Race Across Germany 2018 is done and dusted…..and done in style.
38 hours, 37 minutes for the 1,110km Ultra Cycling race, a great win and the 2nd fastest time in the 19-year history of the race.
The main motivating factor for this years race was the fact that I abandoned the race in 2017 after 800km, so the priority was to finish, but getting the best possible result was right up there as well.
I was seeded 3rd off the starting ramp with each participant setting off at 2-minute intervals. The tactic was to get as far as possible along the first 490km without getting caught by anyone. This section of the race is very flat and suited the bigger more powerful riders.
With the exception of a puncture after 270km, the first section went exactly to plan. I overtook the first 2 riders very quickly and made no mistakes navigating the route. The first 180km were covered in 5 hours, 15 minutes. 404km were covered in the first 12 hours. It was at about this point that Thorsten Weber caught me. A big powerful rider, he passed me like a steam train!
We planned on our bike change from the TT bike to the road bike, just as Thorsten Weber caught us, as all the climbs were still ahead of us. The bike change is like getting a brand new body to ride the bike. You use different muscles to drive the pedals. We didn’t panic about Thorsten as we had expected him to pass us earlier and we figured the climbs would pose a problem for him. The gap to Thorsten would stretch to 20 minutes very quickly (+ another 8 minutes as he started 4 places behind Mick).
Once we hit the climbs the gap would come down rapidly. I passed Thorsten at around the 550km mark, a quick exchange of pleasantries and then it was time to twist the screw. The gap would go out to almost 20 minutes in my favour before we got to Heringen at 618km. We scheduled a stop here. While we were sitting down in the middle of the village, Thorsten would pass us again. Last year I would have jumped straight on the bike and chase him down. This time, “Let him go” was my immediate reaction as I saw him pass.
The breaks are so important and different things work for different cyclists. I had a main break of 25 minutes without having a sleep. I had 3 other breaks of 8-10 minutes with 5 minutes sleep during those stops. At no point during the race did I feel like the eyes were closing. All of the breaks except the last one at approximately 800km were planned…more on that later.
It would not be long before Thorsten would stop for his main break in the comfort of his motor home and his crew was servicing his bike. The mood was good. I was determined that this was the last time I’d be seeing Thorsten during the race and said as much to the crew. The worst climbs were yet to come. I almost wanted more climbs as every time the race went upwards, I would gain a lot of time on the other front-runners. However, I didn’t bargain on Norbert Vohn.
From 680km to the 780km mark there is a lot of downhill. It was inevitable that I would lose some time here to Thorsten, but Norbert Vohn was making a charge and the gap was closing. It was “tactic time”. Norbert had started ahead of me, 2nd off the starting ramp, so I had a 2-minute buffer. At this point, it wasn’t a case of, would he catch me, it was a case of when. The gaps were 8km & 10km to Norbert and Thorsten. So, we decided to have a power nap. 5 minutes of absolute silence at the side of the road. This was the best decision of the race for me.
I was completely recharged as Norbert approached from behind. I had a long discussion about this with the crew. The worst case scenario was that he would be a stronger rider, he would pass me and win the race. There’s nothing you can do about that. I decided to slow down and let Norbert catch up. If I was to ride 200 meters in front, I would feel the constant pressure of the inevitable. The moment he caught me I felt a relief. We had a great chat, family, work, cycling and lots of random stuff, the guy is an absolute gentleman. I became immediately relaxed. It was like doing a road bike tour in Lanzarote and I forgot about tiredness and fatigue. I was re-energised.
We still couldn’t completely relax with Thorsten Weber on our tails. With 220km to go, the gap was at 8-10km back to Thorsten. This gap would remain steady. I was starting to note that Norbert was suffering on the climbs. With 150km to go, the race dynamic was more like a normal road race than an Ultra cycling race. All it would take was one hard attack to win the race.
I had studied the route book in so much detail over the last few weeks. I’d looked at all the strava segments. Where are the climbs, how long, what’s the gradient and if I’m going well, how hard should I be going? All of these climbs were noted in the route book for the navigation crew.
There is a long steady climb before getting to Moorenweis, 90km from the finish. The gap back to Thorsten Weber had increased to almost 15km. Norbert was feeling it. I had notes in the route book at Moorenweis, “Go Go Go, flat & downhill, Come on” the same in Turkenfeld, “Come on Come on Drive on, Lots of Downhill”. I was about 5km from Moorenweis, it was time to attack this climb, time to go and time to make it count.
I distanced Norbert instantly. I continued to work hard, only 80km to go. The gap would reduce slightly, but I knew the guys had to be working hard to close it so I was quite relaxed in the knowledge that if they got a little closer, there was more in the tank. However, I did question myself a little after going over the top in Moorenweis. Had I attacked too early? I was telling myself to drive on, keep moving forward, don’t let him catch you, don’t let him even catch sight of you. The more of a gap I could put in now, the harder it would be for the other guys to have enough time to catch me.
I got to really enjoy the last section to Garmisch Partenkerchen with the crew. They were amazing the whole way through. They pressed all the right buttons. Every time I needed encouragement or a shot of reality, they knew what to say. These guys know me better than I know myself!
Knowledge is a great thing and as a team, we learned more last year from not finishing. Everything was reviewed in minute detail. Every aspect of the race was improved upon this year.
Dieter Gopfert, the race director was at the finish to greet me along with the 4 man and 2 man teams who finished earlier. There is an amazing sense of achievement. It also qualifies me for Race Across America. Pleasantly happy sums up my mood at the finish, just really really happy.
Finally, a big thank you for all the support guys. I’ll get around to all of you in person hopefully sooner rather than later to say as much, it means a lot!
It’s back to the day job for now, bike tours in Lanzarote with Bueno Bike Lanzarote.
When is the next race?
I’d love to say, yes, the next race is ….. but the reality is I need sponsors to come on board. I have a wonderful circle of friends who put a lot of money in the pot for this race and I will be forever grateful for their generosity.
What we do know is that we can be competitive and take on the very best ultra cyclists in the world!
What type of support do you need?
Every event costs between €4,000 and up to €50,000 in the case of Race Across America. I need sponsors who can cover costs or provide us with product-in-kind for any one or more of the following;
- race entry
- navigation and communication equipment
- vehicle hire and fuel
If you know of any companies who would make a “good fit” with what we are trying to achieve, please put them in contact with us, we would be more than happy to sit down and have a chat about it.