So, to Køge, where Tommy Hogan and I represented OOB Cycling Club at the 2016 edition of Køge Tours on a very windy day over a parcours that took us through 107km of the Danish countryside.
By: Steve Olson // Photos: Steve Olson & Køge Tours
The number of participants at Køge Tours 2016 appeared to be only about half of what it’s been in the past several years, possibly because this year’s edition clashed on the cycling calendar with Stjerneløbet in Roskilde. Nevertheless, I feel confident in saying that the vast majority of those who were there enjoyed what is always one of Denmark’s best cyclosportives.
It´s hard to break away
– when the wind is in your face
Tommy and I started with the first group at 09:30, riding over the cobblestones in Køge Torv and out Northwest into the countryside of Sjælland. The first 40km would take us directly into a strong headwind, making for a challenging start to the race. We were with a group of about 20 riders, and after the first 5km one clever guy decided to try to launch an attack. We reeled him back in after a couple of km’s, only for him to go again after another km, this time taking two other riders with him. We would catch them again after about another 10km, but it set the tone for a hard-working day in the saddle.
At some point in the rolling hills on the way to the first feedstation, the group started to splinter, and we found ourselves in a reduced bunch of about a dozen riders. When the feedzone arrived at the 39km mark, a couple of riders turned off to stop while the rest continued onwards. I hesitated momentarily, asking Tommy whether we should refill our bidons or continue on, and we decided to continue and catch the group that we’d been with. It took us 3km to get back onto the back of the group, which had turned North and now had a little bit of a crosswind/tailwind behind them (and us).
Suddenly, disaster struck just ahead of us in the bunch. I still have no idea of exactly what happened, but I first saw a bidon go bouncing down the road, and then immediately afterwards the same rider whose bidon had just gone flying locked up his brakes, lost control of his bike, and sailed head-first over his handlebars, with the bike then somersaulting over him. With the injured rider lying on his back in the middle of the road, screaming in pain with what appeared to be a broken collarbone, we stopped along with a few of his teammates and other riders to try to help and to call an ambulance. After a couple of minutes, one of his teammates thanked us and told us that they now had everything under control and that we should just go ahead and continue up the road.
Back to chasing
– but it seemed we were the last, of the fast… almost
Tommy and I set off after a group of four riders who had passed us at the crash site and who were now about 500 metres ahead of us. After maybe 10 minutes of chasing them, we caught and then passed them and then rode on with no other riders around. Finally, another group came through and we rode with them for some km’s until it was gradually reduced to just a few riders by some of the day’s sharper climbs. There were maybe four of us left riding together by the time we reached the second feed station, where Tommy and I made a brief stop to refill our bottles, and have a coffee and a banana.
After that, it was back out onto the road for the last 40km’s and the big finish in Køge. There were a couple of riders from Salto Systems a short distance up the road from us, and we soon caught up and passed them. They then got onto our wheels but didn’t seem to want to come through to do any work themselves. This got a bit annoying and I didn’t know whether they were just freeloading or were genuinely tired. At some point, the Garmin route provided by the organizers conflicted with the directional signage on the road, and Tommy and I slowed down to figure out if we were still on the right course. The Salto Systems guys continued riding, but we soon caught them again and at that point we noticed that they really were tired and hadn’t just been sandbagging. We drove on at a pace they couldn’t cope with and were riding alone for some time before, with about 10km to go, a group of about eight or nine riders came flying through, with the Salto Systems guys hanging on at the back. We hopped on for the final run-in to the finish line.
– in Sportives who cares about your overall standing, you race the guys you end up with!
Tommy soon hit the front, with me on his wheel, and drove the group on at a furious pace with me taking the occasional turn. I soon noticed that nobody else was doing any of the work, despite sticking close to our wheels. One guy in particular, wearing a club kit that was reminiscent of the Italian national team, seemed to be pretty strong but riding tactically on our wheels. At one point, half the group took a bike path while the other half that Tommy and I were in continued on the road and, when he noticed that he’d ended up ahead of us, he actually slowed down just before the path and the road merged so that he could get on our wheels again. The game of cat and mouse was clearly on!
With just over 5km to go, one of the other riders attacked and took the “Italia” guy and one other rider up the road with him. Tommy and I and one of the other riders from the bunch turned up the heat at the front to close the gap, which led to them increasing their own pace. However, we caught them with just a few km’s to go. With the group all together again, we were all set for a sprint finish on the cobblestones of Køge.
Mr. Italia and one of the other riders began the sprint very, very early, with a few hundred metres still to go before the finish line, and I held with them up until about 150 metres to go where I turned up my own sprint and cruised past them like they were standing still, finishing on my own a few seconds ahead of the rest of the sprinting group. Tommy, who had done enormous amounts of work on the day, followed and we all shook hands with the other riders and got our finisher’s medals before moving on to a well-earned pint of Tuborg Classic at the beer tent.
Truly a great day, and once I got home a few hours later I even discovered that I’d finished 10th overall for the entire parcours amongst Strava users (though, unsurprisingly, this was to change as others got around to uploading their own data later). A lot of that was down to the hard work put in by Tommy, who rode with the old skool fury of a CSC-era Jens Voigt for much of the day. Despite being only a two-man team, I think we represented OOB Cycling Club very well at this classic date on the Danish cycling calendar.
Overall standing? – who cares, I won the group sprint!