What Makes Epic? Ein epischer Tag
As with any ‘epic’ ride there are trials and tribulations, moments of despair along with feelings of joy. For one of the Podia teams at the Rapha Prestige Bohemia, the day would start with bikes and kit locked in a car, along with the keys to unlock it.
This momentary setback wasn’t enough to quell the spirits and starting 10 minutes after the last team we were soon pushing hard through Saxon Switzerland on the German side and into the national park of Bohemian Switzerland on the Czech side.
These areas that have little to do with Switzerland other than the Swiss artists who helped to name them. Apparently the sandstone rock formations reminded them of their homeland.
Bohemia Rolls Past Quer durch Böhmen
Summery weather illuminated the stunning scenery that we passed as we chased down the other teams on the road before a short rendezvous with the second Podia team.
The region is sparsely inhabited after being affected by population movements after the Second World War when the German Bohemians (or Sudenten Germans) were driven out of the area.
Spirits were high and conversation flowed as we were joined by other teams on our way to the mid point refreshments at the Rapha MCC, which sat at the top of the day’s big goal; Ještěd.
Ever Present Allgegenwärtig
Rising 1,012m, Ještěd is visible from distances far and wide. A distinct building at the top of the mountain is home to a television tower, hotel and restaurant. A road which winds it’s way to the top makes it an iconic climb in the Czech Republic.
The climb begins shortly after Křižany although in earnest the road rises gradually for 5 km before. Officially (well on Strava at least) the climb is 10.3km with an elevation gain of 608m.
The ascent averages around 6% although rough road surfaces early on can make it feel harder. The climb takes place mostly on forested roads until near the top where the trees open up to offer glimpses of Liberec; the Czech city that sits in the shadow of the mountain.
Weather Changes Das Wetter schlägt um
As the last of the team reached the top of Ještěd the temperature had topped-out around 30 degrees Celsius. A short descent followed to the car park where the MCC was waiting with coffee and refreshments, but there wasn’t time to hang around. A heavy rain cloud was fast approaching and teams rushed to get back down the mountain before the rain set in.
There was just enough time to enjoy the sweeping roads of the descent before the rain cloud caught up. What followed was at times apocalyptic; dark skies with strong winds blowing big rain straight into the face.
A short break to take shelter in a bus stop during lightning strikes was foreshortened when the realisation that the weather wasn’t going to improve became apparent. It seemed the only escape was through the single-track route into the forest.
Testing Terrain Auf unbekannten Wegen
What would have most certainly been a pleasant ride in fine weather even on a road bike, disintegrated into something akin to Glastonbury music festival and before long those with rim brakes were removing wheels to clean out the mud that had accumulated.
The remaining kilometres were spent between interspersed gravel parts and wet road sections where sitting in the wheel of someone else would act like a garden hose, removing all the mud from bike and body.
Home and Dry Wieder Zuhause
A fine spread of food and drink was waiting back at the finish line as cold, wet hands made shuddering grabs for platefuls of meat and glasses of beer, all the while wrapped in blankets to warm and dry tired bodies.
Another Rapha Prestige finished and another mountain of beer from all corners of Europe to sample. Congratulations to Ken, Sandra, Mattia and Jon W of the Crema team for smashing it out to get home before everyone else and probably the rain as well!?
A special thanks to Falko & Georg from Dresden for providing the mornings entertainment (locking keys inside the car) and their stunning photographic work featured in this journey as well as Carsten of Veloheld for waiting for as long as he could.