The end of the world?
It all began in the middle of August. More than 4000 cyclists are putting the finishing touches to the Ötztal cycling marathon in early September. All riders are focused on their preparation. Their mental horizon ends at the same time as the start of the race. As if it were the end of the world.
It was a warm summer day in Tyrol. I just drove from Kühtai towards Sölden. Then I got a message from Tina: “Hi Lisa, we are still missing the fourth lady in our team for the BMW team time trial in mid-September. Do you feel like it?” Suddenly I was ripped out of my trance: There is a life after that, a life after the Ötztaler! But which cyclist could tell if he still wants to compete after an Ötztaler? Never before in my life had I taken part in a team time trial. First of all I had been at the start of an individual time trial. I felt how enthusiasm flooded my thoughts. Four ladies together on four racing machines? Women’s power in cycling! That sounds like fun! Plenty of arguments. And true to the motto: “out of the comfort zone”, I agreed briefly and painlessly.
Keep it slowly with the young unicorns
In my enthusiasm, I had not at first examined the key data of the time trial in more detail. It wasn’t until the beginning of September, when the Ötztal was history for another year, that I started to assess what awaited me. Soberly I stated: There were several unknowns in the equation. In a team time trial, four “men” – in our case, of course, women – have to harmonize as a team. I had never met any of the other three women in person. I had already had contact with Tina online several times. I knew her voice from the phone and we were very likeable. Kathrin was only known to me from the STRAVA platform and Moni was a blank page for me. According to Tina, our performances on the bike should be in a similar class, which is the basic prerequisite for good teamwork. I also knew the race only by name. The organizer of the time trial is my club, the BMW Cycling Department of the BMW Sport Association. The BMW team time trial in the foursome has more than 40 years of tradition on the BMW Group test railings. The BMW test track in Aschheim near Munich is normally closed off and not freely accessible. There is a strict ban on photography and video for visitors. Once a year the test track is cleared for bicycles. I looked at the announcement in the Internet on the side of my association. The track consists of nine laps on the test track. The total length is 70 kilometres! When I read this, I swallowed. That means a driving time of far more than one hour. With normal racing bikes it’s already two hours in the direction. That can’t be handled with “eyes closed and through”. That has to be clocked and timed. Otherwise you lose your strength towards the end of the race.
The correct number of bikes is n+1
In the time trial, two things are decisive for victory or defeat: the performance of a driver and his aerodynamics. You can’t change much about the power a few days before a competition. With aerodynamics, on the other hand, you’ve quickly turned the adjusting screws. The magic word here is “material”. I own several bikes, but I don’t have a time trial bike. I don’t have aerobars and I’ve never ridden with them before. So shortly before a competition I wouldn’t have time to practice with an attachment, not to mention to find the right setting for a modification of a racing bike. With a bad position on the bike, I wouldn’t be able to get enough power. The unfamiliar handling of aerobars during a braking process would be dangerous when riding in the slipstream. Like me, Tina only had her ordinary racing bike and no experience with aerobars. As we didn’t want to risk any danger of falling, we decided against an attachment. Kathi, on the other hand, had a bike with aerobars and Moni as a triathlete even had a fully equipped time trial bike with a disc wheel. So we had to lower our expectations. There was no test run in full occupation for us. But with the motto we were already in harmony: have fun and show women’s power.
The weather is perfect: sunshine, not too hot and very important: only light wind. The first meeting takes place on the BMW test site: the chemistry is right. After a short break-in and the official driver’s briefing, we roll to the start together. The teams start at intervals of 2 minutes. The team members stand next to each other at the starting line. It’s a feeling like on the first day of school. Theoretically everything has already been chewed through, but practically you have no idea what to expect. The starting signal is given. We start sprinting and immediately go in formation: Moni in front, followed by Kathi, then Tina and I form the rearguard. The first two laps I slowly approach the procedure. It works surprisingly well. An official photographer set up his camera in the second corner. Still there is a smile for the photo. The legs kick without ceasing: beat, beat, beat. The nerves are tense and I am highly concentrated. We drive close to each other. A fall happened easily, only a second of inattentiveness is enough. The slipstream when changing is quickly missed. I feel very good. In lap five I decide to put on a tooth. As soon as I ride in the wind at the front, I increase our speed as gently as possible so that our team doesn’t tear apart. Many other teams are already on their way in threes. Whoever falls out has to drive to the finish without his team and is out of the race. After all, it’s “final lap” for us. Each of us gives everything. On the last meters I lead and accelerate. All out! At 47 km/h we cross the finish line! The feeling: indescribably happy!
2nd place in the women’s teams with an average speed of 39.8 km/h was our result in the end. We didn’t expect that. That’s women’s power!