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Trans Germany Part 1

By June 27, 2012March 22nd, 2017No Comments

“You CHOSE to do this. You wanted this.” I had to repeat the words over and over to myself over the course of the 4 day stage race. I thought it’d be a great idea to race the Trans Germany because it was something different. After I signed up and started looking for beta, I heard that it was a dirt road and pavement race on a mountain bike, something I detest and avoid. I also avoid it because I’m not very good at it. My true love is with singletrack and great adventure. An aggro European stage race on roads seemed soooo not like me. Why would I even want to show up for something like that? “You wanted to race in Europe, you knew it would be like this. You know that this exposes all of your weaknesses. You must embrace your decision.”  I felt extremely fortunate to race my bike in Europe.  It just sounds so damn cool.

I’ll admit, normally I gravitate towards things I’m good at… This year, I am forcing myself to put my weaknesses in front of my face and in front of my coach, Jason’s, face. I don’t like to focus on what I’m not good at, but it’s necessary. It makes me feel raw and exposed. Improvement means accepting places where I need some help instead of hiding from it. Improvement means doing things that expose my shortcomings for what they are so I can try to overcome them. Sure, that sounds beautiful and poetic. In real life? It’s not that great. It is frustrating, upsetting, and sometimes even a test of self-worth.

Our motto in band in high school (yes, snicker at me. I was a band nerd, and probably one of the nerdiest kids of the band nerds. Wow, digest that whopper! I’m proud of it… it’s part of the reason I’m who I am today. Music is such an important part of my life)… anyway, I digress- our motto: it was “Attitude is everything.” I used to roll my eyes in my 16 year old head at it, but now it’s more important to me than ever. I am normally a positive energetic person and a good attitude comes naturally. The Trans Germany broke me.

Stage 1: Sonthofen to Pfronten

After spending a couple days in the South of Germany near Kempten near my friend Markus(thanks for taking care of me, Markus!), I headed to the start in Sonthofen. I had seen mere glimpses of the sun over the past week, a shock to me, the girl who grew up with 330 days of sunshine a year. I was surprised that the weather was also cold. It was raining a little bit at the start as I looked around at riders starting to pile in. I met a rider on the Ergon 24 team in Europe name Nadine Rieder. It was nice to have at least one person I kind of knew in the race. There were about 1000 riders. I got to the start 30 minutes early thinking that’d be plenty of time.


Photo: Sportograf

There were a couple pre-organized starting blocks. The first one had about 300 riders. Even lining up 30 minutes early, I was almost in the back of my group. I had no idea what to expect, and didn’t know anyone around me. As you may guess, the start was furious and sketchy. 1000 over-eager riders hammering in a large pack in the rain. The first turn led us up one of many steep hills that day. We were slamming on the brakes and came to a complete stop to wait for the group to funnel onto a “road” which was the width of a bike path!

Photo: Cyclefilm


Photo: Sportograf

Stage 1 was the hardest on paper. It was 44 miles and 10,000′ of elevation gain. I was pinned the whole time (my AVERAGE heart rate for 4 hours was 180). People were extremely aggressive and I really gave it my all. Although 90% of the course was gravel road and paved narrow roads, it was very crowded. Guys were throwing elbows. I know I was being overdramatic in my head, but it almost felt like everyone hated me.  Obviously not true, but it was the general vibe of the stage – pure battle.   I would always see a wheel in my peripheral vision right next to me, fighting. Even if there was a wide berth to pass, they would come by as close as possible. It was incredibly frustrating for me simply because it was very different from what I’m used to. This is how it is in Europe. Some guys were so sketchy that I thought for sure I was going to crash.


Photo: Sportograf

Each climb hurt badly and was extremely steep. I was impressed with the strength and will of the riders around me…they wanted it, BAD. Our CO climbs are long and sustained. German climbs? Short and a major punch in the gut. 20% grade roads…one after another. The scenery was beautifully lush and green. It reminded me of riding in Oregon.


Photo: Sportograf

I gave Stage 1 my all, and I came in 18th place. Whoa, that was a shock for me. My worse stage finish at a race ever, and probably one of my hardest and most painful sustained efforts. I reminded myself that this race exposed my vulnerabilities, but it was still hard to swallow. My best was very mediocre.


