This has been an experiment into packing lighter and doing longer days. The company could not be better: Martin (who I cycled to Iran with previously) has a crazy long list of rando adventures behind him, and Tomas is a good mix of 100 kg headwind locomotive and emergency mechanic. Then we had the other Martin, driving down to Slovenia at the same time, and being kind enough to meet up with us twice or three times every day – a real luxury.
After picking Martin up at the airport, we set off from my house. We got 50 m, then I noticed that my casette was skipping. Back to the garage, new casette, and off again. The first day was a short 70 km ride to Ystad, where we met up with the other Martin and Tomas at the ferry after downing a pizza.
I had a bad cold and the ferry ride did not help much. We made another casette swap to a brand new one in the hut, then off to sleep. In the morning I did not feel great, but a 240 km ride it was, nontheless. Luckily, the condition improved gradually during the day.
The biking Martin’s girlfriends’ parents live in Germany, close to Frankfurt am Oder. We were invited for a barbeque and so diverted from the Polish headwind to find fantastic hospitality and lots of tasty food!
The next day we pushed on to Czechia, finishing off with a nice long climb, and realizing that the country we had entered provided more scenic riding, but also more hills. So the next day turned into a real roller coaster in scorching sun. I was moving slow, still not feeling 100 %, so after 220 km we called it a day at a fantastic countryside guest house that Martin (the one with the car) had found.
Then more hills, into Austria. And rain. Still fantastic riding, but slow. The last pass was undertaken in dense darkness and light rain. Tomas had no lights and so we rode closely together, finding our way down to the valley and the cold pizza awaiting us in the hotel room.
It tured out that the previous day had only been a warm-up. Now awaited 7 passes, totalling 4600 m ascent over 210 km. It went smooth, but the weather was shifty: 30 C and sunshine in the valleys, 11 C and heavy rain on several of the passes. The latter felt little cold on the long descents. Nonetheless, the evening turned out to be a really nice one weather-wise. Then Tomas blew out the side wall on his rear carbon rim on a long gravel descent in heavy rain (the front rim had died just two days before). Being Tomas, he removed the tire and casually continued the descent (now on asphalt) riding 40 km/h as if nothing had happened. Luckily Martin met up with us, and provided a new wheel. The last pass – from Villach in Austria to Kransja Gora in Slovenia, was brutal. It had a long stretch of 18 % incline, and again it was pitch black by the time we got there. Tomas and I had to get off and push for a bit of the crazy steep, while Martin muscled on. Then it was an easy roll down past Kransja Gora to the house we had rented in Gozd Martuljek. It had been 5 days of fun in great company, averaging 250 km per day, and with lots of quality climbing. Although it had been an effort, it felt sad that the trip was over.