Riding with Ina Yoko Teutenberg (Specialized-lululemon)
I called my coach when the news came through, “Emergency motor pacing required! I’m riding with Ina in Spain and she’s going to rip my legs off!” For those of you who don’t know me so well, my husband has been forcing me to watch women’s professional cycling for close to ten years and although I only took up riding a year or two ago, I’m addicted! I’ve always been involved in competitive sport and had a great admiration for tough personalities with courage, women like Ina, Marianne, Jenny and Judith.
Don’t laugh, but really, I assumed id have my legs ripped to pieces on a ride with Ina and that was my first thought when Rowena passed the good news to me. My second thought was in line with what any women would say, “What am I going to wear?!”
As I sit and write this for you, I go over my conversations with Ina in a thick German accent (and I encourage you to do the same), it just makes things more fun really.
I’m met at the hotel of Specialized-lululemon by the Team Director Sportif (DS), Jens Zemke. He’s a lovely German ex-pro cyclist with no less than seven National Titles to his name. He turned to the role of DS over ten years ago and saying that Jens has a lot to do with women’s professional cycling is a vast understatement, we immediately hit it off talking about the business of pro cycling. He is excited about today’s time-trial, he certainly has the team for it!
I meet Trixie Worrack and Charlotte Becker when they came down for breakfast, they were pre-coffee so we opted for a short and sweet introduction whilst I continued my conversation with Jens. Then Ina arrived, she exchanged a few short words with Jens in German, she was fully kitted out ready to ride and somewhat jet lagged from racing the Exergy Tour in the USA.
Once Ina finished her pre-ride coffee she yawned and said (insert German accent), “okay, let’s ride.” I nod and smile trying to think of something other than the pain that was about to be inflicted on me. I’d packed my Sunday best and was looking very Melbourne in my black with black and more black Assos and my birthday socks; if I died today I’d look good.
At the team van, the team mechanic fits me out on a Specialized Amira with Shimano Di2, Ina rides a similar machine and it’s called, “Teute.” I am pleasantly surprised by the smooth ride of the Amira and very awesome team specific decals. My product review one-liner would read ‘would ride again by choice’.
In case you’re wondering what Ina’s opinion on bikes is, its:
“any bike can be pro, it’s the rider… but I really love my Specialized”.
As we go for a leisurely roll around Bilbao I realise that Ina is not going to rip my legs off (today) but rather that we are going to chat about all manner of things, cycling at the elite level, love, work, travel, life apres velo, pets and Eurovision. Unexpectedly well rounded for an elite athlete. And no, Ina did not watch Eurovision this year.
Ina asks about my work, what brings me to Spain and how I got into cycling. She laughs when I tell her the story of my husband telling me to start road cycling and my response “oh no, it’s a silly sport”. Famous last words.
When asked why I am at the Bira Tour, I think she’s going to realise I am crazy and we’ve only known each other for an hour. “Oh, one of my friends is riding in this tour so I’ve come to yell at her during my holidays” I say casually. Ina looks at me (that awkward moment at a party when the record scratches and the room goes quiet) “Hold on! There were a few people yelling yesterday on the climb” she exclaims.
Reader, I was sprinting alongside the peloton yelling “COME ON! FULL GAS! GOGOGOGO.”
“Ina…” I say (in a very small voice) “…that was me”. Ina throws her head back and laughs. “You’ve gotta get into it Ina, full gas, no one flies for 30 hours to be well behaved at sporting events” I explain. She rated that (das ist gut).
As we are rolling, Ellen van Dijk passes us on the opposite side of the road, we all do the little ‘pro-wave’ and I comment that she looks the business for today’s TT. Ellen is a champion (on track, on road and off the bike), about 12 feet tall, blonde and probably one of the loveliest women in the peloton. Later in the day Ellen will do an incredible TT that would have won the day except having to ride the last kilometre with a flat (she came third with a flat for 1 kilometre, that is one fast lady). I have one of those I’m so short moments over coffee with Ellen post-ride, but that’s a story for another article.
Rolling through one of Bilbao’s 3,295 round-abouts (turning circles to you Europeans) , we discuss the challenge of leaving loved ones at home and getting into a good home-life rhythm and then having to leave again for work. “[You know what it’s like because you travel for work, it can be hard to leave home when you just get used to it again]” Ina comments. Ina and her teammates only ever spend a couple of weeks at home at a time before they resume life out of suitcases, cars, airports, hotels and training camps. Not all glamour.
As we loop back and get closer to the hotel, the mood changes, the warm-up ride is coming to end and Ina has to get her head into race mode… or have more coffee. The Individual Time Trial is on later in the day and Ina is going to set her legs, lungs and heart to ‘full gas’. When asked whether Ina gets nervous before racing, she shrugs and says “it’s just another race, you know, it’s just another day”.
Ina smashed a great ITT in a time of 18’49”, 6th overall.
Ina is surprisingly down-to-earth and somewhat reflective over her cycling career. She’s won almost everything and been around since the inception of women’s professional cycling. Ina has provided her teammates and younger riders with immense experience and mentoring, what a champ!
Just in case you were wondering, hesitant I have only painted Ina in soft light; I can tell you she really is as tough as she looks.