Photo: Sportografsportograf-28632227

Photo: Sportograf

I quickly learned that the Trans Germany was a test of pure pain and pure fitness. Technical ability and mountain riding were not part of the gig- aspects I love, the reason I race my bike. How fast can you ride up a climb? How aggressive can you be? How badly do you want it? How sharp are your elbows? I intentionally elbowed someone just once and it didn’t feel good. That’s not for me. Compared to the European riders, I realized that I didn’t want it nearly as bad as they did and I didn’t know why. I felt uninspired and was frustrated with myself for my poor attitude. I emailed my best friend and teammate, Jeff Kerkove. I told him how I was feeling and he said, “What did you expect? You’ve raced in Europe before, you know that’s how it is. It’s about speed, not necessarily about the quality of mountain biking. Try to focus on the experience.” That was great advice. I tried my hardest to focus on the experience instead of the result. Of course…the experience. That’s how I race nearly every race, but I had lost sight of that in only a day racing in Europe. I had somehow lost sight of why I ride my bike.


Photo: Sportograf

Stage 2 Pfronten – Lermoos

I told myself it was a new day, and I’d get a closer look at the Alps. Wonderful!! It had some of the most beautiful riding of the whole race, and the sun was even out. There were fields of wildflowers and jagged mountains.


Photo: Sportograf

Despite the beauty, it was one of my most frustrating days on a bike. I had never wanted to quit something so bad. I wanted to turn around, get on the next train to Frankfurt and fly home. I fought a mental battle with myself between trying to enjoy the moment for what it is, WHERE I was, to not harshly judge myself, to not give up vs. being completely horrible and negative. I was so blown from Stage 1 that I had nothing for Stage 2.   Light pressure on the pedals was debilitating.   My max effort was very slow and I could barely even ride with a zone 2 heart rate at max effort, I sucked!  I got passed by hundreds of people. Literally….hundreds. I was beat down, demoralized, and there was more heinous road climbing in front of me. Stage 2 was 48 miles and 7500′ of climbing. I told myself it’d get better, and it did; 3 hours later. My legs switched on (this phenomena had happened quite often 2 years ago in almost every race I did. It was a consequence of pure fatigue, or blowing up at the start. In this case, it was pure fatigue for my lack of tact during Stage 1. I was blown). I passed a ton of people on the last climb and fought my way to 16th place and for the last hour of the race, I had a great time! 16th place – turning the other cheek for a slap in the face with mediocrity. The challenge was accepting it. I said, “This is where I am at. There is nothing wrong with it. I did the best I could.” I’m your classic over-achiever, so this was difficult for me.


Photo: Sportografsportograf-28613823

Photo: Sportografsportograf-28628805

Photo: Sportograf

I also was having to stop at the aide stations and fill my bottles with water. Not that big of a deal since I wasn’t in the top 5, but still annoying when racing in such a stacked pro field. Nadine’s mom was there supporting Nadine and was able to hand me some bottles some of the days which was very helpful!  I was really impressed with the pure strength of the women riding in my field. There were also a few women around me who were especially combative for the first hour, and then would fade. I ended up making a few friends on the second day. There were a couple of guys I was riding with and they said nice things to me. I really appreciated it. The general vibe I got from the race was very different from any stage race I had done. It was probably a combination of the language barrier and the fact that I didn’t know anyone, but it seemed that people kept to themselves for the most part. There was no close “community” or camaraderie I had experienced in non-European stage races. Maybe it was me? I didn’t know. I just knew that I felt lonely, an emotion that doesn’t hit me often.

The set up was such that almost everyone stayed in hotels. I booked mine online with pretty minimal information and hoped for the best! At the finish, there would be an info booth and they’d circle where your hotel was on a map, and then you got to test your navigational skills! The evening of Stage 2 was the best for me. I decided to assert myself and made friends with some people on the Black Tusk Racing Team, a big, fast German team.  I had dinner and gelato with them, and it felt nice to have someone to talk to. I really appreciated that!

I struggled to ride my own race in the days following. I tried to pretend I was by myself and there weren’t people clawing at me every second. The rainy weather got worse and I struggled so that my attitude would not follow. I told myself that Stage 3 would be better. It was!


Photo: Sportograf

Bulls Bikes helped me get my bike washed every day. THANK YOU!!!!

Photo: Cyclefilm

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