11 May 2010

MOB wins 219 km Brevet in record distance of 261 km (and finishes last time-wise)

I have to say that I am mighty impressed by all recent posts about long rides to the West of Tokyo. Everybody is in very good shape and will set no record times for Itoigawa. Not that I could write about similar adventures yet, but as long as I haven't found a team in Bremen and established a blog in German I thought that I might as well post on the Positivo Espresso blog to give some insights into German cycling. Which is quite exotic. Last weekend I attend a 219km brevet (or bike marathon, as it was called).

I could leave the office comparatively early on Friday night and made my way to the local bike store at the edge of the town. There I could buy some parts to prepare myself for the brevet the next day. Most important; Watertight shoecovers, as spray rain was forecasted for all of the race day. I also bought a lock for my bike which looked as it has been milled out of a block of pure cryptonite. On the safety scale of the manufacturer from 1 to 10 it ranked on level 8, which I thought would be appropriate for Bremen. I wanted to confirm this at the counter and created great flabbergastation: "You want to leave your bike parked in the city with this lock? Are you completely out of your mind? Don't you know that the police recommends at least this type here?"

And with this words the salesman lifted something on the counter which seemed to be suitable to lock a Soviet attack tank to a blast furnace. It was not only heavier than my bike, but even hard to lift up from the counter. Lesson learned: Take the tram into the city.

I also bought a family-packages of Snickers, muesli bars, bread etc. as I was so afraid of getting a bonk due to the complete absence of convenience stores within continental boundaries.

I woke up in time and of course it was already raining. Neverthless I rode the bike out to the start. Finally, some "real" bikes were there, I noticed a Trek, some "Principia", but surprinsingly no Canyons or Red Bulls, the two biggest German direct mail order bike brands. I paid my 20 Euro registration fee and got a start number (Sekken) and wanted to fix them on my jacket. There was a basket with safety pins .... I should have taken a photo. While in Japan safety pins for pro bike use are maximum 2 cm long, made out of cross section-optimized lightweight steel and all of the same type, these safety pins were massive. I haven't seen these type of safety pins since Bill Grundy interviewed the Sex Pistols in 1976. If German bike locks couldn't stop a Soviet tank - these safety pins would.

Everybody was very nice. And very old as well. There were a lot of cakes, sausages, sandwiches and drinks perpared by some older ladies which all looked like my mum. This is in sharp contrast to Japan, where they all like like my mother in law.

Anyway, at sharply 9 AM the tour started and I made myself on the way with the first and stronger group. Most of the riders were my age but there were also some fast younger guys with us. There were also a lot of tatoos to be seen, mostly on the lower legs. And I was happy to note that the typical body shape of the riders were much more like the one of David, Jerome or me as opposed to the bodily hulls of Ludwig, Fumiki and Alan.

Now the pace was quite fast, always in the range of 35 to 40 km/hr except when there was a turn or a road to be crossed as we had to adjust to the local traffic. After a while we had a fast group of about 25 riders and we were riding in a very organized fashion, taking turns at the front. Every rider stayed in front of the peloton for about 3 to 4 minutes before he felt back and made place for the next rider. Very efficient and organized, very German indeed.
And within no time we came to the first check point after 50 km.

After having experienced this very controlled riding for more than an hour, I thought that the whole group would start together agin from the control point, but there was no organisation at all. Some guys started, others tried to hang on, some didn't and when we finally formed a group together again, we were only 18 riders left. Again the pace was quick and it was almost impossible to get back to the group once one has lost contact. At one point the front rider and me in second position went straight whereas the rest of the peloton made a right turn. When we found out we had a very hard time to close the gap again. It was strange to experience this difference between effective riding in the group and utterly chaos in group formation.

The second checkpoint was already at the 80 km mark and I utilized the time to clean my glasses. And when I put them on again I noted that most riders from the fast group had left already or where in the process. I hurried up to catch them and I was lucky, I thought when two other young riders from Hamburg University Cycling Team came from behind. Cool. I thought I can hang on to these guys and they will lead my back to the group. I am not exactly sure what has happened next, but they zoomed by at 60 km/hr and I had not even the slightest chance to stay in their draft. Now completely on my own I lost the contact with the group and could see them disappearing on the horizon.

