What a year! A year of extremes. I don’t want to dwell here on how terrible everything was in the Corona year. And not everything was terrible! Of course there are terrible fates! But just as global warming has dire consequences, there are also positive effects, and this year is no different with the Corona pandemic. Nothing is black or white!
Athletes had to give up most of the competition this year. But aside from the pros, we cyclists were clearly on the winning side, unlike most other sports. Even in the harsh lockdown of spring, we were not denied cycling in Germany. Can I already hear the first objection: group rides were forbidden in our country!? Well, whiners at a high level are always there. It was really stupid for those who were traveling abroad, like in Spain, at the time of the first lockdown. The Spaniards were not allowed to set a foot in front of the door and also not a wheel tire. There were horror stories from acquaintances who were traveling in the Canary Islands and were stuck in their hotels and not allowed to leave due to Corona cases. Among the profiteers of the crisis were in any case the bicycle stores, which could hardly save themselves from the onslaught. Bicycles, bicycle parts and exercise bikes (rollers) were often completely sold out.
How cyclists fared with the crisis is very individual. Due to the cancellation of major events, it was up to everyone to look for challenges themselves and those who need challenges will always find them without competitions. I would make a bet that in no other year before so many Everestings were carried out as in 2020. The training platform Strava received influx and that mainly also because of the possibility to bag the famous crowns at segments and to start the competition in this way with other athletes.
Memories for Eternity
When the Corona wave was just building up at the end of February, beginning of March, I rode around with my racing bike on my favorite island Cyprus (training camp on Cyprus). At that time, the first corona waves appeared in Munich and the locals looked at me as a German somewhat suspiciously. At the airport, people were still smiling at the small number of people wearing breathing masks on the outbound flight. Already a few weeks later the masks in Germany should become the scarce commodity. Hardly back from the bike vacation there was the hard lockdown. Thanks to sunny spring weather, however, there was hardly any limit to cycling and even better: there was virtually no car traffic.
When I think back to spring, I think of lonely roads. I will never forget when I looked down from a hill onto a wide stretch of the A94. The highway was empty. Not five vehicles were on the road. Since travel abroad and even within Germany was restricted, many cyclists were exploring their immediate surroundings. And lo and behold, there were actually roads and paths that one would never have come across without Corona. Unfortunately, some people thought of nothing better than to storm the local recreation areas, which were groaning under the weight of the “nature lovers”. Many cyclists took advantage of the traffic situation and made their rounds on otherwise busy expressways, where you would otherwise swallow only exhaust fumes, dirt and soot at the risk of your life. I also remember well a longer bike ride on a federal highway – virtually alone. That will most likely not happen again. For the few minutes I ride my bike to work, I regularly fear for my life in city traffic. Several times I have almost been knocked down by overtaxed drivers. I sorely miss these lonely Bike2Work rides!
When the Stilfserjoch knocks three times
Of course, the lockdown threw the vacation plans of very many people over the heap. This rescheduling gave me an unforgettably beautiful vacation (read here). My second highlight this year, was then a spontaneous action on a hot summer weekend: the Stelvio! As often mentioned here, I know best as a weather fairy how difficult a weather forecast can be. Even if the weather situation is absolutely clear, the weather can behave chaotically on the spot. If you want to climb the Stelvio, then of course you can do it in almost any weather, but whether that is then really relaxing is another matter. At 2757 meters above sea level, the air not only gets thin, but it also gets colder. I hate having to take a thousand pieces of clothing with me on passes and constantly having to adapt my onion look to the conditions. But I also hate to sweat soaking wet or to freeze like a dog. So I always try to pick out the weather raisins in my activities, but I do not always succeed, as we will see later.
In short, the weather was high summer on the said weekend and promised relatively warm temperatures and sunshine for the highest altitude meters. The risk of rain was less than 5 percent. So off to the Stilfser Joch. Actually, the plan was initially only to climb the Stelvio from Prad and then descend to Bormio and the whole return. The option to do the descent and ascent of the Umbrail was open, but not really planned. After I noticed in the hotel in Prad when climbing the stairs to the room my heavy legs from the intervals of the previous day, I would have bet on it that I will already groan at the first ascent. In the morning we started early. Traffic was still hardly on the road and also hardly cyclists. My legs felt nothing more of the heaviness of the previous day. Always fascinating how well my regeneration works. The closer it went to the summit, the more traffic came up. Nevertheless, it was still relatively humane and you could really enjoy the view. The descent to Bormio was then in places more of a chore than fun. There were a lot of cars, motorcycles and also caravans on the road. As a cyclist, you were cut dangerously from time to time. In the last part of the descent, overtaking was not possible due to road works and so you were stuck in traffic. Arrived in Bormio, the bottles were filled, a snack eaten and then it went back immediately, with the heavy traffic already somewhat equalized.
Arrived the second time at the Stelvio, the situation was probed. Body feeling? Top! Time of day? 3 p.m.! Thunderstorm risk? Far and wide no potential thundercloud to see. So it was quickly clear that the Umbrailpass is also still driven. The Umbrail Pass is a real gem in the late afternoon hours. Already in the descent there was hardly any traffic and the relatively narrow road winds through the mountain valley. In the upper part there is often noticeable wind, which is soon absorbed by the beginning mountain forest. During the last climb of the Umbrail, there were only a few people on the road. the landscape of the Umbrail could also be on another planet. The last meters of altitude it became silent. I heard only the wind and the rushing of the waterfalls from the distance, which were carried to me without any disturbing noise. Now and then I heard a bird of prey scream. The sun was now lower and the western mountain slopes cast the first long shadows. Like in a dream. The loneliness had an end again at the Stilfser Joch. There we had a Vinschgauer with sauerkraut and mustard. Since relatively little was going on, the descent was also a pleasure without major obstacles (Strava recording).
Here the story could be over, if I had not imagined the next day to drive before departure again on the Stelvio. And not only on the Stelvio, but also again down via Umbrail and again up. But this time the weather luck had left me. For the late afternoon there was an increased risk of thunderstorms. And as the devil would have it, the first thunderstorm came already at noon. But I was lucky. The first drops reached me only when I stood the second time on top of the pass and could seek shelter in time under an awning of a sausage stand before the onset of hail (short video).
Now we are sitting in the second lockdown, as was to be expected, and are eager to see what the year 2021 will bring for us. What do I have planned for myself? Nothing concrete except cycling and having fun. Also Corona is sometime history! In this sense, I wish you all the best for the new year, much joy in cycling and of course the most important: health!