She was about to get on the tour bus outside the hotel when she spotted me, “Oh you are za vomen on zee bicycle, yah?”
“Yes?” I was a bit flummoxed.
“Oh! I hear you amazing!”
“Oh! Thank you?”
I turned and next I saw Igor. “Hi Igor. This is my husband, John.”
He smiled and shook John’s hand. “Ah you’re wife. She good wiss zee bike. I couldn’t keep up!!”
Next we walked out on the terrace to take photos when another minibus from the hotel went past and there was Joseph, smiling wildly and waving frantically from the window. I smiled and waved back.
“Well there you go Deb. You’re a legend,” John smiled sardonically.
It certainly wasn’t my intention. The brochure categorically said – 30km with an elevation of 400m. It did also say the ride would begin at 11am and finish at 3pm. I mean, we often start at 7:30am and I’m home by 10:30 after a 25km ride and an hour coffee stop. I was a bit perplexed.
We met our guide, Joseph, in the foyer. There were six of us- fit and fabulous Rene, another Austrian, stocky strong Igor from Moscow, the very cool and stylish Marco from Naples and his stunning supermodel girlfriend, Natasha from Belarus and of course me – the frazzled, fat and frumpish female from far away. The average age was about 26 – not counting the outlier of course!
My main aim was not to be a hindrance. I had to keep up.
I don’t know if I made a great first impression. While I can ride, walking can be a challenge. My knee determined to demonstrate how disabled I was and I hobbled the 500m to the bike shop. Then I was a bit of a princess about the bike. No it’s too small, no the seat is too low. No the seat slips. Eventually Joseph gave in and gave me his bike. I was however right about the bike. He couldn’t get the seat to stay up neither. He exchanged it. Now I really had to keep up.
We set out through the beautiful village of Längenfeld then onto a lovely bike path following the river. It wasn’t long before we began to climb. The gearing and the power in the e-bike was great and I was handling all this like a pro, in fact obviously, Fit and Fabulous hadn’t worked out the power buttons and I passed him going up the hill. (That was the last time that was going to happen!!) Then we began a very long descent this time on a forest path- a serious bone rattler. It was great until it occurred to me that this would be the route back. Umm I wondered how well I would handle that!
The track through the forest became more and more challenging as it continued to ascend. I kept my place in the middle of the group never straying too far from Joseph. I had no idea where we were going and there were lots of twists and turns and alternative tracks. Of course Fit and Fabulous worked out the power buttons and rode off into the distance while Supermodel made everything look so easy and her adoring Stylish Cool-man rode in her shadow. I was huffing, puffing and heaving as I struggled up hills desperately seeking a respite on a level track. They came every now and again and I regained my confidence if not my composure. I was thrilled Strong and Stocky struggled. I know that’s not very magnanimous, but these were trying circumstances and someone has to be at the rear and it was not going to be me.
The scenery was amazing, I think. I was so focussed on keeping up, not falling off the bike, not having a coronary and just breathing I forgot to look around me. That is of course until I was hurtling down the edge of the mountain considering for a moment if there really might be an afterlife. I needn’t worry for the moment. It got more interesting.
The mountain hut was a welcome respite. Igor ate, Rene and Joseph shared a juice and cake (they are Austria after all), Natasha and I an apple juice and Marco a cup of tea? Natasha was amused.
We took the road back some of the way – it was amazing. I didn’t get to 75.6km/h as the Stava data on Rene’s app recorded, but I flew down those switchbacks. It was such a thrill. I threw caution to the wind and felt like a teenager again. I was indefatigable! I was a legend!! I was insane!!!