Erstellt am: 19. 3. 2012 - 12:55 Uhr
Anything but Rubbish
When I told my mountain-bike friends that I was taking my bike to the rubbish tip at Gerasdorf the weekend, they uncharitably said “It's about time, Chris.”
My red bike is rather clunky and heavy, I’ll admit, but it is deeply loved and apart from the few memorable times that, in a fit of temperament, it has dumped me, we have had a long, faithful and harmonious relationship – like that Spielberg`s War Horse and the simple kid with the West Country accent.
No, War Bike is not ready for the knacker's yard yet. We were heading off together for my first race of the season: the Gerasdorf Mülldepot is now a grassed-over man-made mountain, full of sharp climbs, rattling descents and great views over the Vienna Basin. For several years it has hosted the traditional opening event of the Austrian mountain-bike season, a cross-country race called the Dukes of Trash and that's why I'd put my skis back in the cellar and pulled last year's tight Lycra over this winter's expensively-acquired Germknödelbauch.
But why have a race on a former rubbish dump? “It's so tricky to get permission to race through the forest, so here's a perfect location for an event,” explained organizer Richard Wimmer of the 2Radchaoten, “and there are no residents nearby so we can be as loud as we want.”
It's a liberty they took advantage of. Music from Bloc Party, who'll grace us at Frequency this year, was blaring out of massive speakers as I lined up at the back of the field for my race. “You`re in the Soft Egg race,” Richard had explained. “You know like Weichei”
But 150 racers had lined up in-front of me and none of them looked particularly soft. The unseasonably warm spring weather and clear blue skies had encouraged everyone but me to show off their bare legs and most of these were shaven, bulging with muscle and alarmingly brown. Richard had pointed out that while I was living the easy life on ski lifts many of Austria's mountain-bike fans would have gone of training weeks on warm islands to be ready for the season opening.
A whistle blew and we all set off in an elongated peleton, complete with a slow metallic entanglement at the first corner. I cycled past the sprawled bodies, glancing down with the indifference of Ben Hur at the chariot races. The race day adrenaline was back.
The idea of the race was to complete as many laps as you could within 45 minutes and then race off against everyone else on the same lap as you one more time. Later in the day, the elite riders battled it out for twice as long, while, in the end, we soft eggs were in the saddle for barely an hour. Yet 60 minutes can seem an eternity at race speed on a course that is never flat and is constantly technically challenging. The year of rubbish dumping has made formed a landscape that looks almost terraced, a phenomenon that would interest geologists, I imagine. There were steep ramps up to the next level followed by brake-searing descents. Uphill, I was often in first gear, standing on the pedals to drag myself up. Downhill, the ground was hard, testing the suspension of my hard-tail and causing my untrained forearms to ache as I struggled to control the bucking handlebars.
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The course had been staked out with red and white tape and the organizers had built a zig-zagging slalom course down a longer hill and the loose earth gave was as you fought against the camber of the slope. The bike handling challenge was exacerbated by the frightening sound of riders at the business end of the race approaching from behind to lap me. “Ich bin links!” shouted one guy as I negotiated the slalom teetering dangerously towards the boundary-tape, “Ich weiß nicht wo ich bin!“ I gasped through gritted teeth. “Tschuldigung!”
dukes of trash 3
But when you are racing short laps there is always the added motivation of the comparison of your own speed. Richard cheerily announced my lap-times each time that I passed through the finishing straight and so, even as my face started to resemble an overripe tomato in the searing sunlight, I headed out into the next lap determined that the times should get shorter rather than longer. So viel Stolz soll man schon haben!
When the bell rang for the final lap, I changed up a gear and managed to unearth new energy for one last big effort. As during cyclo-crosses there is always someone directly ahead of you or behind you. They might be on a completely different lap but you always feel as you are in the heart of a battle. I gave it my Mark Cavendish best as we headed into the last corner.
At the finishing line, hard-boiled after the soft egg option , I turned to a guy with tree-truck legs who I'd been battling with up and down the sharp ramps and asked him, not meaning to sound overly post-coital, how it had been for him.
“Same as every year! Absolute torture and absolutely delightful”