The Teutenberg name is famous in the world of cycling for more reasons than the twenty-five plus wins Ina garners year after year. Ina’s the runt of the litter. She spent her growing-up years chasing older brothers Lars and Sven around on two wheels. Not to mention the coaching her father has done for decades and his involvement with SRM and helping many pro riders find their ideal aerodynamic position on the steep bankings of the Buttgen velodromein Germany. Lars still races time trials after many years as a pro and Sven won his share of races, too, now running a sweet little bike shop with his wife Suzan in Dusseldorf.
Anyway, you get the picture. This is a true cycling family. I had the chance this week to spend a few days in Ina’s hood. In order to break up the month of racing with the Specialized-lululemon Team in Europe, I decided to make the trip to Mettmann where Ina grew up and check out her neck of Germany.
I’ve not been disappointed. Ina has been a friend for years. Her passion for racing and riding has always inspired me. Now that she’s my teammate, her incredible skill and drive on the bike in the gnarliest of races in Holland and Belgium leave us all in awe.
Yesterday was the first ride I did in her area. We had company for the trip into Dusseldorf and back. Ina’s niece and nephew joined us. She gave them the choice of a loop around Mettmann or the ride into the city. I don’t know if they knew just how long the ride was but they emphatically said in unison, ‘LaBici’ !! LaBici is Sven and Suzan’s shop in Dusseldorf, at least 30 kilometers away. LaBici meant a visit and some good baked goodies from the bakery near by. Not sure if they quite realized that how far you ride out is how far you ride home. They were game so off we went.
Our riding companions are the son and daughter of Lars Teutenberg. Lars is the equipment guru for teams like the defunct HTC, and now GreenEdge and Scott bikes. He is a magician when it comes to speed and the sport has evolved in the aerodynamic sense largely in part to Lars’ input. His kids, needless to say, were pretty kitted out. It was the funniest thing to see these two skinny kids in all the HTC gear. Some of it Ina’s old stuff with ‘Teutenberg’ on the back and German Champion stripes of the sleeves; some ordered small enough for the kinders. Or maybe it was left-over gear from the smallest climbers on the team. Either way, I had to chuckle each time I saw the kids. It was really cool to see them and witness the skill of a 9 year old boy and a 12 year old girl.
It’s not like these kids are pushed into riding the bikes. They ride if they want to and run or play soccer, or whatever they want to, if they want to do that. Yesterday, they wanted to ride, and thus or group ride that turned heads all the way to and then back from Dusseldorf.
I remember Ina saying ‘don’t worry about them they are both good wheel suckers’. I swear these kids had better skills than most of the female peleton. After doing two days of team time trial training in Holland, I suspect little Timmy would have output less power in the double echelon practice than some of my team, including me. Hopping curbs? No problem. Riding cobbles? Not a concern. Single file, two-by-two, dirt paths, construction…city riding and country roads, nothing phased the kinders on the ride. And they didn’t have to be told what to do; they knew what to do.
When we started the ride, I have to admit I thought it would be a pretty slow one. I thought we’d be waiting for them on each hill and wondered if they’d end up getting a ride back to Mettmann after more than 30kms into Dusseldorf. Instead, Ina just started riding at a normal endurance pace. Up and down through the city streets and then out onto the bike paths and fields. Through the airport and into the city, the kids just sat behind and rode their bikes.
Each time I turned back to see if they were okay, they just smiled at me. They were pumped to be riding with their Auntie Ina. I could see Timmy doing all the things pro riders do. Uphill? Time to unzip the jersey a little bit. Need some gloves? He effortlessly took them from Ina while going down a hill, put them on while riding with the ease of a Tour de France rider over the summit of a climb.
And finally we made it to the shop, stuffed our faces with goodies, and then set out to ride back to Mettmann. Which was the point when the kinders finally acted their ages.
‘How long until home?’ But still, they rode. We stopped to look at a castle from 700AD and passed by the area where the Teutenberg’s lived until Ina was 4 years old. The orphanage Ina’s dad worked was another point of interest. A massive building that I found hard to imagine filled with kids.
Our kinder companions lost focus here and there, but we made it home. The long way. And the last part was uphill. Ina stayed with Lin and gave Tim the instruction ‘stick to Clara’s wheel!’. So, I rode with Tim behind. Had to say it was a little annoying to hear him free-wheeling at times, uphill! At one point, I signaled for a few cars behind it was safe to pass us on the single lane road going up, and Tim took it as a signal to ‘pull through’. He pulled through and got out of the saddle, never slowing the pace.
I remembered earlier in the ride when Ina said ‘let’s sprint!!’. The two of them took off ahead, Tim more aero than Ina sprinting away. I’m sure he heard from Lars how low a rider like Mark Cavendish is in the sprints and was undoubtably emulating the fastest racer in the world head to head with Ina, the fastest woman in the world. Too funny.
Then the final drag up to town. I thought beforehand that maybe I’d need to give him a little push up the hill but quickly realized not only was this not necessary, but would also be an insult.
At almost 70 kilometers they both had enough. Ina gave Tim a big pat on the back for the longest ride he’d ever done. Lin rode beside me through town smiling away like she’d not just ridden the remarkable distance for a twelve year old.
I tried to tell them both how impressed I was back at Ina’s flat. Not sure if they got it but I was and am blown away by the way these kids ride the bike. It’s no big deal to them because it’s just what they know. They’ve watched the best racers their whole lives and simply do what they see.
I now understand why Ina is so damn good on the bike. She simply did as she saw. She chased her brothers around and improved by experience and osmosis. And it was no big deal to her just like it’s no big deal to these kids.
What’s funny is this racing season, all I do is follow Ina around and try to do what she does. I also get the chance to learn from the best. Learn from her skill and her heart for the sport.
I can’t wait to see the next generation of Teutenberg’s in cycling in the years to come. One day I can say ‘I rode with that kid when he was only 9; she was only 12…’