Day 6: Goslar to Staßfurt

  • Distance: 12km + 98km = 110km 😐
  • Average Speed: Some distance-weighted average of 14.3km/h and 20.6km/h ☹️
  • Legs: 😐
  • Undercarriage: 🙂 — but I may just be getting used to pain
  • Bike: 🙂🙂
To be honest, I had rather overdone the rosado wine and beers last night so I felt a little rough when I woke but that was all forgotten when I saw the breakfast buffet.  It was so fantastic I had to take a panoramic shot of it.
A cornucopia of food requiring a full panoramic shot. 

Rampaging Viking was back again and I ate bacon sandwiches, some sort of cherry pie, cheese and ham sandwiches, a bowl of cornflakes and three cups of strong coffee.  I wasn’t going to make yesterday’s mistake of not fueling properly at the beginning of the day although I was continuing to forget about the diuretic effect of coffee.

I vaguely heard the dulcet tones of Sean Kelly in my ear.  “I’m not sure if that’s the right breakfast for this type of event Carlton.  Normally the pros have a light breakfast like an omelette…or a sandwich…cheese…maybe jam…or a bowl of porridge…or something else.  In my day in the pro-peloton, we would just have two cups of coffee and a handful of amphetamines and we were good to spend 5 hours on the rivet giving it one hundert per cent.”  

For those of you not into professional bike racing, the legendary Irish hard-man of cycling Sean Kelly now plies his trade as a commentator for GCN and Eurosport.  He is a terrible pundit (mainly through being completely incomprehensible 50% of the time) but pro-cycling fans (and I) consider him an immovable fixture of their viewing  

I was feeling pretty perky after the giant breakfast and I’d noticed that the EV2 route went right past the hotel so I thought I would follow the true EV2 route today.  Well, I would follow the EV2 route after I had cycled back to the hotel to get my gloves…

Almost immediately I was climbing up through the suburbs of Goslar.  5% or 6%, all pretty reasonable tarmac roads and and then I saw this.

So steep it’s got steps

Yes, the EV2 routemasters had done it again.  A 25% slope followed by…a gravel logging path at 10%.  Every single stone a puncture waiting to happen.
WTAF?

It went on.  Gnarly terrifying descents where the bike and the bean of doom were slipping around underneath me and then straight into more climbing up 10-12% slopes on gravel.
Oh yeah, just want you want on a long distance cycle.

I was walking the walk-of-shame on every ascent now as they topped out at 16%…on gravel.  Who in their right mind runs a long distance cycling route through steep un-paved forest tracks.  As you might imagine, I was turning the forests blue with my language.

I looked at the “forthcoming climbs” screen on my Garmin and realised that 10 out of the 18 recognised climbs in the German section of the EV2 were in the next 40k.  And they were all averaging 8% with peaks of 12%+.  

I made the decision I should have made days ago and I was finally done with EV2 from here on. I’d use their town and city waypoints but I was going to work on a new route: EwanVelo 2.  No shit roads, no pointless detours to look at some picturesque forests and no 16% climbs on gravel. 

I worked some computers magic with Garmin Connect or Google Maps and came up with a new route from where I was (the middle of bloody nowhere) to Staßfurt which was my next destination and…surprise surprise…there were no proper climbs at all.  

My EwanVelo2 route took me down a final terrifying logging trail descent and I was on paved roads with reasonable gradients again.  It’s not exactly flat all the way but the rolling well paved roads max out at 7% or 8% which isn’t pleasant but it can be done.  Even with Beelzibub’s bean on the back.
This I can do

As an aside, like John Self in Martin Amis’ classic book “Money” (“Unless I tell you I’m not smoking, just assume that I’m always smoking a cigarette”), unless I tell you otherwise, just assume I’m on roads like this for the rest of Germany.

I saw a lady taking her horse for a walk on a horse.
No saddle, no shoes, but I’ve got my tiny horse.

In the delightfully named village of Zilly, I had a bit of an “incident”.  As I was crossing a junction on the well-marked cycle lane, a driver of a very shiny new BMW SUV was too busy talking on his phone to see the well-marked stop sign before the cycle lane and drove into me.  Luckily he was moving pretty slowly and luckily I had swerved a bit so just ended up on his bonnet.  Neither I nor the bike were damaged in any way.  In another piece of fantastic luck, I had landed on the crumple zone of the bonnet and so I had stoved it in and the bike had left a couple of really deep scratches and dents in his shiny and new bumper and bonnet.  The bloke got out to shout at me and I mutely pointed to the stop sign, the cycle lane and the phone in his hand.  I then got back on the bike and pedalled off.  I was lucky and got off lightly.  I was also lucky that the bloke is probably looking at a couple of grand of bodywork repairs which might make him think twice about driving while texting in future.

Sadly I didn’t get the usual massive adrenaline rush which usually accompanies a brush with death.  That’s probably because it was way too slow and a sedate bump isn’t a proper brush with death.  It was more akin to toppling over in a ski lift by mistake.  I could have done with the performance enhancing properties of a massive adrenaline rush. 

