2020 sees Europe in the grip of Coronavirus and most cycling events have been canceled. There are some lesser-known events such as the Nibelungen gravel ride in Worms, that took place under the strict control of the Coronavirus directives on July 3 and 4. The proceeds of the event benefit the children’s arm of the Worms Clinic.
Note: Those affiliated with Gravel Cyclist are not promoting, attending, or encouraging any forms of in-person / real-world events, group rides, races, and so on during the Coronavirus pandemic. However, we will accept ride report submissions, provided there has been a reasonable attempt to ride safely, distance appropriately, and ride responsibly. Bear in mind, some of the riders in these reports may have been isolated and know each other’s history, but we are not privy to that information.
The start for the long-distance gravel cyclists is over 140 kilometers, with riders departing between 8am and 9am. An hour later, the 100-kilometer group began their journey, spaced out at an appropriately safe distance. In all, there were approximately 100 gravel cyclists tackling the demanding off-road tracks. Participants traveled from all over Germany to the Nibelungen gravel ride, which has already become a cult event. Professional cross-cyclist Ellen van Loy attended with her husband from Antwerp / Belgium to the Nibelungenstadt on the river Rhine.
The course is authorized to use a former railway right-of-way on gravel from the city. Later, a short and old cobblestone passage follows near Abenheim. The path to the river Pfrimm features many dirt roads, and the riders are steered deep into the valley of Zell. At the small village of Harxheim, the course got rough again, a section with coarse cobblestones that dumps the riders onto a windy plateau. Riders were welcomed by the striking sight of the mountain near Donnersberg.
After 41 kilometers of riding, everyone was happy to be able to replenish themselves at the aid station along the course. Freshly baked pretzels, granola bars, bananas, apples, peanuts, chocolate rolls, water, cola, and apple spritzer were on offer to the riders.
For the riders committed to the 140km distance, the real challenge of the course began here. After a few cobblestone passages through old farms and horse stud farms, the climb to the highest mountain in the Palatinate began at 687.5 meters. It was four kilometers of sustained gravel road climbing with an average gradient of eight percent, peaking at 12 percent in some places. The descent off the Königstuhl was made challenging due to recent forestry work, which saw riders improvising to carry their gravel bikes over felled trees or finding a bypass.
At the bottom of the descent, riders were routed through a tight, narrow tunnel that passed beneath an old railway line. After the loop, the long-course participants revisited the aid station, the final chance to load up on calories for the remainder of the course.
A wonderful piece of singletrack took riders through the stump forest. After riding through a mysterious place called Stumpfwaldgericht, another downhill follows to the Eiswoog, a romantic lake in the middle of the forest and in front of an old railway bridge.
The course now traversed the graveled Barbarossa track, which follows the river Eisbach to the village of Ebertsheim. From here the course ascended 150 meters to the model airfield on the mountain of Grünstadt. The subsequent descent back into the valley of Eistal near Mertesheim was bumpy and demanding. Another challenge laid in wait for riders, the wall of Asselheim.
Fortunately, the wall’s road surface is concrete and leads to the plateau near the airport at Quirnheim, topping out at an incredible 24%. Once this beast was crested, the ride neared completion. For the closing kilometers, the route flew downhill with a tailwind into Worms. At an old spring in the gardens in Kindenheim, tired and overheated drivers could cool off and fill their bottles with fresh water.
After a long day in the saddle, the final kilometers along the river Pfrimm became the “Tour d’honneur”. The final piece of trail along the Pfrimm ended exactly at the start and finish area of the ride.
At the finish line, every rider was greeted with ice-cold, alcohol-free cold beer. To top it off, as every year, followed the obligatory flame salmon meal, which is unique in the gravel scene.
A raffle with many valuable prizes rounded off the 3rd Nibelungen Gravel Ride. I’m pretty certain all of this year’s participants will return for 2021!
Thank you for reading,