Text – Martin Donat
Where Germany’s highest waterfalls roar, where cuckoo clocks are huge and railroads are tiny, where the Black Forest cake is at home and where Fox,eagle and owl say “good night” – that is the place to go. Welcome to the Central Black Forest, welcome to the Reinertonishof, welcome to the Votec Gravel Fondo 2018!
All good things come in threes – already the old Teutons knew that and so it was almost logical that the Gravel Fondo completes the trilogy. After its premiere in the south of the Black Forest and its second edition in the northern part in Baiersbronn it was time for a rendezvous in the center of Germany’s highest mid range mountains. The basecamp was set up at the idyllic Reinertonishof near Schönwald. “On Road, Offroad – repeat” the simple but proven basic concept of the VOTEC Gravel Fondo still remained true.
All good things come in threes – a motto that worked pretty well for the whole weekend. At least for most of the riders- three days packed with bikes, Black Forest gravel and a lot of fun. On Friday evening the Reinertonishof opened its stable doors and the registration for the event. Many riders took the chance to arrive in the evening, pick up their starter pack and stirred up their anticipation with some good drinks right at the blazing campfire.
In contrast to many other cycling events, the ride did not start at an unearthly hour on Starurday mornin. So all riders had enough time to arrive relaxed at the basecamp. They were warmly wellcomed: the sun was shining from the sky as if they had not realized that midsummer was long history. There were many opportunities to get in the mood for the upcoming ride. Some did so by picking up their previously reserved VOTEC VRX Gravel bike wheel, mounting one of Wahoo’s computers to the cockpit, or quickly swapping out the tires for some new fresh Gravel rubbers from WTB. Others were laying down some finishing touches on their own gravel bike and others were so well prepared that they could go straight to the culinary highlight of the morning, which was waiting for everyone: Mario the barista of BlackBird Coffee made a tasty treat for every rider and delivered some great Coffee specialties, which he skillfully decorated with elaborate figures in milk foam.
Round about ten o’clock the riders prepared themselves slowly and gathered on the yard. In the typical gravel-fondo manner, there was no starting gun or mass start – everyone got on track as he / she liked. But most of the Gravel pilots were so uptight that the departure procedure was completed within a few minutes. Everyone teared off with excitement. Still the riders threw long shadows on the bright gravel paths, which led from the Reinertonishof into the wonderfully lonely nature of the middle Black Forest. Still being fit a bittersweet pleasure was waiting for the over 200 gravel fondo participants. Nearly 90 kilometers and 2,500 vertical meters were calling for a great day in the dust.
All good things come in threes – that was also the case for the feeding stations. After a breathtakingly beautiful and action-packed descent, where the Gravel pilots destroyed a whopping 750 meters in altitude, the first break was on the program. Here, everyone gathered, exchanged their impressions, filled up the bottles and fortified themselves with delicious pretzels. Then there was an important decision: the long or the short track? If the long climb up the Kandel seemed a bit too much of a good thing, you could make the small round that was no less beautiful, but a little shorter and less demanding. Everyone else mentally prepared for a 14-kilometer long challenging climb. The first part of it – the “wall” of Gutach forced one or the other to push their bike. Fortunately, the remaining 900 meters of altitude difference were good for riding. But it still was a challenge and everyone was really looking forward to a break at the second feeding station on top of the Kandel. Speaking about challenges: Of course also this year there were specially designed Strava segments waiting again . So if the climb to Kandel was not enough challenge, you could punish yourself on three Strava segments.
It was a wonderful alternation of emotions. Of course it was exhausting. But how much nicer is it to enjoy the rewards after a hard climb ? Cool drinks, sweet pastries, local cheese and fresh delicious bread have been waiting on the mountain top. The pleasant company with like-minded people, wonderful views and the good weather made a day to remember. Even the amazingly many flat tires could not cloud the good mood. Finally, they testified to the challenging course, which was really fun – even if one or the other tire ran out of air. It could be more worse than changing the tube in bright sunshine and with a great view on the Black Forest.
A cultural highlight was waiting in Gütenbachon. For model railroad fans, this small town in the middle of the Black Forest is probably a place of pilgrimage. This is where the Faller model trains come from. Large logos on the facades of the production sites from the 1950s also showed the most ignorant cyclist this Black Forest “specialty”. A little later, the route dipped into the pretty valley, where the third and very special meal stop waited for the drivers. Here, in the middle of nowhere, the small fashion label “Artwood” has its home and since label boss Jochen also has a crush on Gravel, he installed a cool photo wall, on which every driver could be photographed against artful Black Forest scenery.
After a long day in the saddle, the riders’ shadows slowly but surely grew longer. A glorious sunset dawned as rider after rider exhausted but happily enter back on the Reinertonishof. Fresh coffee and a piece of delicious Black Forest cake awaited the participants. After this sweet reward, it was not long before the evening program started. In the cozy ambience of the farm a luscious menu waited for the hungry crowd, who had earned it after a demanding day in the dirt. Experiences of the day were shared with lots of laughs and later the party continued outside at the campfire.
Also on Sunday the sun was shining. On this day the fun character of the event was put in the foreground, so that each rider decided for himself whether and how much he wanted to ride after the exhausting day before (or just hanging out after a the party program). For this purpose, two routes were prepared, which were available as a GPS track. The short 36-kilometer route was intended as an “hangover ride”, Everyone who was feeling great could tackle the 55 km loop. However one decided: there could not be a better weekend to explore the beautiful Black Forest on a Gravelbike and to soak up some great Indian Summer days. And even if all good things are actually only three and the Gravel Fondo trilogy is complete, we are already up for a new edition next year!
"The climbs were tough, the downhills nice and crisp and the weather was good too, of course I'll be back next year!" Tina Frech
"We just started, and we quickly came into monster gravel and challenging descents. I think I have seen ten flat tires at the same time. Then the Kandel was waiting for us. It was a fierce and demanding climb. But it was fun!" Andreas Norden
"Again we discovered another side of the Black Forest. Comparing all three years, this year the challenge was really high. We have been riding together with a lot of people we already knew from the last events. It is like a small family meanwhile.It was just a brilliant ride. " Thomas Rütten
"It was a fantastic day that brought me to my limit, so when I got to the top of the Kandel, I was not sure if I should be happy that I had reached the top or if I should be afraid of the downhill. It was quite technical and challenged me, but that's exactly what I enjoyed. Fantastic weather that could not have been better, plus the great scenery. I'm from London, I do not know anything like that - thank you for an fantastic event " Sandra Buckton
"In the third edition of the Gravel Fondo we wanted to show another side of the Black Forest, the Reinertonishof was the perfect starting point for our tours, we had good food and delicious coffee, which was certainly a highlight for many. The track was a tough one and the great weather the icing on the cake - we couldn´t be more satisfied! " Alexander Bethge VOTEC Bikes Brandmanager