BMB22 Day 2 – Gera to Regensburg

The hunt for Thomas and coffee

The alarm rings at 3.30. Christian and I get up, stumbling around the hotel room and putting together our kit. Is this your powerpack? Where is my computer? Is this my phone? Despite the comfortable mattress, I had slept badly, convinced in my dreams that I had forgot to do something for the team. Slowly it dawned on me that it was just a dream, and that everything was ok.

We met up with Chris, Bastian and Loris downstairs at 4, who looked pretty fresh under the circumstances. We loaded the route to Waldershof on our computers, clipped in and road into the darkness, finding the narrow bike path and navigating with our headlights. Conversation was muted and we rode in a line, avoiding early morning dog walkers. The air was much colder than expected, and we stopped at the entrance to an industrial park to open our bags and put on every piece of clothing we possessed.

A few minutes later and completely muffled up, we continue down the road and out of Gera. The bike path deposits us onto a country road, which undulates through the darkness. We are soon confronted with a steep climb which I blast up, and enjoy the few moments of peace when I waited at the top. After 300km in my legs I was feeling surprisingly good, but I later found out that this was a problem.

Shortly after this hill we were confronted with another road closure. As a driver, you take these as granted and follow the hopefully clearly marked diversion signs. As an endurance cyclist on a deadline though, you want to avoid any unnecessary extra kilometres, so you try your luck and push through. After all, how closed can it be? We pushed on as far as we could, then when the gravel started, we hopped off our bikes, shoved and shimmied our bikes around the miscellaneous obstacles and barriers. In no time we were back on the asphalt and riding along.

The sun gradually came out and the day warmed up. The challenge came in taking off our sweaty kit without catching a chill. It’s quite a skill, but we managed.

Nothing like pastries and a large coffee at the first open bakery after 3 hours of riding.

We heard that Thomas, one of the other riders we rode with yesterday, had made it to Plauen the last night, and the idea was that we would meet up on the route and ride together. After a few hours of riding, Plauen still seemed a long way away. Desperate for coffee and a pastry, we stopped at the first bakery we saw in a small town called Elsterberg. The pastry selection was inspiring, however the choice in coffee was limited. My hopeful request of a double espresso was rebuffed by a response of “we have large or small”. Given the circumstances, a large coffee seemed appropriate. Coffee and pastries in hand, we slumped down at a table in the tiny bakery and munched happily, chatting about the ride so far.

Joining forces and into the hills (checkpoint 2)

Soon again we were back on the road, but it seemed that Thomas was always just ahead of us. Once we arrived in Plauen, our thoughts came back to coffee, in particular something slightly more creative than “large” or “small”. Several of us were keen to find a specific café which had a particularly good rating, however it seemed that even at 8am the quaint town of Plauen was asleep. We soon gave up and settled for the local McDonalds in the old town. We ordered and sat outside, warming up in the sun. A few other BMB riders joined us shortly, and after exchanging stories and plans, we decided to join forces and left together as a group of about 10, onwards to checkpoint 3 at Waldershof.

One way to spot brevet riders: Fully laden bikes in front of a café.

Riding out of town, there was a sketchy moment when my computer told me to turn left following a steep downhill, however at the last minute I saw that this road was shut. Hitting my brakes a little too hard, the front locked up, the back lifted into air, but I was quite chuffed when I managed to save it without batting an eyelid.

This beautiful stretch of road was marked by some tough longer climbs, however a few of us managed to tackle these fairly quickly. A disadvantage of riding as a group was that we lost time waiting at the top of the big hills for everyone to join, often with the last rider rolling up, barely out of breath. My legs still felt very good, and I usually found myself at the front of the group, which probably came down to my racing experience. This was however a sign of problems to come.

The Chrisses, Bastian and I got chatting about the hills and we came to the fair conclusion that, given what we’ve seen so far and what we will see, anything less than 8% is not a proper hill. It was funny at the time, but for me it was probably one of the more profound things that came out of the BMB experience. After managing this, it really puts day to day problems in cycling and normal life into perspective.

