Introducing: A Homeboy in Heidelberg
Today we introduce another in our on going series of firsthand accounts of riders chasing their dreams. Our newest “Homeboy” hails from Athens, Georgia, but now lives in Heidelberg, Germany – land of lager, leiderhosen, and some darn fine cycling. Everyone – say hello to Jered Gruber…
Hello – My name is Jered Gruber. I’m 20 years old, and I study at the University of Georgia in Athens. I’m now in my third year, double majoring in German and Political Science. This year though, I have jumped the pond and am studying in Heidelberg, Germany. Study is a loose term in this case though, as I have a mere three classes requiring very little time, though they have proved to be quite difficult (I was tricked!). So here I am in Germany, face to face with the chance to chase desperately at that tiny little dream on the horizon, you know, the one we all imagine when we watch the Tour the first time… hey, I wanna to do that!
From Humble Beginnings…
That’s exactly what I thought when I saw the 2001 Prologue of the Tour de France, sitting in Austria with a nice beer in hand. For some reason I was transfixed by Christophe Moreau’s gaping mouth and that expression of intense pain and agony, to this day, I don’t know why. I mean, I was a golfer for god’s sake. Ha, times have changed quite a bit since that fateful day 2-1/2 years ago. I didn’t really take up cycling for another 6 months, so I guess it’s possible to put my cycling career around the 2 year mark. I’ve made some big advances in my cycling (must give thanks to the people at Dixon’s Bicycles (www.dixonsbicycles.com) in Athens, I am eternally in debt to you), but I do not have any really big results, I’m not a National Team member, not a State Champion. It’s funny when I look at my resume, it’s just a lot of middle placings, every once in long while a nice finish, but nothing at all, in the least, belying an amazing cyclist. Well, that might be a little unfair to me. I think I lack a certain key element in racing, often known as a brain. My leg strength seems to have risen very quickly to a high level, whereas my intelligence in racing seems to be that of a dimwitted 4 year old. It has taken me over 60 races to realize that riding at the very back of the pack is just not the smartest thing to do. I’m being educated slowly but surely, but the emphasis is more on slowly.
How about this for a new hometown? Call it Heidelberg.
Heildelberg – Isn’t That A Beer?
Enough about my short cycling history, on to my current situation which can only be described as unbelievable. I’ve been in Heidelberg now since the first of September. I came here when the days were long and warm, and now, in the middle of November, the days are short and cold.
The area in and around Heidelberg has without a doubt some of the best terrain to train on. This area is absolutely perfect for training, we’ll let our host tell you more!
“… contestant number one, you must select between one of these THREE choices!
#1, to the north: we have the Odenwald, a vast expanse of smallish mountains (to about 2000 feet or so), with as many climbs as you can handle.
#2, south: flatness as far as you can ride, I’m talking ocean flat.
#3, to the southeast: hills upon hills, rollers, steep, evil little things, everything. So there you have it, a veritable menu of terrain to choose from every single day.
To the south – flat, endless, tree lined roads.
I have a veritable book worth of experiences already, but all in time. For now, I’ll settle with my first time on the bike here in Germany, on that lovely, hot September day (it was once warm here? I can’t remember the last time I rode without full winter attire) –
I jumped on my velocipede and set out to explore. My main goal for the day was the climb of the Kцnigstuhl (pronounced: kurnigshtool), the large mountain that overlooks the town of Heidelberg. After riding around for an hour or so through the town of Heidelberg, completely, utterly, without a doubt, lost. I eventually found the beginning of the climb, but not before almost being hit by a street tram, a car, a pedestrian, and a militant cyclist.
”South Central” Heidelberg
So you’ve heard southcentral LA is dangerous? Shooooot, Heidelberg gets my vote. Everytime I ride through the streets of the town I feel like I’m testing fate, or that a life threatening situation is near at hand. I wear my helmet because I fear for my life. There are just so many moving objects hell-bent on my destruction, the street trams come out of nowhere, the tiny, little cars appear from nowhere, the pedestrians are a moving roadblock, and then to top it all off there are the hordes of commuting cyclists thrown into the fray, and suddenly it feels like you’re playing Paperboy on your old Nintendo again, or living a real life Catch-22 as the enigmatic Yossarian.
Behind this tranquil faзade lurks many dangers for a cyclist.
It’s not like this everywhere, but in the actual downtown area of Heidelberg, it is best to avoid the insanity, there are too many peaceful roads 2 km away. (I did not know this on my first ride here in Heidelberg, and thus I plunged headlong into the madness.) So finally, I start the climb, the only sound to be heard was click, click, click, click, click, all the way to my granny gear. Quite a shock to hit 18 percent grades in the first 50 meters of the climb, in fact, it took my breath away. Apart from being a difficult 5 km climb, it is one of the coolest climbs I have ever done. I get the feeling of riding through a tunnel (well, at least when there were leaves on the trees), the road is incredibly narrow and rises steeply from the valley below. The switchbacks hit back to back to back to back, and are oh so much fun.
I made my way to the top nice and easy like; no reason to hurt myself while being a cyclotourist. I stopped for a moment, gawked at the dramatic views, and then I plunged down the ridiculously steep slopes to see how fast I might be able to go. I’m not sure how fast I actually went, but I know it was fast. Full, forward tuck, wannabe Savoldelli descender ZOOOM! I was tearing it up, but then a switchback appeared out of nowhere, as if the hand of God Himself dropped it in front of me. Yup, definitely overcooked it a bit and went flying right through the switchback, wasn’t even close. I bailed out into a neighboring parking lot, but was still going too fast to stop there, and I ended up flipped over a fallen tree. Miraculously, I stood up, felt the collarbone, check, and looked at my two-wheeled contraption of speed: just fine. Whew, breathing again, I jumped back on and decided that descending like Jan Ullrich was a better idea if I planned on riding again tomorrow. Personally, I feel that wrecking on descents is quite entertaining; I seem to do it once a month or so.
Just another view from the surrounding hills. Hohum.
So that was just my first little excursion into the wide world of Germany, and the fun just keeps on coming. I definitely look forward to some more entertaining stories in the future. In the meantime, I’m in the midst of yet another 25 hour week on my bike full of sorry attempts to learn how to pop a wheelie. I’ve got 4 hours of daylight left, and a cloudy 45 degrees, it’s a great day to be outside. Thank you to all that are reading my first installment, peace out.
Feel free to email me with any comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you.
If you are interested in seeing some more of my pictures, go here: https://www.imagestation.com/members/jered311
Gratuitous Sponsor Plugs
Golder Associates, my newest sponsor. Golder Associates is a premier global group of consulting companies, specializing in ground engineering and environmental science, take a look at their website, at www.golder.com , for all of your engineering needs.
Matt Russ, my most excellent coach, if you’re ever looking for an excellent coach in the Atlanta area or around the world, send him an email:[email protected], or take a look at the website: www.thesportfactory.com
To everyone who supports me and make my life a lot easier over here on my long long long solo break: most of all my family and Jamila Meah.