Stage 3 of the Trans Germany was much better! For one, we were in Austria with a full frontal view of the Alps. It was really beautiful. I wanted to hike my bike to the top of one, or even see if I could do the Trans Germany in 2 days instead of 4. Second, my legs were working. I felt good and powered up the climbs. The main difference between Stage 3 and the other stages were that the climbs were most like what I was used to – long and sustained instead of short and hellishly steep. Stage 3 was a day where I enjoyed being on my bike and nothing else mattered. We even got some sunshine! It was also different because I had changed my attitude.
Stage 4 was another story. Each day, I lined up 30 minutes early only scoring a spot in the middle of my start block. Each start was fiendish, so it didn’t really matter where I started because I was going for the “safety first” motto. It started raining about an hour before the start of Stage 4 where we’d head to Garmisch for the finish. Everyone still lined up early. Some people had umbrellas. I stood out in the rain, but didn’t want to put on my rain jacket just yet because it’d be hot once we got going. There were a couple of guys with an umbrella next to me and I tried to huddle in next to them. The start was the most dangerous with squealing brakes, people riding on sidewalks to get around, and lots of near crashes. In my mind, I kept thinking, “This is SO stupid.” I let people rage in front of me. It wasn’t worth getting mixed up in a crash, especially for 16th or 17th place. That ended up being the theme of the day. I knew that my GC spot wasn’t going to change unless I felt like a rock star. I was 5 minutes out of the place in front of me, but that girl was long gone, and I was 30 minutes ahead of the girl behind me. I guess I was the slowest of the first group. I gave it a shot for awhile, but the rain was pouring down. Normally rain doesn’t but me, but drafting in rain does! Stage 4 was also the most important day for drafting with the least amount of climbing by a long shot. I tried to draft in large packs of guys, but the amount of water and dirt spraying in my eyes made it completely miserable and almost impossible to see. Again, I didn’t want to risk getting hurt. I decided it wasn’t worth it. I pulled off, put on my gortex jacket, and rode out the rest of the race by myself at an almost leisurely pace. I didn’t have what it took to do well that day. I didn’t want to suffer, to get dirt and water sprayed in my face for a mediocre placing that wouldn’t change regardless if I put up with it or not, and I simply wanted to get to that finish line in Garmisch. I’ve raced for aggressively for days in the rain, but this time I lacked the heart. What was up with that?!
Trying to draft in the rain! Image: Sportograf
Maybe I’m just a loner. Image: Sportograf
I was so happy to see the finish line in the pouring rain that day. I felt an accomplishment getting my finishers jersey because getting through the race was a mental battle for me. It was a harder mental battle than the Yak Attack because what I lacked at the Trans Germany was desire and passion. That’s a very dangerous thing. It’s the hardest to push yourself to completion when you aren’t feeling it, but I am no quitter, and I got to that finish line. My friend Henri from BIKE picked me up and we headed to Munich where he lives. Henri was the German journalist at the Yak Attack and he and his wife generously had me stay with them. Like me, he hungers for epic adventure in racing. We chatted about some potential ideas for the future that would better suit my passion. I had a fantastic time in Munich and Heidelberg in the days following before going home. I’ll be writing about that next, and I better hurry because I’m off to Canada tomorrow to start the BC Bike Race (start is Sunday). It’s just what the doc ordered – 7 days of some of the best singletrack on the planet. The only problem is I’m not riding the ideal bike(that’s another story), but I’m going to ride the hell out of my 26″ 100mm hardtail in BC. That bike’s new nickname is Old Faithful. It’s been through hell and all conditions with me. Honey Badger don’t give a shit, but my back might. I digress.
Going back to my first paragraph about Trans Germany: about doing races that expose weaknesses(like road riding!!!), or simply taylor to what I don’t particularly enjoy about bike racing… Yes, it’s hard. It’s hard to wonder what is wrong with me when I don’t want to fight. When someone passes me and it only bothers me a little bit and I let them go. It makes me wonder why I’m racing. I questioned myself. I was also upset with myself because I was SO lucky to be there living the dream and racing in Europe, but had a mostly bad attitude. I was super lame. I thought about it for a long time and it further defined my purpose on a bike.
-I’m not as competitive as I think. If I can let people go by and not care because the course doesn’t inspire me, maybe it’s not about the competition at all. It’s about the difficulty of the course. It’s kind of disgusting that I’m disappointed if there isn’t a heinous hike a bike to the top of a peak. haha! Maybe the Yak Attack was life changing after all… perhaps it has pinpointed what I search for by racing my bike. Now I need to figure out WHY.
-I AM inspired by a different kind of challenge. The Trans Germany is no doubt a challenge, but in a different way. The race was well organized with real time accurate results and healthy competition. It wasn’t that the race was bad, it was me. My European teammate, Alban Lakata said last year in regards to European racing, “It’s not necessarily about how epic the course is, it’s about how fast you can ride it.” I don’t think I care very much about being ultra fast. I care about something else that I’m still trying to define. I want to be reasonably fast(who doesn’t), but I’d rather be stunned by what I’m doing. I’d rather do something that not many would dare to attempt. I want to do something on my bike that makes me a better person in life, and most races I chose do that. Maybe the Yak Attack has changed me in that way. I have a new baseline for what I consider “stunning.” This may actually be a bad thing. I am more inspired by things more epic and remote. Things like Colorado Trail Race, Yak Attack, and races that are on a trail deep in the backcountry… or simply, races that are mostly singletrack like the Park City Point2Point. Races that are long and difficult, that aren’t about pure horsepower, and that are long enough where anything can happen. I haven’t examined why that’s so just yet, but those races inspire me and it isn’t really about the competition or who is there. It’s about personal challenge and in some ways, survival. I am not sure right now why I now need that. I think that’s why I quit XC racing 3 years ago as well. I thirst for the adventure. That also makes me question if I even need to “race” at all. Why don’t I just go out and tackle some crazy idea in the mountains on my own or with a partner? Why do I NEED that number plate on my bike?
-It’s ok to question things. I felt guilty for how I felt. I realized I’m in it for so much more than seeing how “fast” I am, or how I compare to other people. I hardly care right now how fast I am compared to someone else. That may sound shocking coming from a racer. I just care that I’m having fun and that I’m staying true to myself. I had fun during Stage 3 and felt good. My result was 16th place, and I didn’t care! Why was that day so different?
-I am signed up for Leadville 100. It goes against all my principles… but I hope that for that one day, I do care. I am doing it to support my sport. Again, that’s a whole other topic.
-The Trans Germany is a beautiful race with a real challenge. It just depends on what type of challenge you personally want. I’m glad I did it because it made me feel raw and exposed. It made me take a look at myself, say “Ok, what is going on with you?” and at least try to hash out what was going on in my head. Even if I had won the Trans Germany, I think I’d still feel the same way. It’s a completely different experience from US Racing…if you want a taste of European stage racing, definitely check it out! You’ll never know what you might find out about yourself!
Thanks for listening!
Next up: a taste of German culture!! After that – BC Bike Race coverage!