Ride Diary from the 2022 Bohemia Divide
The Bohemia Divide is an unsupported 800-kilometer race through the Czech Republic. There were more than 100 riders from eight countries at this year’s event, the fastest of whom finished in under three days. Niels Ihrman put together a diary-style report from their ride with a lovely gallery of photos from the organizers. Check it out here…
Words by Niels Ihrman (@nielsihrman), photos by Pavel Stastny
The start of the 2022 Bohemia Divide was at 12 p.m. in the center of Vyšší Brod. The first few meters were downhill, and after that, we were sent back uphill. Just a nice climb to warm up and spread out the group of 116 riders. The first part of the track took us south, where we just touched Austria. Back in the Czech Republic, we passed Rybník, the train station where I had arrived just a day earlier.
After only 40 kilometers, I got my first puncture. Since it happened on a downhill section, I wasn’t able to stop right away. The tire bead came off the rim and I had to use a CO2 cartridge to get the tire seated again. It appeared that the sealant had done its work and sealed the initial leak, but for the rest of the ride, I kept losing air along the tire bead.
At kilometer 85, we reached Klet’ Observatory, one of the highest points of the route at 1,088 meters. Night had fallen before I arrived at the first check point at Kratochvíle castle. Jan, the organizer of the event, was waiting for the riders with kremrole cake and water. Here, I finally gave up hope that my tire would seal, and I fitted an inner tube. The bench near the well-lit castle seemed like a good place for this job. My bicycle pump had suffered a lot from the heavy use and hardly worked anymore. After taking it apart, I cleaned the parts and lubricated the seals with the lip balm I had with me.
At around kilometer 173, I entered the civilized world again in the town of Písek. There were two 24-hour gas stations, a good opportunity to resupply. After Písek, there was some singletrack along the Otava River. I was really enjoying riding here at night until I saw some purple flowers and the whole scene started to remind me of my first night of the Italy Divide. That night, I was also doing well until I crashed pretty badly. This thought and the slippery off-camber singletrack made me feel uneasy and I had to walk some parts of the trail. It wouldn’t be a problem at all when riding during the day.
Just before Cerhonice, I spotted a shelter on the map, and I stopped there around 2:30 a.m. to get some sleep. At 6:30, I started riding again and saw the sun rising over some beautiful lakes. Just like the previous day, the only towns on the route were small, and there weren’t many chances to resupply. I found breakfast in Míšov at Grill pod Brdy (I still don’t know how to pronounce it). I saw some hikers enjoying a morning beer before heading into the forest. I skipped the beer and got myself some Coke and grilled sausage. During the day, I rode through forests and crossed small bridges. In Nižbor, I found my fellow Dutchman Bert Platzer sitting outside of a restaurant. After a short chat, I continued riding because I thought it was too early for dinner.
Just before Prague, I was stopped by an enthusiastic mountain biker. He’d cycled the Bohemia Divide in the previous year but was unable to participate this time due to an injury. He was now dot-watching and cheering for the riders who passed Prague. His enthusiasm did wonders for my average speed. In Prague, we had to take on the Zámecké schody, the old castle steps. These steps are part of a mountain bike race, but unlike the mountain bikers, we have to climb them.
Hangár Brewery was another checkpoint, where we could get a beer and some food. Many of the people who had overtaken me at the previous CP were eating here. In the back of the cafe, we did some repairs on Bert’s bike. He had derailleur issues, but with some fine-tuning of the limit screws, we managed to solve his problems. While I was preparing to ride on, it started raining, so it was time to put on my rain gear and waterproof socks. It annoyed me that it was raining so hard, but at the same time, I was glad that I hadn’t brought my rain gear for nothing. It’s important to keep a positive mindset during these kind of events.
Not much later, I was back at the Moldau River, which runs right through Prague. Because of the rain, the singletrack here had become very slippery, and soon my front wheel lost traction and I found myself lying next to my bike. As I didn’t feel like ending up in the river, I decided to spend the night in the first bus shelter I came across.
