The Race Across Germany from Aachen to Görlitz 2021 is history. Officially 780 km, it was 801 km for me, with planned and unplanned detours. The official track from Dieter Goepfert, the organizer, was 796 km long, and it did not include the diversion just before the end. More on that later.
According to my speedometer and my tracking apps, I needed 29: 05:57 hours of pure driving time for the 801.63 km, 30:52:29 in total, including breaks and stops at traffic lights. I climbed 7358 meters in altitude and consumed around 20,000 kcal. Which is about 21 bags of chips (175g packs). As a reward, after the award ceremony and showering, I drank a beer and ate a soft ice cream.
But let me jump back 12 months. Because in October 2020 the whole drama of last year actually started. I got a tennis elbow (left) through a violent knock on a door handle, which I was struggling with until February / March. At times I even had to use the time trial bars because I couldn’t hold the handlebars any other way. Fortunately, I was able to do everything professionally with the very well-functioning voice input and handwriting recognition. April actually went well before I slipped on the way to the bakery in May, and although I was able to prevent the fall with a lunge step, I suffered an uncomfortable adductor strain. With higher loads, i.e. interval training or races, I had problems until the beginning of August. It got better in time for the start of the RAG. That’s why I severely bruised my shin exactly 2 weeks before the start :-). Marble is really hard! On the day before the start, it was actually not at all sure whether it would work. The motto was therefore to start and, if the pain became too great, to stop. So, cry enough …
Except for the ailments, the preparation was still ok, although I would have liked to have added more intensive and shorter units. Shortly before the appointment it got hectic again. I had one day off Thursday, but two days would have been much better! Comes on my checklist for the next time.
What has to be right is the material. New chain, chainrings and sprockets, new tires, new cleats, new headset bearings and new shift cables. Grease the bottom bracket again and check the power meter battery. Above all, check and charge all lamps. Then there is always the question of what you have to carry with you. Tools, repair kits, clothes and lots of provisions. The heaviest part is all of the food. Muesli bars and gels, plus powdered drinks. Spare parts, lights, speedometer, power banks. More than 10 kg overweight. That still needs to be optimized.
5:45 am: Get up and have breakfast, pack everything in the car and off to the start.
07:40 a.m .: Arrival at the market square in Aachen. Many members of the Malabon eV project group. are here. Friends and work colleagues too. Great thing!
8:00 a.m .: The first two participants depart. The participants in the non-supported category start first. Makes sense, because they are usually the longest on the road.
8:01 am: I am called. Roll to start. Dieter mentions my fundraising campaign again and with applause and encouragement I start about
08:02 am: on time. First, there is the challenge of getting out of Aachen alive. Peterstrasse and Jülicherstrasse in rush hour traffic are “great”. Construction sites and it feels like 1001 traffic lights that are always red for cyclists! Inka Tulowitzki and Rainer Hess, who started before me, were always exactly one traffic light period ahead. At Hansemannplatz, a car driver thinks he has to drive into a parking space quickly. Without looking, without indicators. Markus Apfelbaum, who started at the same time as me, and I cursed for the first time and 800 km would have been almost over after 1 km. “That was close,” says Markus, a successful Paris-Brest participant, very dryly to me. Anyway, my pulse was 180. After it went right in Aachen Haaren, it got better. On the ascent of the Haarender Gracht to Verlautenheide, I drove about 50 Meters ahead of Markus, I overtook a young man on a mountain bike on the bike path. At the beginning of such a long tour, you drive really slowly. Every minute that you drive too fast at the beginning costs hours in the end. So I ride the mountain biker over, with a moderate 200 watts. That was obviously against his honour. So he got out of the saddle and full throttle. Just stupid if you run out of full-throttle after 100 m and then you park like a bucket. So I’m just in the same place Tempo passed again. Markus called out the words “classic” to me from behind after he had also passed the mountain biker.
Then it went on via Stolberg out of the traffic. Donnerberg up and through Gressenich, Schevenhütte to Langerwehe, past Düren and over the villages to Bonn. These are by far the flattest kilometres of the entire route.
11:18 am: I am crossing the Rhine in Bonn. Michael Bitter has now caught up with me, and we meet again at every traffic light through the city. I am wearing 2 jerseys and have to realize that this, together with the undershirt on the Rhine, is way too warm. I need water! At Bornheim there is a steep ramp up out of the Rhine Valley. Knowing that I can’t keep an eye on Michael anyway, I’m happy about the construction site where a worker is currently drawing water from a hydrant. Bottle underneath, and after about 0.2 seconds it was already full. Nice and cold. And on it goes in the direction of the Westerwald.
