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Top Rides: Suffering in the Black Forest
An epic day of rain, pain, and suffering is now behind me, and I’ve got the lactic acid as proof after suffering through a super-tough, 3-climb stage of the 2005 Giant Tour. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen called today’s action…

Okay… Phil and Paul didn’t actually call the action, but if they did, here’s what they would have said…

[NOTE: This story first ran in August 2005, when I rode the last 3 stages of the cyclosportif Giant Tour at the Tour of Germany, as a guest of Giant Bicycles. – Pez]

Constant rain did nothing to dampen spirits at the start of our first stage of the Giant Tour.

Liggett: Welcome to our coverage of stage 6 of the Giant Tour, running just ahead of each stage of the Tour of Germany. With me as always is Paul Sherwen.

Sherwen: Thanks Phil – it’s going to be a tough day for the 300-odd starters as the clouds are sitting low in the valleys of the Black Forest, and the rain has been falling since daybreak.

Liggett: Well it is going to be a wet one for the riders as they cover the last 75km of today’s DeutschTour stage from Singen to the mountain top finish at Feldberg.

Sherwen: Very wet indeed – and there are 3 climbs the Giant Tour takes in – running 5km, 10km with pitches up to 14%, and the final 12km slog, that is more gradual – 6%-8%, but after a hard day’s racing the riders will be wondering what hit them…

Liggett: They’re called to the line, and there’s Abraham Olano lining up with the Media Team from Giant – the squad made up of international journalists from Europe…

Sherwen: And look at that guy budding into line right in front of Olano – he’s got some nerve cutting in front of a former World Champion…

Liggett: It looks like the rider causing the ruckus is from PezCyclingNews – but I see Olano laughing … so it must be all a little joke…

Sherwen: Olano is such a classy rider, he likes a good laugh, but make no mistake – he is as tuff as nails – look at him wearing only a light rain cape over his jersey and shorts – he’s not even wearing over-boots!

Liggett: He’s here to race this stage… There’s the gun and they’re off – the race starts with an 8km descent – which is going to be tricky in this rain.

Sherwen: Visiblility in the bunch is very difficult – just look at the 8ft rooster tails spraying off every riders’ bicycle.

I had no idea how tough this stage was going to be.

Liggett: The group is still together as they reach the bottom of the descent, and are stopped by the race referee. It looks like they’re letting another official car pass through, and riders are taking the chance to jostle to the front, and there’s even one rider relieving himself – right in the middle of the bunch!

Sherwen: This is odd indeed, but you know the cyclo-tourists love these races because they are a bit more casual… a bit more fun …but they’re back underway for a run across this beautiful valley – that unfortunately no rider can enjoy because of the horrible conditions.

Liggett: And the pace has really picked up – look at them strung out in 1’s and 2’s – these guys mean business. The leaders are really trying to break things up before the first climb.

Sherwen: Well this has got to be a shock for PezCyclingNews – they’re running at 55km+ … big rings all around.

Liggett: That’s right – he love’s spinning the small gears, and I’m quite sure he’s in very unfamiliar territory pushing 53×13…

Sherwen: There’s all kinds of con-few-sion at the back of the lead group as the pace is extremely high, and riders are starting to come off. In fact it looks like PezCyclingNews has just been ejected like a sack of stale sauerkraut!

Phil: You’re absolutely right Paul – in fact I haven’t seen a rider go backwards in such a hurry since… well… I’m not sure when actually…

Sherwen: And now our cameras are looking well back of the leaders, and we can see that PezCyclingNews is really trying to collect his wits and limit his losses. Here comes the police moto and Pez is asking him something…

Liggett: Well they’re pointing backwards, and they’re either telling him to pack it in now, or that he’s not the last rider and there’s another group coming up to him…

Sherwen: That’s the wonderful thing about events like this, there are always groups of riders coming along, and riders will form alliances on the road without even speaking – simply by taking a turn at the front of a bunch, which signals a willingness to work, and wins the respect of the other riders…

Liggett: Well he must be wondering what on earth happened to him after that descent, but he’s starting to come back from utter annihilation. He’s climbing comfortably but there are still 50km to go and two very big climbs.

Sherwen: Phil – the climbs in this southwest region of Germany are beautiful indeed – not nearly as long or steep as the Alps of Pyrenees, but any climb that goes up for 10km is no easy-peasy.

Liggett: Oh and his hand is up – he’s calling for assistance from the neutral support – and he’s just handed his glasses into the car.

Sherwen: With no team support vehicles allowed in the race, riders have to rely on the neutral support, which is quite good with extra wheels and even bikes, all provided by race sponsor Giant.

Liggett: This is odd Paul – the support car started to drive off, but then slowed up as PezCycling was waving his arm calling them back.

Sherwen: It looks like he only wanted his glasses cleaned and the race support – which is superb – seemed happy to oblige.

