I arrived on Saturday to Innsbruck, Austria. The weather was perfect. As you get off the plane the view of the mountains is stunning. The mountains that provide the backdrop to the runway must be at least 10,000 feet high! It’s a relatively small airport so you actually deplane on the runway and walk to the terminal. The winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck twice; in 1964 and 1976 . You can view the ski lifts and the ski jump from the plane as you approach the airport.
My brother and his friend Grant Potter were already at the hotel but were out cycling. I had been up almost 27 hours and needed to crash. Went to bed around 5pm and woke up the next morning around 7am. Unfortunately, the weather turned bad and it was cold and rainy. The airline crushed Grants bike so we all rode to a bike shop where Grant bought a new bike. Although it was cold, we were so psyched up we rode the course a couple of times anyway.
World Cup Race
The next day was a World Cup race. It was a chance to ride with some of the competitors on the same course I would be facing in the Worlds two days later. The course is challenging with eight different hills which are 5-9% grade. Each lap is about 20 miles. We did two laps. The speed was fast, but I only hurt twice during the race. At the end of the race I was unaware of an 8-man break that had ridden off the front and thought I was sprinting with the bunch for the win. The cyclist directly in front of me overshot the last corner and almost crashed which caused me to slow down. You definitely don’t want to slow down anywhere near the finish line. I sprinted as hard as I could and finished 15th in the group.
By now, the quaint little town of St. Johann is over run with thousands of cyclists from all over the world. There is live entertainment every night in the town center and my room is almost right over the center. A little hard to sleep but the races don’t start until 1pm so I can sleep in until 9:30. Breakfast ends at 10am so I don’t want to miss that.
Wednesday is the time trial. Everything goes wrong. I ride my TT bike to the bike shop to adjust the shifting which the mechanic does. On the way to the course, my water bottle cage comes loose; I lose the screw that holds it on and have no place to carry it so I have to hide the cage in a bush. My front brake starts to screech really loud like a monkey. It hasn’t made a sound all week! As I step into the start house (which is the ramp they hold you on to start your race) a man points at my chain and it is about to come off. I try to put it back on but the entire drive train is stuck. I have 30 seconds to fix it, so the man helps me get it on. About 7 kilometers into the race, I shift, but my chain drops. I try to put it back on as I’m riding but the drive train is stuck again. I keep trying but resolve to the fact I’m going to have to stop. Once I slow and stop, I can’t get the darn drive train to move. I finally get it going, jump back on the bike only to have the chain drop again, however this time the chain is jammed between the small chain ring and the frame. I stop again and it takes both hands to yank the chain out. I’m now pissed off and full of grease. Jump on the bike and take off again, adrenaline pumping but now I’m just disgusted. Not the emotion I wanted to have as I approached the hardest part of the course; the hill right before the turnaround. I blow up on the hill, crawled through the turnaround and slowly got going again. I really just wanted to stop and throw my bike in a field!
The only redeeming event of the day was Grant got 7th place with a flying time of 25:28! The guy is at least 40-45 pounds heavier than anyone close to him. I don’t think he’s human.
That night we went to dinner with some American cyclists, Fred, Reno, Kenny Fuller and his girlfriend at a beautiful restaurant in the mountains with an incredible view. The weather was perfect and we were able to eat outside on the veranda. I’ve been racing with Kenny for years but never had the opportunity to hang with him. Incredible guy. He has been a National Champion 35 times, 2- time Olympian in 1972 and 1976, 4-time World Champion and is the most humble likeable guy you’d ever want to meet. He won the 20k time trial that day and set a new course record of 26:13 at 60 years old! WOW!
Road the World Championship road race today. Big pack, very aggressive and really fast. I tried to create a breakaway before the climb on the second lap but, no one else came and I couldn’t stay away alone. I paid for it on the climb but managed to stay with pack and moved up on the descent. An 8-man breakaway formed on lap two which I tried unsuccessfully to catch a couple of times. In the last few miles, four guys tried to bridge to the 8-man break. I thought they might have a chance so I busted my hump to bridge up to the four guys. That one hurt. They sat up because I ended up towing the entire pack to them. In the end the break stayed away. In the bunch sprint there was a crash in the straightaway. Luckily for me I finished safely in the pack.
All in all I rode 380 miles, climbed over 11,000 ft of which 40% of that was racing. It’s approximately an average of 60 miles a day, 1600 ft of climbing in 3.5 hours a day in a beautiful setting surrounded by 4000 other cyclists. Not a bad week.