„Summer of the old hags“ or in German „Altweibersommer“, that’s how we call a period of relative good weather at the end of summer or the start of autumn. Last Sunday surprised with temperatures up to 24 degree and blue skies. So I left my family in the chaos of our apartment, created by the arrival of a forty feet container from Japan with all our goodies and left to explore one more time the Bremen countryside.
Of course the ride was worth all trouble and hardship, especially when arriving back home again after the ride without proper announcement of the intended duration it took. But I felt mightily inspired by the feats of mighty Thor and with an equally mighty tailwind I made excellent progress in Northern direction along the river Wümme, the Bremian equivalent to the Tamagawa. As I didn’t need to concentrate on pushing the pedals, I let my mind wander and an unbelievable story I have heard back in town came creeping up in my conscience.
Probably most of you have heard the story of the „Town Musicians of Bremen„, a folktale recorded by the Grimm brothers in the last century. The town musicians, a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster have become world famous and act as a kind of symbol of the town of Bremen. However what most people do not know, that the original group of the town musicians consisted not of four, but of five animals. The fifth and actually most important animal was an elephant that was brought over from India by the owner of a circus. The elephant was however neither in possession of a proper visa, nor of a valid working permit and in order not to entice foreign animals to immigrate to Germany, the elephant was kept quiet bout. However the good people of Bremen built a monument in honor of the elephant which can be seen to this day quite close to the central station. For some reasons it is one of my favourite places in Bremen and I keep pointing out the elephant to my bored children every time we pass by. These are the thoughts of a cyclists that rides fast an aimlessly through the beautiful landscape North of Bremen.
After about 20 km I came to the small town of Ritterhude, where Ludwig has been trained as a paramilitaric (or was it a paramedic?) some twenty years ago. I was looking for a place called Pellen’s Park where a cyclo-cross race was supposed to be conducted on Sunday and just by chance I found Ludwigs old training ground on the left side of the road to the park. By pure coincidence this is almost the only place within a circle with 150 km diameter around Bremen that features some kind of hills. It is, so to say, Bremens landscape on Stereoids, or should I better write on Clenbuterol? It isn’t really hilly, but at least it seems that the landscape has been moved by geological forces somewhat in the last 5 million years. As opposed to the rest of the landscaped that has been cleared by a giant piece of blotting paper.
And then I saw the cyclo cross race. This was the first time I have ever been to a cylco cross race and anyway one of the first times I have been to a race that I didn’t attend myself. Not sure if I will ever join a cyclo cross race after what I have seen on Sunday. For those who don’t know I will highlight some of the important characteristics as I see them:
First, the season for cyclos cross races in Germany is not, as every normal human being would think, during the months of July and August, the only month in which one has a chance to occassionally glimse the sun and enjoy temperatures above 20 degress, but from
Second, I have never come to terms with the idea of a road race the goes in circles. One arrives at the point where one has started, so what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t one uses it’s power to ride from A to B? With the exception of the Tokyo-Ítoigawa fast run all races I have attended finished at the starting line. Bloody stupid anyway. David and Jerome perfected this nonsense when they rode 400 km on the weekend, just to arrive back in the same spot after 24 hours.
Ok, this isn’t very logic. One would assume now that cyclo cross races are following the same weird logic. But they must be more „straight“, as whereas road races have to follow curvy lines in forms of roads, the cyclo crosser just goes a straight line and crosses fields, rivers, walls, barbed wire fences etc. that he will find in his way. That’s why he has a cyclo cross bike in the first place, right?
But no, cyclo cross track layout is even more stupid. Basically it is a patch of grassland, say 200 by 200 m of dimension and then the course ziczacs in all directions over the grassland. Not only that you are going nowwhere, from every point of the race you see other iders going in completely different directions, just guided by some red and white tape. The studidity that nobody is going nowhere is even more pronounced and visibale as for a road race.
And my last point is, that the raods in cyclo cross races are very bad. Some of them are even so bad, that they could be used for the grand prix Chantal Biya. But I am pretty sure that Chantal Biya will never attend a cyclo cross race.
OK, this was even a high class race, even with the world champion (German) attending. Does somebody remember this fantastic post about cyclo cross by James (Keyword: „Heckling – it is the aspect of the sport I’ve chosen to perfect„)? Well, even in Germany we have Hecklers at cyclo cross races and it was a great joy to listen to their hecklings. If I am not mistaken, one of the hecklers was the offical and probably even paid heckler of the world champion. He even ran alongside the track to increase the time intervalls of intensive heckling absuses to which his rider was subjected.
But I didn’t want to spend my whole Sunday standing in a muddy field and watching riders going nowhere so I jumped on my bike and continued in direction Farge on the river Weser where a pretty big U-boat bunker called „Valentin“ is still standing. A nasty thing indeed and not smelling after 4711 eau de cologne. Ok, this is a very complicated joke, which needs further information for those of you that are interested: One guy on the TCC blog wrote that the German perfume 4711, used to be a long time favourite among the crews of German WW2 u-boats. This is an interesting perspective, as my personal impression of 4711 was, that it was that smelly liquid that my grandmother and other older women used to use on festive occasions and funerals. I am not 100% sure if my grandmother ever was a member of an u-boat crew during the war, but I am 99,99999% sure that she wasn’t.
So after having seen this, I turned to the East and rode along the beautiful landscape of Schwanewede, Eggestedt and, my personal highlight Osterholz-Scharmbeck, being non-charming at all, a city with a name like a female German minster of justice from the FDP party.
And after Quelkhorn comes Fischerhude, where a nice house is on the side of the road that I can afford to buy with my income as university professor. Autumn has surely come and the farmers have put on proud displays of their fruits of works along the road. To my surprise, I saw a lot of pumpkins, a fruit I have never thought of being home in abudant quantities in Germany, but hey, the times they are a changing. And I like pumpkins as they grow more or less inthe official team color of Positivo Espresso.
By now I have rode against a strong headwind for the last 30 km and I was relieved that I could ride the last 20 km or so without doing too much work. One nasty climb was although still waiting for me: At the fabulous „Platzhirsch“ restaurant I had to cross the federal higway. I concentrated and put all what was left of my power into the pedals and barely made it with 30 km/hr over the top.
After 121 km and 4 1/2 hour of riding I was home again. I made no breaks except the one at Pellen’s park (OK, I made 1 or 2 minute breaks inbetween, I admit) so I remained the last 100 km and 3 1/2 hour in the saddle. This is really the nice thing here in Bremen, the average speed is high, there are no nice spots neither convenience stores which would require breaks and as the road is straight, one can take photos, one can eat, drink and possibly relieve oneself as well.
As I have relieved myself from all ththoughts in my head right now.