Alone in the rain, without any draft I knew that the remain 140 km would be very much harder than the first 80 km. Luckily at the next light another rider who has lost contact closed up to me and we rode together, changing the positions every 5 to 10 minutes. Apart from the rain and the wind the ride was OK - there was not much to see and there was virtually 0 elevation meters to be made. Later, when I cheked the bike computer it had noted 227 m elevation diffference for much more than 200 km of riding. I guess that would be the same as riding 200 km on the Kawasaki Keirin bank. The Luenburger Heide, a natural reserve, we crossed, was a sandy, barren landscape. Parts of it were used by the British army for tank shooting practice.

So for the next 50 km I rode with this guy, older one, not very talkative. Then at 130 km we came to the next control point and the guy asked me if I wanted to east some hot soup which was served inside. Sure, I said and went inside. What he didn't say was that he didn't wanted to eat soup and bat wanted to go ahead, so when I came out again he was nowhere to be seen. Another group of riders was just incoming and wanted to take a soup break as well, so I thought,what the heck, I go on my own and when they overtake me I go with them.

That was a very bad idea. Becuase I thought that we would return the same route as we have come, but in fact there was a much shorter, official way back. So I tried to find the markers from the way out and had to stop quite frequently to check if I had not overseen a marker at a crossing which took quite some time. And there was no other rider on the road who could help. Of course I had no map as well. And after a while I got completly lost. No markers at all. And for the next two hours I rode in circles ... Wohnste, Klein Wohnste, Hesslingen, Zeven, villages no living sould has ever heard of and which I crossed multiple times. Until I gave up to find the markers and oriented myself on the markers of the Bremen-Hamburg-Cycling Road.

This would lead me back to Bremen, I thought rather naively. Well, there are plenty of markers but sometimes on crossings where one is desperately needed, there are none. So again I lost the way many, many times. Beside, as German cycling starts at tyre size 700C x 35 in general, some stretches of the cycling road were unpaved dirt roads leading through forrests as showned in the Brother Grimms. Scary, not a house in sight, only forrest and fields, no cyclists, no human souls at all, sometimes a raised hide for hunters on the edge of a clerarance .. is there someone inside watching? Aiming?

But slowly I was coming closer to Bremen. While I did the first 100 km in 2:51 minutes, the second hundred km almost took me more than 4 hours.
Finally I arrived at the oputskirts of the city. I navigated my way to the goal and made it barely before the cutoff time at 6 PM (or nine hours). Most of the riders had already left - the fast group came already in after 6 hours.
I set a new record: 261 km for a brevet of 219 km, I think that is not only a record distance-wise but also pretty stupid. And of course it is the result or riding unprepared. But on the other hand everybody was quite nice to me at the finish and I got some cake and sausages from my mums.

Summary: Nice to talk about later, but very, very hard while doing. I found some better looking stretches of road yesterday, but photos of the weekend tours on the PE blog made me very envious: blue skies, warmth, mountains .....
Lesson learned: If the sky is blue in the morning and the temperature warm, phone the offide and take a holiday. This will only happen once a month anyway. From May to September.

Sorry no photos.

Map of the ride.

4 comments:

James said...

Michael,

That was the perfect tonic this morning... laughed my arse off on the bit about the lock holding a Soviet attack tank to a blast furnace..... and then the bit about the safety pins.

Shame you got lost however and it will no doubt be echoed in my Itoigawa ride report.

Manfred von Holstein said...

What an experience... thanks for sharing! I'm certainly not envious - except maybe for the long summer evenings. But then these days having the Japanese day lasting until 18:30 already feels very nice!

Jimmy Shinagawa said...

I am pleased to hear that the Positivo Espresso (Bremen Chapter) has started off so splendidly. It will not be long now before you turn up to these rides and then decide to go somewhere completely different.

Looking forward to the photos of your PE calf tattoo. It may start a trend?

David L. said...

Looking forward to more stories of the German rides.

... and I happened to notice that the page you linked to had prominent mentions of the Transalp!