Merten, Wednesday, July 25. 2007
Finally finished my report from this year's 24 hour relay race. In summary, it was another blast (bored people - stop reading now!). Still, a lot was different from the last two years I took part in it.
The four of us from Gemany skating with the London teams this time (including a friend from the Bremen club) used the same method of travel as last year - car to Hannover, plane to Paris, rental car to Le Mans. This worked very well again and is much less stressful than driving the full way. Arriving late in the evening, how nice is it to have teammates who'll even put up your tent before you arrive (they had been taken on another team's bus). Thanks for that to Tammy and the others! A bit of sleep, then the usual Saturday moning. Geting some shopping done, sorting out registration (apparently the French did not know that our German license cards don't get renewed...), and then making our way for the race track. This year, Michi and I played a role in our team's "special duties", Michi doing the qualification time trial, me being allowed to start the race for us.The teams this year were of mixed speed, given there was only one boys and one girls team, and we had a couple of new faces, including two youngsters from other London clubs who proved to be our secret weapons and actually put in our fastest lap times (oops). James, our super-kid, hammered down a fantastic qualification sprint that put us in 14th place for the start. Whew. So a bit later I found myself standing barefoot on the start line, watching my skates lying on the other side of the track, and the crowd going cracy behind us.
Now guess what happened. Merten missed the start? Ahem. Well... not really *shame*. But I was a bit slower to run off than the others, as they had apparently listened to the commentator a bit better, who false-started the race one minute early after announcing "deux minutes au départ" 60 seconds before... Anyway, that at least got me a nice angle to actually be seen on the local newspaper cover *gg*. Lacing up at the start took me about 45 seconds, but I opted for putting the boots up correctly instead of using some "quick and dirty" technique. What makes the start interesting is that even when you are just at the very front of the start line, many rec skaters will put their skates on faster, so you loose a lot of places right away, and have to take them all back on the way up the hill. After one lap I was back in 48th position, 36th after the second. So starting Le Mans is really cool, and has an intense atmosphere, definitely recommended
For this year, the boys team operated a shift system which tries to maximise individual rest times. That meant we tried to rotate all 10 people as much as possible, providing a rest of about 1:15h between single laps. Only for night shifts we split into two subgroups of five.
Skate a lap - rest / drink / eat - skate a lap - rest / drink / eat - and so on - hours pass by very quickly. I was to sleep first, so I set off for the tent before midnight. If you ever return to the campsite, it is just so cool to walk back and stop for a bit on the wall that separates campsite and track. Then calm a bit, and just watch the never ending stream of skaters zooming past in flood lighting. A strange type of tranquility, but really really nice.
After a bit of watching I finally ended in my tent, earplugs in place, and slept. Next thing I remember - a strange thought "Hey, my foot (halfway looking out of tent and sleeping bag) is getting wet.". Next thought: "Nah, it's not raining... is it?". Indeed, it was raining, drenching the track and all skaters on it as well. Great...
So at 4am, I left the tent into the rain, and made my way back to the pits, accompanied by Katie Melua's "Nine million bicycles", which just happened to fit my mood perfectly. The nightshift started wet, and it continued to stay rainy and wet this until well in the morning, when the track finally started drying, helped by a strong wind that also ensured a lot slower lap times than usual for Le Mans. Nevertheless, we all kept our good mood, and raced hard until the very last laps.
Our final result - 24th place overall, with 161 laps skated (673km, at an average of 28 km/h), is something we can be very proud of. And the overall trip was very good fun again, so I'm pretty sure Le Mans will see us again next year
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