13 Jan Rad race fixed 42 by James Ambrose-PArish
A target for us throughout 2019 had always been Fixed42. With the uncertainty of the Berlin event looming and the subsequent cancellation it wasn’t looking good. The event is unique in the fact that it is an amateur point to point race and as the name suggests is 42km on closed roads. The race normally takes place in Berlin with a historic finish under the arches of the Brandenburg Gate. However, the 2019 edition had a very different parcours. It was the same distance and format but taking place in Hamburg, with what would prove to be a decisive set of climbs making for a far challenging race.
With this change in parcours came a change in the technicality. Gear selection was key. We reccied the course 2 days prior realising that it wasn’t just a rise in the road and that it would require further thought and tactics. I opted to ride the 49/14 gearing I had been previously riding at the ISHQ series to great affect and would imagine that the average speed would be comparable over this course. Georg and Sam had opted for slightly lower ratios with the idea of attacking on the climb to make the race, as it had two steep ramps with a cobbled section of a couple 100m in between. The day before the race we did an activation ride around the large lake in the centre of Hamburg, which had quiet roads where it was safe for us to do some sprints to open up our legs. We were relaxed and ready to race.
The start was outside of the suburbs of Hamburg and after some short public transport connections from the central station, we got off and rode a couple km’s to the rider area. The weather was warm and hydration prior to the start was going to be key, as hydration systems and bidons weren’t allowed. I made sure to hydrate well the previous days before and then on the day I kept up the electrolytes, as well as taking a couple of isotonic gels stuffed into my skinsuit for during the race. I warmed up and stayed in the shade to try and keep my core temperature down despite the heat.
It was fast from the get go, with a strong tailwind on the first section of the autobahn. I stayed out of the wind near to the front with Georg and Sam marking moves, with my job to get to the finish fresh. We covered the first 13km with an average of 49.8km which works out about 111rpm average on my gear. Going into the bottom of the climb, Heslich had been reeled in after being away for nearly the first 20km and all had gone to plan. We moved up together to the front as the gradient started to increase, slotting in the top 10. Riders started to make their moves and were quickly brought back as the climb ramped up. Being near to the front allowed for sliding room within the group. Over the climb my cadence dropped to 85 rpm over the 3.4km climb meaning I could still push up the climb while others on bigger gears were quickly distanced from the group. As we crested the top, I had sunk to around 15th wheel in the group thinking there were riders still behind, I looked around to realise there were only a handful of riders still clinging on to the back.
On the decent, out legs were spinning hitting upwards of 62km! Some of the teams who had opted for the bigger gears had managed to claw their way back onto the group. While our cadence didn’t drop below around 120rpm the whole way into the last 2km, we were struggling to move up. We worked our way up to about 8th wheel with the TRED team motoring onto the front with 6 riders in a full leadout train. The pace lulled with about 1.5km to go, so Sam moved out from the wheels and moved up around the outside. Going into the final 1km, he committed with me on his wheel and we were able to gap the group, but it was still a long way out. I hesitated and committed too late with the TRED guys flying past on my right. I managed to claw back third position only to be rolled for 3rd on the line.
In hindsight it was too much to ask of Sam to do 1km to go to 700m on a such a small gearing and on his own. It was an error of judgment to run the gearing I did too. However we showed the strength of our team against the odds and proved our ability to compete internationally at the highest level of fixed gear racing.