Schwarzwald Giro 2014 – A weekend in the black forest
Contrary to popular believe, Germany is a rather large European country. Getting from the North-East to the very opposite corner is a time consuming adventure even when officially the roads do not actually have a speed limits. Yes, our famous Autobahns are constantly under constructions and, as a small group of us learned on a recent Friday drive, rather full of other cars. We packed our bikes into a white “Ugly Duck” rental, adjusted the bags, which had to be placed between us all, and took off to Freiburg – the other side of Germany.
For three years running, a small crew of road riders organizes a ride in Schwarzwald (Schwarz = black, wald = forest) called the Schwarzwald Giro. This year I decided to join the ride at the encouragement of Jon Woodroof of twotoneatl.com. I was elated to hear that 5 other riders from Berlin were joining the adventure which is how I ended up in a rental with three of them heading south.
We arrived on Friday night after some 9 hours of driving. The hostel was in top form and we decided, after buying some provisions, to find a local eatery and rejoice in the local cuisine – Spätzle and beer. The air was fresh and much clearer than Berlin, and the restaurant in which we sat was practically at the edge of a towering mountain covered in massive trees. Welcome to the black forest.
Saturday started with a warm up-ride, planned by Florian of Troica Cycles, which took us up one of the smaller mountains – 1300 meters high and back down. For me this was the substantiation of my fear – the ascents are nasty. I climbed at my own pace which was substantially slower than the rest of the crew and found my own way back to the hostel for a quick bite before the prolog began. This was a reoccurring theme.
At 13:00 we all met at Biosk with the rest of the riders and took off. The 57 kilometers took us through breath taking views slowly up an 800 meters mountain and then through fast drops back up to another mountain of 1000 meters. All together we rode for 57 kilometer and on my Garmin I clocked 3 hours. The rest of the crew was already comfortably sipping beer by the time I arrived to the GPS track’s end.
During the first descent I realized that the TRP Spyre brakes were getting very hot and were loosing breaking power. This, when gunning down a serious mountain, is a rather scary concept especially since these brakes are the ones that should be ideal for such downhill rides. I tried to modulate less and decisively brake when getting to a speed that exceeded my comfort zone – 60 km/h seemed fast enough.
The view of the first day were a little tease to what appeared on the actual Giro. We kicked off with the Freiburg team at 10AM with a 30 km ride to the actual start of the Schwarzwald Giro. There we met with the second team that started at Basel, Switzerland. As soon as we left the meeting point we started climbing and just as fast I found myself alone climbing at a pace that I could actually maintain. Reaching the top I encountered a few of the fellow riders one of which waiting on his mate which had wheel issues and the other that was ready to quit. I suggested that instead of quitting, we will join forces and ride together and he accepted. After a quick water refill we hit the road again, this time heading down.
The lush green meadows spread anywhere we could see and were only interrupted by cows or goats or, as one would expect, by the actual forest. The descent was beautiful and then the yellow sign on the road directed us to smaller road that disappeared into the forest. As soon as we took that turn the road started climbing again, this time at a much steeper grade of what I suspected was 20%, but what do I know? Everywhere I looked were ferns and trees and deep creeks. Birds were singing and all kind of flying insects, some of which flies but some unidentified, were buzzing around. I was pouring sweat like a waterfall, but was determined to continue climbing until, after what seemed like a long time, I made it to the top.
The way down was spectacular and fast. This was supposed to be the second and last climb but truth in advertising is rare and even though technically the Giro had no more climbs, the way home did. I found the rest of the team well rested at a coffee break that Philipp organized drinking espressos and munching on vegan cakes. An apple and soft drink later we were back on the road which took us to a tiny gravel section. Gravel and road bikes is a funny concept and for the first time since both rides started I was pleased at having my Jack Browns 33.33 mm tires on the Seven Mudxium. They ate the gravel like starving wolves while the rest of the riders were getting flat tires all over the place. As we returned to the road, I thought that it might be a good idea to continue riding instead of waiting for the rest to fix their tires and snap pictures at what seemed to be the end of the GPS track.
With bad conscious I continued riding towards another climb. I pulled as hard as I could and made it to the top and then dropped to the other end and into a less then spectacular finish – no one was there. I took the opportunity to photograph the rest of the team, whose frames I mostly saw from the back since we arrived to Freiburg, as they arrived at the end point, and Kevin Sparrow, identifying me crouching on the side of the road, gave a proper victory salute.
From the end of the Giro we still had to ride back to Freiburg which added 40 km of riding or so, especially since, yet again, we ended up riding in a small group of three without actually knowing the way back. We were lucky enough to hear Philipp say something like “at the end of the next climb you should drop to a deep valley, which we did, and enjoyed probably one of the sickest downhill I’ve ever experienced. The road was way steeper than the previous descends and, as I accidentally found out, had actual cars coming up the mountain. Sorry BMW driver for giving you such a scare.
The whole organization, location, GPS tracks and company were fantastic. Philipp did a tremendous job taking care of us all and even dispatched Rune, of strongest riders, to ride down the last mountain and check on my state. This was an incredible adventure with a definite take home message: ride even more. At the next Schwarzwald Giro it’d be nice to take pictures of the riders.