Team time trial (checkpoint 4)
The alarm rings at 3.40. I tried to count how many of my vertebrae have been displaced over the last few hours of sleep. Not too many on reflection, oddly enough I slept as well as I did on the first night, in a proper bed. Keen to keep our 4am departure time, I got up and give Christian a prod. He woke up and mumbled that he’ll get up at 4.30, it’ll be fine. Not particularly motivated, I laid back on my nice warm bench and slept until 4.30.
We began our morning rituals, looking for our computers, phones, power banks, and miscellaneous cables, complaining about various aches and pains, putting on various layers of clothing, and applying copious amounts of chamois cream and Voltaren. In the meantime, Bastian had mysteriously appeared in the basement corridor, looking as fresh as a daisy. It seems that Loris, who is only doing the half distance Berlin-Munich route, would sleep a little more and head down later.
At 5am, we all set out into the cold darkness and alongside the Danube river. As it would be a big day, we agreed that we would ride in team time trial form, riding one behind another and rotating. About 10km down the road, I suffered my first mechanical after jumping a kerb out of a building site. I called out, the group slowed down, and beside a paddock of curious horses, I got off and flipped the bike upside down to swap out the tube. A classic “snake bite” puncture, I worked quickly to make sure none of us had to stand in the cold too long. A few minutes later, we were back on the road and motoring smoothly.
The day warmed up slowly and we saw the first BMB riders coming back from Munich in the dawn light. We followed a bike path which ran parallel to the main road. The going was flat but monotonous and we rode at speed, rotating in good form whilst making some small talk.
At around 8am, we hit the small town on Pattendorf which had the honour of hosting the first bakery we’ve seen all day. We pulled over with a sense of purpose, piled our bikes in front of the shop, and waddle in in our cleats. The baker was a bubbly middle aged woman who asks us where we “are also Berlin-Munich-Berlin cyclists?” Clearly we’re not the first to visit the bakery today. Between the four of us, we ordered about three pastries each and a large coffee. A flood of BMB cyclists in one day didn’t appear to be the usual customer base, and the poor baker increasingly became flustered as she ran out of plates and cups to serve us. Nevertheless, she managed heroically, serving us and the increasing queue of locals and one additional BMB rider with ease and a big smile on her face.
Once again with our hunger slaked and thirst quenched, we carried on down the road. Things went well until the tiny village of Obermünchen, where the usual road closure signs kept popping up, which we ignored, until we realised that there was a river with no bridge. We called over to a nearby local in a garden, however they didn’t know about any diversions. From the map, it looked like we would need to ride back up the hill and cross over at one of the next bridges, adding at least another 30km to the route. We however spotted another BMB cyclist on the other side who is pushing the bike over. Perhaps we can cross it after all?
We dismounted, hopped over the barriers and wandered across the sand and dirt. The crossing was a little iffy, but we made it. On the way over however, we meet another BMB cyclist coming the other way. It was Jan, a rider whom I met on the first day. We had a quick catch-up about the race so far, it seemed he was doing well and was largely riding by himself.
We soon hit the Isar river near Munich, and the roads changed to long, open, monotonous roads which led past Munich airport. We had about 30km to go and the discussion gradually turned to what we want to do when we arrive. Chris had been suffering with his hands over the last two days and wanted to buy a new pair of gloves from a bike shop in Munich. Christian is also looking to stop at the bike shop quickly, however Bastian wanted to have a quick turnaround and head back to Regensburg as soon as possible.
I played through different scenarios and ultimately decided that I wanted to only stop at the checkpoint for some food, rest my feet and saddle sores, and then head back quickly so that I could cross over the outed bridge before darkness set in. Perhaps I could however wait for about an hour whilst the Chrisses go to the bike shop? Either way, I want to stop – my feet and saddle sores were hurting something rotten. Each of the group cycled with me for a bit and the discussion went back and forth. I explained my position, and after all the discussions, Christian came back a little later with a new proposal – they would stay for two hours. The idea was to get some food from a local Asian restaurant, go to the bike shop and then head off back to Regensburg.
I take pride in being calm under stress, but this back and forth as well as my saddle sores and feet were killing me. We finally spotted the Munich sign and the group decided to take a photo. Fine by me, however all of a sudden everyone wanted to pose in front of it. A group photo perhaps? Feeling grumpy, I took a quick selfie, hopped back on the bike and rode to the city centre. There I would just arrive and eat in peace. Then I could finally decide.
Christian later caught up with me and we silently rode to the checkpoint, riding in traffic and navigating across tram tracks. Once we arrived at the route’s destination however, we couldn’t find the checkpoint anywhere. We were shortly joined by Bastian and Chris, as well as several other BMB riders who were already riding in circles to find the place, but with no luck. Christian has the brilliant idea of calling Thomas, who should have already arrived. He gave us a tip that it was in a sports centre, and then we found the place easily.
