20 July 2008

Krasna Lipa, a fine race.

Just like all good plans, they are good till the next plan comes along. My plan for the month included the Giro Donne, one of my more favourite races on the Women’s circuit, but like all good ideas, it had to change. The Girls had decided to add another race to their already busy season, Krasna Lipa in the Czech Republic, and I was the lucky one chosen to work it. I had a double roll for the first few days, mechanic for the week as usual, and director for a couple of days. Krasna Lipa is just over the German Border in Czech, so it was not a very long trip. I have not been down here for a couple of years, and believe me I did not miss the place (I almost lost a few fingers here during a race once). The roads were bad, the weather normally pretty bad, the food is pretty backward, and the hotels are probably the worst we have all year. Arriving at our accommodation, my worst fears were realised. The hotel was an old school from about the 50’s, the place was a mess as they were halfway through renovations, though you couldn’t tell. It reminded me of going back to school, when they shipped you of to some dodgy camp somewhere in the countryside to get rid of you for the week. But this was much worse, at least you didn’t care so much as a kid. The car park had huge holes, filled with septic water as well, perfect as I stepped out of the van and my foot was submerged in stagnant water, what a great start to the week.

Mara on the podium, Angela Hening on the left, and Trixi Worrack on the right.

We had a small team for the week, as most of the girls were racing in Italy in the Giro. My team was looking good though compared to some of the competition, most of them from the east I had never heard of, so that was always good. Racing this time around was Luise Keller, Madeline Sandig, Emilia Fahlin, Anke Wickman and Mara Abbot. After collecting the numbers and race books, I had a bit of work to do before the race started, so I started to get organised. Working out of such a small van for the week, means I needed to have everything well organised. And organised it need to be as I had the extra job of directing for the first two days, so my time was very precious. A few hours out of my day was not what I needed, but that’s life sometimes. And getting the team signed in was the easy part, all the official bullshit that goes with it, meeting the race organiser, and the UCI officials, it all took ages, as all I was thinking was organisation for the morning. A race meeting for all the managers, UCI and all race officials was smack dab in the middle of the morning, all my work would have to be done as the race starts just after midday. The meeting was a drag as usual, getting introduced to every Mayor and city official for miles around. And then listening to a whole lot of stuff not really of any interest to the race, but it makes the locals feel real important I suppose, and without them, there would be no race. It dragged on, as they translated everything from Czech, to German, then to English. At least I had all the bikes almost ready to roll, a late night, and an early morning saw to that, but the meeting was still a drag, give me the unglamorous life of a mechanic, any day.

Stage one was about to start, a short stage of about 112km for the day, but there were some pretty nasty climbs, and some very narrow, dodgy downhills. I had the bikes ready, now for a small meeting with the girls, then off to the race. I had drew car 6, so at least I could see something if the radio was not so forthcoming with info, my Czech was not so good, so I needed all the help I could get. The plan was to attack on the last hill, with 10 km to the finish, it sounded good on paper. Directing and doing mechanics by myself is fine, that is until there is a problem, and with the rain and about a million rail crossings, there was plenty of problems out on the road, I was waiting for ours. And, as you could guess, not more than 40km into the race, after about 20 other call-ups, it was my turn. But like a hardened professional, I changed the wheel and was back in the race with in a minute or so. Emilia raced back to the bunch, and it was like it never happened, I hoped it was the last. Well the plan worked fine, in the last climb, Mara attacked like hell, she caught the bunch by surprise, and managed to hold them off all the way to the finish. A nice win for the team, a nice win for me, and the yellow jersey (my first one as director, shame it was in such a shit race).

Another beautiful day in the rain.

The next day we had a few plans, first was to protect the jersey as much as possible, and maybe even win another stage. The course was pretty lumpy, with some pretty nasty climbs towards the middle and end of the stage. The team was feeling great, the bikes were clean from the shit weather from the day before. We were quite lucky with only one defect, as most of the teams had multiple problems, with no rain, things were going to be a bit easier. Mara was looking pretty fine in the Yellow jersey, and Luise had the blue jersey as well, so it was going to be hard to spot them, (it was hard enough with a change of uniform anyway). But the race was underway, and the course was unrelenting, causing the peloton to split right from the start. But Mara and Luise were right up there, looking to take their chances on the last climb. With 20km to go, Marianne Vos attacked, Mara hung on to her wheel and they both left the main peloton. With in a few minutes they had a good lead, the bunch was still chasing, and the gap was increasing. Mara had the best time on GC, so her instructions were to sit on, but Vos was not riding so much, so we had to react. The plan was to try and distance the current TT world Champ Hunka, and it was working fine, but Mara had to ride a bit. By the time I raced up to have a look at the two, it was 10km to go, Mara was doing all the work, with Marianne just sitting on. As we came into the finish chute, Vos attacked at about 20m from the line, and just seemed to roll past Mara for the win, it was too easy for her. But we still had the jersey, and managed to take more time out of Hunka, ready for the next days double stage.

