MittelgerbigeClassique - collecting altitude meters in the German-French border area

MittelgebirgeClassique - Höhenmetersammeln im deutsch-französischen Grenzgebiet

The MittelgebirgeClassique 2024 was an ultimate test of endurance and stamina. Adam Bialek, shares his captivating story about his participation in this epic race. From the challenges of the route to unexpected twists along the way, his account offers a fascinating insight into the world of ultra cycling.

Registration for the MittelgebirgeClassique opened on November 1st, 2023. Over 160 registrations are said to have been received within 3 or 4 hours, with originally 100 starting places available. An overwhelming rush, in which I also took part.

MittelgebirgeClassique - or MC for short - with start and finish in Neustadt an der Weinstraße is an ultra-distance race with a specified route with a lot of altitude. The official key data for the third event in 2024 are: 1061 km and 20.070 meters in altitude, which of course appeals to me very much, or had already appealed to me some time ago. The fact that the starting location was very easy and quick for me to reach (unlike most events of this kind) made the decision to take part in the MC easier. In addition, I knew neither the Palatinate Forest nor the Vosges from a cyclist's perspective and had a huge desire to explore the area.


As the first race of my season, MC was supposed to start at 6:00 a.m. on May 12, 2024, a little south, outside of Neustadt. However, there were some organizational things to be done the day before, which also offered the opportunity to exchange ideas with known and unknown colleagues - always nice. Given the start time, we had to get to the accommodation early in order to get to bed early if possible. I managed to do this, but unfortunately I didn't get as many hours of sleep as I would have liked. Not ideal conditions given my intended racing strategy.


While the riders gathered at the start, a sunny day was announced, which increased my anticipation even further. The first meters of altitude were already on the agenda right from the start. After a few km, I was joined by a fellow rider (in hindsight it was Tobias Fuchs Cap No. 68), who set a sharp pace from the start. We drove in sight for a while, but before we reached the French border for the first time I let him go. For this I was joined by Fynn Graf Cap-Nr. 127, whom I had already met in 2022. We drove into France together until I broke away on one of the climbs there.

After a flat section with a crossing of the Rhine, I reached the northern Black Forest. Shortly before the top of the first longer climb to the Rote Lache, Tobias Cap No. 68 back in sight. On the following descent, after about 150 km, I overtook him and took the lead. This would be the last encounter with a passenger for many hours to come. As the day progressed, I made good progress and stopped at a gas station in between. During the journey to Titisee-Neustadt, the most south-eastern point of the tour, I came closer and closer to a threatening, dark cloud constellation and hoped to be able to escape it as soon as I followed the specified route and turned west.

This was largely successful. It did rain a bit at times, but I was spared any major disaster. It was getting increasingly dark, but the way to the first checkpoint CP1 at the Stockmatt hiking home at km 430 was not far. I got there around 11:30 p.m. and didn't stay very long. Meticulously cleaning the cycling glasses was probably the most time-consuming procedure on the CP1. With the first stamp in the control card, I set off downhill and left the Black Forest.

Neatly lined up before the start.

A construction site at the train station in Müllheim turned out to be an annoying obstacle. I drove back and forth several times without finding a viable way to cross the tracks. It was only thanks to a tip from a passerby that I found the hidden, unmarked, unlit passage. Before crossing the Rhine again, I stocked up on food and liquid before a flat stretch to the first foothills of the Vosges. During the night I crossed Col du Bannstein, Col du Firstplan and Col du Petit Ballon.

It didn't rain directly on me, but the streets were constantly wet and the atmosphere wasn't particularly inviting due to the omnipresent humidity. I reached the summit of the Col du Grand Ballon, the highest point of this year's MC edition, just in time for sunrise.

The first rays of sunlight were blocked very effectively by the thick clouds and the great view we had hoped for from up here was unfortunately quite limited. So off to the next descent to climb the next col. After another descent I found myself in a valley where I was directed onto a cycle path that I would describe as stupid. It was peppered with crossing priority roads and full of tons of rubbish.

