The 4 break leading up to Frohburg wasn't much of a break, as we found out about a 5k running race taking place on the Friday ahead of the race weekend... and Chris and I decided to enter it. Thus commenced a very intensive 2.5 week training program, focused on improving our 5k times. We ran a total of 60km, more than I usually run over an entire year (I prefer cycling on my joints), and significantly improved our pace. In a sad turn of events, the race was scheduled at the same time as technical control, and we were never able to put our hard work to the test. We have yet to find a new running event to participate in. Now on to the bike racing aspect of the weekend.
Like at Schleiz, Stefan would be unable to join us until late on the Friday evening, meaning Chris and I set off on Thursday to get set up in the paddock. Courtesy of German roadworks, we arrived shockingly late and beyond exhausted. Somehow we still managed to find a decent spot, and got the awning up with only a minor injury on Chris' part. Friday was spent making some last tweaks to the bike, going on the all important track walk, sorting out sign up and technical control, and last but not least – rider presentation in the town square. Like at Horice, this was an awesome experience. We brought over 100 posters to sign and hand out, and ran out within 30 minutes. Crazy!
While before we'd entered the Open SBK class where possible for extra tracktime, at Frohburg we opted to run solely in the IRRC class. I found that at Horice it didn't hinder me at all to only have 2 qualifying sessions to learn the circuit ahead of the races. If anything it was helpful to have more time to study and think things over in between sessions, and properly make the most out of every second on track. Versus having to rush about all day and just trying to “go faster”.
Another new strategy this weekend, was to finally set an actual goal for qualifying. Taking into account the confidence boost from Horice, the fact that Frohburg is a relatively easy circuit to learn, and it having almost solely left corners (which suits me); we decided to put on a bit of pressure for the first time this year, and set out to qualify on row 6 (P16-18) or better. From studying onboard footage and walking the track, I knew all my gears, lines, and reference points without having done a single lap. The first session I used to get accustomed to the speed at Frohburg (with a tailwind you hit 300 km/h on the straight). The second was to put in a fast lap, and stick with a consistent pace as practice for the 10 lap races. In the end we exceeded our goal and qualified in 15th, on row 5.
Sunday started off slightly less ideal, as I woke up dizzy and with a fever. I tried to pretend I was fine, hoping it would go away, but in the end had to give in and tell the boys what was up. This prompted Chris to set off on a quest to find some paracetamol. After getting offered several other types of drugs, he found Belgian IRRC rider Kurt Haek's team willing to donate some paracetamol to the cause. I took that combined with some of our ibuprofen, and we all just hoped my body would be fine once out on the circuit.
Due to an oil spillage, the start of race 1 was delayed for what felt like an eternity. Once it got underway however I felt fine, and after a good start I settled into 13th place. Slowly but surely I was able to open up a 2 second gap over the rider behind me. Until about 2-3 laps before the end, when the flu struck back. It seemed my mind was off, and I just couldn't get the timing right in the fast sections anymore. I was forced to slow down, and saw my gap disappear. Luckily I knew the rider behind me was a wildcard entry, meaning he didn't count for the championship points. He passed me on the last lap, putting me in 14th overall, yet still 11th for points.
Leading up to race 2 I ate as much as I could, and got as much rest as possible. As I seemed to perk up physically, the team and I set the goal to beat Pavel Tomecek, the next IRRC rider ahead of me in race 1. My start was decent, my first corner mediocre by my standards, yet I still ended up in 12th at the end of the first lap. Right on the back of Pavel! I struggled to find a rhythm in this race, which meant Pavel rode away from me a bit. No need to panic though, as from studying previous race results, we knew his pace would drop towards the end – whereas I'm able to keep going.
After the halfway point the race started coming to me. I dropped a bit of time and started closing the gap to Pavel. I could see Stefan and Chris somewhat perk up on pit wall; my pitboard read +0 every single lap so far, and it must've been almost as nerve racking for them to watch the race as it was for me on the bike. With 2 laps to go I caught Pavel, passed him last minute into a slow corner on the brakes (ensuring the rider behind me wouldn't be able to follow), and then rode my heart out to immediately open up a gap. The whole thing unfolded exactly how I'd planned it, and I was able to comfortably finish in 11th position overall (9th for points). Hell yes! Starting the season with 0 roads experience and ending it on the cusp of the top 10 is huge!
Like at Horice, the fans flooded the track after the last race, and all the riders have to stop and drink a beer. This was an equally amazing and overwhelming experience the second time around. The stream of people asking for a photo, or just wanting to say hi or congrats, seemed never ending. I can't thank the spectators who did so enough, especially the ones that came to see us at our awning afterwards. A special shoutout goes to Tomas Bata, our biggest and bestest Czech fan. It was awesome to meet all of you, and I truly hope to see you all (and more) again next year!
Slightly different at Frohburg is the IRRC end of season party. The entire IRRC field and their team members would get together in the paddock party tent, and per class, all points scoring riders would be called on stage in order. Thanks to our results this weekend, we'd been able to snag 14th place (out of 37) in the championship. After (and before and during, let's be real) this official part, we basically all got drunk and had a laugh. At this point properly part of the IRRC family, the three of us had a great time (below you'll find a small selection of images to give you an impression of the night). Can not wait to do it all again next year, except then celebrating a top 10 position at the end of the season.