A mythical figure for many who inhabit this part of Europe. Praděd is the highest mountain possible to climb in the Czech Republic. It is loved, it is hated. But those who know gravitate towards it regardless. It´s a hard climb, but sometimes the beauty is in making it harder. Our riders start their journey in the city of Brno before returning – 320km in total. Conquering both the mountain and the distance…in a single day.
The Morning | 0-65 km
David and I wake up, in the city at 4 AM. There is an air of anticipation. I am expecting the alarm as I was already awake. My stomach is acting up and I seriously question if we can pull this off. The ride will be hard and without proper fueling – forget it.
No jokes, no discussion in the room. We are both scared. We dress into our kit in silence. I do the pre-ride check, starting from the helmet down. I never do that. Bad sign.
Outside, and on the road, the temperature is pleasant hovering between 5 and 8°C. Our first stop is at 65 kilometres, the sky still dark blue. We are now joined by two more friends, one of them is an absolute powerhouse – we need him. We chat nervously about equipment, clothing and food. Everybody wants to make the right choice.
Rolling. We don’t talk much. The legs feel good, but my hands still hurt from a crash yesterday. Still cold. Somehow the anticipation of riding 320 kilometres seems so much harder than it did in planning.
Can We Do This? | 65-136km
A quick break didn't help. It rarely does for me. All of a sudden I realized – this is the furthest I have ridden in 3-4 months. Not exactly a comforting thought when we are at only ¼ of the ride in! My legs stiffen and this madness seems even more crazier. To make matters worse, my Canon RP is dead. In the rush, I forgot to charge the battery last night. It is now nothing more than 1,500 EUR of dead weight, slowing me down.
The group is rolling smoothly. Nobody is skipping turns and we have the fortune of drafting behind some other cyclists riding our planned route. One with big gravel tires, one chainring, hairy legs. That fucker is driving away from us on the uphill sections. Not quite sure this is the boost for my morale I thought it would be.
Another break. I want to sleep, but three coffees sort me out. I’m also able to charge the camera. It’s not useless anymore.
The Ascent to Praděd | 136-189km
There are two significant climbs before we ascend the Praděd itself. I kill myself there. Normally it’s David who charges too early. Not this time.
Sometimes you’re able to push and you push through. The legs open up, you find strength and power. I pushed – but on this occasion, there is nothing there. Emptiness. And now the climb starts for real.
The road is straight. No switchbacks and no relief. I was not climbing, I was grinding. My strength is completely gone. I’m pushing the easiest gear by willpower alone. It doesn’t matter – I could have had 39x21 or 34x29. It would feel the same.
The rest of our group powers on, pulling away from me and disappearing into the distance. In my mind, I play the diesel card. But they are not slowing down.
Cold. Wind. They are elements protecting the summit and prove to be a hostile enemy. But you get rewarded for conquering all 1491 metres, and that is the view! Today there is a mist adding to the mystique.
We head off and somehow, descending feels just as bad. I am cold and I shake. There is gravel on the road and it is littered with potholes. Barely wide enough for one car. You don’t see what is behind the bends.
Why are we doing this?
The Wind | 189-259km
We stop for some lunch. I feel dead. I order a beer…maybe that will provide me with the energy I need to crawl back to Brno.
Stops are funny - you might feel like shit, then your feet touch the ground – and you get all your strength back. Or you stop, legs good. Then you clip back in – you are a wreck. It’s an emotional and physical roller coaster.
It’s getting warmer. I feel good! I guess the beer worked.
Now we are flying, lucky to have a tailwind most of the way. That’s when I feel strong. But when the direction changes, even slightly, those crosswinds serve us a lesson.
Will We Get There? | 259-300km
At a certain stage, fitness is irrelevant and your mind controls how far the body will go. You can go as far as you dare.
But being in a group – I no longer control the speed. My mind controls the body, but with trashed legs, I’m not getting any faster. My mind can scream to speed up as much as its wants.
I expect the guy with the hammer to whack me over the head and render me useless around each bend. Each climb. Each push of the strong fuckers at the front. I am pulling tricks - speeding up slightly before they do, licking my almost empty plate. Praying for the elastic not to snap. I am hanging at the back.
They will yo-yo me to death.
The Finale | 300-324km
It’s getting darker. We enter the mythical KRAS National Park – a favourite destination for cyclists from all around. Riding through a few hundred meters of gravel, then, a flat trye. Stopping. Is it solidarity or selfishness? I wouldn’t dare to ride alone at this point.
Realisation. I will make it! The rest of the route is a parade. A parade of empty souls.
I was told that having 300km on the display of Wahoo is a feeling of a lifetime! Unfortunately, I don’t see 300. My Wahoo’s battery died a while back.
We enter the city of Brno. There are no spectators. No ovation. Everything is still the same...but I am not.
I am last to arrive at the finish after splintering on the last section into town with a double-digit gradient.
The faces say it all. We understand. Secret club.
We get a beer.
Explore the route map and details on Strava.