following day we anxiously headed off to collect our campervan. It was a 3 hour train tride to Minden.... and an 8 hour drive back to Nurnberg. Yep, our 1983 Peugeot Camper is not the fastest vehicle out. It travels at around 80-90kmph but it goes and it fits 2 people just pefectly. It already had a motorcycle carrier fitted so all we needed were a couple more bike racks and we were set. Christian's relatives were absolutely awesome in organising the insurance and registration and providing some essential cooking equipment and bedding. Thanks heaps Lothar and Lizzie!
Christian had been dreaming about Bratwurst ever since leaving Germany last year so again Aunty Banbina took us to the Bratwurst Haus - 12 for Christian, 10 for myself and 8 for Bambina, complemented with sauerkraut, horseradish.... and weisenbier (Beer)....... ahhhhh.
We stacked the camper with heaps of non perishable food then hit the road to Switzerland - first stop Zurich airport to collect fellow road cyclist Don Oakly. We had packed a tent and picked up an extra bike rack so the van could cater for 3. Don had just spent 2 months in Hood River in Oregon racing and training.
Next stop Fribourg, home of Soctt USA and where I was to collect a new frame. Mmmmmmn nice - a scandium team issue, 150gm lighter than my superlight alloy frame.
So with Camper and new MTG we were set to head to my first Swiss race. But low and behold the Swiss Cup planned for July 27th had been taken off the calendar. Panic! I have to race to gain UCI points to help my world ranking and New Zealand's chances to qualify for the Olympics. It was Thursday morning when we found out my only options were 2 races in Austria or the Europe cup in Italy. The choice was easy - which was closer and which had good points? Italy here we come.
Hi there, sorry for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks but we´ve found it difficult to find internet access. We arrived safe and sound in Germany, collected our camper and made the trek across to Italy to compete in the 5th and final round of the European cup in Male. I finished 6th and collected some much needed UCI points. From there we headed up to Germany and spent a bit of time in the Black Forrest before catching some of the Track World Champs in Stuttgart and supporting our fellow kiwis. We left Stuttgart this morning to race my first road race in Europe, a 60 lap criterium in Dissenhofen, Switzerland. I finished 15th and in the money.
Will write some more detailed reports soon. We´ve had quite an adventure with our camper!!! But all is good and we´re having a fab time.
Will update again soon.