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The Koppenberg 2012 Race Report
It was Friday night and I still had not made a decision whether to race Saturday morning. Usually I’ve made my decision to race weeks in advance so I can plan accordingly with my training and logistics. A couple weeks back I had crashed at Boulder Roubaix . My frame was cracked along the top-tube, but I only walked away with a some road rash and a very stiff body. It took almost two weeks to feel like myself again on the bike. I would try and ride hard but my legs were not responding. I was also using Maija’s bike which was not fit correctly for me. Finally, Thursday night at Meridian (group ride) my legs started getting back to normal and I felt better than I had since the crash. It was as if a lightbulb went off in my head saying “Time to start racing again, Adam.” My body was still getting used to my new bike and I knew the best way to break free from any psychological barriers was to race.
My race was to go off at 1:45. I got to the parking lot where registration was, pinned my number on, and got dressed. I made the big mistake of not warming up enough for the start. I personally need a lot of time to warm up for a Criterium but since this was more of a circuit style race, I figured I’d be in the clear with a half hour of easy spinning. Once on the bike for the warm up I rode the opposite direction on the course. The wind was howling and blowing from all different directions. I had a feeling this would be a factor during different parts of the course.
As I said before I was not nearly warmed up enough for the start of this race. Once the whistle blew we were flying down the road. After only a 1/4 mile we hit the dirt section. Another mistake I made was not pre-riding the dirt section. I had no clue what I was in store for. The pace felt very fast. The dirt section lasts around 2 miles and there is one major 30-60 second climb called “The Koppenberg”. It’s a very steep short punchy climb. On the first lap leading up to the hill everyone was jockeying for position and the pace was furious. There were about 5 guys at the front who wanted to make it to the hill first and leave everyone else behind. Position on the hill was tough but we didn’t have more than 50 guys so it wasn’t too difficult. Once over the small hill you ride on a flat dirt section for about a half mile before it turns back to paved road. By this point I was already dropped from the lead group. The field was strung out and smaller groups kept forming. I found myself with a couple other guys and finished the first of 8 laps. (4.5 miles for each lap) I wouldn’t say I was completely demoralized but it was surprising to be dropped after one lap. Only 2 weeks ago I was on top form in the lead group of Boulder Roubaix.
The Koppenberg Hill
About half way through the second lap I had a feeling I would never catch the leaders. Ironically enough many other riders went out way too fast and we started catching guys from our race. One by one we would start bringing back riders. It was a great feeling to know I may have a chance at top 20. Laps 3-4-5 were all done at a steady consistent pace. Mostly everyone in our group worked well together sharing the pace work at the front. One interesting thing I realized was how a few riders were not comfortable riding close to others while on the dirt sections or on fast paved descents. They would get gapped off the back and then work their way back into the group.
At the top of Koppenberg on the 6th lap I made a slightly harder acceleration from the group I was in. I could sense they were riding a little slower than I had liked. I also noticed a small group of about four riders ahead of me. I could barely make out their race numbers but I saw the numbers were below 100. This gave me a good indication they were from my race. Seeing their numbers also made my acceleration more worthwhile. I caught up to them and said “There is a larger group behind us”. No one said anything back but they jumped on my wheel and down the road we went. The group behind was split up into two chase groups. One of those groups latched onto us and we then had a group of 7-10 riders. The Masters 35+ 1/2 group caught us and began to pass. No one from our group tried to jump in their race and I was happy about their etiquette. Through the start finish we went heading into our 7th lap of the race. As soon as we hit the dirt section I noticed a Horizon Organic rider nod his head to a rider from Natural Grocers. Soon after this non-verbal communication they attacked very hard. I was watching their attack unfold and used every ounce of energy I had left to catch their wheel. I was getting tired at this point and didn’t have help from the rest of the group. Their gap increased and I found myself in no man’s land. The group behind was working hard to catch and the two riders ahead of me were putting a serious effort to get away. I decided to push as hard as I could hoping the entire group wouldn’t catch. It worked and only two guys from the original group bridged up to me. The three of us worked well together but it wasn’t enough to close the gap on those two riders. I now knew my overall placing would come down to myself or these two other riders I was with.
We crossed the start finish for our final lap and I started to feel good again. I motored up Koppenberg and my legs were responding. A little too late! By this time the lead group of the race were about 5-8 minutes ahead of me. Still, I was poised to finish this race and get the best placing I could. Once over Koppenberg one of the two riders I was with attacked hard on the flat dirt section. I quickly responded by jumping on his wheel until he let off the gas. The other rider soon bridged up to us and we hit the paved section where there was a slightly longer climb before dropping down into the finish. We took turns at the front but no one was about to ride hard considering we only had 2 miles to the finish. I looked back a few times and saw the larger group working hard to catch us. We had a nice fast descent coming up and I knew we would hold them off. Coming into the finish you have a flat fast descent, then a sharp right hand turn before hitting the actual road where the start / finish is. The finish line is a long stretch, probably a 1/4 mile if not longer. I was sitting second wheel coming out of the turn. The rider in front of me started sprinting but I could sense he didn’t have much. Half way down the finishing straight I took off on his right side and didn’t look back. I crossed the finish line 19th for the day and was pretty happy with my effort. Overall Koppenberg was an exciting course and I’ll definitely be racing it next year with some better form. Unfortunately not all were safe from the course. A friend of mine who is an athlete I coach broke his elbow going up The Koppenberg during the first lap. I wish him a speedy recovery!