Luise in the blue jersey before stage #2 start.

By now I had some help turn up, with Petra arriving to direct for the last three stages. Which was just in time for my favourite double stage, TT in the morning in Poland and a road race in the afternoon back in Czech Republic. The TT was about 20km, so it was going to be hard to keep the jersey after today. Mara was not so strong in TT’s, so heading off last was going to be tough for her, especially with some times of the faster girls would already be known. And as expected, we lost the jersey, Vos ended up winning, which was a surprise when she beat Hunka. Mara was still in 2nd, with a minute so it was still good. Luise did super well, still in the top ten, and still both in contention for the tour win. But the afternoons small stage, split Mara from a fast little bunch, dropping her back to 3rd behind Vos. Luise was still 8th, so all was not last yet, but Vos is pretty strong, an she was going to give it all the last stage.

Out on the road, Luise coming close to the finish, Mara just setting out.

The last day was raining right from dawn, I hate that before a race, both for the girls and the bikes and it’s just not a good way to start the day. The rain just makes work hard, everything is wet, the bikes, the inside of the van, and the roads, it’s always dangerous out on the road, and there is always crashes. I was not looking forward to the race, but at least I would be dry in the car, until I had to jump out and save the day. And as I imagined, things got off to a rocky start, with breakaways happening all over the place. Vos wearing the yellow jersey punctured halfway through the stage, this was a signal to one of the team to attack (it’s pretty wrong to do that to the leader, but in Women’s cycling, they have no heart sometimes), and they attacked like hell as she was trying to latch on to the back of the bunch. Four got away, luckily for DSB they had one of their team members in, otherwise they would have lost everything. After a bit of fighting in the team cars, seems DSB took offence to the dirty tactics and started to tell the team who initiated the attacks that he wasn’t very happy. I was killing myself, as they both came to me looking for sympathy, they got none. Four were away, and they were making some serious time on the bunch, then there was another attack, with Luise and Mara in it, so we were ok for a while. The race had about 40km to go, and things were looking bad for Vos, her team mate was the best on GC in the leading group, so they had lost nothing really, just a change of leader.

Waiting for the train, 10km to go, last stage.

With the rain still pissing down, there were girls down almost every corner. Now Czech cars are pretty dodgy, so the amount of diesel they deposit on the road is a problem in the rain, as many girls found out. I was hold my fingers crossed, and Petra in the front was keeping hr legs crossed, she was dieing for a piss. We found a good spot, and left the girls to it for a bit, bad mistake. The moment we got back on the road e saw a few cars stopped up ahead, and you wouldn’t guess it, but it was Mara, who just slid on her ass across the road, lucky it was raining I suppose. She was ok, and continued on, our 3rd place gone, but we still had Luise up the road, there was some hope. After the crash of Mara, the small break slowed down, and by the time that we arrived, they were back in the bunch. We carried on till the end, watching the odd girl slip out on every corner, man I hate this place in the rain. Not far from the finish the bunch was stopped by the rail barriers, some 20 girls decided they could easily go around them. The jury didn’t like it and disqualified them as they passed over the finish line, I suppose after passing over so many during the week, they thought the last one was ok as well. Vos’s DSB team mate, Angela Henning ended up winning the tour, Luise end up 7th overall, Mara had a sore ass, and the rest of the gang were safe. I was packed in under an hour, and was on the road shortly after. Another successful few days, my first yellow jersey (there will be more in the future, don’t worry), and another stage win for the team. Nice for my last race with the Women’s team for the season, next up Tour of Denmark with the men. A nice tour, and a chance to see more of a country we don’t race so much in.

More photo’s of the race can be found here.

1 comment:

Oli Brooke-White said...

Congratulations on your first win as a DS, Benny. Best regards, Oli