It was exciting for a while, but finally there was a green light for the organization of the Riderman in Bad Dürrheim. And as always, the organization was perfect. This time even more professional, during the second stage even a helicopter took to the air to shoot live images for the livestream. It's with good reason that this 3-day stage race for amateurs and cycle tourists has the subtitle 'Ride like a Pro'.
Traditionally the Riderman starts with a time trial over a distance of about 16 kilometers with 190m+. The result of this time trial determines the starting order for the next stage, so it pays off to work hard on the time trial so you can start at the front on the next day and race with the fast groups. Given the large number of participants (around 500), during stage 2 and 3 the riders will start in sections where the 25% fastest riders from each age group will start in the first section.
Team CycloWorld was represented this year with 2 riders, Herman van Tilburg and yours truly.
The course of the time trial is a back and forth. The tarmac is perfect and you only have to watch out at the roundabout and the turning point, where you have to apply the brakes and then pull yourself forward again. So far it sounds simple, but it's tricky. After the start it goes downhill for about one kilometer before the first climb begins, the Hirschhalde. This 1.6 km climb with an average gradient of 4.7% and a maximum of 9.5% sets the legs and lungs on fire. Here you can completely waste yourself. The descent is less steep and almost entirely straight, so you can ride on. At the roundabout at the bottom you have to pay attention because the speed is quite high. Next there is a small pimple to be taken before reaching the turning point.
The way back seems easier because the Hirsschalde now has to be conquered from the less steep side. However, because the legs are already quite full, many people experience this part as if they were standing still. I also suffered this year, I felt like I was crawling up. In my memory, I had ridden faster up here. That turned out to be true when I crossed the finish line. I fell for it again by riding too fast up the first climb. I blame it on the fact that I have not been able to ride any time trials in the past year because of the corona crisis. Time trial remains a special skill.
I finish in 16th place in the Men's Masters III category, just enough to be allowed to start in the front starting box the next day.
This stage is 121 km with 1900m+. The weather conditions are perfect, it is sunny and not too hot. From the start, the first kilometer through Bad Dürrheim is neutralized. This sounds nice, but it is a nervous event because the riders from the starting sections behind us during the first kilometer are pushing forward through the narrow streets of the village to get as close as possible to the jury car.
The first climb follows after only a few kilometers in the village of Emmingen. It is not much but a large group is already riding away. Once over the top, I can't quite catch them. Together with a German we're riding behind the group for a few minutes, also because we don't see anyone behind us. When we do see a group behind us, we decide to keep our legs still and join the group coming up behind.
We are now 20 minutes into the race and the average speed is 40 km/h! Once we're connected, we immediately start the first serious climb of the day, the Öfinger Wand, with a maximum gradient of 15%. On this climb the groups fall apart, CycloWorld teammate Herman joins in and once at the top we join a group. The legs have woken up, it will certainly not be the last ordeal of the day. After the descent there's a relatively flat section of about 12 kilometers where the riders can keep going until the foot of the Schächer, a climb of one and a half kilometers with sections of 19%. Here again the boys will be separated from the men.
After 38 kilometers we reach the first, special care station. First you pass a point where you can throw your empty water bottle into a large net while cycling and then a hundred meters further on pick up a new filled water bottle from the many volunteers. You do not have to stop, it is all perfectly organized. A little further on there is even a special waste zone where you can throw away all your empty packaging of bars and gels while riding. Just awesome.
After 42 kilometers we get a wonderful long winding descent under our wheels. Here it comes in handy that the organization has made the entire course car-free. In the descent are many blind corners that you can take on the inside, knowing that there is no oncoming traffic. The legs get some rest, which is necessary for what's to come. What follows is the 3.5 km long climb Ewattingen with 20% section. Another 30 km further is the Göschweiler which is of the same caliber. In between there are of course some climbs that are less extreme. Because there is a lot of riding going on, the legs never really get a rest. Only the last 10 kilometers are fairly flat and even then it is important to be in a group to keep the momentum going.
After 3 hours and 43 minutes I cross the finish line, very satisfied. In today's stage I was 18th in the category men Masters III but after 2 stages I am still on the 16th place. Not a bad result in this strong field of climbers.
The third stage of the Riderman is traditionally a fast one. On paper this year it is faster than ever. A little less kilometers than stage 2 and a little less altimeters so there can be a lot of riding in big groups.
Because I had a good classification yesterday, I was allowed to start in the front again today. Again the first kilometer is neutralized through the streets of Bad Dürrheim. For the third stage there are also day entries possible so the peloton is a lot bigger. The first few kilometers are the same as yesterday's stage so again I try to stay with the big fast group. It goe surprisingly well and after the first climb in Hemmingen, with my tongue on my shoes I'm still hang on to the back of the group. However, at a certain point I have to let them go. I connect with a chasing group where they also continue to ride well.
The first feed station comes after 43 kilometers. I chuckle contentedly to myself. The climbs are taken by the group as if they don't exist, but I know that there are people at the back who beging dropped, so I make sure I stay in front. It won't get any steeper than 10% today with only one exception: the Fürstenberg which follows after 75 kilometers. It has a short 14% section. Furthermore, I have to pay attention after every climb because at the top the riders go straight on, so resting is out of the question because once you're separated from the group you can't catch up with the speeds that are being ridden today.
On the climb Pfohren it goes wrong. It is a short hill with a maximum gradient of 9%. It goes reasonably well for me but once on the top I see a group riding away. Since the descent is short, and immediately followed by a piece of false flat uphill, I can't catch them. I know that in the last 15 km you can lose a few minutes if you are not in a group and that is a shame. I give everything I can to get closer. Occasionally I look back but the other riders who are off seem to have no energy left. Together with another Dutch rider, Joost, we go head over head towards the group. The distance between us and the group doesn't get any bigger or smaller. The group behind us is not catching up with us either. I don't feel like waiting, my legs still feel good so Joost and I decide to ride the last 10 kilometers full speed together. At 5 kilometers from the finish 4 young riders join us and the six of us manage to keep the pace high.
Satisfied I cross the finish line, I covered 100 kilometers with 1000m+ at an average speed of almost 40 km/hr. What a beautiful day for racing!
After the finish I thank Joost for the good cooperation during the last kilometers and have a chat with Herman and Joppe. All Dutch people with whom I was in the group until 15 kilometers before the finish. We all agree, it was a crazy day with a bizarre high speed. What an experience.
It was another fantastic edition of the Riderman. I would love to come back here again.