The bike race at the Hockenheimring is always something very special. Not only is it one of the fastest races in the GCC, it's also the only one with a late-afternoon start. This always gives it a bit of the character of a Twilight criterion.
Due to this late start time, the racers and therefore also us, the Merkur Cycling Team, only traveled to Saturday directly before the race. Quickly greet everyone, pick up the starting documents and head to the racetrack. However, this time there was enough time to review the past few days and the experiences of the last training sessions and races that the individual drivers completed in their home country. The main focus was on Stefan's legendary single-handed victory in Berlin.
Shortly before the start we got together again and went through the various tactical options that Enrico had given us along the way. We were all excited for the race, so the atmosphere was good – we had a good feeling.
The sun was already low when we got to the starting line. As always, it was nice to see the many faces of the GCC! This time the drivers of the short distance also started with us. A whole new experience.
Then the starting signal was given for 15 laps on the ring. We had 90 flat kilometers ahead of us and mainly because of the involvement of the short distance, the race was fast and characterized by attacks right from the start. However, these were not crowned with success.
After 10 laps the focus was on the finish sprint of the short lap. For us, that meant staying alert and avoiding falls. That was one of the main difficulties anyway, since the risk of falling is generally higher on such a fast and flat course. However, the team mostly stayed together at the front of the field, which is why we only had to cope with two minor incidents from Christian and Christine, who both managed to finish the race well.
When it came to the last lap, things got more hectic. Many riders who wanted to be in the final sprint tried to find the right rear wheel. We and the Bürstner Dümo team used all our men and forces to keep the field fast and thus avoid last attacks. In addition, it is always a bit easier to get the sprinters into the right position in a long field. When we then drove around the last switchback 600 meters before the finish, the field sorted itself out for the last time. Unfortunately, Stefan and Till, our starters for the sprint, were trapped. Daniel and I, who came around the bend first, looked at each other and it was a decision of seconds. As long as Till and Stefan didn't come forward, I would try to prepare the last few meters for Daniel. We lined up and up to 150 meters from the finish I mobilized all remaining strength before Daniel started and sprinted past me. Sandro Kühmel followed him on the rear wheel and so I had the best place to watch the sprint up close. This remained exciting until the last meter, but Daniel was able to underline his strong performances this year and won in front of Sandro and Till, who had found a way out of the group and did a perfect sprint. This third place is definitely a demonstration of his strength and at the same time a reward for all the work he has already done for the team this year.
Christoph and I also ended up in the top ten and so we won the team classification in Hockenheim, just ahead of the Bürstner Dümo team. So our feelings didn't cheat us. We delivered the best results on this Saturday evening. The team is getting used to it more and more this year, communication in the race runs smoothly and often without big words - a look or a pointer is enough.
Now it's time to train diligently in order to play at the top again in the next race in Schleiz. A completely different terrain awaits us there, so we never get bored.