Guest Post - Jair Hoogland on the Mittelgebirge Classique

Gastbeitrag - Jair Hoogland über das Mittelgebirge Classique

Jair Hoogland on his experience at the Midmountain Classique

We asked Jair to report on his last ultra race, the Mittelgebirge Classique. In this blog he writes about his experiences and how he felt about it.

From start to CP 1
🛣️ 428 km
⛰️ 9148 hm

The starting gun is fired at 6 a.m. sharp. Since I had to pee just before the start, I'm following them a bit, but soon catch up with the front runners. The six-kilometre climb that now follows provides the first decisions in the group. A couple of wild boars try to help by running through the middle of the first group. Luckily, all riders were able to brake in time and got away with a scare. 

On the descent I outperform the first ones - after all it's an individual race and I don't want to be driven crazy by the pace of the others. But with a group start with 150 participants, it is of course inevitable that you will partly ride together for the first few kilometers. After an hour everything has dissolved, although I keep meeting fellow combatants on the first day due to the given route.

After a few hills in the Palatinate Forest, which are still relatively low for what is to come, we head over the Rhine towards the Black Forest. This is where the actual ascent begins.

I notice that when it goes uphill, I effortlessly lose my fellow passengers. But also that it's the other way around when it goes down. So the places are constantly changing with always the same people around me.

On one of the first mountains in the Black Forest I meet Zeno, whom I know from the Transcontinental Race . We talk briefly. A little later I meet Anatole, whom I know from the Unknown Race. He rides a rental bike and has two old-fashioned straps around his neck. It looks nice, but it's not very practical. Soon he too will have to give up due to a material problem.

It's starting to get hot and when I see a gas station I take the opportunity to stock up - I'm not the only one.

The brief stop is followed by a tangle of climbs. The route, both here in the Black Forest and later in the Vosges, is diverse. Some climbs are pleasant to ride, like the bike path to Freudenstadt, most are steep or at least have a very steep section.

The weather is nice all afternoon and I can only complain about the convoys of motorcyclists and vintage cars, but they will probably do the same about the cyclists. At the end of the afternoon the weather suddenly changes. Heavy rain with thunderstorms follows. I take shelter at a dilapidated kebab stand. It looks like our route is headed straight for a thunderstorm, which is a no go for me, especially in the mountains. I'm not the only one who thinks so, because slowly but surely the dilapidated kebab tent is filling up with neglected, tired and smelly cyclists.

After checking all the weather apps thirty times and losing weight from the heaviest rain, I decide to keep going. It's a bit of a gamble, but looks like I should head east first as the thunderstorm moves west. If that doesn't work, I'll have to seek shelter again, probably somewhere less convenient.

Luckily it turns out well, so I can make the most of the remaining daylight. In the absence of hotels I want to reach CP1 tonight and have a short sleep there. The delay makes this planning almost impossible, but I don't have a plan B either, because it has really gotten too cold and wet outside.

I make as much progress as possible in daylight, but still have to cover a longer distance than planned at night. At Oberreid I meet Hanna, who warns me about a dangerous descent just before the campsite. Good to know. I don't descend very much anyway and always without unnecessary risk, but that's unpleasant to hear.

Getting off at night is difficult at all. When you're tired and don't need to pedal you just need to focus, but that's difficult when your heart rate drops. That's when you switch off, so to speak. So, to be on the safe side, I take two 10-minute power naps. In the end it turns out that I know the demanding descent and thanks to that knowledge it's not too bad.

When it gets light again, I reach CP1 and get hold of the last free bed.

From CP1 to CP2
🛣️ 253 km
⛰️ 5119 hm

After an hour and a half of sleep and a quick shower, I try to wake up. In the meantime, several cyclists have arrived at the CP. They are cyclists who have found a hotel and look a lot fresher. Among them are Glen and Dominique, whom I met earlier. So I made a bad choice. I badly timed my sleep and continued to ride at a much slower speed throughout the night. Too bad, there were obviously a lot of opportunities that I missed.

