300 km in the saddle with the Posedla Factory visit
The longest day of the year calls for the longest ride of the year, perhaps even in one's life. Who knows? The Posedla team decided to join forces with friends at KOA bike shop to organize a ride from Prague to Varnsdorf and back to Prague called THREE FONDOS. It covered a distance of 300 kilometers and involved almost 3,000 meters of elevation gain. Here’s a report from the perspective of a cyclist who has only been properly road cycling for three months. Yes, you read that right: three months, and yet he took up this cycling challenge.
First, we had a meeting at KOA and enjoyed a pre-ride espresso at 6:00 am. All the 43 cyclists arrived on time, including participants from Pardubice and far-off Vyškov. As planned, we started at 6:30 am. We were divided into three groups – two with an average target speed of over 28 km/h, and one group aiming to maintain at least 26 km/h. I chose the slower group to start with.
I had cycled a maximum of 130 km in one go, so doubling that distance seemed quite daunting. But they said it would be fun, that cycling 300 km is practically the same as 130 km, only with a longer duration. Alright, but I must admit I am a little worried. To calm myself, I focus on the midpoint in Děčín at kilometer 200. If anything goes wrong, I know I can rely on that point to hop on a train back to Prague. Of course, I'd much prefer to make it all the way to the finish line and celebrate with a well-deserved beer at Prašivka pub. But let's take it one step at a time.
Leaving Prague early in the morning is a bit challenging, but luckily, there isn't too much traffic yet. A group of 20 cyclists naturally attracts attention. The first group had a car's windshield wipers swaying at them after just two kilometers, but we were fortunate enough to avoid that. At Střížkov, a lady with her young daughter waves at us and exclaims, "It's wonderful to see such dedicated cyclists. I almost forgot I was still in Prague. Beautiful! My daughter is absolutely thrilled." Great, we're off to a good start.
And it continues to be a pleasant ride, except for the heat that starts around 8:00 am, which is not a good sign. I tried to hydrate sensibly while conserving water to last me until the 98th kilometer, where KOA van with a generous buffet awaits us in Česká Lípa. Radka and Vítek from KOA are serving sandwiches, gummy bears, nuts, candy bars, coke, coffee... and water, lots of water. We eagerly drink all of it.
At the pit stop, we catch up with the faster groups, share impressions and get to know new group members who prefer to slow down before the first big climbs.
Speaking of climbs, we have plenty of them ahead, and they are about to start any minute. Am I scared? No, but I do have a healthy respect for them.
Our next refreshment stop is at kilometer 147, at the Posedla Factory. It might not sound like a long way, but considering the challenging terrain of the Lusatian Mountains that awaits us, we all know it will be tough. And tough it is.
The climbs of Falknov and Polevsko show ominously threatening dark red passages on my Wahoo. Our group is slowly beginning to fall apart, and unnecessarily long gaps are forming between us. We decide to split into two groups. I choose to stay with the faster group. I didn't expect the guys to take it as a signal to push even harder, but they did. We power through the hills, scorching under the sun, slowly running out of water. However, I don't notice any of this because I'm enjoying the scenic ride through the wooded valley around Kytlice. Just a few more strides, and we'll reach the factory where Posedla manufactures carbon rails and assembles their custom 3D-printed saddles.
We've arrived! Kilometer 147. Take off your shoes, put your feet up, devour as much food as your body can handle, splash water on yourself from the sink, and drink, drink, drink. The heat is unforgiving. So, yeah, we gather ourselves, go through the factory tour, apply sunscreen and Posedla Cooling Legs Cream to our bodies, and most of us take another dose of magnesium to prepare for the ride back. Our timing is good; perhaps we'll actually make it to Prague before Prašivka closes.
After the break, it's difficult to get back into the rhythm. Our legs feel stiff, and we promise ourselves to take more turns at the front and not push too hard. Plus, there's the scorching heat, melting asphalt, and the mixture of sweat and sunscreen, dripping down our faces. In reality, I'm not sure if we can truly appreciate the breathtaking scenery of Bohemian Switzerland. Probably not, considering how challenging the climbs have become.
The last climb of this hill series awaits us before Děčín. Yes, we’ve made it! We stop in the shade on a top of the hill, waiting for everyone, and someone asks if anyone plans to take the train. The answer is a resounding no from everyone present. It's clear our group will arrive intact. Well, that's if we can get some water; it feels like it's evaporating from our bottles. We storm the first gas station we find, buying water, cola, Fanta, and popsicles... The cashier laughs at us, saying there were cyclists just like us moments ago, buying the same things. We laugh, wondering who they could be. That stop was a relief, and I finally understand the strange affinity ultracyclists have for gas stations. Filling up with fuel takes on a whole new meaning.
In Děčín, the landscape changes; we descend from the gas station to the Elbe River, where we continue along its path toward the KOA pit stop in Velké Březno. Finally, we can relax a bit and stretch out. Well, at least we could, but those at the front have accelerated to an incredible pace. We're consistently maintaining 35 km/h on our cycling computers. I get it; the Prašivka pub closes at 10 pm, so we need to keep going. Moreover, clouds are gathering over the Bohemian Central Highlands. We reach Velké Březno with dry feet. We don't look left or right; the only thing that interests us is the buffet. This time, marshmallows are on the menu. I grab them by the handful, mentally preparing myself for the final peak that looms ahead in the direction of Proboštov. We check the route, and it looks good, only less than 90 km to go. The beer is just around the corner.
We're going up. We've got 7 km of dark red climbing passages ahead of us. This hill would bite the legs on any rider, let alone after 220 km. Some of us are starting to zigzag to make the steep parts of the hill more bearable and I don't bloody like it either. But luckily it cooled down and started to rain. Not too much, just enough. We are lucky again, the first group got a decent shower. We are left with mostly wet roads and a downhill where I slip in one corner. At low speed, nothing happens, I dust myself off and go on. Nobody wants to waste any more time, Prague is coming.
The only really awkward moment of the day comes before Nová ves, where we are scheduled to take our last break with the KOA van. And we really had to earn it – zigzagging through an endless convoy of trucks was no mean feat. But we also managed to cope with it. We try to be as efficient as one can be at the last break 30 km before the finish. Rinse the dust from our sunglasses and wounds, pile in some crisps, crackers and other salty snacks, refill the water and quickly move on. We agreed not to mount the lights on, we'll make it just fine before nightfall.
We took a time trial towards Prague. We're pacing the top of the pack, keeping the speed high above 30 km/h. Great, we'll be home in less than an hour.
We pedal hard and don't really talk much. Our communication is reduced to organizational instructions like – hole, watch out, right... and the statement “Kralupy”. Great, we've made it this far, we're gonna do this. But nobody slowed down, on the contrary. Let's keep going.
The road full of potholes from Zlončice to Máslovice will take a toll on us a bit more, then the hill from Vodochody to Drásty, the descent from Klecany to the water, the cycle path, over the bridge to Stromovka and we are almost there. At the last final climb through Stromovka, everyone is already mentally ordering a beer. One last break for red light, a breather... and that's it, we're here! Faster companions welcome us loudly at Prašivka. The corner of Ovenecká and Jirečkova streets is lined with road bikes. We made it. And the pub is open. No beer on tap anymore, but the one in the bottle tastes great, too!
We're joining the rest of the pack. Everyone's laughing, some of them with the last of their strength. Most agree on one thing: “It hurt at times, but I thought it would have been worse.” Like this, beer in hand, we tell ourselves that it was actually an ideal Wednesday. We are happy and proud.
Thank you, for the challenge, crew! We had a nice one.