A quarter past five, I was back on my bike to continue my way along the Vltava. This river joins forces with the Elbe near the town of Mělník. After crossing this river, there is a short climb into the village, a nice warm-up for the day. The rest of the route passed through the hills and forests of Vlhošť and Kostelecké, culminating in a worn-out path through the rocks. Near Hradčany, the trees were suddenly interrupted by a large open plain. I was riding on an airfield! The scale of the runway surrounded by heavy concrete bunkers from the Soviet era was an impressive sight.
The next obstacle in the Bohemia Divide was the Ralsko, a climb to a height of about 640 meters. The last part of the climb was impossible to ride, and I was relieved when I finally reached the top. There was no view because I was still between the trees, but I was glad to be able to descend again. The joy was short lived, as the track was so bad that cycling down wasn’t an option either. A mountain bike would not have helped here. After cursing Jan for the umpteenth time, I continued walking down to a point where I could finally ride.
In the evening, I came across a river again, and for a moment, I was afraid that just like on the previous evenings, I would end up on a dark and dangerous piece of singletrack, but luckily it wasn’t that bad. The route went through the woods and climbed steadily to 1,012 meters at the Ještěd tower. An impressive concrete cone that’s almost 100 meters tall that and as a hotel and TV antenna.
After this highlight, there was a cold descent, and when the route went back into the forest, I thought it was time to call it a day. I soon found a picnic table with a flat surface where I could roll out my bivy and sleep for a few hours. I was quite cold, despite the shelter of the picnic table. After only two hours of sleep, it was time to continue. It was the last day, so I had better start on time.
While packing up my camp, Bert rode by. I was standing with just one leg in my bib shorts when he returned, and he asked if I was going to sleep here. I told him I had already finished sleeping and that he could have this spot. After just 11 kilometers, I reached the first highlight of the day. It was time to load the last track into my GPS device. The second highlight was that this track was only 134 kilometers long. I hadn’t cycled all that far yet, but soon noticed that I was too tired to continue. I struggled to keep my eyes open, and I decided I needed a nap. I found a suitable place in the most beautiful cabin so far. This one even had side walls, and I had no problems with cold drafts.
In Krásná Lípa, there was a checkpoint at the Falkenštejn brewery. Unfortunately, the brewery was closed, so I got a flat white and a some cheesecake on the other side of the town square. At Brtníky, the route went past the “Křížová cesta,” the stations of the cross where several images depicted Jesus Christ on the day of on his crucifixion.
Today’s route was characterized by a lot of forests. Many roads were damaged and muddy from the rain that had fallen over the past few days. I was covered in mud from head to toe, but I noticed that the lumberjacks had put tarps under the freshly cut logs so they wouldn’t get dirty. After about 110 kilometers it was time for the northernmost part of the route. We followed the Grenzwanderweg (or border hiking path in English). And hiking was all I could do on this difficult path, as the many tree roots made riding impossible.
The border was marked with a row of white posts. These had a marking for the Czech Republic, and on the German side, there was a black D for Deutschland painted over the concrete letters DDR. Communism is still recent history. The last part of this path was pretty challenging, there was a small stream, and it was never clear which side I had to be on. After crossing this stream many times and making it through one last stretch of tree roots, it was finally over. The path led out of the woods, and I was back on asphalt. The rest of the route felt easy, and that afternoon I finally arrived in Varnsdorf and my Bohemia Divide was over.
In Varnsdorf, there was the perfect finish at Pivovar Kocour, a nice brewery on a gentrified industrial complex with old railway carriages where you could spend the night for a small fee. After a good serving of goulash and a pint of beer, it was finally time to get a full night’s sleep.
From the organizers
In the end, we had 116 participants from eight countries (The Czech Republic, Slovakia, USA, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Great Britain, and Austria) standing on the starting line. The route was really demanding, and it tested the participants thoroughly. Ultimately, 82 of them reached the finish. The first two, Tomas Fabian and Milan Hanyk, set the track record of 2 days, 6 hours, and 10 minutes. But route is changed about 30% every year, which means the record is unofficial. The first woman of the race, Hana UhlIkova, crossed the imaginary finish line after 3 days and 8 minutes. Anna Stehrer-Polaskova and Thomas Stehrer won the pairs category in a time of 3 days, 9 hours, and 37 minutes. You can find the complete results on our website.
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