In mid-October, part of our team went to Innsbruck for three days to say goodbye to the cycling season together with friends and to ring in the colder season. A highlight of the trip: a trip to the Kühtai with its legendary ascent to the saddle and back.
Our colleague Meike, who wrote a few lines about the end of the season in an almost magical autumn atmosphere, was there with us.
Innsbruck – an autumn fairy tale
You really don't want to let it go just yet: the summer. With its heat and its oven temperatures. When beads of sweat run down your legs and arms. But that doesn't matter - the pass is the goal. The kit short-short, the water bottles almost empty again, the jersey open and you're thankful for every gust of wind.
Now the days are getting shorter, the trees are more colourful, the sun is at an angle, the light is getting warmer, the air is colder - autumn is in full swing and the first harbingers of winter are showing up in the form of fog in the valleys and snow on the peaks .
Just as nature says goodbye to its summer splendor, we want to say goodbye to long rides, hot asphalt, cool mountain lakes and dead-straight tanlines - let the outdoor season come to a worthy end before winter only has short bike trips to the door goes.
Innsbruck comes at just the right time – while you can stroll around the Inn in the sun or sit in a café enjoying the mild autumn temperatures during the day, you are already encountering the first snow in Kühtai. However, you have to work hard for this.
Along the Inn, out of Innsbruck, we are driven towards the mountains with the sun on our backs. The open waistcoats flap in the wind, the hubs of the slipstream riders whirr inside and you don't think about the meters in altitude that are still waiting to reach the Kühtaisattel: over 20 kilometers there are 1300 meters in altitude with ramps with an incline of up to 20%.
And so it begins at kilometer 15 – step by step by step. Together at the beginning, the group falls apart kilometer by kilometer. Everyone tries to find their own pace, their own rhythm. The initially unsteady breathing becomes more regular and you fall into a meditative rut. We are now, here, in the moment. With the bike, the mountains, the incline, the view, nature. From time to time you hear a soft curse or a louder 'F***' when the next ramp is waiting.
Shortly before the saddle we meet again; after the last tunnel before the pass, where you were brought back to reality from the game of light and shadow. The last (altitude) meters are covered together to reach the saddle together.
Exhausted, happy faces and bright eyes are the result of this increase. The scenery is stunning. The colors are morbid and yet invitingly warm. The cold air almost tangible and visible. The higher elevations are powdered from the first snowfalls of late autumn.
But there is no time to take a deep breath. The sun is approaching the mountain peaks, the slanting light bathes the mountainous landscape in cozy evening light. We want to use this for the descent into the valley.
The zippers are pulled up, the scarf, headband and gloves are taken out of the jersey pocket and the rear light is switched on. One last fist bump before heading back down the 1500 meters into the valley. The wheels race over the largely new asphalt with barely noticeable resistance. The cold wind cuts your face and brings tears to your eyes even when you're wearing glasses.
Everyone is concentrated, the focus is on you and what is happening to the side and in front of you. No one wants to fall, but no one wants to give in to that rush of speed either.
The asphalt and road markings fly by, you can see the places where you cursed a few hours ago and with every meter a greater contentment spreads through your body.
...safely we arrive back in Innsbruck. Now a hot shower and pizza. Lots of pizza. Then plans are made for the next day. After all, that was only day one of three.