Liggett: In spite of the terrible weather – rain has been falling all day, the fans are out in droves…

Sherwen: Cycling of all kinds is very popular in this part of the Black Forest, as we can see from all the fans along the road cheering encouragement for the riders – no matter how far back in the race.

Liggett: PezCycling certainly seems to have regained his composure – look at him waving at the fans – I think he’s asking them for more cheering as he pedals along…

Can you tell this man is off the back and still has 2 hours and 2 climbs ahead?

Liggett: We’re onto the second climb of the day – a nasty brute that kicks up to 14% around halfway up its 10km length.

Sherwen: The leaders are long gone, and it’s a lonely slog for PezCycling as he’s really plodding along…

Liggett: He is making steady progress, slowly picking off other straggling riders, but his cadence is so low, he’s barely turning over that 39×27 gear and I fear he’s going to fall over if he stops pedaling for even a second…

Sherwen: He is paying the piper for that hard effort to stay with the leaders in the early kilometers.

Liggett: At the top of the second climb, PezCycling has stopped again – he’s got his shoe off and is rubbing his foot.

Sherwen: And it is very cold at the top here – only 11° C – and he’s got a very chilly descent ahead, as they plunge down some very fast roads for about 8km to the valley floor before the final ascent of the day…

Liggett: This looks like a very good descent – even in these conditions riders can let the bike run and because the roads are totally closed to traffic, there’s no worry of cars on the course.

Sherwen: They’ve made the left turn at the bottom and the road has turned up again – not steep – but after two climbs and almost 60km of racing… I’m wondering how his legs are feeling…

Liggett: He looked like his old self on that descent, spinning along at a very high rate of speed, but he’s geared right back down to his 39×25 and the road is only climbing at around 3-4%.

Sherwen: He’s not taking any chances that’s for sure, this last climb, although not that steep, is 12km long, and those can be verrry long kilometers at the end of a day like this.

Liggett: PezCycling is just trying to survive I’d say – he’s got some personal and national pride at stake here… And these last kilometers will not be easy when you are soaked to the bone through – he’s got to be carrying an extra couple of pounds of water in his clothing!

Sherwen: Well it looks like he’s certainly won the support of the fans, as he’s been cheered on by literally every fan on this last climb…

Liggett: These fans will cheer for anybody, they really do love cycling…

Sherwen: Approaching the 3km to go kite and PezCycling has stopped again – this time he’s chatting with a photographer at the side of the road.

Liggett: Pez has just handed over what looks like his business card to the photographer… and now he’s turned around and is riding back down the climb… don’t tell me he’s thrown in the towel!

Sherwen: Wait – he’s changed his mind and turned around – he heading back up – and the photographer is taking pictures of him…

Liggett: …or for him! The knack for self publicity of these journalists never ceases to amaze me…

Sherwen: Under the 2km to go kite now and even though these last 5km have been like a long journey through hell for PezCycling, he is going to finish… and he’s going to clock around 45 minutes for this last climb – well under the 1 hour I would have predicted for him.

Liggett: Now he’s riding along side someone – I’ve seen him battle this whole climb with that rider…

Sherwen: I’m checking the roster and I can see by the other rider’s number, that his name is Rolf, and – listen to this – he is 67 years old! Just amazing – and he’s been giving PezCycling a real run for his money up this last climb…

Liggett: They’re riding side by side now as the course has leveled out – and I can see they’re both into the big ring – and they’re still talking to each other…

Sherwen: This could be quite a battle – even though these riders are dog tired, they’re both searching for anything extra left in the tank…

Rolf was my carrot, adversary, and eventually new bud – all on the final climb of the day.

Liggett: Rolf throws it into the big ring and takes the lead as they dive into the left hand hairpin – the gauntlet is down! – but he swings wide and Pez cuts through on the inside – the road has kicked up again for the final 1500 meters and Rolf is sitting tight on his wheel.

Sherwen: Their pace has dropped like a stone as the legs are buuuurning… And Pez is opening up a gap… 5 meters… 10 meters…

Liggett: Rolf is digging… digging! He’s not ready to give up yet… But now Pez is looking back over his shoulder – I’m not sure what he’s doing but the race is ahead of you man!

Sherwen: It looks like he’s actually waiting up for Rolf – it’s a real move of respect I’d say, and we should all be so lucky to be riding like Rolf when we’re 67!

Liggett: Rolf is coming back – they’re now inside 300 meters… the two are now riding together as they approach the line – and look – PezCycling reaches his hand back – Rolf takes it and there’s the shake – !

Sherwen: Classy move and a great show of respect to the elder rider – they’re both home and will fight another day. But will today’s stage have taken too much out of the legs for tomorrow’s 34km time trial…?

Liggett: We will find out tomorrow – and thanks for joining us and our coverage of the Giant Tour from Germany!

Just to confirm – Phil and Paul did not actually call this race – but the events depicted actually happened.

Get more info:
Giant Tour
DeutschTour Website


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