Wednesday 21 March 2012

Return Ride on the Ruhr

With absolutely superb weather in Düsseldorf on Thursday and Friday, and with basically no mileage in my legs for 2012, it was clearly time to get out on the road again.  While I was away in Canada or doing other things, Tom and Rudiger had been putting in some training in the rolling hills of NRW and Tom volunteered to put together a reasonable route for my first ride of the Spring, and my first time on racing bike since January 1.  We would be travelling over some well-known roads but also there were a few surprises in store.  I had asked for around 60-70 kms, so naturally Tom gave me just over 80 instead.
The only time I can keep up to Rudiger and Tom is when I make them stop for a photo
 After our glorious few Spring days Saturday dawned grey and chilly of course.  I rode out around 8:45 feeling a bit chilled with shorts and a wind vest and armwarmers but after a few minutes of brisk cycling I felt warm enough.  The route was the usual one to Ratingen, where the weekend market was taking place.

Saturday morning in Ratingen
I found a side street to ride instead of the usual bone-jarring cobblestones of the pedestrian district which, besides cobbles, usually has lots of pedestrians on it and found myself the first to arrive at our usual meeting place, the Ratingen outpost of the Backwerk chain of bakeries.  It was 9:30.

Backwerk in Ratingen: Still Life with Tarmac
Soon enough both Tom and Rudiger arrived (both dressed a lot more warmly than me) and without our usual coffee/croissants we set off.  We were training!  The first little hill out of Ratingen went quite well for me, to my surprise.  We enjoyed the quiet roads and soon mastered the first little climb at Hösel and then headed north towards Essen-Kettwig and followed the Ruhr bike route.  There were quite a few other cyclists out and if the weather was not ideal at least it was calm.

To make it more challenging, Tom and Rudiger added a little climbing loop to their ride while I just kept on into Langenberg.  At 48 kms it was time for a coffee!  Unfortunately the bakery where we had gone before did not have any outdoor seating set up yet and had nothing indoors, so we wandered around a bit disconsolately until we asked a local about a cafe and were directed to a tiny bakery with an tiny coffee shop, Barista, across the hall.  As the slowest, I bought coffee for the group and it was really excellent.

Tom enjoys a fine cappuccino at Barista in Langenberg
Rudiger gets fortified for the last half of the ride

Soon it was back on the bikes, feeling fully caffeinated, which was good because Tom's devilish route included an impressive new hill 10 kms down the road.  After passing through Neviges we had a long, long steady climb to the highest point on the ride.  I was careful to ride inside my limits as I really did not want any cramping on my first big ride of the season and everything went well.

Soon we passed through Mettmann, one of NRW's less attractive towns, but then were on the excellent road that takes one through the Neandertal.  Soon enough we were in my neighbourhood and we split an enormous bottle of Soest Zwiebel Brauerei Weihnachtsbock beer to celebrate a ride well done.  84 kms and 800 m of climbing, and after the others went on I had a relaxed afternoon watching live coverage of the Milan-San Remo race, having finished my own La Primavera.

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