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In Velo Veritas Photo Report 2024

In Velo Veritas Photo Report 2024

14.06.24 00:29 143Text: NoMan (translated by AI)Photos: Kimberley Eastman, Peter ProvaznikThe 12th edition of the tour on classic racing bikes through the Weinviertel brought smiles from the start to the finish. Impressions in black, red, blue from perhaps the best IVV ever.14.06.24 00:29 195

In Velo Veritas Photo Report 2024

14.06.24 00:29 195 NoMan (translated by AI) Kimberley Eastman, Peter Provaznik
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The 12th edition of the tour on classic racing bikes through the Weinviertel brought smiles from the start to the finish. Impressions in black, red, blue from perhaps the best IVV ever.14.06.24 00:29 195

Günther Weichbold contorts his arms with loud cracking sounds. First, crossed over with both hands on his shoulder blades, then extensive circling of the shoulders, and finally he twists his entire torso while grasping his left side with his right hand and then vice versa.
"What are you doing?" asks one of his friends, who are increasingly watching his actions with bewilderment.
"Stretching the jersey. It has shrunk over the winter again," grins the man in blue-yellow Denti wool sheepishly, with a critical glance at his supposed belly. Laughter among the colleagues.
The six of them stand in front of the breakfast catering's cooling display filled with delicious Bircher muesli, neatly arranged fruit yogurt, and the finest sheet cake, appearing a bit indecisive. Indeed: "What shall we do? Shall we do something?" suggests another member of the group, the Styrian accent unmistakable.

"They are the funniest. Last year they didn't start until seven," reveals organizer Martin Friedl. Together with his companions Horst Watzl and Michl Mellauner, he has been greeting participants under the start arch at Retz's town hall square for a while now, sending them off in a large group initially, then in increasingly smaller formations, since the town hall clock struck six.
This year, decision-making seems to be happening more quickly. Perhaps the thunderstorms forecasted for the afternoon play a role. At exactly 6:10 AM, the Styrians form up for the start photo and then roll off, waving friendly, between the ancient "Einkehrwürthshaus" and the sgraffito house, out of the city.

 What's that? What's what? 

Another coffee and a croissant, or should we start riding - that's the question every morning at 6 during the IVV annual event
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Where, if not here?

The early bird catches the worm, and at In Velo Veritas traditionally also the most impressive atmosphere. At this time of day, apart from occasional dog owners, there is nothing and no one out and about. The roads and villages of the Weinviertel lie eerily still - even in a comparatively lively, cosmopolitan spot like Retz, and especially in a charmingly dreamy old town alley like the Lange Zeile, where it initially heads north.

The wine town near the Czech border is hosting the tour on classic racing bikes for the third time after 2015 and 2018 (for those who don't know: annually changing start locations and routes are part of the DNA of In Velo Veritas for the sake of variety) and seems more than ever as if made for this event:
Not only does its magnificent, cobblestoned main square with its partly Venetian Renaissance-style rebuilt houses give the event, which was once conceived after the model of Tuscany's l'Eroica, the appropriate Italian flair. And not only does it offer with city councilor Daniel Wöhrer an IVV fan infected with the retro virus since the Retz premiere, who commits himself from early till late on "his" weekend: he hauls sound systems, fixes short circuits, gives interviews, organizes cables, detaches cords, rides 140 kilometers.
This year's start and finish location also unites like no other the two guiding motifs of the event - the bicycle and the wine. Just think of the famous Erlebniskeller, a gigantic, multi-level labyrinth of storage tubes and connecting tunnels that runs through the entire city center; or the lovingly arranged bicycle museum in the former granary of Gatterburg Castle.

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 Southernmost City in the North 

As the Retz Tourism Association describes

Already the day before, the vast area between the battlemented Perdition House, the heritage-protected Plague Column, and the sacral-looking Town Hall had increasingly filled with old racing bikes and colorful jerseys.
From early afternoon onwards, there was always something to do: browsing through flea market treasures, gathering for the training ride, picking up the start documents, which – charmingly simplified – consisted of a race number with authentic twine, a folding map for control stamps and emergency number, and the verbal blessing of that gentleman who checked the regulation-compliant equipment of the bike and riders.

