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I hadn’t actually planned to do this 300 brevet in Emsland. Rather, I wanted to have ridden the “flat” three-hundred in Twisteden in April. However, due to a persistent cold I had to change my plans and because of the “proximity” to the starting point I decided on this Emsland brevet … Emsland sounds somehow flat and like the ideal terrain for velomobiles.
Maybe I should have taken a closer look at the route and the altitude profile beforehand, because actually the tour went to the Teutoburg Forest and not to Emsland. But more about that later.
The alarm clock rings at 5.30 am. Get up, get dressed, have breakfast, wash up, then get behind the wheel and hit the motorway towards Lingen. I had already loaded the velomobile onto the trailer the night before. At 07:30 I arrive in Wietmarschen.
Unload the velomobile, start the GPS computer, pack the provisions and then register; sign the brevet card and pay the entry fee. About 40 crazy people are registered who, like me, plan to cover these 300 kilometres. Among them are also some velomobile and recumbent cyclists.
There’s no big speech here before the start. Instead, the race starts at 8 a.m. sharp without many words. All participants start at the same time.
The first 50 kilometres are totally unspectacular and the field of riders is quite close together. As we leave the Emsland and slowly but surely reach the Teutoburg Forest, it promptly becomes hillier. A few kilometres before the first control, the first real climbs appear, which give a foretaste of the 25 further climbs.
After the first checkpoint in a café, the fun is over. What follows are countless steep climbs on small, narrow and winding side roads with oncoming traffic. Here, at the latest, most of the racing cyclists have passed me on their carbon bikes, while I struggle up the climbs in my velomobile at walking speed.
A real test!
I quickly realise that this terrain is absolutely unsuitable for velomobiles. There is no flow here. It’s a steep uphill almost from a standing start; no chance to gain momentum and ride into the mountain. And downhill, because of roads I can’t see or STOP signs, I almost just stand on the brakes instead of letting go. What a hassle; what a waste of energy!
At kilometer 148, the 2nd checkpoint follows; again a café where I can fortify myself. I wait out another heavy rain shower and then continue in a light steady rain.
The constant ups and downs and the rain continue and the wet roads make me take the descents even more carefully. It is now 8:45 pm, the rain has fortunately stopped, the roads are mostly dry and after 240 kilometres I reach the last checkpoint before the finish. I treat myself to an ice cream at the petrol station and then set off for the last 70 kilometres. It’s getting dark, but my headlamp turns night into day. The last kilometres drag on like chewing gum. My legs are pretty exhausted and my stomach is rebelling, probably from all the sweets I’ve had in the last few hours.
Shortly after 23:00 I reach the finish. I enter my arrival time and then drop the brevet card in the letterbox. Now I load the velomobile again, change and get back on the motorway in the direction of the Ruhr area. And I am a little proud to have made it!
What remains? What have I learned?
- I met a lot of like-minded people in just one day. Whether on the roadside, on the way or at the controls … a little chat is simply part of it. And I’m already looking forward to seeing some of them again at the next event.
- I definitely had too much food for the tour! I got the receipt for it at every climb. Next time I will rely more on the provisions at the checkpoints or include them better in my planning.
- Maybe I should have ridden without a bonnet … it was really nasty in my little stalactite cave. OK, when it started pouring down, I was glad of course. But I was wet anyway; just in a different way. Otherwise my velomobile ran really well. Okay, on the climbs I would have liked a few kilos less weight, but that’s part of it. On the other hand, I was extremely comfortable and at ease throughout the entire ride; no pain in the wrists, no back pain and no “ass rocket”. Only the soles of my feet burned. Maybe I will have to pedal with less pressure on the pedal and faster.
- Even though it wasn’t easy, I let other riders go in order to find my own rhythm and pace and to manage my strength. That will also be the strategy for my next stage.
Never in my life have I cycled 300 kilometres at a stretch. On top of that, there are about 2,000 metres of altitude. Compared to the two 200s from the Lower Rhine (Mühlentour), this time it was a real test for me! And I think there’s more to come. We’ll see; in 14 days I’d like to complete the 400 kilometres.
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