Friday, May 05, 2006

Spring has finally arrived here in Mainz (for good, we hope) and with temperatures quickly rising into the upper 20s and 30s (that's about 75-85 degrees F, for those of you without handy converters in your head) it seems that spring is about to skip right on into summer. Which means . . . the pro cycling season, of course!! As J! and I are typically residents of a country where professional cycling is not, shall we say, regularly aired on the nightly news, we decided we needed to practice up a bit at being professional cycling events attendees. This requires, at the very least, the following:

1. infinite patience
2. at least one camera, to snap candid (=blurry) shots of riders we don't actually recognize as they go by
3. beer (this one we've got covered. Also useful for when you run out of #1.)

Although there are a number of good races going on right now (with the Giro in Italy approaching quickly), we decided to start locally with the "Rund um den Henninger Turm" [Round the Henninger Tower]. This is a great day race that combines some wonderful German traditions, namely castles, cycling and beer. It begins in Frankfurt, then travels out to some of the smaller towns in the countryside before returning to Frankfurt and looping around the Henninger Tower three times. The Henninger Tower is notable for being possibly the ugliest tower in Frankfurt, but it makes up for that by belonging to the Henninger brewery. A Kaiser Pilsner for the first person to guess who the big sponser of this race is!

Rather than watch the end of the race in Frankfurt (as we were going to a barbecue with friends about the same time as the cyclists would be finishing their third loop), J! and I opted to see the race from one of the smaller towns, Eppstein. This is a beautiful little German "village," with a lovely ruined castle that sits above the Altstadt, complete with a mountain stream, a white church, and (of course) half-timbered houses. We arrived, followed basically the entire town first to the local beer garden and then wandered up a large hill for the first mountain points (where the climbers race to cross a stage finish to compete for the "best climber" category). We picked out a nice spot where we could see the racers coming from the bottom of the hill, and then proceeded to cheer on several of the amateur riders who were also racing that day (the amateur riders, depending on their class, completed parts of the race. These riders often race for a specific club team, and unlike the pros they carried all their own food, water, etc.) The professional peloton eventually arrived, looking as though the whole thing were just a walk in the park, and then zipped by to get to the mountain finish. After them, naturally, followed the one million cars carrying extra parts, food, and various girlfriends.

So, our tally for the day of racing:

- trains: 5
- buses: 6
- ruined castle: 1
- purchased train/bus tickets: 5
- purchased (but unused) train/bus tickets: 2
- pieces of pizza: 3
- pictures taken: 17
- total traveling time: 6 hours and 43 minutes
- total time spent watching the race: 30 seconds

Given that Eppstein is really only about 40 mintues away from Mainz, we didn't do terribly well on the traveling front. But, in defense of DeutscheBahn (read "our poor planning"), May 1st was a holiday so the trains were not running as often as usual. As a result, at least four hours of the six was just sitting around, waiting for trains to show up and then missing them.

And for those of you who are interested, Italian rider Stefano Garzelli for Liquigas won the race.

Flowers!! And the Eppstein Church in the background. (Also, J!.)

The Eppstein Castle (or more accurately, what's left of it)

the breakaway

second breakaway . . . kind of

and everybody else

And this is what they were all headed for.
Eppstein--great place to visit, but not yet a hydraulic world power.

And of course, the caravan.


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