Ok, so here I am, on assignment in Germany to file a report on the time trial circuit of the German Tour 06. Hhhmm, what do I need for such an assignment?? Camera, check. Cool PEZ cycling kit, check. Helmet, check. TT bike………ahh, no. Nein. Ok, so my borrowed bike for the occasion isn’t quite up for a time trial. I’d suggest not too many of the pros will be taking the startline on Tuesday on a Cannondale with a triple chainring and suspension forks… but you never know, will they need it?
Figuring the startline is as good a place as any to start I headed out from the town of Bad Sackingen in Southern Germany and less than 1km later I was faced with the first ‘interesting’ section of the day. A covered wooden bridge over the river Rhine that takes the riders into Switzerland. This bridge is normally only used by pedestrians and cyclists and it is dark inside, with a wooden floor. It shouldn’t present too many problems for the riders, but the directors sportif following in the cars behind could have some issues! The roof is low, the bridge is not straight and if they are not careful the spare bikes on top of the cars could be in trouble.
Well after the bridge the riders take a 10km detour through Switzerland which is fairly uneventful. There is one minor hill of less than 300 metres in length but it shouldn’t trouble anyone at this early stage of the race. The only issue in Switzerland itself could be the ninety degree left hand turn the riders take as they head back towards Germany. It could be a bit slippery if it is raining and wet and cold like it was for me……..the sacrifices I make for you PEZ readers… So after the turn it’s straight back over a bridge, much larger this time, and through the customs check and back into Germany. Hope you’ve got your passports boys!
Where are we? The south western corner of Germany of course!
Back in Germany now and there is a brief 3.5 km section on minor roads through farmland and past a few houses where a better bike handler might make up a few seconds over an outright power machine. It shouldn’t be much though, and in all honesty this time trial is made for the power riders as the majority of the course is on major roads with very little cornering.
After a brief detour into Swizterland, the route crosses passport control back into the Fatherland.
It is flat too. Really flat. Following the Rhine virtually the whole way, we never see any big hills, but we will see riders averaging some very high speeds. Just as they approach the finish though and starting to get tired, there’s a hill at 9.5kms to go which could really hurt some riders, especially if they haven’t previewed the course before hand.
Flat as strudel, with one testy hill.
Now let me get myself straight here, it’s no Alpine climb – but it is a decent hill, around 750m in length and positioned just perfectly in the picture of the race. For those who are flying home with the strength left in their legs, this is the place to make up the time. Adversely, for those who have spent their energy too early, this will probably be where they crack.
It is certainly not a sit down and stay in the aero position type climb. This climb requires you to stand – still in the big ring – but you have to power over it and keep the speed up the whole time. After you crest the hill it is virtually a flat run home so it is crucial to climb this hill well to gain your time.
So will this virtually flat, 38km course be the deciding stage of this years race? It could well be. Podium positions have changed before in the Tour of Germany thanks to the final time trial stage and 2006 could well be the same.
Not your average TT bike, but what do you expect on a borrowed steed? At least the suspension fork made for a comfy ride.
I’ve ridden the course, studied it closely and knowing the riders in the race, what are my tips? Firstly, you don’t need either a triple chainring or a suspension fork to ride this course… One 55 tooth chainring is all that is needed on the front and the roads are generally in excellent condition so pack away those Paris Roubaix bikes boys! I think the winner will come from a true strongman, a rouleur who is built for driving hard in the big ring and who is motivated to push himself that bit harder than the others. This would obviously lead to anyone in the top 10 on GC being a big chance for the stage win. Without knowing who is in that top ten though, here are my tips for the top 10 in the time trial (in no particular order):
Sebastien Lang (Gerolsteiner)
Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner)
David Zabriskie (CSC)
Bobby Julich (CSC)
Jens Voigt (CSC)
Luke Roberts (CSC)
Thomas Dekker (Rabobank)
Vladimir Gusev (Discovery)
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana)
Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole)