In the December issue of TOUR magazine, which I received yesterday, there is a superbly-written article about a kind-of race across Eastern Germany, from Göttingen across the Harz Mountains, south through Leipzig and ending in Görlitz. "Kind-of" in that it has no official status and there are no start numbers given out to the participants. The whole idea of Critical Dirt is to avoid the tangled web of regulations so characteristic of German undertakings and to have fun.
The organizers have a sense of humour. The participant's package includes a cigarette for those wanting a relaxing smoke. Riders are given a rubber stamp with a number on it which they use at the finish to check in so that the organizers know who has made it and for whom a search party needs to be organized. The route is over paved roads, dirt tracks and forest trails, covering 500 kms over four days and involving around 1,000 m of climbing each day. It is ideal for cross bikes, but participants show up on mountain bikes, touring bikes and even fixed gear ones. Riders stay in youth hostels en route and at the finish line there is no banner or awards ceremony but a welcome case of beer.
The organizers are concerned about feeding the cyclist and have a serious chef. His recipes for the ride can be found at www.criticaldirt.com, and each day at the one food stop he serves up tasty meals at the Café GoGo, a moveable feast. The whole thing sounds charming and fun and is probably the only race I have heard of where the Chief Organizer shouts out "Be good to each other!" as the racers get underway.
There was a professional-quality film made of the 2010 Critical Dirt ride, which seems to have been a different route, only travelling in Saxony and involving race numbers. The food looks impressive. Enjoy!