by Karen Poole
After experiences of World Masters Orienteering and World Age Group Triathlon in 2011, I decided that 2012 would be a year of cycling, with one of my major targets being the World Masters races in St Johann. And here I am!
Saturday proved to be an interesting day. All afternoon we had watched the clouds building just down the valley as I registered, went grocery shopping and built my bike. I didn’t want to go into the first race without riding my bike at all, so we set off to go and ride the first hill of the road race course at about 17:30. As we crested the brow of hill, spots of rain started falling on the road, and we thought it would be sensible to turn round and get back before the worst of the storm hit. Of course, that took us straight into the worst of the conditions, and worst they certainly were. I don’t think I have ever seen a storm so bad, let alone been out on my road bike with deep rimmed wheels in one. Hailstones were bouncing off my helmet and on several occasions I was nearly blown off into the middle of the road. I fared slightly better than a Brazilian rider who did end up in the barrier on the other side of the road!
We got home safely, only to find that the storm had blown the electrics – not just in our block but across the whole town. The opening ceremony was postponed and restaurants who were lucky enough to have gas cookers were serving hungry cyclists by candlelight. Not the perfect race prep!
Sunday dawned, and the weather had calmed down a little, but there was still (a lot of) rain in the sky. The race today was one lap of a 40km circuit that took in the climb of Huberhohe and another pull up into the village of Schwent. I was racing in the Women’s 30-39 race against 15 other entrants (although 5 of them had been put off by the weather). We rolled across the start line at 13:10, and within 2 km were heading up Huberhohe. Having ridden it yesterday, I knew it was a series of short steep sections with flatter gradients between each. I had decided my tactics for the race were to sit in and go with others’ pace. One of the girls did push on, so very quickly we were a leading group of 6, and it stayed that way up the climb into Schwent and back up the valley towards the finish. It was raced in a very polite manner – we all took our turns setting the pace at the front and kept the pace high. It was an enjoyable experience compared to the way some British races are raced. On the run in to the finish I had started to plan how I might win the race. I decided to rely on my sprint finish being as good as the other girls, so sat back a bit in the last couple of kilometers to let the others lead out. And lead out they certainly did, with quite a turn of speed that I struggled to match. I ended up finishing 6th, but was just really happy to have held the leaders and be there to compete for the win.