I decide to have a quick breakfast and, most importantly, to ride my bike as much as possible. Because this bad choice cost me a few places.

After a last climb in the Black Forest comes one of the few flat sections. Down the Rhine Valley from Germany to France. In one of the villages I fill up my supplies and can accelerate for 60 km - that was my plan. Unfortunately, I have two flat tires and have to make a small detour to buy new inner tubes. I do have stickers with me, but I can't risk fumbling with them unless I need to. There are delays here too, but I also know that there is still a long way to go. It's annoying to see how one driver after another greets the tire changer.

After my escapades in the valley, I reach the Vosges and the ascent can begin. I am allowed to drive the Trois Ballons in the middle of the day over a few small passes that I am not familiar with and the Petit B petit ballon.

At the top of the Gran Ballon, I decide to take the time to eat something in peace for the first time: a cake. The good Lord punishes immediately, because the 15 minutes that I took for it were enough to let one wind up. So in the middle of the descent I have to seek protection from the violence of nature. Later I hear from people who were still on the summit that lightning struck there. When I come down, it turns out that the valley is completely dry. If only I...

If only I hadn't taken a break, so I keep going to try to get as far as I can in daylight one more time. Reaching the inn at CP2 tonight is realistic, even if that means tackling the Planche des Belles Filles at night. But: light or dark, it's always hard.

After the Planche comes the Ballon de Servance and a narrow, steep cycle path into the dark forest. Now in such races it is not allowed to ride in the slipstream of the others, but side by side is allowed. On this climb I saw several people riding side by side. Call me a whiner, but in my opinion it's a lot easier to drive with two people at night than alone. I overtake these drivers, one of the two groups turns out to be a duo, so it's not as bad as it looks. Still a reason to think.

About three o'clock I reach CP2 via Little Finland: Auberge La Haute Fourche. The pasta is ready and I can shower and go to bed.

From CP2 to the finish
🛣️ 396 km
⛰️ 6726 hm

After two short hours I get up, have breakfast and drive off again. At least I'm trying to get away, but as a member of Ledig Erf cycling club I have yet to have my picture taken with the owner of the inn. Because he is also the founder of the café Ledig Erf in Utrecht. A very nice inn, but I just want to go away to make meters.

It's still early and the clouds are hanging over the mountains. Charlotte, one of the photographers, is thrilled and tells CP about it. On the descent, I understand it's nice, but it gets you wet.

Anything above 1,000 meters is good for a wetsuit today, anything below is fine. I'm happy about the clouds, not like Charlotte for pictures, but because it's not as hot as yesterday.

I didn't know this part of the Vosges, but why it's so green here is obvious. OK, it's not really raining, but it's damp.

Every time I climb, I catch up with people who then catch up with me on the descent. This scene with a bunch of the same cyclists doesn't stop until they make a longer stop at a supermarket and I keep riding. So I just ride away from them by keeping my break ratio as low as possible.

From the Col du Donon I don't really meet anyone anymore. Maybe they stopped more often than I did. That's when you realize how lonely it is in this area. The next climb, the ascent through the Grossman Reservation that follows, is a mental challenge. Not because it's difficult, but because it's so monotonous and very boring with little variety in scenery.

I survived this challenge as well, and there is actually still a flat section on the route across the canal between the Marne and the Rhine. This leads into the northern part of the Vosges, where the mountains become hills and the route no longer climbs more than 600 meters.

It's only 160 km to go, but it's getting dark and the pace is slowing. I want to try to finish within the three days, but I have to do my best to do so.

In order to master the descents safely, I have to take two power naps. When I try to do this the second time, it turns out that the bus shelter is already being used by Cap 50. Irritating, but also nice, because if he stays longer than my 10-minute nap, I move up a seat.

That works, too, but I can't manage both 10-minute power naps and about eight minutes more in the three days. I reach the objective at dawn at 06:28. 3 days and 28 minutes after launch.

Thank you Jair for the detailed report and congratulations on your successful race.

Photos (C) Charlotte Gamus

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