1. Race to Help, Help to Win - Bohemian Gran Fondo 2014

    180km and nearly 4000 metres of climbing without spotting 1 proper mountain in a course profile? Welcome to Bohemia! Land of the rolling hills where the premiere of the Bohemian Gran Fondo tool place last weekend.  

    The center of the Bohemian Gran Fondo, that can be easily compared to La Marmotte, with its 186 km and the elevation gain of approximately 4500 m, is Český Krumlov, a historical town in Southern Bohemia. Its historical center is a part of the UNESCO heritage. To me the city looks like movie backdrop of a medieval blockbuster. It’s definitely a tourist hot-spot (the second most visited city after Prague in the Czech Republic) with its picturesque old town center with the church and the castle but you’ll also find great restaurants, bars and even a local brewery in place.

    In the past, the bordering mountains, where the Bohemian Gran Fondo takes place had always provided a natural barrier between the countries, states or the political systems. Now, they are interwoven with a wide net of narrow, infrequently used roads with a good surface - a cyclist’s paradise. 

    The Gran Fondo itself was tough starting off in the mist of a cold Saturday morning at 7am sharp. A small group of 45 starters was accelerating into the break of dawn. Shortly after the start line the first uphill section was kicking in and the main group forced the pace. Coming across the first timed climb the group was gone and I decided to stick to my own tempo with 160km to go it was too early to go all out. Along the way I met Dominik from Munich and since we were both riding at the same pace we teamed up to do the rest of the Gran Fondo together. We were drifting along bohemian forest roads - narrow but with great vies along the countryside and got rarely passed by cars. The landscape in southern Bohemia can be best described with mid-european rural: hills, woods, meadows and farmlands - a nice mixture of the green color spectrum pairing up with falling leaves that immediately reminded me of Il Lombardia - the race of the falling leaves. After the first refreshment stop the first shock. In the second timed climb of the day a guy on a mountainbike just in front of us was falling of his bike - unconscious. We stopped to support his two friends with first aid measures and carried on until the ambulance was on its way. By that time I was getting cold so we decided to continue our ride to get warm again but kept on thinking abut what might have happened to the cyclist and why on earth he just fell of his bike.

    After exiting the forest climb and a short descent we were lead on to a municipal road again (thanks to all people working as race posts - great job!). After a short straight section we saw a car to the right, two people and someone on the grass covered with tin foil plus a bike next to the car. On the opposite side of the road a car in the trench. Holy crap what’s happening today? With so little cars on the roads it was rather weird to witness an accident. We felt a small relief once we turned right again and off the beaten tracks and on to a country lane (don’t let the term fool you surfaces were really smooth throughout all the race). Then the true rolling hills kicked in and sometimes the gradient was at around 12% or above. We passed a restricted military areas. I was told that this road is only opened on weekends. Suddenly for the first time of the day the sun came through and the temperatures were climbing above 11°C for at least a short period of time. The bohemian countryside is even nicer in full sunshine but we were already hitting the next forest segment and the sun disappeared again. After a longer descent we arrived at the Lipno Reservoir, or South Bohemian Sea like its called. We had reached the most western point of the route so from now on we were heading east again and against a strong headwind. After the third refreshment stop the only thing that worried us was our Garmin data and the fact that we’d only climbed half the distance so far. We knew that the last climb up Kleť would cash in 600 metres of climbing but still 1300 metres missing on the way: so head down and on we pedaled - one rolling hill after the other until we reached Kleť and the last timed climb towards the finish line of the day. 

    It was a tough, cold & windy ride but the great organization and the beautiful landscape and mostly on quiet roads and all for a good cause to raise money for the nonprofit organization Mamma HELP (biggest nonprofit patient organization in the Czech Republic focusing on women with breast cancer and their families) was totally worth it.

    Wishing the 2 injured cyclists a speedy recovery!

    Strava data of the race: http://app.strava.com/activities/203145628

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