Chilling with Larry (Team Mechanic)
I'd been able to test ride the course in June so I knew what to expect: a reasonably 'flat' course but with lots of short climbs throughout the 107km. I've never raced on a course like it before so I was curious how I would find it. It couldn't have been more different to the course in Graz, Austria the previous year, which was mountainous and pretty technical in places.
Topeak Ergon Racing Team Expo Booth
I was able to train on the course in the days leading up to the race and this made me realise that the course was deceptively difficult. The accumulation of the short climbs would start to take its toll and there would be nowhere to rest. Unlike mountainous courses where it's possible to recover on the descents, there would be nowhere to recover on this course.
In total we had four Topeak Ergon Racing Team riders: Alban Lakata (Austria), Wolfram Kurschat (Germany), Sonya Loony (USA) and me. This was the first time that I had the opportunity to meet Sonya and it was her first race in Europe.
Pre-race warm up. Focused.
I am now getting much more experience at marathon racing and although I still get nervous, I am able to cope with it better, which is far more relaxing for me and for Dave!
I had a great start position (number 4), which put me on the front row. My plan was simple - stay at the front of the pack for as long as possible and preferably until the finish line ;0) I was tenth in Graz last year and obviously I would have liked to improved on this, but I was well aware that this might not be possible given the disruptions to my training this season.
The weather forecast was for rain during the race and given previous reports of the course turning into a mud bath I decided to run the Continental 2.4 X King on my front wheel. I've used this tyre a couple of times now this year and I really like it. It’s very fast rolling, like the race king, but it gives great grip in gravel corners and in mud.
The course started off on the athletic track, turned out of the stadium and up a short gravel climb. Everything was going perfectly until I flicked down into my small chain ring. Despite pedalling I seemed to be going backwards and all of the riders behind started to over take me. I could hear Dave shout "Go Surfa" (Surfa is my nickname :0) due to my previous life as a surfer). My chain had dropped off onto the inside of my crank. I thought I'd be able to flick back up into the big ring again and recover it, but to my horror it didn't work and I had to dismount and put the chain back on. Once I had remounted I was in last position and saw the whole field of riders disappear up the first climb. I went 'full gas' and didn't stop until I'd rejoined the front of the pack. I blew the doors off :) and needed to try and recover. Luckily the pace was comfortable for a while and I was able to ride at or near the front for the next 60 km.
Look carefully and you can see my leg as I dismount. Bad timing!
At about 65km there was an attack and I tried to go with it but I started to cramp. Was this really happening??!! I panicked because there was 30km between the 3rd and the 4th feed zones and I knew that I had a long way to go before I would get my next bottle. I had to reduce the pace in an effort to manage the cramp. When I finally reached the feed zone I was able to take two bottles.
Eventually I started to regain power and I was able to pull away from the group of 3 or 4 girls behind. The men started to overtake the women (they started 45 minutes later and rode exactly the same course) and eventually I heard Alban say “Good job Surfa” as he passed by. This made me smile ☺ He was in about 10th position and at least 2 minutes behind the lead group. Damn. I really wanted him to pass me first. Not long later bad luck struck once more when my chain came off again! They say bad things come in threes!! Kristine Noergaard (Denmark) was able to pull away from me and I was unable to close the gap. I crossed the line in 8th position.
World Marathon Champion :)
As always a HUGE thanks to all of our sponsors and our amazing Topeak Ergon Racing Team support crew, including Dirk Juckwer, Werner Faust, Lars Hartwich, Dave Padfield, Theresa Faust, and Anita Rienzner.
1 Esther Süss (Switzerland) 4:33:47
2 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 0:01:57
3 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 0:02:54
4 Elisabeth Brandau (Germany) 0:07:51
5 Birgit Söllner (Germany) 0:07:54
6 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) 0:08:12
7 Kristine Noergaard (Denmark) 0:08:59
8 Sally Bigham (Great Britain) 0:09:56
9 Erika Dicht (Switzerland) 0:11:34
10 Anna Villar Argente (Spain) 0:11:34
Full results can be found here