Andreas met me at the train station. It was very kind of him and a huge relief to see him after I called Monday at 6ish in the PM to tell him when I'd be coming in. He seemed less than happy to hear it would be about 10:30pm since he had already been to the station 3 times that day, having not heard from me for two days and thought I might be in at any moment. Since my camera battery was dead, we re-staged the meeting the next day when we went to pick up Heather from the Airport. I felt special getting off the train and having someone waiting for me with a big sign. Size matters when it's duck taped to the end of a stick and held high, not against your chest like some mug shot picture.
In a country with a language you can't understand, the possibilities for free association are limitless. There is quite a bit of miss communication. No guide book ever factors into the budget the money spent due to language barriers. This very morning, I ended up eating two pastries because I didn't know how to tell the lady I had changed my mind and wanted to a different one, so I ended up with two. At the top of the biggest climb, Heather stopped to get some water, and when she pointed at a glass to indicate that she wanted the water in a glass she ended up with two glasses of half wine and half water. The Austrian version of Nantucket Nectar's "Half and Half"
So when traveling outside of your language comfort zone be aware of going with your intuitive understanding fueled by body language...I don't know what this sign means or why the dog seems so happy, but as they say, 'when in Austria....lick a deer's genitals'This is either a sign for car delivery or they remove cars by helicopter, crane or fishing rod.
Originally, I expressed some doubt about the course's validity as a mountain bike course. When reading the profile and description you see only about 4 miles of trail and about 88% is gravel or asphalt. Sounds like a white bread, milquetoast slice of Euro trail. I'm not saying the Euro's have taken the soul of MTBing and turned it into blandly packaged rice cakes, but it definitely looked to be going that way. Problem is I have some narrow standards for what what mountain biking is. And if you don't got much to work with there are some methods for keeping it interesting. Namely...
1: Trail is nice. The more of it the better. If you can't have a lot, then it should at least change up frequently. Take that 4 miles of trail and break it up amongst the 60 miles. That makes things go by faster and keeps the brain fresh which satisfies my ADD side.
2: Keep the terrain interesting. Soon after we go through this pathway behind houses and a tennis court, we ride through a school. Then we head out of town, past a monastery/ museum.
3: Use the local wildlife as a distraction. Here is Heather Holmes turning her derriere to the cows.
4: Throw in some people that are doing things more fun and more dangerous than you along the course and it puts the current race situation into perspective.
5: Always more cowbell!!
6: Throw in some snipers.
7: Obstacles that make the racers dismount are sure to up the chances for cramping by 18%
8: Make sure the racers are properly disposing of their needles.
I guess that last one doesn't mean much to keeping the race interesting. Point is, the course is a lot more interesting than I originally thought it might be. Still there isn't a lot of trail, but it is steep, varies regularly and has enough climbing to choke a monkey. It's going to be hard. Especially since it starts with a pavement climb that averages about 15% for a mile. That's enough to have your eye's burning with blood vessels ready to burst.