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For something to be a true classic, it must wear its cables exposed, its shift levers on the down tube, and its pedals flat and ideally strapped. Or to put it another way: road bikes up to the year 1987/88 or authentic replicas are allowed, because after that, inventions scorned in retro circles such as combined brake-shift levers or clipless pedals made their way into bicycle technology.
And even though knowledgeable mechanics with helping hands are always stationed at each refreshment station: carrying suitable spare parts and repair materials in case of a breakdown, which is not so unlikely, is mandatory.

The ten seconds between making contact with the rules enforcer and their friendly "All good!" are also the only strict moments during the entire IVV weekend. Overall, a relaxed enjoyment prevails – even or especially on Sundays at six, when the first of three starting time windows opens.

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On the Trail of Polt

No two kilometers past Retz, the simply sprayed ground arrows point uphill for the first time. As if to compensate and apologize, the first rows of grapevines take their position immediately, distracting from the topographical events with their accurate planting.
Noisy ejections, rattling grinding, reluctant groaning. Bike and rider, it seems, are not quite broken in yet. But this will surely change over the course of the following exactly 212 kilometers and 2,200 meters of elevation.

However, very few of the 948 participants this year allow themselves much time to adjust from the usually used, modern frippery to the uncomplicated, elegant technology of the past. The vast majority, including a high female quota, take on the approximately 70 kilometers of the short distance on their historic wheels.
Those who want a sporty challenge, but do not want to completely destroy themselves, choose the golden mean with roughly 140 kilometers and 1,500 meters of elevation - and in this way, also get the best ratio of route length to refreshment stations.

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Why this can be a more than just compelling argument for deciding between an "epic", "challenging", or "enjoyable" loop becomes clear at the latest when reaching the first refreshment stop at the Eselsmühle in the JUFA Seefeld.
But we are not there yet. Still, we have to experience the Retzer Land and the Pulkautal on the internationally known Iron Curtain Trail, aka EuroVelo 13, and the regional cycling routes with such fitting names as Chardonnay, Portugieser, or Rivaner Radweg.

Here, Polt once had to cry, received flowers, and solved murders. Alfred Komarek's popular crime novels about the taciturn, melancholic provincial gendarme Simon Polt were indeed filmed in the cellar lanes, vineyards, and villages of this border area to the Czech Republic.
Along the crouched roofs, piled-up support walls, and overgrown banquettes, one now actually expects to encounter the cycling investigator at any moment. In reality, however, one mainly encounters soothing expanses, surprising views up to (really now?) Ötscher and the foothills of the Alps, and verdant exuberance.
Whether in the seemingly endless rows of vineyards, gently waving fields, finely structured forests, or low-growing hedges: everywhere sprouts and thrives. And in the meadow strips along the roadside, white yarrows, blue cornflowers, red poppies, and purple mallows set accents everywhere.

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On narrow and narrower service roads, this splendid route, always undulating but never really steep, seemingly takes 763 turns - and thus follows completely car-free the access routes of the vintners. It also, and this is entirely new and unusual, avoids any gravel sections that would open up for now.
No one is really upset about this, quite the opposite. Previous thunderstorms and rainfall had already washed plenty of gravel and soil onto the sometimes holey, brittle asphalt strips. The tractors of the farmers, with their deeply treaded tires, rolled thick clay tracks from the fields onto the roads, adding to the effect.

 On narrow and narrowest service roads, the always undulating route seemingly takes 763 turns 

Through the Retzer Land and Pulkau Valley near the Czech border
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Take it easy

But one has time, before greasy curves, to slow down the narrow-tired steel steeds to a presumably crash-free pace. One has the leisure to conscientiously select the right gear before each change of direction for the subsequent start. Nothing and no one forces you to ride faster than you can or want to.
Because there's no stopwatch at In Velo Veritas; only approximate times when the innkeepers and cooks, packers and helpers want to go home. Those who can't make these times "should think of something," warns the info email sent out in advance each year. So, for example, take shorter breaks, dine elsewhere for a fee, or organize a pickup by a companion.

Only the finisher's certificate and gifts are then forfeited. For where the stamp for the checkpoint is missing, the proof of having completed the entire route is also missing.
Theoretically. Practically, the organizers do sometimes turn a blind eye - especially this year, as several participants at the junction of the first 70 kilometers, which are routed as a figure-eight, get lost and unintentionally return home with one loop too few.

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Snack time! Or brunch time. Or lunch. Or afternoon coffee. These transitions are always fluid at In Velo Veritas, with a specific difference for the route: The long-distance riders have to earn their options, so to speak, stop by stop. The short-distance riders just sit it out at the first and only refreshment station.