In the next few hours, we always overtake each other. The supported drivers are catching up and each non-supported driver has different breaks and stops.
At some point the three of us or sometimes four of us met. Always at a distance, a matter of honor, because driving in the slipstream is forbidden.
The route was different from 2017, I used the old GPS track last year. A little longer, but no longer on the federal highways, but on very nice paths away from traffic. Much nicer, but more exhausting! More up and down, it rolls less well, and sometimes you had to look for the way.
12:55 p.m .: After 139 km the GPS track has an error. I was just overtaken by Andreas Nebel. We turn around and meet Martin Neitzke and another driver. For the next few kilometers we drive one behind the other with the appropriate distance within shouting distance.
1:10 p.m.: I then underestimated a right turn in a descent at kilometre 146. At some point, you have to make a decision. Emergency braking and no possibility to steer, or try to get around the curve. I had decided on the latter, but I was missing about 20 cm of asphalt to the side. Then I prefer a controlled take-off into the meadow. Softly fallen, the heavy rain of the last few weeks also has its good points! I call out to the others “everything is OK” so that they can move on quickly. Thanks for stopping and asking if everything is ok guys! So quickly back on the bike and afterwards. It was only after a few kilometres that I realized that my lucky charm was no longer on the bike. My lucky duck has accompanied me at all bike races and sports events since 1994. Before the start of “Rund um Dom in Rathaus” I got it from my friend Christoph. She obviously did her best! “Free duck” said Christoph after I told him that. I think she gave everything because there were no “defects” either on me or on the bike. As I was told later, at least one other participant lay on his nose in the same curve and even rolled over. But everything is fine there too. I quickly catch up with the others and we continue together at a distance. Different stops at cemeteries or gas stations permanently change the composition.
2:00 p.m.: The hills never end and the most strenuous part of the first section begins. I have to realize that I cannot follow the pace of my colleagues with the shin problem. It’s not kicked out, not yet. During the race, you have no idea where you are. I don’t have the time and leisure to look at the tracker. But I took from the WhatsApp messages that I’m not lying too badly. Somewhere in the first third maybe? Fits.
3:01 p.m .: Get out of Rhineland-Palatinate back to NRW. It starts to trickle exactly on the national border. The trickling turns into heavy rain after a few minutes. I put on my rain jacket under a bridge and drive on. After the rain is over, I stop at c.a. km 200 in Rabenscheid at a gas station. The stop was planned, with the idea of being able to drive through to Bad Hersfeld. That worked very well.
4:10 p.m.: From Herborn it goes on a busy road “wrong Platt” over many kilometres to Oberweidbach (the name says it all). At the top, at kilometre 240, there is a support team (I think the T5 with the Munich license plate that supported a participant from Düren, or was it the one with the Tölzer license plate?) And cheers me on. Dieter stands only a few hundred meters away and does the same. In general, it is great how the teams of the other drivers cheer on us non-supported drivers. That motivates and puts you in a good mood. After Oberweidbach you drive through beautiful landscapes towards Bad Hersfeld.
6:10 p.m .: There is a construction site in Amöneburg, but it is easy to drive through. In the end, I meet Julian Rotariu from Romania, who has lived in northern Germany for years when he picks up his lost smartphone. It had probably taken on a life of its own on a short piece of cobblestone.
7:00 p.m .: Alsfeld is reached at kilometer 302. The Garmin says it is almost empty and asks for energy-saving mode. Funny, because he has an additional power bank. But it was heaven in the rain, I thought. At home, I noticed that it was only due to a defective cable.
Quickly plugged in and simply connect the large power bank from the iPhone to the Garmin with the other USB cable that was already plugged in there. The iPhone could not be charged at the moment because there was moisture in the charging socket. Where did it come from?