A few other BMB riders were already at the checkpoint, resting and enjoying some food and drink. For some this was the end station, for us it was just the middle. I grabbed my stamp and flopped down into a comfy seat and took off my shoes. Finally. We were treated to vegan gyros, melon, pineapple, and a variety of other fruits, plus the usual muesli bars and gummi bears.
Whilst I sat and stuffed food and drink into my mouth, Christian and Bastian discussed how the group should continue. On reflection, this discussion effectively summarised the different ways how I’ve learnt a super brevet can be ridden. As a group, you have support and company but this means you have to ride at the pace of the slowest rider, including breaks. As an individual, you are free to ride as quickly or slowly as you want, but you will lack the company and support. What is the right approach? Both and neither.
This middle point showed that Bastian in particular had his own pace, slightly slower due to his small gearing at the back (he had a 11-28 cassette, where I had 11-34) and heavier bike, but his determination and strength kept him going. Not needing to go to the bike shop, he decided to leave ahead of the rest of us and go it alone back to Regensburg. I still needed time, and wanted to stay to rest a bit more and wash up.
The time eventually came when the Chrisses and I were ready to leave. Just before this however, we were asked to take a few photos in front of the BMB banner. Fine, just a quick one. The photographer Daniel got into his swing though and started getting creative with several more poses. Mindful that the Chrisses still wanted to go to the bike shop, as well as the clock ticking, I made the tough decision to just head off – I was just wasting time here. I wasn’t proud of the decision, but ultimately it would save me about an hour. Despite the close bond we formed, but I felt we didn’t quite have the same priority for that afternoon. In any case I was sure we’d catch up again soon enough.
Riding alone (checkpoint 5)
I rode out of Munich alone, plugged in my headphones and started listening to my Harry Potter audiobook. It was quite refreshing, the first time I rode completely alone this BMB. I overtook a few local roadies and in no time I was back out at the airport and retracing the route we rode that morning. I made good use of the aero bars, getting myself into a nice aero position and stretching my back.
After about an hour of riding, I turned a corner in a small town outside Munich and purely by chance bumped into Bastian who was standing at the side of the road on the phone. I stopped and after he finished we rode together for a short while. It was nice to get to know him a bit better and talk about bikes and racing. We stopped off for some water and a refreshment, then we headed off into the hills. At the first hill, Bastian cheerfully told me to leave him behind if I wanted to go ahead. I was initially loathe to do so, but realised that I would put on additional pressure if I kept waiting at the top for him.
The winding roads from that morning took on a new character in the afternoon light, and soon I was surrounded by classic cars nipping around the hills. I later found out that this was a group of rally drivers from Kiel who were on a local stage. It seemed fun, but on reflection, I thought I would be more proud doing what I was doing on a bicycle.
The terrain slowly flattened out again, and I once again rode in the aero bars. I preferred to ride on the main roads rather than the bike paths, as it allowed me to keep up my average speed. Thankfully it was pretty quiet. Eventually I hit the outed bridge, unclipped and tried to find my way around the river, however I didn’t quite remember the same path I took earlier. Walking out of the building site, I found myself in a field with knee high grass. Having made it to the fence, I brushed myself off, quickly checked myself for ticks and tried to work out how to get back onto the road.
A BMB rider in a Rapha top (later I found out to be a chap called Adrian) nipped past me on the other side with a wave, clearly having crossed a few minutes earlier. I lifted the bike over the barrier and clambered after it, clipped back in and made my way up the hill. Spinning up slowly, I noticed Adrian on a bike path at the side of the road, sensibly pushing the bike up the steep hill. Waving back again, I continued spinning my way up to the top and then carried on along the flats on my aero bars.
I tried to ride efficiently, not too quickly but quickly enough to make use of my lightweight frame, deep rim wheels and aero position. After all, the earlier I got to the checkpoint, the earlier I could get to sleep. About an hour later, with the clock pushing 7pm, I found a local supermarket and seized the opportunity to buy some dinner before all the shops in the area shut for the day.
As I lost my bike lock on day 1, I rolled my bike into the supermarket and asked a woman working at a bakery in the entrance to keep an eye on my things. Kindly she agreed, and I clopped my way into the supermarket to do a quick round of shopping. I used the opportunity to call Mrs MT, who brought me up to speed on the latest developments at home, giving me a healthy and badly needed dose of normality.
After paying, I packed my purchases into my Tailfin and rolled the bike out of the shop. Once outside, I happen to notice another BMB bike leant against the shop window. I suspected it was Simon’s bike, but keen to not lose too much time, I set off back down the road. As always, I was sure I’d see him soon again enough.
