Event Title: LtD Gravel Raid
Date: 28 September 2019
Distance: 50 km
Location: Hellenthal, Eifel
Altitude Gain: 1000m
% of Gravel: 80%
Bike Ridden: Cotic Escapade
Tyre Width: 35mm
‘The best weekend on a bike’, is what I read before arriving in Hellenthal, so I had high expectations.
I arrived with the Shimano lot after a short flight over to Dusseldorf and 2x van rides to Hellenthal (after our first van broke down). The Shimano gatherings are always super interesting and fun, and a chance to meet riders/writers/photographers all from different disciplines and walks of life.
That’s what I like about gravel, everyone has stumbled into it for different reasons.
When entering the festival, the place was already buzzing with people. My group gathered together, had a meet-and-greet and were handed our beer tokens for the weekend. Once our bikes had been built we set off on a DIY ride (uploaded on Komoot from the event). Admittedly it took me a while to get going, we began on a fairly mellow incline before shooting up a steep spiky climb. I managed to force some chat out during the punishment which helped until we reached the top! From then on it was a sweet undulating ride through the forest. Hellenthal is very pleasing to the eyes and certainly not what I expected, it was better. Unfortunately, the weather on offer was pretty poor, super rainy, but spirits were not dampened.
After the ride we headed back to the event village, WARM showers were provided and a decent area to get changed for the evening’s events. Bellies rumbling, we all lined up for food and were handed the tastiest veggie curry and rice, followed by apple pie for pudding! Everyone sat in a food marque that had an uncanny school canteen vibe! We chatted about the weekend ahead and the race tomorrow. Bellies full, everyone made their way to the gigantic fire pit outside and sat around watching it roar with a cold beer in hand – sounds blissful right? We were entertained by three funky DJ’s playing from an old V-Dub camper and to top off the atmosphere all the trees were lit creating a real festival feel.
Craving my z’s and the rain putting me off the glamping, it was soon time to head to the hotel.
The following morning was another rainy one, with little motivation to get going. I had a good coffee (after another good coffee) and watched the riders briefing. Masses of folk set off early doors, but with no specific start times the mad collection of people filtered down and it became a more social start with little pressure to race off.
I’d chosen the short loop; 50k. It was wet, wet, wet! The ride was a really good mix of terrain. From fire roads in the forest, dirt tracks on wide open fields and some really slippery fun descents on muddy farm tracks. It had it all. Although it was a race there was no pressure to push on. All the competitive lot had shot off in the morning which left the more relaxed gang behind. I could just take my time and enjoy the ride, we even found ourselves diverting off the race to wander around the villages!
The feed station was flippin’ great – a wide range of snacks, fruit and sweets with some classic euro pop playing in the background, mechanical support on hand also.
After 50km of slop I found myself gratefully back at the event village for a late lunch, again cooked fresh – a nice warm plate full, and again pie for after. The event village vibe was so welcoming that I found I was pretty content with the day’s riding and stayed back to start the party early rather than another stint of pedalling! The evening was full of more tasty food, a fantastic band and more conversations over the fire pit.
My only grumble would be that in the advertising campaigns there were no women featured, making it look like a very male orientated event, so women, don’t let that put you off. Once here it’s a lot more welcoming and inclusive than the male dominated advertising may suggest!
Thank you Shimano for the invite – I’ll be sure to visit again.
The good Photos to be credited to Erwin Sikkens and bad to Me, myself and I.