Leipzig → Brocken
A new year's resolution of mine was participating in more group rides. I joined some weekly ones and a WhatsApp group that's used to organize them. One of the first that caught my eye was a test ride for an upcoming event: Leipzig to Brocken, the highest mountain of Northern Germany, an epic ride with a distance of 250 km and over 2500 m of elevation. The weather forecast was awesome: warm and a 20 km/h tailwind all the way through.
We met up at 8:00. I was nervous because I'd never done anything of that magnitude before, neither distance- nor elevation-wise. The first 130 km were smooth sailing with the tailwind. There were some small ramps here and there, but the terrain up until this point would best be categorized as "pancake flat." The first climb of the day was the Kulpenberg. We all rode at our individual pace, and I arrived around two minutes earlier at the top compared to my two companions.
We took one of many breaks with 80 km to go. The others were fatigued, the weather forecast changed to rain during the Brocken ascend, and there were still 1500 m of elevation on the table. They decided to abandon and take the train home. I thought, "Fuck that. I didn't ride all the way just to abandon now and call it a day." and continued solo.
The Harz was beautiful. Great roads, dense green forests, and cute little villages. I still felt surprisingly fresh at that point and even rode a top ten time up a 300 m climb. When I reached the town of Elend, which is German for "misery," I knew it was only uphill from there. The more I ascended, the more the trees started to die. The whole forest is plagued by the bark beetle. It looked like something out of this world.
The final kilometers were killing me. It started drizzling. I had almost nine hours of riding in the legs and was unable to put down any reasonable amount of power for a sustained period of time. I had to take two short breaks on the steeper gradients in the final meters, but I managed to get up there in the end.
I didn't have much energy left to celebrate once I reached the summit. It was cloudy, and the drizzle slowly turned into proper rain. I put on some more clothes, started descending into the next town and then sat there shivering, waiting for the train to pick me up. I was absolutely spent, but it was well worth effort and something that gave me dopamine hits in the days to come.