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We arrived this afternoon at Les Arcs where we will be riding over the coming week. We have heard many good things about riding here and our expectations are very high. Too bad the weather turned very unstable with rain pouring down most of today since we left the Geneva airport. According to forecasts we better be prepared for some more rain during the coming days. 

Photo: A view from our chalet at an altitude of around 1500m just before the rain started to pour again.
 
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While we love two wheels sometimes four is quite ok as well.


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This is part 2 / 5 of our travel report to Malaga, Spain on June 5-9, 2013.
[Part 1]

Day 1
We finished mounting our bikes just in time for the real English breakfast which, buy the way, was included in Sierra Cycling's 70 euros / day package. Included in the daily fee are naturally also accommodation, guiding and van transportats to trails, and even free beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks at the house. Not bad at all.

After packing bikes into two mini-buses we headed to the Mijas mountain for the first time. The mountain is located just a few kilometres from the beach with peaks (in Malaga area at least) reaching about 1000m above the sea level.

The transport to the mountain top to the place where tele masts are located took us through a narrow and twisty road with some beautiful views to the white hillside town of Mijas and Fuengirola, where Sierra Cycling’s beach house is located. It was about the time for the first descent if the day.

The first uplift: Telecom Tower
Our descent started just below the telecom towers at an altitude of 915m. The first part of the descent was 3.3km and took us to 555m above the sea level. The first part was quite rocky with lot of loose stones and many switchbacks. It took a while to get accustomed to these conditions that were so different from what we typically encounter in Scandinavia. It undoubtedly was a challenge for several less experienced riders of the group as witnessed by some bleeding faces of fellow riders at our first stop.

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Photo: Our first stop at 555m above the sea. Telecom towers up on the left. Fuengirola in the middle down in the valley.

After some first aid we continued with a minor climb on an asphalt road back to an altitude of 600m. From there we continued descending on the second part of the route. It took us to 390m with a distance of 3km of this second leg. Looking at happy faces everybody were really enjoying and so were we. Up until this point, our group of around ten bikes had suffered two flat tires, indicating how sharp edged rocks the Mijas mountain had in offer. From here on it was smooth and easy descending to 120m before cruising back to the beach house on asphalt roads.

When back at the beach house, we had recorded a total distance of 19km of which the last 7km was on the asphalt.

The second uplift
After a tasty lunch on a beach restaurant it was time for the uplift of the day. With some riders willing to chill out the afternoon, we packed only one minibus and headed back to the mountain, this time to an altitude on 465m. Our second descent was 8km of undulating single track to 35m above the sea level and thereafter cruising back to the house where we arrived at 2pm. Total distance of the second ride was 17km including the asphalt section.



Back at the house it was time to share experiences and feelings of the day with a cold beer or two. While everybody were happy with the riding day, some less experienced fellow riders told that they found the first descent (telecom tower) from the mountain top within their limits but just with a narrow margin. Those staying with Sierra Cycling for the whole week usually arrive on Saturdays. Our guide told us that the telecom tower descent is saved for the mid week (we did it on Thursday) to give riders time to get accustomed with the conditions which for the most participants are quite different from what they usually experience back home.
In total, our first day of riding yielded following stats:

Distance 36km
Ascent 290m
Descent 1655m

Note: All route statistics are based in measurements done by Suunto Ambit and refer to on the bike ascent and descent.

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This is part 1 / 5 of our travel report to Malaga, Spain on June 5-9, 2013.

Arrival

We initially planned a long weekend in Malaga in mid-May but for several reasons had to postpone it until early-June. There is of course nothing wrong with this timing, other than that that we had another trip booked for the following week. It is always nicer to have more that just two or three days between the trips to sort out bikes and other gear.

There are several well established organisers of guided MTB trips in Malaga. This time we seeked single track and enduro style of riding, rather than pure DH. We contacted Alan at Sierra Cycling around one and a half months before our trip and booked four days of riding with accommodation at Sierra Cycling's house just 100m from the beach.