8:00 p.m .: It gets wet again, but not as strong and for a long time as before Herborn. All my bones hurt from the fall so that my shin is no longer noticeable. You can ride in the saddle again. You can see it that way … I meet Andreas Nebel again when he has just come out of a kebab shop where he has bought something to drink. “Somehow I always get to the booth where things are going the slowest,” he says. “Before me, of all people, someone orders 20 kebabs with this or that and then still has problems paying …”. After a short chat, he moves on. I can’t, don’t want to, so quickly. I then turn on a taillight (out of four) and the front turn signal. I want to wait as long as possible with the actual light because the night is getting long and my battery is past its prime. But at some point before Bad Hersfeld, you can no longer do without it. Because at 7:45 pm it was sunset, and through the clouds, it was over early with the dawn.
8:25 p.m .: Bad Hersfeld has been reached. I drive into the McDonalds parking lot, see no one. No matter quickly send the SMS to Dieter. Then I’ll call Dieter. Ok, I’m 100 m away from Dieter, all right. I come over What a difference to last year when I ate something lonely in the Aral gas station. First, I’m faster, despite the changed route, and then a lot of participants meet there to take a break. Andres has just finished his stop and is cycling off. Martin Noitzko is also almost through. Dieter and his crew are once again creating a great atmosphere and I get my food bag with the water bottles, the food and, above all, full wheat bread with cheese that I handed in at the start. If you eat muesli bars all the time, whether bought or homemade, you also need something hearty. The black bread is the culinary highlight of the 800 km. I keep the stop as short as possible. Put on leg warmers, on the cheek. I notice how thick my right shin and ankle are already. But I got it over and once on, it was ok too. And now it was clear that I would drive through. Too many of you were watching to give up. Now solve the moisture problem from the iPhone. With a tissue and blowing it was quickly done. Just in time, because my iPhone was almost empty.
8:55 p.m .: Break over, it goes quickly through the night. It’s not that far to Eisenach. I really like this section. Up and down with a few fast descents and hardly any traffic. After the deer crossing last year, I drove a little more cautiously, only 78 km / h top. But it was also due to the chainrings, which were my salvation uphill, but my gear ratio was simply too short for downhill and flat stretches. At some point, I can no longer ride with a cadence of 100 on such long distances.
10:30 p.m .: Herleshausen is reached at km 383. In the meantime, I have crossed the old zone border several times and I continue through Thuringia.
11:00 p.m .: Eisenach (km 393), don’t go back to the way you did last year. I’m heading for a gas station. Better to fill up the bottles again. Because I’m far ahead of my optimistic plan, so with a little luck I would be in Zeitz before 6:30 a.m. and only then does the gas station open there. So park your bike. Outside the entrance, a couple of seasoned boys my age from Eisenach were standing and drinking a beer. “Do you have an eye on the bike?” I ask. “Yeah” comes back. So in, two more boys inside with a beer. And the gas station attendant with me. Cool. I shop here! Grabbed two bottles of sports drink, well that’s what I thought, paid for and put in my drinking bottles. I don’t know what it was, but it just tasted nice.
A short chat with the guys in front of the door (everyone was there now), the obligatory questions where from, where to, what for, how expensive is the bike, and are you crazy? Aachen, Görlitz, because I can, bought second-hand, yes, are the standard answers. Continue towards Bad Langensalza.
The next few hours are quiet and I’m making good progress. Meanwhile, we have all lost sight of each other. Every now and then a bike is parked at a bus stop and a colleague is at a power nap. I’m fine, not tired, try to drive through what works. I apologize to all residents along the route: I was the crazy cyclist with the “hello wake up playlist” and cranked music.
Saturday, 02:20 a.m .: I reach Saxony-Anhalt. It rolls well for the next 2 hours, but you can feel that it is much longer dark in September than in June or July. The battery indicator on my headlight shows that there is less than half of the charge left.
4:35 am: I am crossing Zeitz. Here you drive through the huge Südzucker facility. My most optimistic plan was to be in Zeitz around 7:00 a.m. to be able to buy new water at the gas station. Fortunately, there are many cemeteries on the route that you can use to get fresh water. So there is no danger of drying out.
5:42 am: Saxony is reached at km 580. But is it even getting light again? The battery of my headlight is almost empty and still no sunrise? He has to hold out for at least another hour. The long darkness was also due to the thick black cloud, which soon discharged. Is that a lot of rain or not, in the dark you can’t guess? I hope it won’t rain so hard. Thought wrong. I’m looking for a covered bus stop, but none come. Finally at
6.30 a.m. in Geithain at km 595 there is one. Quickly put the rain jacket under the yellow reflective vest and off we go. A few kilometres further, in Königsfeld, I can’t resist the smell of a bakery. Pumpkin seed and a raisin bun are a must. As far as Rochlitz (km 600) these have long been plastered and it is getting light. The landscape looks spooky, there is still hardly any traffic on Saturday morning.
