Obviously one of the nice things about biking is being able to cycle through the countryside either alone or with the family or with friends at your own pace, but some times you just want to test yourself.

And so it is that even the sanest cyclist eventually finds him- or herself pitting themselves against the clock and their friends in a race across the mountains.

I haven''t been able to totally avoid this infection. These are the reports from those few races that I have taken part in.

Pfronten Mountain Bike Marathon I

This year a few people from the cycling group decided to take part in the Pfronten Mountain Bike Marathon. It sounded like fun so I also agreed to take part.

There is a long 52 km course over three mountains and a shorter one of only 26km over the Breitenberg. The idea was to have fun so five of us opted for the short course while two heros did the long one.

The sun was shining but it wasn''t too hot so a perfect day for cycling. Leaving Nesselwang we cycled the 9 kms to Pfronten to get warm and then joined the other 800 cyclists at the start. The starters gun was fired at 12:00 but it was a minute before those of us at the back really got moving. To begin with the long and short courses ran with each other and it was a fight to get through. Once the courses separated things got a bit quieter as we cycled up Achtal to the Austrian border.

At the border our family and the French family were there to cheer us on as we turned up the Breitenberg. The question we all asked was how far ahead the others in the team were.

It took me 53 minutes to climb the 640 meters to the pass on the Breitenberg. Both Inga and Karin passed me on the way up but I managed to pass a few people myself. Once over the pass I switched my brain off and threw myself down the track. I managed to pass everyone I saw and fight off all those behind me. Fantastic fun! I even overtook Karin. The descent took 16 minutes in which I lost 830 meters. Wow!

At the finish line the French and Hogarth familys once again gave a noisy welcome as I arrived. My time was 1 hr 49 min. which was better than I had expected by a good margin.

Once the whole team was back we formed up for the 9 kms back to Nesselwang, a bath and the evening prize giving.

Pfronten Mountain Bike Marathon II

tl_files/hogarth/Photos/1_003.jpgAfter completing the short route in "2005" the next obvious challenge was the real marathon. This is however an altogether more serious undertaking of 53kms and 1900 meters of climb across three local mountains, the Edelsberg, Kienberg and Breitenberg.

I began cycling as soon as the snow allowed and for the first time ever was wishing the snow gone. Between the end of winter and the marathon I spent as much time as possible out on my bike, training and totalled over 1300 kilometres and nearly 2300 metres of climbing.

\nNone the less I was still worried when the actual week of the race arrived. I thought that a time of four and a half hours was realistic and worked out the times for the various sections that would let me reach this total time. Everyone had warned me about starting too quickly so I promised myself I would be especially careful on the first mountain and not burn myself out.

The start was at 12:00 and the temperature was 34°C without a cloud in the sky. This was going to be hot! Over 1000 cyclists started and we ensured we had a place near enough to the front to allow us to not get stuck as had happened at the start last year. Almost immediately after the start there was a crash involving many bikes which Heidi and I barely avoided ending up as a part of.

cycled the first hill with Heidi, concentrating on not letting myself get too caught up in the action and powering myself out before it started. Near the top I left Heidi and then threw myself downhill losing my water bottle on the way. Disaster! On the flat through Pfronten I rang Gustav from my mobile and asked him to organise a new one. A spectator heard this and immediately gave me his. I don't know who he was but thank you.

Pfronten kappel I was 10 minutes ahead of my plan so took the climb to the Edelsberg as slowly as I could to save my energy. I was sweating buckets and thanked the drink bottle donor many times over. The welcome at the Kappeller Alm was amazing. Everyone was congratulating me and motivating me to continue. Wow! After a quick drink it was on up to the Edelsberg. It seemed like everyone I knew was out to encourage me. All the way to the top well wishers egged me on. Thank you all again. At the top I was still 10 minutes ahead but threw myself into the downhill knowing that I had not allowed much time. My maximum speed was 70 kmh which is very fast moving on a loose gravel track.\r\n\r\nThe ride back down Vilstal was a chance to recuperate again and drink plenty before the Kienberg. At the first curve of the climb there were lots of Nesselwangers who once again spurred me on. I was still feeling relatively fit and managed to cycle all the way to the top of the pass. Once there I turned down hill and switched my head off. Many people were pushing or riding slowly down this dangerous part of the course so I had to ride round them often jumping large rocks or small boulders. Adrenalin pure.

Bavarian uphill challenge

In the paper there was a small article that said the Bavarian uphill challenge was going to be taking place in Nesselwang and that anyone could enter the hobby class. Alison asked if I was going to do it. I asked Jon and Moni and so Jons Adventures started with a team of three people.

The course was from the Post Brewery in town to Sportheim Boeck at the top of the mountain, a climb of 570 metres and a distance of 6.5 kilometres. The short distance meant that this was going to be a sprint rather than a long drawn out race.

The top of the mountain was still covered in snow but the mountain rescue, including Max, drove up and down a few times to ensure that there were tracks to ride in. The weather forecast promised snow and rain but as it turned out it was just cold and overcast.

All the hobby cyclists started together at 13:00 and we all set off at a much too fast speed (for me at least). By the time things settled down all the cracks had disappeared and I was some 50 meters behind Jon. Moni was some way behind. It stayed like that for the next 450 vertical meters with Jon managing to stay just ahead. Occasionally he pulled a little ahead but each time I caught him up but couldn't overtake. Eventually Jon just ran out of power and allowed me to take over the lead.

Eventually reached the top after 44 minutes of non stop pedalling with Jon just behind me. Moni was there 12 minutes later. We were the three last of the whole contest with the winner taking 25 minutes but each of had achieved a new best time. I normally take between 55 minutes and an hour so was very pleased with my result. In the afternoon all three of us took place in the Nesselwang "Walking  Round the World" challenge but I felt my legs that evening.

Neill Hogarth | |