Race Reports by Melina Bernecker:
Masters Cycling Federation World Championships, Sankt Johann, Tirol, Austria 2012
This was the Race I had been focused on in the past 6 months training as hard as I could to give myself a chance (even if it was just a glimmer) of standing on the podium. Arriving in Sankt Johann was like stepping into a scene from “the sound of music” with the Austrian Alps as a backdrop this was certainly as scenically beautiful as a race was going to get.
Despite my battle with jetlag for the first few days I decided to race the Masters World Cup Road Race which was the same course and had many of the same competitors to check out who is who in the zoo and have a chance to ride/race the course prior to my big race.
Masters Cycling Federation World Cup Road Race (26th Aug 2012)
The World Cup Road Race was scheduled for the day after my arrival and the weather was miserable at best raining form the early hours of the morning. I had had only 4 hrs sleep in 48 hours and felt like I was in a daze. Lining up on the start line I was already drenched and I decided early on let the other girls dictate the pace and conserve as much energy as possible.
The 40km road race started in downtown Sankt Johann and took competitors out of down onto narrow country roads. The first climb began just past the 2000m mark and consisted of five stair step climbs with varying grades (max 10%). The girls hit the gas from the start line as we sped along the slick wet roads and tight turns toward the first climb which the hit hard, by the time we hit the 3rd rise many of the girls had already begun to drop. A local Austrian girl (Nadia Priedling) hit the climbs hard and by the time we got to the top at the 5km mark there was only a small group of 6 left.
Organizing ourselves fairly quickly we worked hard to get away from the rest of the group we each rolled turns for the next 10km as the narrow quiet country road took us on a false downhill (approx 1or 2%) past meadows with farms and cows with bells around their necks! (Personally I wanted to stop and take photos at this point but having to then chase back on did not appeal!). The next climb came at the 15km mark this climb takes you into the small township of Schwendt and starts as a gradual climb that is 2km long with an average grade of 3.5% and a max grade of 9%.
Again the Austrian girl hit the climb and staying on her wheel I continuously told myself that this was a short climb and I can handle another 30 seconds of suffering. By the time we hit the top of the steep climb a false flat (approx 800m) takes you to the crest where a steep descend on windy roads for 2.5km takes you into Koessen. The roads were super slippery and our group of 6 had now dwindles to only 3.
Following a hairy descent into Koessen the rain was relentlessly pouring and my feet were squelching in my shoes, one more shorter climb and we would be on the home straight. The 3 girls we had dropped on the Schwendt climb had now caught us again and once again the group began rolling turns to avoid being caught. A sharp left turn form the main highway to Loftenberg which is a 750m climb at 6% takes you onto the time trial course. The roads along this section of the course are fast and smooth until Erpfendorf (approx 10km) despite the road being a false flat uphill and the rain this section of the race was fast with a slight tailwind.
Once we turned onto the narrow country road towards Kirchsdorf there was only 8km left in the race, the girls started to slow down and only two or three of us were now prepared to pull. Given that this race was not really important to me I decided to see what the girls would let me get away with… despite being tired I made several attacks and that seemed to ramp up the pace a little until we got to the 2km to go mark. From there it was a cat and mouse game as we approached the final two turns before the finishing straight. Karen Poole (GBR) was the first to jump with about 1000m to go, Nadja Prieling (AUT) was on her wheel and I sat 3rd wheel at the 500m to go mark as we entered the straight. My positioning could not have been better as we motored down the finishing shoot, with 200m to go I made my move coming around the two girls infront of me. However the lack of sleep the following two nights took its toll and I dint have enough left in the tank to take the sprint all the way as Iben Bohe (DEN) came around my wheel and took Victory.
The final official results were 1st and winner of the Masters Cycling Federation World Cup Road Race was Iben Bohe (Denmak) in a time of 1.04.17, I finished in 2nd place about a bike length behind and 3rd was Marta Marangon (Italy).
Masters Cycling Federation World Championship Time Trial (29th Aug 2012)
The weather for the Individual Time Trial was a beautiful summer’s day with blue skies and only a little breeze. I took the TT bike for a ride along the course in the morning for an hour or so before breakfast. My start time was 11.36am and I decided to ride to the course as part of my warm-up which was about 9km when I arrived there was already a big crowd cheering on the older masters riders that were currently riding. I found my support crew and trainer and set up for a spin on the trainer for about 30min. I had checked the start list and knew there was some very tough competition with some very fast times likely to be posted.
Knowing that I was going to have to ride the ride harder, stronger & faster than I ever had before to even feature in the top 5 I rolled up to the start ramp took a deep breath and it was 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 BOOM I was off!!! Careful to pace myself at the start I get settled into a good rhythm, I hit the 5km mark in under my scheduled time and still felt pretty good…. That was until I hit the hill at the 8km mark! I powered up the 750m ascent which has a max gradient of 8% and tried to build up speed again quickly at the top along the false flat which has a gradient of 1% for another km to the turn-around. At this point the 1% gradient of the false flat felt like 5% with my heart beating out of my chest and my legs filling with lactic sludge I got out of the saddle again to try and build up speed… I knew I would lose precious time if I didn’t!
