With the summer in Germany rapidly moving towards its end, we knew we had to take advantage of some fine weather and go for a loooong ride somewhere. The opportunity presented itself on Saturday with the SSV Hagen sports club's annual RTF (Radtourenfahrt). Tom, Rudiger and I did it last year except that due to horrible painful muscle cramps I only limped through the 111 km course while the others managed to do the 156 km one. I was feeling pretty good and determined there would not be a repeat performance.
The weather had been forecast to be excellent but on the 40 minute drive to Hagen we ran into some rain and skies remained grey. After some minor navigational confusion (Tom's car GPS was not working) we managed to find ourselves at the big sports facility and arena where the ride had begun last year. A quick sign-up, payment of our 8 Euros (2 Euros to be refunded when we turned our numbers back in) and we were heading out of the wet parking lot and into the countryside. The tour is called "Durch das reizvolle Sauerland," or "Through the exciting Sauerland." This is the wilder part of the province, the green heart of Westphalia.
After leaving Hagen, a fairly industrial town, we began the long climb of around 25 kms that took us to the first control point in Ilheim. Now the clouds disappeared and we were enjoying beautiful summery blue skies. The climb had been along a good road with heavy forest on either side and after only 29 kms we were still fresh. The next bit of the climb was quite steep and I was careful to keep a steady but not too difficult pace as I had already had experience problems on this hill last year.
As an aside, there was a sign posted at the control point, suggesting that "Fastidious Cyclists Do Not Piss Here and For All Others It is Forbidden To Do So."
Now we faced the last really hard climb of the trip, which I somehow managed to do with considerable agony in 2012: the so-called Col de Rosmart, as some way had put on a sign. It was probably about four kms but quite steep in parts and we were starting to feel the effort. At the top was our next control point and the chance to have something to eat in preparation for the last 35 kms. Of course we were put to the test on leaving the Brunsheid control as a wonderful downhill segment of road suddenly turned into a steep potholed hell ride on what must be the Worst Road in Germany. Luckily this did not go on for too long but it was no fun at all.
We were prepared mentally for the next control, which had been located last year next to a house where a big Canadian flag was flying. The flag was there but the control point was gone; everyone had packed up and left so no more food or water but since we only had 16 kms left this was not a big deal. The remainder of the ride was mainly downhill, except for two little but poisonous hills just before we reached the industrial outskirts of Hagen. With 8 km to go I suddenly had a cramp in my right adductor but quickly stopped. massaged the muscle and drank a lot. Shifting into an easier gear seemed to solve the problem. Rudiger, unfortunately, was having a bad cramp day himself and had to stop quite a bit but in the end he rolled into the arena parking lot only 10 minutes after we did.
We turned in our numbers, used the showers and headed back to Dusseldorf: mission accomplished! With our little detour we had ridden 161 kms in all, with around 2200 m of climbing at an average speed of 22 km/h and getting to around 70 km/h on the downhill. It is a really pretty area and the good roads (for the most part) and lack of traffic make it a superb cycling destination.
(Since I was too darn lazy to bring my camera on the ride this time, I am grateful to Tom Fitzpatrick for letting me use his photos. They are all his except the arena parking lot one and the control card image. Thanks, Tom!)