BaseCamper Tim Uhlenkamp shared his experience with Harald Meyser at the 2023 Rad am Ring event in Vaihingen an der Enz, Germany.
This weekend we two BaseCampers Harald Meyser and Tim Uhlenkamp tackled and mastered our first 24-hour bike race! Rad am Ring is the biggest 24-hour bike race in Germany and took place for the 20th time with a record number of 6000 participants. The bike course is located on the legendary car race track at the Nürburgring (formerly also Formula 1 race track). During the 24 hours, the aim is to cycle around the 26km long loop, each with 550 meters of altitude difference, as often as possible. The altitude profile is a constant up and down (there are almost no flat sections, only a few hundred meters around the start/finish and pit lane). The track is called from "green hell," which until this weekend was still a mystery to me, what is meant by that.
Perfect asphalt, no intersections, no cars, no pedestrians ... a perfect track to step on the gas, if it weren't for the constant ups and downs of the elevation profile that would completely wear you out. Hard to find a rest area in the draft of groups, because the groups are torn apart again and again on the climbs, especially on the per lap recurring highlight of a 5 kilometer long climb of 300 meters of altitude, ending on the last 500 meters with a 20% gradient. Hell so explained, but why green?
Green, because the course leads to large parts through forest and meadows and only the paddock (which at night by 6000 camping riders and their individual camp lighting like a wildly decorated Christmas tree made the passage in the dark a pleasure).
But now more about the race course, pacing, nutrition, and results.
Harald and I started as one of 170 teams of two (in addition to 67 single riders, 790 teams of 4, and 127 teams of 8. We had the plan to switch every lap during daylight and do a double lap at night in the dark so the other could at least get some sleep for about an hour.
Pacing and Nutrition
Avoid red watt area as much as possible (which of course wasn't always successful with the climbs and small crests) and drink a lot and eat constantly during the 1 hour or so switch breaks. We used Namrita's calorie and carbohydrate tables in advance for our plans. I can report success in this regard: our lap times fluctuated for both of us from lap 2-20 between 63 and 69 minutes with a single lap of 72 min (at night in the dark) and towards the end of the race decreasing again to 66-68 min. So we delivered in this regard without a slump and we were able to move up from 48th place to 6th place in our age group!
But why work forward from 48th place? My first lap was a surprise and disappointment! Technical defect: my shift cable for the sprocket set broke before the first big climb and so I had to ride the first lap on a medium sprocket and the small and large chainring back to the pit lane and that with the big mountain and the 20% slope still in front of me. Result: a few kilometers standing up the hill (pulse in the first kilometers already at 175 and pushing at the steepest part with the 20 slope ☹, Intensity Factor 0.87) What a disappointing start to the highlight event of the year. After arriving in the pit lane Harald at the change already times forewarning that he must probably drive two laps at a time, so that enough time remains (about 2 hours) to get my bike afloat again. In this moment still unsuspecting that none of the exhibition booths, the exhibiting local bicycle dealer and the racing bike teams I asked had Campagnolo spare parts. What a shock. What alternatives remain: Abort? Harald's bike also use for me by adjusting the saddle height? ... So back to the booth of the local bike dealer ... "it's me again, the one with the broken Campa shifter ... Do you know a Campa dealer nearby who can send me a shifter cable by cab?"
He: "hhmmm, in Koblenz about 50 km away there is the next official Campagnolo dealer ... or I go to my store 10 km away and look in all drawers if I still have a Campa shift cable lying around. Am not sure, but can be. Then I would have to leave here my expo booth and colleagues (note Tim: which was surrounded by other riders with several other needs). Okay, I'll drive and see what I can do for you. Might take 45 minutes."
After 30 minutes he was back with a drawer full of shift cables and said there should be one of them that fit. The GPS tracking showed that Harald would also have his second round ready soon. The mechanic of Philipps Bike Team started his work in pit 27. I on the side of the road and when Harald arrives asking him: do you still manage a third round ... bike not ready yet. Harald: "No, must eat something" Oh no, write off ambitions? 2 minutes later my bike was ready, I got into the shoes and off I went (two laps in a row, so that Harald can recover first).
Pacing of my second lap: Well, I wanted to make up for all the lost time in the second lap and did my best lap time there with 63 minutes, but my pulse was way too high again (166 on average and Intensity Factor 0.82). How should that go well over 24 hours ...? Be calmer was the order, but I have not yet succeeded in this second round ... as if abandoned by all good spirits I wanted to get everything back in first.
Pacing of my laps 3-10: I had arrived in the race and now know at the end of the race that I have found my pace in the laps 3-10 for a total of 260 km and 5500 meters of altitude.
Harald and I as a team did a total of 20 laps and reached the 6th place in our age group Master 3. We are super happy and proud that we have mastered this 24-hour challenge so well.
My biggest challenges: dealing with the unplanned technical defect, not giving up, finding back into the race and pacing. Putting positive mental attitude (PMA) advice from Rebecca, Amber, Tim into action, reminding myself of my steep home mountain x times ... I can do it!
My heartfelt thanks to the entire Basecamp coaching team, the bike shop team member of Radsport Breuer from Adenau, the mechanic and team of Philipps Bike Team and my race partner Harald Meyser. Wow, so our annual highlight event became a great success that we can be very proud of. And by the way: I have never ridden 5,500 meters of altitude in one day before. Really quite a lot. "Rad am Ring" a second time: I think so ... but now first a second rest day.
Addition: The most tired part of my body was my back muscles. Menachem: From now on I will also do strength training after the 16 weeks of BaseCamp. 😉 Now I understand.