Urban loops, flatland, plateaus, reservoirs, national parks, and huge open-pit mines. If one can attribute a characteristic to Germany’s most populous federal state, then it would be variety.
Over 250 km and 3,500 m in altitude, you can challenge yourself at this stop along the Orbit 360. The track designer recommends: at least 42mm tyres and a fluffy, 1.8 bar tubeless!
You start at one of the most important places of pilgrimage for Cologne’s sports fans: the RheinEnergie Stadium, home of the 1. FC Köln and the Kölsch attitude towards life. Without much of a detour, you will move out of the city through the Grüngürtel (Cologne’s lungs), past the Otto-Maigler-Lake to submerge yourself in the Brühl Lake District and forget the noise of the city.
On generously constructed double tracks you head through the Ville forests to land just before the wide plains between the Rhine and the Eifel. Upstream you follow the river Erft to warm up your legs for the upcoming altitude difference. You shouldn’t let the monotonous plain and the change between villages and field paths get you down, because luckily you don’t have to live here.
At km 68, you enter the nature reserve “Kallmuther Berg,” and this is also where the real fun starts. In the distance you can see the Eifel National Park, which will not allow you to take a break with its dams, steep climbs, long downhill runs and various stretches of trails. In Schleiden (km 86), you should take the opportunity to replenish your supplies. The pictures of the route say more than flowery words, so in short: get in!
If you still haven’t had enough at km 175, the return journey to Cologne awaits you. You’ll make your way through quiet villages, marvel at huge power plants from afar, and enjoy singletrack along rivers as well as unexpectedly-appearing ramps.
At the asphalt of the intermediate stages you can speed up and increase your average speed. However, you should not overlook the sign for the village of Hambach. Known worldwide for the activists’ commitment to the preservation of the Hambach Forest, you will recognise the camp on your left side from km 212 on, and you will be allowed to drive through this famous forest. The barricades set up in the forest serve as a poignant reminder of what happened here in 2019.
The remaining kilometres to the finish line will be a familiar mixture of urban environment, small forest areas, and gravel roads past industrial areas. When you finally arrive at the starting point, the RheinEnergie Stadium: Congratulations! And thanks for being here.
Scout Orbit Nordrhein-Westfalen
Germany's 1st Gravel Series
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