It's certain: anyone who gains at least a kilogram over the course of the day has done everything right.

While IVV newcomers are always completely overwhelmed by the opulence offered at the stops, for veterans, it also serves as a trick to motivate themselves.

Because there inevitably comes a point when the legs get tired and the back starts to ache, the knees begin to hurt, or the neck muscles twinge. With all due respect for the brazed, chrome-shining beauties, they are quite old horses, unfamiliar to most, that need to be moved over a truly daunting course. Not to mention that, in line with Günther Weichbold's jersey tightening theory, the crank reliably gets bigger every year, while the sprocket set becomes a hundred percent smaller.

How inspiring, in such moments, the thought of the scrambled eggs, the vegetable curry, the pork roast, the Kaiserspritzer, the potato goulash, the spinach strudel, the zucchini cream soup, the homemade elderflower-mint juice, the mushroom sauce, the plum cake, the extended coffee, the Liptauer bread, ... all of which will help to regain strength throughout the day!

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 Anyone who gains at least a kilo over the course of the day has done everything right 

Old IVV Nutritional Wisdom
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At long tables or in cozy wicker chairs, on green meadows or amidst magnificent vineyards, feasting royally and laughing heartily in front of the chic food truck from Berno's Kitchen in Maissau or in the venerable courtyard of the Alte Hofmühle Hollabrunn, eagerly drinking or spontaneously arranging a date, savoring deliciously and thinking together: about the last bike trip through the Rhône Valley, the latest acquisition for the best of all wives, the most elaborate restoration project for personal use, or the dreadful sleet showers during the Cherry Blossom Classic in April.

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According to the sign at the entrance of the Weinterrasse Pulkau, there is a "private party" this Sunday. However, there is essentially no more open community than that of In Velo Veritas, true to the motto: "Sit down, the more the merrier!"
Open ... and colorful. Not only because of their colorful jerseys, chic caps, and fun socks in the style of the time - or what the retro fans consider it to be.

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From the heart, colorful

Here pedals double road national champion Peter Muckenhuber, a six-time (!) stage winner at the Tour of Austria, alongside Norbert Meier, the oldest participant of edition 12 born in 1940. Christian Klement wears the yellow jersey, won in 1982 (and by the way, still fitting fantastically thanks to 30,000 annual kilometers) of the Upper Austria tour stage winner in the juniors category, over the same climb as Hans-Erich Dechant, whose family sweetened Father's Day with a joint penny-farthing trip. Mother Ehrl enjoys a delightful holiday on one of the many beautiful bikes of her son Daniel, pedaling along the same paths as Andreas Langl, a 1992 Olympic participant and one of the earliest Austrian legionnaires in France.
The heroes of youth, almost within reach, next to ordinary cycling enthusiasts like the women in their mid-sixties, Roswitha Üblacker and Lieselotte Pesek, who complete the medium distance with admirable pace and verve, or the students and bike tinkerers Lukas and Georg, who celebrate their 200-kilometer premiere during the Epic.

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 With a smile at the start, with a smile during the ride, with a smile at the finish 

How to ride In Velo Veritas, © Rudi Mitteregger, 1944-2024

This mix has always been one of the success recipes of In Velo Veritas. And it seems it will remain so, since one of their most decorated followers has recently left the cycling community forever.
Rudi Mitteregger, four-time Glockner king and three-time Tour of Austria winner, cycling idol of the 1970s and earliest In Velo Veritas fan, passed away at the end of April at the age of 79. He leaves behind a witty remark to the velophile gathering in the Weinviertel, which actually suits the gifted climber much better than the outburst at Gaberl, for which he once became famous. He once said after crossing the finish line, he rode the round "with a smile at the start, with a smile during the ride, with a smile at the finish."

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Three colors: black

There would actually be nothing more to add, if … yes, if the tour in 2024 after just about 100 kilometers and two route splits hadn't taken on a completely different face.
Since 2013, In Velo Veritas has been winding its way through the Weinviertel, always taking new paths under its wheels. The routes brought together in the route collection initially pumped through the land between the Danube, March, and Thaya like isolated, thick veins, but now the map image more closely resembles finely branched spider veins.
And yet, route chief Michl Mellauner succeeds again and again in incorporating untraveled, undiscovered paths – as is the case this year, after 2017 and 2020, once again including the Manhartsberg, the western boundary of the wine to the forest quarter, at least in the Epic's tour program.