Feeling like I had reached the end of human endurance I finally saw the turnaround. I was gaining speed and moving up on the girl in front of me as we got closer and closer to the turnaround. Faced with the decision of should I wait behind her to go through the hairpin turnaround shoot or risk cutting her off. I decided to wait behind her knowing that this would cost me precious seconds (Do onto others… I told myself!). Passing her as soon as we go out of the turnaround shoot I put my head down and once again settled into a rhythm as fast as I could trying to catch the next person in-front of me.
The 750m downhill section came as a welcomed relief for my legs as they got a semi recovery as I peddled as hard as my little legs would take me counting down each km as it was signed. I caught another 2 girls in front of me which made it easier to keep up the speed I needed. The last 8km of the course were an average grade of 1% which doesn’t seem like much but when you are redlining it feels like 5%.
With only 1.5km to go I hit the wall my legs were burning, my heart was beating out of my chest and my vision was beginning to blur (although I did manage to see the finish line very clearly). With every last drop of fuel in my tank I came across the line in what I can only describe as the hardest and best time trial I had ever ridden.
I don’t really see myself as much of a time trialist on a NRC or international competitive scale… I was going to be thrilled with wherever I finished today (knowing it wasn’t going to be last as I passed 3 girls). The final results came through quickly on the big screen and I was ecstatic to finish in 4th place. Winner of the Masters Cycling Federation World TT Champions was Adelhaid Schuetz (GER) in a time of 26.05, 2nd was Doris Posch (AUT) in 27.03 and 3rd Christiane Koschier in 28.24.
Masters Cycling Federation World Championship Road Race (30th Aug 2012)
Finally it was here. The day I had been waiting for, for the past 6 months. I got up super early to ride for an hour and get a good warm-up, it was going to be a hot day! My race wasn’t until 1.20pm so I spent the morning relaxing and getting my bike ready. I did another quick warm-up on the bike just before the start and pulled up at the start line with 10 minutes to go.
Feeling pretty nervous at this point I tried to focus on what I needed to do during the race and to ensure I got good position at the start for the climb. The gun went and it was GO time…
The first 1km out of town was under control and the race was super fast from the gun. The Austrian Girl Nadja Prieling set the pace for the first climb, the pace started fast and blew the field apart in the first few minutes of the climb, the climb consisted of 5 steps and once we hit the 3rd (steepest grade) step the field had reduced to only 6 or so girls. The last step climb is the longest and by now I heard a few of the girls changing down in gears. With about 500 meters to the QOM I decided it was now or never and I attacked… still in the big chain ring I got out of the saddle and stomping down on my pedals as hard and fast as I could I got to the QOM first, I turned and saw only Nadja Prieling with me and a gap of about 40/50 odd meters. Lets go I yelled at her!!! Having set the pace for the climb she was tired and sat on for the next 6 or so km’s until we hit the flats just before the second climb at Schwendt.
The motorbike commissar advisedus we had a minute lead on the group, this gave us the incentive to keep up the pace (which was about 40+km per hour) and get over the climb as fast as we could. The second climb which also has steep section about half way up has seemed to go by in a blur as people lined the streets cheering us on. Once we were over the crest there was a fairly long and steep descent with good pavement and open sweeping corners. We seemed to fly down the hill and my bike seemed on rails and felt like it was propelled itself forward with me on it just for the ride…
I had never felt this good in a race, we attacked the last climb which is short but steep which took us onto the TT course and with head down in the drops and my legs pumping as hard and fast as they could I pulled for the next 8km to avoid being caught by the chase group as the Autrian began to struggle and slow. Our lead now was around 1.40 and I began realizing that I actually had a real shot at winning this race!!! We turned off the main highway and with only 8km to go to the finish we began working together again switching turns fairly quickly. The streets once again were lined with people yelling and cheering us on… The atmosphere was amazing and helped keep up the momentum as we both sprinted through the towns propelled by the excitement that we would both be on the podium.
With only 1km to go I dropped back and let the Austrian take the lead… we had plenty of time so I expected a little cat and mouse, still with a fair amount of speed the entered the finishing straight with 500 to go, We slowed a little and I continued to tell myself “be patient” I knew I had enough sprint for 200m or so and we were equally spent. We hit the zebra crossing (200m ) and it was time to GO!!! I came around her, sprinting as hard as I could and realizing I was about the cross the line first I did a little fist pump to celebrate my victory!
The joy and jubilation I felt crossing the line is hard to put into words not only did I win the Masters World Championship Title but Nadja and I has also recorded the fastest time ever ridden by a woman for that course . Nadja Prieling (AUT) finished 2nd and the peleton came in 2.11 min later with a sprint finish for 3rd which was won my Angelika Meier (SUI).
Without the support of family, friends, teammates, my coach, sponsors as well as the random acts of kindness by strangers it all would not have been possible. I felt immensely proud standing on the podium watching my flag go up and hearing my anthem… you were all there with me in spirit and I felt relieved and happy that I could deliver the best result possible. Thank you…