The weather was glorious, but this did take a toll on our water supplies. We stopped off at a supermarket in the town of Rehau for another smash and grab, and then we set off again up the next hill. The road continued to undulate until we hit the main road leading into Waldershof. Spurned on by the short distance, I led the way up the hill and into the business park which was the Cube bike manufacturer’s headquarters.

Supermarket selfie.

We rode across the gravel car park in front of the black tents which were checkpoint 2. After hanging up my bike outside and getting my second stamp, I refuelled on coke, pasta and gummi bears. Once satisfied, I decided to strip down any unnecessary weight from my bike. Off went my handlebar bar, my inflatable mattress, still empty water bladder, and various odds and ends which 36 hours ago seemed sensible to take with me. This all went into the tiny blue drop-bag, which started to look a little worse for wear. I seized the opportunity to clean my chain, and to add some more lubricant. This would have to last to Munich and back to Waldershof.

I nipped off into the Cube HQ building for a quick flannel wash, after all hygiene is essential for endurance cycling events. Some fellow riders had used the opportunity to shower and take a power nap, however it was still early enough in the day and I was feeling good.

The tent at checkpoint 2; showers and washrooms at Cube.

Checkpoint 2 marked the halfway point of the day, as I still wanted to get to Regensburg by nightfall. As a group, we set off back onto the main road and up into the hills of the Naturpark Steinwald. At the top of the hill we were met by Ben and Daniel from the organisation team, who wanted a few photos and a quick video using a drone. Rolling away for the camera, little did we know that the next downhill would be a 20km long ribbon of asphalt through glorious rolling forest. Things got a little sketchy a little later in the descent, as it appeared that it had been raining recently and I didn’t fancy a wipeout at 60km/h.

We eventually heard some cries from behind us, and after some confusion it turned out that Loris had broken a spoke. Not having any spare, but having relatives living not too far away, we continued down the road at a slower pace. The road still had some exciting downhills which got my blood pumping, topped off with a couple of hairpins which any alpine road would have been proud of. Once again short on water, we stop off at another supermarket at Weiden in der Oberpfalz and discuss what we want to do as a group that afternoon.

Bastian and Chris already have accommodation and Loris’s place in Regensburg, so Christian and I discuss hotels, however after calling a few discover that nothing is available on a Friday evening which would take bikes. We decide to kick the ball down the road and ride until we get a little closer. Worst case, we can sleep at the checkpoint. With rain looming as well as Loris’s dodgy wheel, Bastian and Loris disappear with the others in the group, so Christian, Chris and I are left to ride together.

We ride well together, keeping up good pace. 100km left to Regensburg. The last two days are however catching up with me, and my saddle sores are making themselves known. Whilst I don’t have any issues with my ankles or achilles tendons, the soles of my feet are feeling quite raw. I have to come up with increasingly innovative seating positions, tightening and then loosening my shoes to see if it makes a difference.

This is another part of endurance cycling which I’ve heard about. Things will hurt, but as long as it’s not injured, it’s good. Bite through the discomfort. The 100km seems very far away though. After a while, I call out to the two Chrisses, mind if we take a break? It’s just past 7 and I could do with a rest and some food. The muesli bars and gummi bears are slowly getting on my nerves.

Sure, they say. I take a quick look at Google maps and discover one fairly well rated restaurant in the town we’re in Wernberg-Köblitz. I call quickly to see if the kitchen is open, and I’m told they’re closing in 25 minutes. Who would have thought a restaurant would close at 7.30 on a Friday evening? We eventually find the place, having to hop off our bikes and carry them over a railway footbridge. The restaurant looks promising, and we pour ourselves onto a bench in the beer garden. Mindful of my diet up until that moment, I order a Zigeuner schnitzel and chips, effectively a thin slice of pork with tomato and paprika sauce, together with an Apfelscholler (apple juice diluted by soda water). Absolutely delicious. My comrades in arms have decided to skip food, but look on hungrily.

Just another road.