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The ride starts through the charming villages and lowlands of the Schmidatal landscape park, with an initial ramp shortly after Glaubendorf. And only there, suddenly surrounded again by vineyards and blooming splendor, do the tires touch gravel for the first time that day.
Specifically: coarse stones, sharp pebbles, deep sand, and washed-out ruts. Fortunate is the one who is not riding in a group at this moment, as they can at least scout out an ideal line! Whether the swerving front wheel will stick to the intended path is, of course, another story.
Also, a few short steep ramps in one direction or another make their debut in this section, and sizzling sun makes what is already a pile-up of thunderclouds seem even more dramatic. In short: a demanding, but wonderfully varied passage, which also enchants with a marvelous view of the Kamptal.

In comparison, the Manhartsberg itself is tame, with gentle slopes, soothing shade, and a well-rolling natural road, which is not without reason a favorite for the organizers of the Waldviertel Rally to frequently incorporate into their special tests.
And then the route beams itself out of the forest through straight stretches and vigorous bird chirping, from the amethyst town of Maissau across the poppy fields near Eggenburg and through the idyllic Schmidatal back into the world of wine cellars, and finally up to the windmill in Retz - incidentally one of the two last operating windmills in Austria.

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 Mellowing with Age for the IVV Route Chief? 

No endlessly long climbs, no treacherous ramps, no staccato of nasty jabs
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Question to regular guest Jens Donner at kilometer 193: "How is it on the Long one?"
"Beautiful!"
"Was it ever not beautiful?"
Short reflective pause.
"Maybe three minutes." Another pause. "Well, maybe three and a half."

And the man is right. No endlessly long climb, no never-ending back end, no staccato of nasty jabs, no sneaky ramps... Has route chief Mellauner become mellow with age?

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And how are our initially mentioned Styrians doing? They routinely and without defect reel off the Black one.
When the chromosome distribution of their group temporarily becomes unbalanced, they produce serpentine lines as a show performance as well as one, two, many mistakes in interpreting the road markings. They also continue to joke: U20 is their sprocket code, except for the over-70 comrade. "When they said that, they were cheeky," insists Franz Bernkopf at this point, emphasizing that he is only 67 ½.
Despite all the chatting and fooling around: Two of them, the brothers Gottfried and Hubert Maurer, are even completing their dozen epic rides today, because "we started it at some point, and now we can't get out of it," the former chuckles in the last kilometers before the finish line.

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Mission Accomplished

Back at the main square of Retz, where nearly 24 hours ago everything began. No later than the Welcome Party, IVV organizers and visitors typically transition from the era of plastic bikes to the classic era; especially when collector, expert, and author Werner Schuster entertainingly lectures on the material characteristics of titanium and steel, explaining through exclusive exhibits how people fought their fears and doubts concerning new pipe connection technologies.

The local catering company Pabst Power Kitchen made arriving easier with tasty dishes and perfect logistics. A colorful medley of paprika chicken and wraps, pasta and curry to poppy seed noodles and salad, always fresh and swiftly served - that's how to celebrate!
Accompanied by the sounds of Time Lapse Music - velvety saxophone, warm voice, but also sassy electric guitar, groovy bass. It was beautiful, what the cover band played from Imagine and Easy to Let's get loud to Jailhouse Rock. Beautiful and perfectly suited to finally chat about the profession again with unconscious swaying or rhythmically bobbing foot, to maintain the friendships of those who already knew each other, and to forge new ones.

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Whoever looks into the faces of those returning home a day later, sees even wider grins than usual at the finish of In Velo Veritas, even brighter eyes, even more contagious enthusiasm - and even more joy about the here and now.
Not even the brief rain shower around half-past six manages to drive the people away. Tables and benches remain densely occupied for a long time.
I too let a train for the return trip to Vienna pass, and then another one. For not only are the limbs rightfully heavy and tired. The rigatoni with asparagus also tastes delicious, the company is fine, and the beer is on the house.

Meanwhile, the organizing team begins with the dismantling work. City councilor Daniel Wöhrer is also already hauling around boxes, crates, equipment. Bit by bit, In Velo Veritas disappears into boxes, cars, storage rooms.
But don't worry: Next year at this time, it will come out again.

Edition 13 of In Velo Veritas takes place on June 14/15, 2025 in Poysdorf!

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