VICTORY! My RAS 2013 report

VICTORY! My RAS 2013 report Foto Atelje Postojna

This was my 7th DOS, this time in a slightly different version. For the first I started as a member of the 2-person team named TEAM DEBITEL. My partner was a good friend from early cycling days, Iztok Melanšek. Before the race we had more questions than answers - can we beat more than 30 years younger rival team Bicikel.com? How the team will operate without any pre-training sessions? How will Iztok do after almost 40 hours of racing and especially how will he manage to survive the second night without sleep, when it is known that it is the last night that decides a race? The answers after the race are all positive, the team has worked as a professional team, Iztok has proved to be more than perfect partner and the end result is a VICTORY!

 

What began with a friendly call in the middle of autumn with my question "Hey, man, would you like to joinme for the Race Around Slovenia?" He wasn’t really sure about that, he said maybe and fortunately he later decided to do it and he took it as seriously as it gets. It all ended with triumphant and excellent result, as we broke the record for average speed at RAS from 30.4 km/h to unbelievable 32.8 km/h! When I was preparing a timetable for our race with ideal conditions and the best possible effort in mind, I came to an average speed of 32.2 km/h. So, by the end of the race we exceeded my expected Time Table by 40 minutes!

Days before the race were nervous as always. Perhaps even more this time, because the 2-person team was a new challenge for us and there were moments where it seemed the problems have no end. On Wednesday, the things began to calm down, we finaly managed to rent a support van and our family car was ready to stabd in as a follow vehicle. Bikes were cleaned and marked for night riding with reflective tape and lights. I even equipped my TT bike for night riding as I planned to ride some flat(ish) parts of the course with it, to raise our averrage speed. Equipment for racers and the crew was ready, CVS mobile equipment tracking device was mounted. Even my legs began feeling better after an hour of recovery riding before the start number draw on Wednesday evening. I enjoyed a long sleep on Thursday and got another hour of recovery riding in, more intended for the nerves than for the legs. After a late lunch, we were of back to Postojna to prepare for the start. For our crew, the day was not so relaxed, as they had cars to prepare and the pre-race inspection to go through. It was expected for the incpestion to go through like a clockwork and it did. Experience does count for something ...

The difference with solo racing was that we had to warm up before the start. The reason was that our mosr feared competitors Bicikel.com Team were starting 12 minutes after us and we did not want to give them an opportunitiy to catch us. The first part was perfect for time trial bike, so I started in perfect TT equipment, all inclusive: TT bike, a helmet, cronosuit. I was worried about how will the overtaking of slower riders go, but I had no real problems. Only a few times I was forced to slow down and ride some time behind the caravan of cars before I could overtake. Nevertheless, I reached Ilirska Bistrica with an average speed of 45km/h. Until the first TS Smarje everything went smoothly, except for getting lost and unnecessary loosing a few minutes in Kozina. At the signing of the TS time I checked the time and we were 3 minutes faster than my fastest time in 2012. After a change of riders we waited for the arrival of competition and were reassured of our great ride because despite getting lost, we still gained a few minutes on our rivals. Waiting at the top of the Crni Kal we received a cal from follow vehicle that Iztok is having problem with teh cramps, so we turned around and I prepared to start my shift earlier than forseen. I started to ride about three kilometers below the summit and was  quite concerned about Iztok’s problems, so I pressed on full throttle. I had quite a few "targets" in front of me in the form of solo racers, the night was beautiful and over rolling terrain towards the 2nd TS I was flying. We managed to extend our advantage to almost 14 minutes. On the steep hill of Predmeja, which would otherwise be Iztok’s strength, I had to relieve him, so I rode the second half and later the hard new part of the route toward Grahovo ob Baci. By Vrsic, the highest Pass of the race, Iztok was feeling better, so he took it confidently and did a good job. Still at the 4th TS Slovenski Javornik, they clawed back all lost time and we were on exactly same time. But it was time for me to put my TT equippment and legs to use again and even did a few steep climbs on Gorenjska, because Iztok was still cramping when pushing hard. We extended my pulls a bit to give him more time to reccuperate, because we knew that without him in good shape, there was no  chance we would keep the adversaries behind. Even with all our problems, we still managed to get a lead of a few minutes at 5th TS, and even the rain couldn’t stop us over the climb of Sleme and later, when I got my TT section again. I didn’t mind the rain, did an almost 40km/h average for the 65km section towards Kamnica and our lead has extended a bit again. Iztok was feeling better again so our confidence was on the raise.

Towards the Moravske Toplice I had a few more opportunities to test my TT shape. I was no longer flying with 40km/h average, but still managed between 35 and 37km/h. That was still enough for our advantage over Bicikel.com Team has risen to over half an hour. At the break in Brezice I learned that they supposedly reduced the advantage for a few minutes, which activated all sorts of warning lights in my head. In my experience, in the past 200km of the race everything could still change! In one of the past RAS, I had is lost two hours from a competitor because of the asthma episode. I pressed the "Panic Button", told the team how I feel (that they could tell Iztok about it), and to Novo mesto it was again a full gas Time Trial mode. Iztok was climbing as he had fresh legs, so he did a perfect Vahto Pass. There is began mercilessly rain from the sky and the temperature dropped to 11°C. Despite adequate clothing, I was shaking desperately on the descent from Vahta, but I managed to warm up on the roller coaster towards Crnomelj. We kept on riding strong through the next parts of the course and in the middle of it, my colleague from work Jernej sent us the message that our advantage has risen to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Yeah! The victory was practically ours, but we still rode hard until the finish, so we stayed warm in the cold and rainy conditions. 

The last station we wanted to ride together, but Iztok began cramping again shortly before Cerknica so not to waste time, we sent the van to pick him up and I continued alone. The Planina switchbacks seemed a lot less steep than tehy do when you are finishing solo RAS. ;) I was welcomed by many fans who had gathered despite the rain and at the sign Postojna I was joined by Iztok, so we could make a triumphant arrival through the finish. The mission was accomplished, we were especially proud of the fact that we bested my planned timetable for over 40 minutes and did the race in less than 37 hours and a half, reaching an amazing average speed of almost 33km/h (32.8 km/h)! Before the race I would not have dared to predict such an amazing average speed.

We would like to thank all the sponsors who have enabled us to compete and crew members who did an excellent job: Miran, Andrew, Darja, Irma, Jože, Igor, Borut, Miha and Dejan - a thousand times thank you! Another lap please...

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