Giving Stephen Fry a break from reading me Harry Potter, I started to play some music and was grooving out as I rode along to Regensburg, fixated on the checkpoint closure deadline of 10pm. Two hours to go. I was feeling good, my legs were strong and I even managed to ride uphill in my aero bars. At one point, one local roadie decided slipstreamed me, which was rather confusing given that I was supposed to be riding slowly and steadily.
The bike path eventually hit the Danube again, treating me to a wonderful sunset, with warm yellow and orange colours being cast across the landscape. I passed various walkers and cyclists who were having a relaxing evening along the bike path and regularly called out hello. Getting closer to Regensburg, a number of restaurants popped up. Each of these seemed to host a party, complete with good food and lively music. My feet were hurting again, so I took a quick break outside one of these. For five minutes, I enjoyed watching the guests have a good Saturday evening with a slight pang inside me, regretting not being able to join them.
An unexpected change of accommodation
After another half hour of cycling, I finally made it into southern Regensburg and to checkpoint 5 at 9pm. It had just turned pitch black and I found the BMB volunteer at a folding table outside, and collected my stamp. It was then that I discovered he was slowly packing things up and would completely lock up the checkpoint at 10pm. This took me aback, as I had originally hoped to grab a few hours of sleep in the basement again (perhaps this time on a mattress) and then carry to Waldershof early in the morning. Not anymore. I now had nowhere to sleep.
In addition, I realised that anyone riding behind me would need to arrive within the next hour in order to still get their stamp. Thinking of the Chrisses and Bastian, I quickly called Christian to check where they were, and I was surprised to discover that they were expected to arrive in only 30 minutes. Not only that, they had accommodation, and I could join. Well, that was unexpected.
In the meantime, I decided to take a rest, plonking myself down onto a chair and chatting with the volunteer manning the checkpoint. I helped him a bit in folding the checkpoint marquee, and then continued to down cola and gummi bears. A couple of riders came in after me, including Adrian, and we passed the time with a quick chat about bikes, equipment and onward strategy. Getting ready to leave, one rider decided that he would look around the area for a hotel, and the other would ride into the night to find a nice bus stop and crash in his sleeping bag.
The Chrisses finally arrived at about 9.30pm after racing along from Munich, barely having taken a break. After they got their stamps, we piled into the sports hall basement for warmth and more food. We found a black roll and decided to use the opportunity to stretch ourselves and roll out various body parts whilst discussing where we were going to sleep.
Simon rolled in a bit later with about 10 minutes to spare, and was equally taken aback that we couldn’t sleep at the checkpoint. His plan was now to ride into the night and see what would happen, but before that he asked around for pliers – it seemed that he managed to bend his front derailleur. No pliers were available, which lead to the rather unusual and amusing sight of Simon wandering about the sports equipment room to find a suitable alternative. A javelin clearly wouldn’t work, a discus perhaps? He finally settled on a shot put shot (a heavy metal ball), and after a couple light thuds, he seemed fairly happy with the outcome.
After returning the shot, Simon then left into the night and about 10 minutes later, the Chrisses and I left to find our accommodation. It turned out that Loris had made it to Munich and back today, and had kindly offered that we could crash at his flat. On the way, we were treated to an odd phenomenon of a mating “season” of some local fly species. After asking a local, it seemed this only happened one night a year. Lucky us, but this meant we had to ride through swarms of grey insects, including carpets on the ground and clouds in the air. Keeping my mouth closed, I was just happy I wore glasses.
Having finally escaped this, I noticed a new pain which was unhelpfully caused by my bib shorts having become loose (due to the shoulder straps in need of shortening) and moving across my saddle sores. We finally made it to the main door and we clambered up the stairs and along the balcony corridor to the flat door. The door was opened, and we were surprised to discover that Bastian was already inside! How the heck did that happen?
Loris’s and his girlfriend Laura’s flat was a two-room affair, which I’m certain had never been treated to four tired cyclists and their bicycles being deposited within its four walls. Loris and Laura were absolute champs, and a large double mattress had been inflated in the kitchen. This was where Christian and I were to sleep, and Chris and Bastian would crash in the second room with Loris and Laura. Not only were they gracious guests, they had even made us risotto and let us wash our cycling kit in the washing machine. Champs.
After a quick shower and the usual faff of charging our gadgets, we all made our way to our respective sleeping spots. Christian and I set our alarms, tried to make ourselves comfy on the squeaky air mattress, and once having found the ideal spot, I fell asleep.
Read my next post in the series here!
Previous post here
- Distance: 272km (total distance: 840km)
- Elevation: 1,480m (total elevation: 5,830m)
- Average speed: 16.0 km/h
- View the Komoot route
Missing bridge, flies mating season, no possibility to sleep in the checkpoint. Huh, I thought pushing these pedals for 1500km alone is already a bit too much…
Kudos to Loris & Laura!
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All in a day’s work! That’s the thing with this race, you really see some incredible kindness, it’s all part of the emotional rollercoaster.
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