9:33 am: A few hours later, apart from wet roads with partly poor pavement, there wasn’t much to see or feel, I come to the second time station in Wilsdruff. Now it is not far to the Elbe and then only a stone’s throw to Görlitz. Yes, you can talk or think about almost anything. The descent down to the Elbe is dangerous when it’s dry. With cobblestones of the worst quality on a 10% gradient, serpentines are not much fun, especially when it is wet. A supported driver is catching up with me, and I can at least give him the tip to drive carefully down behind me. Coachman knows the way. Down in front of the Elbe bridge (km 675), the GPS track has had an error since 2017, I still call my colleague to follow me, but he prefers to rely on his sat-nav. In Radebeul he catches up with me again and laughs at me “next time I’ll listen to you”. We are still in eye contact for a while, but I have to give in again out of the Elbe Valley. I would have liked to pedal 20-30 watts more, but it just didn’t work. Stupid leg …
10:10 am: The last 110 km began. The route through Lausitz is tough. Nothing is flat. No wonder that hotels and guest houses often show pictures with a lot of snow on their websites. Radeberg and Radeburg are the next stops, castles are rarely in the valley, so unfortunately the names have their reason. I call my wife and my youngest child to say that I am early, but that I have left Dieter’s clothes and laundry in the car, so no stress. But my taxi is already at Erfurt and should be there before me. The first Saturday cyclists come towards me, all of them waving excitedly and shouting encouragement. Then it goes over a larger street to Bischofswerda. In Bischofswerda, take a sharp left downhill on a cobblestone street, which is the last endurance test for the material. Everything is still on the bike when I get down and it goes left towards Bautzen. Then finally the first idiot who wants to honk me off the track. I thought it couldn’t be to drive 800 km through Germany without being honked? Where did he want to honk me? No idea. In any case, there was no bike path. But unfortunately, not everyone knows the difference between cycle paths with the signs 237, 240 or 241 and the addition “Bicycle free” (sign 1022-10). I communicate with the driver by means of a clear show of hands. Automobile? Higher priced S.U.V., what else?
But then it was quiet again. It goes through Bautzen (km 744) without any problems. There is now a cycle path that is set off with coloured markings on the road. Perfect.
12:44 p.m.: At the end of Bautzen, turn left towards Weißenberg. A diversion sign and a sign with “Durchfahrt only bis O.L. Wurschen “doesn’t bode well. But often you can still get through with the bike. I’ll call Dieter. He says you will get through, but it wasn’t like that. So in Wurschen, have the phone at hand and google a detour. After a few extra kilometres, I got back on the original route behind the construction site. This then pulled like chewing gum. Just up and down, felt more up.
1:45 p.m .: After Melaune (km 773) only headwind. I finally want to get there. It is enough. At some point the first Berzdorf sign. That’s good, it’s going downhill and the goal was at Lake Berzdorf. Suddenly another sign with an 8% incline. Mountain lake or what? Oh well. It was the last hill on the route, and for the last 2 km, I looked at the participants in a classic car rally, which also had their destination at the lake, and drove past me with a crackle.
2:52 p.m .: goal reached. My wife and Dieter were waiting for me with the “Go Bert Go” banner spread out. My son Kristian films the finish line with the drone. Happy to have arrived at all, satisfied with the fact that nothing actually happened (except that “duck” is gone), faster than expected, great atmosphere as there were still many athletes, and knowing that Paul and Roland were still in the race, there was a kiss first, no NOT from Dieter. Awards ceremony photos were taken quickly. Then stow away the bike and off to the shower. It’s a great facility by the lake. You can definitely have a great vacation there! Take a trip there (can also be done by train or car ☝🏻)
3:30 p.m .: Freshly showered, we went down to the beach for a bike and soft ice cream, before we drove to a hotel nearby. The wheat for dinner was delicious!
After a leisurely and good breakfast, we went home. I made myself comfortable in the back seat and used the time to write this little report. I hope you like him. Please leave your comments.
Many thanks also to the organizer, Dieter Göpfert. So much passion and enthusiasm! 👍 Great!
Free “duck”, my old companion who never had a name!