Over the weekend of 22-23 July 2023, the SICC racing team took part in a 24-hour cycle race on the famous Nordschleife of the Nürburgring, also known as the “Green Hell” due to its demanding course through the Eiffel forest. The 24-hour race, named “Rad am Ring”, celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, setting a new record with over 5,800 participants riding in various cycle categories under a registered 1,724 teams. The SICC team participated in the most demanding category, the 4-rider relay 24-hour race, the heart of the event in terms of number of participants and required level of performance, along with 770 other teams, completing 27 laps (705 kms) and finishing 15th overall while scoring 2nd in the Master 2 M (age group 40-50).
Friday: Arrival. On a windy Friday afternoon, the SICC team consisting of Kenneth, Nils, Pete and Mateusz traveled to the Nürburgring racetrack to set up the campsite for the next two days. The different teams each had a small lot along the racetrack, which would also be where the teams could change riders during the race. Pete’s caravan provided a nice base for the upcoming event with the possibility to sleep inside – for almost everyone. The evening included a tour of the track, final adjustments to the bikes, and team strategy discussions. With the length of each lap being 26 km and with 580 m of altitude, we decided on changing riders each lap, which turned out to be the same strategy as almost all of the other teams.
Saturday: Race Begins. Despite never having participated in a race like this, the SICC team felt confident and positioned its starting rider Pete in the front row between similar teams with winning ambitions. Pete started the team off strong, completing the first part of the race while remaining in the leading group of the race. Each SICC team member that followed kept the high pace. In the beginning, there were big groups of riders together, but as time went by, the separation between the different levels of riders started to set in. It became important to look for riders of similar ability in order to draft their wheels and save energy. It also allowed the possibility to ride really fast on the descents reaching speeds of up to 103 km/h.
Saturday: Nightfall. With darkness falling across the racetrack, the motivation and performance of the SICC team remained high. We were still among the top teams and the app showing the results and position of the different riders in real-time was checked constantly. Although we were becoming familiar with the route, 100% concentration was needed when riding up to 90 km/h downhill in the pitch dark night, with only our bike lights to light up the racetrack. Due to the combination of constant change of riders and adrenaline in the body, it was hard to fall asleep and no one on the team slept more than couple of hours combined throughout the night.
Sunday: Overcoming Fatigue and Finishing Strong. The early morning of the second day was mentally the biggest challenge for the SICC team. Temperatures dropped significantly during the night to a low of 12 degrees centigrade with wet wind in the Eifel. With these challenging conditions, the SICC team began to slightly struggle on the lap’s 5 km-long category 3 climb from Adenau to the Hohe Acht. However, the other teams were also getting tired, and the SICC team never lost faith in overcoming this most challenging portion of the race, digging deep to maintain our position in the race. Kenneth, in particular, was able to impress his opponents and maintain fast laps until the end of the race.
Unfortunately, the rain showers and windy conditions in the end, regrettably, resulted in one fellow team’s member crashing on a fast descent requiring medical airlift and forcing the race’s organizers to make a hard decision to conclude the race after approximately 22 of the 24-hour race being completed. Race conclusion saw the SICC team unwavering determination achieving an outstanding 2nd place in the Master 2 M (age group 40-50) competition, falling second to a team led by professional rider Karl PLATT, and placing 15th in the general classification of the 4-rider relay teams.
Team captain Nils expressed his satisfaction after the race: “We came here with 4 very strong riders, but we had little racing experience. In the end, we played our cards perfectly. After a strong start, we deliberately kept the pace very high, which gave us prominence in the field and put the other teams under pressure. The night was tough mentally, but we were fully motivated. We were expecting a plummet every lap, but we all had very strong legs today and were even able to respond well to the attack from the team in third on Sunday morning. Thanks to everyone who cheered us on! An amazing result, especially when you look at the starting field. We’ve beaten a lot of the semi-professional teams. Some of the other team’s had riders who had won international races and national titles in their careers, some even continental, or international titles. We can be very proud today!”
The SICC team covered 27 laps in 22:07:30, which corresponds to a distance of 705 kms, while climbing an altitude of almost 16,000 meters. However, you do not have to be a top rider on a top team in order to participate in this event. There were riders of all abilities, and everyone was challenged during the race whether you were in first or last or last position. There was also a great social atmosphere among the teams, and many of the teams had participated in the event for several years and helpful in providing advice to us newcomers.
This article, written by Nils Tonndorf, originally appeared in the August 23 edition of SHAPE Community Life Magazine.