Oven, shower, sauna. This is how I could sum up the three laps of the Nürburgring I rode on 28 July. When I was standing at the start line, my Garmin said it was 34 °C. Although I’m not exactly a fan of high temperatures, I can handle heat fairly well during exercise if I hydrate enough, and in the months leading up to Rad am Ring, us Central Europeans had enough time to get used to the heat.
At the start line, I was completely relaxed and really looking forward to the race. Having completed the same distance at Rad am Ring in 2016 and 2017, I knew that this course with its about 500 vertical metres per lap was right up my alley. There’s nowhere where I feel more at ease riding my road bike than at the Nürburgring. Not needing to watch out for refuge islands, potholes etc. and being able to concentrate on myself and the other participants makes me feel extremely safe. In addition, the track is very wide everywhere and you can always see what lies ahead.
Because of the high temperatures, my tactic was to take it easy at the beginning and see if I still had anything left in the tank at the end. I’m well aware that this isn’t the kind of tactic you should use if you want to get the best possible result – but if you’re like me and above all want to have fun and feel good, you should adopt this tactic some time 😉 I lack the talent and fitness to finish among the very best anyway – that’s why I’d rather lose a couple of minutes at the beginning and ride within myself than be stressed out right from the start. I even chose to start in the second wave instead of the first one where the faster cyclists are allowed to start.
One thing I could be happy about during the race was the fact that the Hohe Acht climb four kilometres long with a maximum gradient of 18 %) had never felt so short and gentle. I was really surprised when I reached the top and the steepest part of the course was behind me already. Compared to last year’s Rad am Ring, I gained about three to four kilogrammes because I’ve been doing strength training consistently and eating more protein. The larger muscle mass helps me a lot on the flats, but I wasn’t sure if it might have negative effects on climbs. Luckily, it doesn’t.
Looking at my Garmin after the first lap, I knew that this was my fastest lap of the Nürburgring, and I was still feeling fresh. Last year, I was already suffering a lot at this point in the race even though I was slower. Things were looking good for the second lap! I approached it in the same way as the first lap – listen to my body and not overexert myself.
While it had been over 30 °C at the start and at the beginning of the first lap, it then started to rain. The track was wet, all participants were wet, but although I might not look happy in the picture, I actually didn’t mind the air cooling down a bit. I was even a little bit more careful on the descents than usual, but my brakes were working well in the wet and I had enough grip.
At the end of the second lap, I was still feeling good. I’d already emptied both my bottles, however, and since the sun was shining again and the Nürburgring now felt like a sauna, I definitely wanted to hydrate on the third lap. I’ve collapsed several times while exercising because I hadn’t drunk enough water, and I wasn’t keen on passing out somewhere on the race track. Fortunately, there are aid stations both at the bottom and at the top of the Hohe Acht, and I got some water at both of them.
By the way, when I wanted to throw the plastic cup into the trash can at the bottom of the climb without stopping, I clearly proved why I always came last in every single athletics throwing event. For one thing, I missed the can, and for another, I made a not so elegant swerve while throwing.
After that, my competitive spirit got the better of me, and I wanted to give it my all on the last part of the third lap. Climbing the Hohe Acht for the third time, I went all out – as you can see in the picture. At the top, I had my bottle refilled. The volunteers were super quick – thanks so much for that!
All I wanted to do then was to cross the finish line as soon as possible. Out of the corner of my eye, I’d seen that some female riders I’d passed on the climb passed me while I was at the aid station, and now I had a goal: catch up with these riders again. I didn’t even know whether these women were participating in the same event as I was (all riders, no matter if they’d entered the 75-kilometre, 150-kilometre or 24-hour race, were on the course at the same time), but having a goal always helps. And I reached that goal too. At the Döttinger Höhe, one of the few flattish sections of the race track, I still had so much power that I managed to pass some riders. Unfortunately, none of the fast riders taking part in the 24-hour or 150-kilometre event, who had kept flying past me throughout the race, were in sight there, so I couldn’t slipstream.
In the end, I crossed the finish line after 2:45:58 and came 19th out of 63 women. That meant I was a couple of minutes faster than last year, but suffered a lot less. Last year, I was already pretty exhausted after the first lap, but this year, I felt really fit at all times. The top ten riders were on a completely different level, but you don’t have to be close to the podium to have fun at a race 😉
Photos 1, 2, 3, 4: © Sportograf