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Veluwe Challenge 2012

My goodness, what a lot of mud! Veluwe ChallengeThe 'Wielervereneging Ede' (Ede cycling club) organised the 'Veluwe Challenge', with routes of 30, 50 and 70 kms. It had been raining pretty steadily the last week or so and there were incredible quantities of wet slippery mud.  That meant it was a lot of hard work, so very tiring, and especially going uphill sometime your wheel just spun round.  Especially in the first half (of the 50 km route) quite a few people (myself included) had to walk up some hills.  And talking of people, the strong winds and plentiful rain did not seem to put anyone off, apparently there were an incredible 792 participants. All in all a great tour, well organised, and with the conditions we had today certainly a challenge.
Here is a report in Dutch.

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Winter

Until a week or so ago it was still autumn.Wet and not too cold.  WinterBut this week, winter has arrived with a vengence.  Last night was the coldest in nearly 30 years and when I went to the shops this morning it was -16 degrees C (and the local tour club sensibly cancelled the last winter tour). However, in the afternoon it had warmed up to 'only' - 5, and the sun was shining. Out in the woods it was spectacular with fresh snow, blue skies and sunshine.  The only problem was the cold.  No ice in the woods. And we saw lots of footprints of rabbits and deer, which was nice. There was only one disadvantage.  We got back to learn that we had just missed the spectacle of a sparrowhawk devouring a sparrow in our back garden. The cold weather has meant that the birds have been flocking to our feeders, and on this occasion the bird of prey was apparently also hungry enough to venture into the suburbs.

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Autumn again

After a few days of cycling to work at -15 C, all of us a sudden it became warm again. Autumn again The snow melted. So did the mud.  The ground remained frozen a few centimeters below the surface, trapping the water, so that meant that even the sandy paths were transformed into a muddy mess.  Worse than that, in a few places there were large puddles, and I discovered that this meant it was 10 cm of water on top of ice.  The ice was not even even, so that meant that despite my best efforts, it was not possible to stay upright, and over I went into iced water.  Fortunately the air was so warm that I did not have long trousers on, so dried off reasonably quickly. The nice thing about the warm weather is that the squirrels have woken up from hibernation.  One ran in front of my wheel, and we also had one in the garden. I hope we don't have another cold spell, or they will have no energy reserves left if they need to hibernate again. 

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Back in the Renkumsebeek

After a week in the States (see here for photos of a MTB ride there),Renkumsebeekdal it was good to be back on home ground.  Easter Sunday morning was cool (only 5 degrees or so) and sunny, which was great weather for biking.  At last the leaves of the trees are beginning to come out of bud, so even with the cool temperatures it feels much more like winter is really ending (despite forecast for wet snow in the north of the country this morning).

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Not in Wageningen

If you think the picture looks a little dull, that is because it is pouring hard with rain. Not in Wageningen Very hard. I was visiting a colleague who is lucky enough to live in the Nature Park Spessart (a little to the east of Frankfurt) and who was kind enough to lend me his bike for a few hours.  Despite the serious quantities of rain, I managed nearly 40 km and 1000 height meters.  What you cannot see on the photograph, is that just behind me, there was a scattering of bones and entrails of about half a dozen rabbits.  Odd.  I guessed first that it was maybe a place where the buzzards took their prey to eat, but later my wife had the more likely idea that probably hunters put the rabbits out as bait for foxes. I followed a route that was mostly based on the Hochspessart tour from bikewald.de. At first I was a bit disappointed as it followed the road, but it turned out that was just for the first bit and a relatively easy way of gaining some height.  After that it was off road all the way, some forestry track, but also a lot of singletrack through the woods, including some technically challenging steep sections with drop-offs and wet roots. I don't mind admitting that seeing I was by myself on a loaned bike, I walked some of the tricky bits. It was in any case good to ride over some properly steep hills.

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Wildlife

If you look very carefully in the photo on the left, in the highlighted area,Wildlife you can see a couple of ears sticking up, and underneath a body.  A rabbit.  The photos was with the wide-angle view of a phone camera, so in reality it was actually quite close.  What was more spectacular was that only a couple of minutes previously a deer (with small antlers) had stood and looked at us from only about 20 m distance.  It was not at all afraid and after about three minutes wandered off slowly.  I did not dare get my camera out for fear of scaring it. Furthermore it was a beautiful spring day and the fresh green leaves in the woods looked amazing with the sunlight streaming through them. I almost did not get to seee it as my bike was in the shop with a broken ballhead and the front forks being serviced.  However the kind people at the LBS lent me a spare one, so we could still go out.

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