A rookie’s memoir at the Last Man Standing Berlin
Hello, my name is Kostas, born and bred in Giannitsa, North Greece. Im one of those many Greeks that live in Berlin. This is my memoir of racing at Last Man Standing, March 2023.
But before I start telling you all about that I would like to tell you about my adopted home city Berlin, the capital of Germany – the so called New York of Europe. The city is pretty much flat (if not completely), all spread out and while been given that name, Berlin is as big as New York but of course much less populated. With that being said, out of the 3,5 million residents, at least (!) half a million of them are commuting daily by bike and are accountable for more than 10% of total traffic. While having long distance bike roads that go through the city such as the R1( European Cycle Route) and Berlin-Copenhagen trail, the German Metropolis has more than 1000km of bike lanes and cycle paths, combined pedestrian/bike paths and shared bus lanes to off-road trails. How could you rather be in a car (with all the expenses that comes on top with it), stop every 3 minutes and then have the frustration of parking ..?! Nothing like that feeling of breathing and a funky heart rate in the morning !
Other than the daily use of the bicycle and for some that have the tendency to ride a bit more (or even way more) faster, there are many official events that one can take part even as an amateur cyclist.
One of those is the RadRace “Last Wo/Man Standing”. The famous event with riders from all over the world is hosted in a go-kart track with tight turns, is a highly technical elimination race and the riders compete on track bikes – no gears/no brakes. It can be considered as the pinnacle of “underground racing” or according to the organisers “the mosh pit of cycling” !
Back in 2020 as a spectator I was already eager to race it. A nasty bike accident and dealing with mental/physical issues after that, kept me from doing it but 2023 was all about overcoming! Sign ups were open and I just clicked on the official site. The cold winter in Berlin and working a full time job doesn’t leave you with much time for training preparation so 2 weeks before the event took some time off to put some kms on my legs.
Fast forward and it’s race day !
Arriving at the track got me hyped as it was full with people doing rounds and twitching their bikes. Not losing much time, I got my shoes and helmet out and jumped in to start getting familiar with the course and see how the bike reacts. After a while I felt good and confident leaning in the corners, picking up speed and checking where one can overtake safely, which corner is fast and which needs more attention. Training was done quick enough, the heats were announced and lucky me had to start in the same wave as the reigning champ for years now, something that didn’t bother me that much though – how exciting it is to be in there with the best!
One heat before mine and off to the rollers for the warm up where I’m starting to get anxious. The tension is high and the time is coming .While we are finished and waiting, Im next to a guy (shoutout to Jack and FixedPiratesCrew!) that says to me “I got cramps and I’m already shitting myself bruv” ! That moment I was back, started laughing, all grounded and loose, thinking what a great moment I was living
We get in the track and all the anxiety is pretty much gone and replaced with adrenaline, as there is only one thing to do now -go fast ! We line up pretty tight and I have the barriers on my right side trying to be respectful and not taking my space .
Big mistake !
We hear the famous “kick it” and I’m pushed on the barriers, losing balance and not clipping in while watching back wheels being already in front of me. Im jumping on my pedal again and decided on enjoying what’s left for me in the race. Getting out of the first corner and I can surprisingly see two riders already, overtaking them in the third, closing the gap and catching the next one after the long straight, all that in an action packed first round. Keeping my position but not being able to catch the other ones in front of me, the lap comes and I’m eliminated. On my way out, people I didn’t know cheering and congratulating me (oh and paramedics tying up my finger that got smashed in the barriers and was leaking blood).
Amazing feelings! Didn’t make it to the 64 prelims but I was stoked for being in there with all these mad people. The time for the long awaited beer(s) was finally there and I used it properly!
Taking a moment to reflect back on this event leaves me with a smile on my face as the rush is unmatched. The organisers have covered most of the demands on creating something that everyone is pleased with and trust me when I say I am still excited !
Definitely joining the next one as nothing compares to being in such an atmosphere with different people from all over the world and the common love for track bikes !