Willingen Bike Festival Marathon, 122km, 3555m
The small town of Willingen is where Team360life headed for next on our European campaign. I’d say the festival is comparable in size to that of the Knysna Oyster Festival, attracting similar numbers, held over 4days, with bike expo’s, demos and then the full weekend of racing including every thing from marathons to four cross.
The marathon held on Sunday, includes three distances, a 55km, 95km and the big one, 122km.The frustrating part of the race is that everyone starts together, and you can literally decide which race you doing as you are riding. In other words, if you having a bad day, you can always just pull off and do the shorter distance, and possibly still podium!
I was feeling much more comfortable from the start of the race, always riding in the front group of around 10riders, including Dave. Team Vaude had the most numbers, around 5riders, and with Markus Kaufman fresh off his third place at Trans Germany, we thought he’d be the rider to watch.
After 25km I had my first problem, a slow puncture in the rear tire. So I had to stop and bomb the tire, and hope it held till the 55km mark where I had spare wheels. I then chased to catch the group, which I did, but as I caught up, the action had started. Two Vaude riders had attacked, and Dave was in pursuit. As far as our team tactics was concerned, this would be fine as Dave was up the road, and I would be following Markus. What we didn’t know though, was as soon as we got to the feed zone after 55km, the two Vaude riders turned off to complete the short route, leaving Dave out on his own for the rest of the race! This would take a massive effort from him on the demanding course.
I had to stop in the tech zone, at first I thought to change the wheel, but as it was only a slow puncture, I opted for another bomb, and continued to just keep inflating it. Not the best solution as I had to catch the group again.
Through the second loop, Dave continued to open his time gap on us, riding a great race. The group I was in was now down to 6riders, and once we went through the tech zone for the second time, after 90km, three more riders pulled out to complete the middle distance. The last loop of about 30km was tough and included a few climbs adding up to around 1000m of climbing. I was feeling good and decided to ‘test’ the legs. I rode the first two climbs at a very hard pace, we managed to drop the one rider but Markus was still with me. The kilometers were ticking by and I was already starting to think of a possible ‘sprint’ finish with him. Then I hit the wall. Literally at 112km, with only 10km left, my day was over. In the space of around 2km, I started to fatigue really badly. I was not too concerned as far as the race went, as I knew Dave had the race in the bag, but I was concerned just to get myself to the finish in one piece. The rider, which we had left behind on the earlier climbs, caught me in the final 2km, and I had no energy to even try and follow him! Thankfully the last 2km were downhill!
Dave had ridden a fantastic race to claim the Willingen title, and in a dominant performance. I was happy with my shape and progression that I’ve made, especially over this distance and at the speed the guys race here. I must also mention that Mannie Heymans, a previous winner of this race managed a 7th overall and as always kept us entertained whilst we waited for the prize ceremony.
Everything looks on track for a great Worlds in two weeks!
Provisional Results: Elite men
1st Dave George (360life) 4hrs55min
2nd Markus Kaufman (Vaude/Centurion)
3rd Kevin Evans (360life)
Next race, another German classic, The Black Forest Marathon. Also a ultra distance race, with probably a few more top names wanting to fine tune for the following weekend.
Till then, cheers.