In combination with the damp ground, a thick layer of dirt formed around the tires, and things happened as they had to. As soon as the bike path ended, the air hissed out of the rear wheel. I came to a stop in a town center and got to work under the observation of a local resident. He came over to me and tried to engage me in conversation, while I immediately asked him if he had a compressor available.

It had that, but the tire pressure I got with it was a bit unsatisfactory. Well, probably still better than what I could have achieved with the mini pump.


Looks more like Grünwald than Black Forest.


Two mountains later, two helpers met me promptly at 12 noon at CP2 La Haute Fourche at km 665. While my control card was being stamped, I grabbed a floor pump that I discovered there to supply the rear wheel. Spontaneously and uncharacteristically for me, I decided to come in and eat the pasta offered at CP2. Suddenly everyone present was startled by a massive bang. I immediately put my hands over my head. While one of the volunteers went out to check the situation, it was crystal clear to me that my tube on the rear wheel had exploded.

When I looked into the plate, a shiver went down my spine. What would have happened if I had continued driving immediately after stamping the card and pumping up the air, without this spontaneous unplanned meal break? I ate the last of the noodles before heading out to the bike. The explosion blew the tire off the rim. It got caught on the brake body. The wheel wouldn't turn at first and I had to lever around a bit to free the tire and take the wheel out. I quickly checked the tire and the rim base, inserted my second replacement tube and began to fill it using the floor pump. After a few pump strokes there was another bang. The hose burst again.

I was stunned. The hoses clearly had a production defect. They burst open exactly along one of the dividing ridges. I started by patching the broken hose that caused my first flat. I gradually realized that I was starting with a total of four tubes of the same type. Two of them were built into the wheels, while two had already failed catastrophically and blown up in my face. Although I managed to patch the broken tube and get the bike ready to ride again, it occurred to me that if I continued the ride I would be sitting on a moving time bomb.

Confidence in the material had completely evaporated. As the race progressed, there were still numerous climbs, descents, potholes and a night ride ahead. In the meantime I had lost my lead of almost two hours - Constantin Bachmann cap no. 1 and Bruno Wicht cap no. 56 arrived ready at CP2. However, I had other thoughts than this loss. Feeling uneasy, I set off down into the valley where the Moselle flows.

The weather conditions were almost ideal that afternoon. The sun was out most of the time and there were patches of clouds in between, although the roads in the mountains were still wet. Once I was caught by a short rain shower, but it stayed that way. No further precipitation came from above. At around 7 p.m. I took advantage of a rare opportunity and made one last purchase. Before 9 p.m. Constantin Cap-No. picked me up. 1 in a flat or slightly sloping section. We chatted briefly and drove within sight of each other for a while until I had to take a pee break. After that I didn't see him again and he won the MittelgebirgeClassique 2024 confidently with an impressive performance.

About an hour after meeting Constantin, Bruno Cap No. picked me up. 56 on the climb to Col du Brechpunkt. We exchanged a few words before he walked away. My pursuit was interrupted on the descent by another flat tire. In the middle of nowhere, I repaired the damage in the dark and continued the journey. Shortly after 1 a.m. the fatigue started to really bother me.

I decided to take a 10-minute power nap on a bench on the side of the road. Afterwards I initially felt full of energy again, but only for a short time until I reached the valley of the Zorn River. It was foggy and uncomfortably humid there. As the route continued, once the valley was behind me, the visibility improved again. At around 3:30 a.m. I finally stopped at a bus stop a second time for a 30-minute sleep break. Afterwards we headed towards the Palatinate Forest without any further breaks.

Shortly before 6 a.m. I returned to German soil, although the journey there was accompanied by considerable fatigue. Eventually, however, the sun began to shine out, which of course increased my mood considerably and made the tiredness disappear. When I took one last look at the GPS tracking I realized that Bruno Cap No. 56 only had a narrow lead over me that morning. Maybe I should have looked at it a little earlier. If necessary, that would have inspired me a little earlier and I might have been able to intercept him. However, it remained third place. I arrived at my destination, Hambach Castle, about 20 minutes after Bruno.


Carla Kroell (Photo 1 and 3)
Phillip Ketterer (Cover and Photo 2)
Text: Adam Bialek

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