As I said above, it was the same type of roads that rolled seemingly endlessly under my wheels.  I was alert to bad noises from the bike after the bump but it all seemed fine.  Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t hungry given that I had eaten enough breakfast to last me until next Tuesday, but I was starting to get thirsty — maybe bacon for breakfast isn’t a good idea.  I fell into the now familiar rhythm of rolling through tiny villages hoping for a cafe, a shop, a bar, anything but, once again, rural Germany defeated me and I pedalled on smacking my lips and wondering whether raw maize would quench my thirst.

I spent a very thirsty 10km with a German couple on e-bikes.   Mid 40s, the bloke with a chiselled stubbly jaw, the woman with angular cheekbones and long blonde hair.  They were both wearing white jeans and white linen shits.  Visitors to Mallorca will recognise these people as straight out of an Engel and Völkers real estate advert.   They weren’t working hard on their e-bikes, just pootling up the hills at 25km/h and coasting down the hills at 25km/h.  I wasn’t pootling up the hills at 25km/h but I was going downhill much faster than them.  I grew to hate them as I passed them on the downhills and then heard their e-bikes humming up the hill behind me.  They even had full water bottles.  It all just seemed so unfair.  They turned off the main road eventually which is why I’m not posting this from a police cell under charge for GBH. 

The exceptionally unlovely town of Halberstat was large enough to have a cafe and I had a large coffee and four bottles of water which ensured that both caffeine withdrawal and thirst weren’t going to be a problem for the next three hours.
Note the ashtray

As my table had a full ashtray on it and as it wasn’t removed when I sat down, I might as well mention the smoking thing in Germany: it appears everybody smokes in Germany.  Every cafe and restaurant is empty inside and the tables outside are crammed with people smoking.  You can always get a seat in a restaurant inside because everybody wants to sit outside and smoke.  It’s…unexpected…but I read somewhere that because the Nazis were vehemently anti-smoking, post-war smoking was a sign of rebellion and it became a “thing” in Germany. Growing your hair long, listening to shit music and wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt seems the healthier rebellion option. 

With water on board, all I had to do was a 30k grind into Staßfurt — my goal for today.  From about 5k out, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be pretty town and it got even less pretty from there. I cycled through some desolate parts south of the railway tracks looking for my hotel.

When I reached it, it was clear that, although there isn’t a great choice of hotels in Staßfurt, the Hotel Burgas maybe wasn’t the best choice to make from the limited selection. I’m the only guest, the restaurant is closed, the room decor screams “last decorated in 1972” and they have only given me one towel.

However, look on the bright side, it’s most expensive than any other room on this trip so far. Weird. 
A pastel coloured Cumbernauld

I went out for dinner without any plans. Everything was very run-down and unpleasant. Lots of crappy streets with crappy burnt out cars, crappy graffiti and lots of hard looking blokes with sleeve tattoos smoking on street corners. Even when I walked over the railway bridge to the “right side” of the tracks the feeling of decay and decline was still there. There weren’t many nice buildings but those that were nice were covered in tags. We’re not in the Netherlands now Toto.

Sunday evening was not party central in downtown Staßfurt. Almost everywhere that sold food was shut until Tuesday. Those that were open had a rugby-scrum of furiously smoking pumped-up hard men in cap sleeve t-shirts and bad tattoos downing giant vats of lager. 

On the corner of a roundabout and a motorway I came across the Pizza Al Capone. This was seemingly a modern and family-oriented restaurant: sleeve-tattooed hard men brought their sleeve-tattooed chisel-faced girlfriends and their kids here and smoked furiously while the kids ate pizza and ice cream sundaes.  Some of them were 60 year old sleeve-tattooed ex-hard men with their chisel-faced 60 year old sleeve-tattooed wives who would buy their grandchildren ice cream sundaes while smoking furiously at them.

There was space inside the restaurant — why would you want to sit inside where you couldn’t smoke furiously at your kids or grandkids — and I got a quiet table, bruschetta, beer and (the cyclists favourite) Pizza Diavola.
All the major food groups

The pizza wouldn’t have passed the stringent pizza tests of my Italian in-laws but it wasn’t bad. No, it was better than that, it was good. The giant ice cream Sunday was very good too. 
Because I’m worth it

My waitress (with a sleeve-tattoo and “Fuck You” tattooed on her thigh) efficiently supplied me with enough beer and wine that I thought better of Staßfurt and I thought much better of Restaurant Al Capone. This isn’t some twee little village in the countryside and it’s certainly not anywhere in the Netherlands but it’s a proper post-industrial town that isn’t catering to tourists. “Fuck you” indeed. 

Today — apart from the baleful and hateful first 10km of the EV2 — wasn’t too bad. I could be make it to Berlin tomorrow. The EV2 route says it’s 280 and, knowing those dastardly Velocrats, that route will involve going down a coal mine, scaling a cliff and riding your bike through a lake but EwanVelo route is 220km.  Even without the cyclocross routing, that’s going to be too much.

Therefore I’m going to Potsdam on the EwanVelo 2 route. I think it’s worth spending some time where Roosevelt, Truman, Stalin and Churchill decided the course of history for nearly 50 years.

It’s 180km and the radiator which is supposed to be drying my shorts isn’t working. It could be a moist start to the day. But not in a good way.

Comments

  1. Another wonderful blog and you bring it so alive. Hope the weather holds. Potsdam is fascinating if you get time.

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