I was thrilled to be able to take part, of course. This was my tenth appearance. I’ve now taken part from 1996 -2000 and from 2011 – 2015. This year, I hadn’t actually planned to participate because my gym’s training camps conflicted with the Haspa marathon and the Cyclassics. Since I’m not aiming for a fast time but instead heading out just for fun, I grab my old Italian steel-framed bike and the jersey from my 1996 appearance. The slow riders are in the rear starting blocks, so I have a lot to do. I still remember the 1996 event: even though I was wearing race shorts with deerskin chamois inserts and had applied plenty of bag balm, I still ended up with saddle sores and chafing, plus the deerskin inserts were ruined.
On the morning of the 20th Cyclassics, I take the 2SKIN out of the starter bag. Well, the more the better clearly isn’t the name of the game here. But at least such a small amount of sample lubricant wouldn’t ruin the cushioned insert, which is what had happened in 1996. I then apply it to the areas most prone to chafing. Hmm, not greasy, the way you sometimes get with sunscreen. By the time I pull on my race shorts, I can no longer feel the 2SKIN at all.
My start from the last block is an unusually late one for me, but at 9:35 a.m., I finally head out onto the course, with nearly two kilometres to cycle before reaching the starting line. Then I make my way through the Hafencity district – the initial stretch is still a bit disorganised. At the Köhlbrandbrücke, the field is too slow for my taste. I can’t really enjoy the downhill stretch and the view properly though – my speedometer is registering almost 62 km/h. But spirits are high as we make the ascent to the Kärntner Hütte, and the many spectators help carry us up the hill.
Along the rolling course through the Lüneberg Heath, I have little protection from the wind, but I have meanwhile developed a tail.
The feed zone is always something of a half-time whistle. What counts here is making sure a fellow competitor doesn’t accidentally cause you to fall – so I make a quick pass to the left.
The next key point comes at 70 kilometres in Lindorst – a spot where on two previous occasions I’d started to run out of steam, and then ended up suffering over the final 30 kilometres. My interval is good, and a time under 3 hours is within reach. Next up, central Hamburg. With mixed feelings, I race past the traffic island that had been the downfall of my mate Sven last year, when Block B caught up to Block A, and a fellow cyclist knocked him down, causing him to skid across the asphalt at 45 km/h. He left a lot of skin behind on the road, and ended up looking like something out of a horror film.
Next up, the new old section, the loop back to the second crossing of the Köhlbrandbrücke bridge. Here at the embankment, we encounter some “anti-fans”, who greet us with a thumbs-down and signs saying “cyclists dismount”. This is soon followed by a turn, and I end up a bit too far to the right, where a friendly citizen had shattered a beer bottle on the road. My rear tyre goes soft, and then I feel the thump. A première: my first puncture, in ten times out. A quick tube replacement, and removal of two sharp green shards from the rear tyre. To be on the safe side, I apply a layer of tape over the puncture site. Now to pump it up again with the mini-pump. The repair takes about ten minutes. Rats – I’ve done faster repairs.
The view from the Köhlbrandbrücke bridge is spectacular, but after the break to repair the puncture, my legs are giving out. Without the necessary pressure on the pedals, I’m sitting much heavier on the seat. Now to make sure that I don’t make any unnecessary mistakes. Up ahead, where the fields break off, a colleague took a bad fall into the crowd barrier at Ballindamm street two years ago. Another spectacular backdrop at the Inner Alster Lake, and the final hurdle – the climb at Valentinskamp street. The turn signals the final kilometre. The cheers of the crowd along the finish at the Mö – or Mönckebergstrasse – give me another shot of adrenaline. The speedometer shows 47 km/h shortly before the finish line. Phew, I’ve arrived safe and sound, the weather is fantastic, and my fellow competitors were a mainly pleasant group today. In Blocks A to D there are a few more big egos to contend with. Slowly, I make my way through the crowd at Burchardtplatz, and then comes a Hefeweizen beer, some fruit, cake, and my medal… I bump into a few friends. My 3:12 with the puncture isn’t all that it could be, especially given the 2:42 that I’ve done in the past. Soon the pros also arrive at the finish line, and somewhat in need of a shower, I start to make my way home. Then I realise with annoyance that I’ve left my sweaty racing shorts on. That probably means an infection from the saddle sores.
But today, three days after the Cyclassics, I must admit that everything is still fine. It seems the 2SKIN advertisements are spot on. I’ll be checking out their online shop.
My race report
Jan Frank Fischer