Alberto wanted to ride to Kamenz and climb Hutberg – again. Because there are actually a few more teeny weeny hills in the area, I suggested a ride to Ortrand and the Kmehlener Berge about 30km south-west of Senftenberg. Berg is really not the word a Swiss or Austrian would use for those gentle rollers but they make for a change from riding dead flat oak-tree lined roads and bike paths through wind-swept and now bare sunflower fields.
For the first twenty kilometres we did what I call village hopping, taking the low traffic, mostly narrow country roads that connect village with village. Every two to three kilometres another few houses, a church, a village green with ducks in a pond. It’s pretty and the kilometres pass quickly.
In Kroppen, just before Ortrand, right at the village border, two guys on time trial bikes were chatting with someone inside a car on the side of the road. We flew pass. Raised heads, curious eyes, a brief Hallo. Not long and they rolled up alongside us. “Where are you guys from?” “Where are you headed?” “Can we tag along?”.
They were from neighbouring towns of Senftenberg. It was mid-afternoon, we had plenty of time, only limited by the fading light of early sunsets, and so we eagerly agreed to a route further than what I had mapped out initially. They said something about “up into the hills and then along the plateau”. They warned us that it would be rolling hills, mind you, we are talking Brandenburg hills here, with the highest point Kutschberg approx 200m.
Our little quartet chatted about Australia. And about German early season race preparation for the upcoming Lausitz Cup – a series of time trials and road races in this region, where Patrick will have to defend his Individual Time Trial Champion title – and about the weather. And what we do for work or not do for work right now. They were excited about our plans for the upcoming European summer and a little jealous, too. We cruised, then pushed the pace a bit and slowed to a leisurely tempo again, through villages that I only knew by name. They re-routed the course after finding out about Alberto’s Paris-Roubaix adventure to include a cobbled section, too. What had meant to be a short 60km hit-out, turned into a 85km loop and by the time we reached Ruhland, a town central to all of our home towns and the place to say “Good bye”, we had exchanged Facebook names and promises to ride together again before we leave for Flanders. It’s so easy to memorise contact details nowadays mid-ride without having to pull out phones and enter numbers, a thing difficult to do with thick gloves anyway.
The very next day the invitation landed in my Facebook inbox: Join us for a team ride on Sunday 2PM. We had loose plans for a day trip to Potsdam to see a Motorhome but not unusual for Alberto and me, the day ran away from us and when it got too late for the two hour drive to Potsdam, it was still early enough to agree to the ride. Kai, Christian and Mirco collected us from a hotel nearby before we picked up Patrick and rolled out in a new direction. We rode pass the hospital where I was born but soon the roads were new to me, too.
Strong head and cross winds made the ride a tough one and even though it seemed a little warmer than the previous days, the sky looked dangerous at times, dark low hanging clouds threatened to dump rain on us. We were lucky and stayed dry and the further we rode, the better I felt. We were taking turns into the wind – unfortunately our excuse of not knowing the route didn’t work – laughing and chatting, teasing and attacking, Alberto happy to chase. Before we knew it, 85km showed on our Garmins. A little under prepared for the distance, with only a banana and a German Hanuta and Corny bar in our combined pockets and still a long way from home, Alberto started to miss his afternoon coffee and cake.
He is taking very well to all our “German” traditions and when he started imitating our directions in German “Alles frei!” and “Geradeaus”, everybody was cracking up.
The sun was setting. Mirco and Christian had turned off for home with way over 100km in their legs, and so had Kai a few kilometres later and it was down to Patrick, Alberto and myself to push the pace the last 15 km through reforested coal mines to beat the setting sun for the last bit of day light home.
A big ride to Saxon’s Switzerland is scheduled for tomorrow. There was talk of 200km but I requested to keep the loop to 160km max. Even so the legs feel good and the fitness is returning, my longest ride in the past few months has been 120km and 200 might be just a tad outside my ability right now.