Into the den of vampires (checkpoint 3)

Hands, feet and undercarriage well rested and my stomach filled, it’s back onto the road. You have to admire the creativity of the organisers. The next stretch makes its way around a major motorway junction, and we have to make our way around this on a series of gravel roads. Luckily I enjoy gravel and am not too precious about my bike. In the dying light of the day we loop around the motorway, and over the most unusual railway crossing I’ve ever seen (admittedly, I haven’t seen many).

Out of nowhere, there is a barrier across a railway. On the left, a post with a speaker and a hand lever. Pushing the lever, I was greeted by a disinterested voice in local dialect: “there is a train coming, please wait.” 10 minutes of excited anticipation later, the voice popped up again: “I’ll let you cross, ring me from the other side.” Clearly not much going on today. We did just that, and were back on our merry way.

Darkness had enveloped us, but we still had 50km to go. We tried to ride as efficiently as possible as a team, so we rode in team time trial formation, rotating every 3km. We were confronted by main roads, business parks, country lanes and pure gravel track. Thankfully we managed with our lights and kept a fairly good pace. A little later on, Chris had his own dark moment, so Christian and I tried to support him, with the two of us rotating in front and ensuring we didn’t lose Chris off the back.

The riding was monotonous and boring, with us collectively cursing every time we hit a ramp in the road. My saddle sores and feet started playing up, but I was happy to see that I wasn’t the only one, with both Chrisses sitting at awkward positions. Just bite through, not far off now.

The road eventually turned into a bike path, with just 10km left until Regensburg. This is just the distance of my commute, it’ll be over soon. We started to avoid the usual roots and holes, with Christian and I half mirthfully calling out “Wurzel” and “Schlaglöcher”, but our undercarriages didn’t see the funny side.

At 11pm, the yellow line on my computer finally turned right and ended at a sports centre. We unclicked and saw a ramp going down into a basement. We descended, got our brevet cards stamped and tanked up on coke and other vegan snacks, including freshly cooked vegan bratwurst.

Enter the den of vampires, aka checkpoint 3.

Trying to orient ourselves in the dark corridors, the three of us sat ourselves in a shower room and assessed the situation. Where was everyone? There were bikes in the corridor, but no apparent places to sleep. One of the volunteers disappeared off into the gloom and returned with the news that there was only one small mattress free. Struggling to understand this, I walked into the darkness using only the background light of my phone to light my way, popping my head into one of the rooms I was given to understand was a bedroom. Breathing and deep snores came out and I was afraid of staying longer, lest I wake the sleeping beasts within.

So, the only solution is the corridor (no chance) or the shower room. At this stage I regretted dumping my inflatable mattress, but I’d have to McGyver it. The shower room had automatic light sensors making it permanently bright, but I couldn’t be bothered to deal with them. No foam mats were fre, so I lay down on a wooden bench, and stuck my Tailfin under my head. Could work. I dragged a second bench beside me in case I fell off. Test complete, I had a quick shower, then dried my clothes enough for the next day.

The corridor in the den; my bed for the night, complete with Tailfin for a pillow.

Before crashing, the only question left open was when do we start in the morning. Chris was already on the phone with Bastian and Loris, and seemed to have an animated conversation. I wanted to start at 4, as we wanted to ride to Munich and back to Regensburg the next day. They wanted 6. So, 5-ish it was.

Muffling up in my down jacket and clean bib shorts, I put on my travel blindfold and – moving myself carefully so that the wooden slats of the bench didn’t quite dig into my spine too much – fell asleep.

PS. We never did manage to catch up with Thomas!

Read my next post in the series here!

Previous post here


Daily total

  • Distance: 286km (total distance: 568km)
  • Elevation: 3,380m (total elevation: 4,350m)
  • Average speed: 22.9 km/h
  • View the Komoot route

2 thoughts on “BMB22 Day 2 – Gera to Regensburg

Add yours

  1. Oh my… wooden bench after 3380 meters of elevation. At this moment I would already check the possibilities to get home.

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