In Rideposter Stories, we meticulously relive that one unforgettable queen stage of a cyclist. In this edition, Debby Frenken's very first race: 200 kilometers of struggling during the mountain bike marathon Bartje 200.
It's Saturday morning, just past 6:30 am, as I step into the breakfast room of the hotel, dressed in my cycling gear. My biking buddy Bas is already there. We were sipping on mint tea just last night, laughing about my honey mishap. We jokingly wondered if it would be the ultimate shortcut. But now, all I can think about is coffee. And food. Lots of food.
07:42 AM - Arrival:
We pull into the parking lot. This is where my very first race starts and finishes. I've trained hard for this moment over the past few months. I go through my checklist one last time. Race number? Check. Tire pressure? Check. Enough energy gels? Double check. These liquid helpers will get me through tough times when I need them the most. Interestingly, I feel no nerves. On the contrary, I'm excited. My goal is to finish the race, and I am ready for it. Bas starts twenty minutes earlier. I wish him luck and slowly make my way to my own starting position.
08:20 AM - The Start:
Bam! The sound of the starting gun echoes through the air. The race is on. Two hundred riders fight for a place at the front. I burst out of the blocks at a blazing thirty kilometers per hour, flying over the Drenthe cobbles. My mission: catch up with the groups ahead.
08:29 AM - Unexpected Encounter:
Amongst the trees, Bas suddenly appears. He's been waiting for me for thirty minutes. His earlier saddle pain is still bothering him. He decided to abandon his own race and ride alongside me. Unfortunate for him, but great for me. This is exactly the wheel I was looking for.
09:44 AM - Fueling the Journey:
We ride from group to group, swallowing up numerous riders. My legs are in top form. So, I only need to focus on two things: Bas's wheel and eating. Keep eating.
12:07 PM - Unrelenting Momentum:
We continue overtaking riders. Bas has transformed into an excellent teammate, counting every rider we pass. We must have surpassed sixty by now. We've been on the road for almost four hours, yet my legs feel strong as ever.
13:42 PM - A Close Call:
We spot a new group up ahead, consisting of four riders. As we join them, I can see the exhaustion etched on their faces. At that very moment, the last rider hits a tree root and catapults over his handlebars. I narrowly avoid the collision. Fortunately, it's a minor incident, and my mountain bike remains unscathed. Time for another gel and onward to the next group.
15:07 PM - Embracing the Surroundings:
We've caught up with and passed all the other riders. With them out of sight, I finally take a moment to appreciate the surroundings. These trails are familiar; they're usually reserved for the Cyclocross Gieten race. It feels incredible to be racing here myself.
16:00 PM - Chasing the Finish:
Ten kilometers before the finish line, we are overtaken for the first time. A group of riders has launched their final sprint. We try to hold onto their wheels. In the past 190 kilometers, overtaking others gave us morale, but this pace is blistering.
16:21 PM - Crossing the Finish Line:
The last 250 meters are a twist and turn on the shell path. Bas, who had led for 195 kilometers, sees me pass him for the first time with the finish truck in sight. Fortunately, he takes it in good spirits. It's over. My very first race. What a monster ride. And what monster legs.
I rummage in my back pocket. Hidden beneath all the empty gel packets, I find my phone. Shit. It's turned off. But Bas has already taken out his phone and checks the standings. I came in third among all the participants... How cool. How awesome. How amazing. Finishing was the goal, but it turned into a third place. Unbelievable. This leaves me craving for more.
On to October 3rd: Dutch Masters of MTB. Same recipe. One cycling buddy leading the way, lots of energy gels, and the evening before, a mint tea with honey.