Our flight landed at Malaga late Wednesday night on June 5 at around midnight. As soon as we got our gear from our arrivals hall we headed to Terminal 3 departure hall where we liaised with Sierra Cycling's representative who greeted us happily despite our less than convenient arrival time. After loading bags to Sierra’s car we headed to the beach house with very convenient location of no more than some quarter of an hour from the airport. Alan welcomed us, showed facilities, guided us to our room in the third floor and told us that the breakfast will be served from half past eight in the morning. We were alone at the house, with other guests still enjoying Malaga by night. We had no difficulties catching sleep despite thoughts already in the coming day.

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What a fantastic day of XC riding in Vuokatti! Great weather, nice trails and beautiful scenery. While Finland is one of the flattest countries in Europe, there are quite decent climbs in Vuokatti, according to the Finnish standards. Our ride was 40km with some 900 meters of ascent.

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Winterberg advertises itself as the biggest and most versatile bike park in Germany. It posts 9 trails and has maximum vertical descent of around 175 meters. We spent a few days in Bike Park Winterberg on May 1-5.

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Rugged snapshot camera that disappointingly fails in terms of image quality.

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[Part 1]
[Part 2]
[Part 3]
[Part 4]

Culinary dreams
This trip was not about culinary aspects of a good life, but we still found some decent basic food in ordinary local restaurants. Upon arrival, we went to a pizzeria. Unfortunately, we don't recall the name of the restaurant but it was located next to Eiscafe Rialto on Untere Pforte. Their pizzas received our thumbs up. Actually, the same pizzeria was later on recommended to us by a fellow rider in the bike park. We also got some decent stakes at Blackwater, an Irish pub in the downtown. Naturally, we made sure not to miss daily schnizels in two restaurant in the bike park: Panorama Cafe and at Restaurant Bobhaus both of which have nice views over the valley. And of course, when in Germany you shouldn’t forget to enjoy some tasty wurst with sauerkraut and some great German beer.

What to make of it?
Overall, we feel that our trip to Winterberg was a good kick-off for this year's season. Riding in a bike park gave the maximum exposure to vertical within a given time. While we ended up riding mostly only two trails in the bike park, they were in a good condition and fun to ride. The park's bike repair shop was service minded and reasonably priced when we needed a change of brake pads. The only major negative was the riding on Saturday, when the bike park was packed and lift queues almost unbearable for our taste. Maybe it was because of the season had just started or maybe it is equally frustrating every weekend during the season, we don't know.

While happy with the trip, it is always interesting to ride in new locations. Therefore, for the season opening 2014 we will again be looking for other alternatives.

This was the final instalment of our travel report to Bike Park Winterberg.

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[Part 1]
[Part 2]
[Part 3]

Let's go to sauna!
As a Finn, you like a sauna. In Winter because it feels great after a chilly day. And in summer... well, because it feels equally great. Even those days when it happens to be warm outside. Finns's obsession to the sauna can be described by noting that it is common that even small (50-60 m2) newly built apartments have their own electric saunas. In each and every apartment, that is. For foreigners that is quite difficult to understand. But what about the sauna at its best? A traditional sauna with a fireplace (i.e. not electric) at your own summer house next to one of Finland's 188 thousand lakes. With preferably no neighbours within a perimeter of 1km. As a comparison, in neighbouring Sweden saunas are extremely rare in apartments (except for some newly build, large, luxury ones). And in houses saunas are usually used as a storage space for crappy stuff that you want to throw away.

Acknowledging certain similarities between the Finns and Germans, we hoped to find a good sauna in even Winterberg. After some searching on the web, the most potential was at Landhotel Grimmeblick, located some 7km from our apartment. After a hard day’s riding on Friday, we took our car and headed to Grimmeblick with cautious hopes. As a pleasant surprise, Grimmeblick had both steam and Finnish (electric) saunas available for a negligible admission of EUR 10 / person for a 4 hour sauna and pool session. After some two hours, we were satisfied and ready for a dinner. We decided to came back again on Friday.

On our visit on Friday, we found and became curious about an exiting looking hut standing on Grimmeblick’s backyard, just behind the outdoor pool. Checking it out we founds some really serious stuff: a traditional Finnish sauna with a proper fireplace (not electric)! We felt ridiculously happy when we put on the fire and heated the sauna to some 80C, in the meantime enjoying a cold beer or two. Overall, we can warmly recommended a visit to Landhotel Grimmeblick for all sauna lowers when in Winterberg.

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[Part 1]
[Part 2]

May 2-4 - Riding in Bike Park Winterberg
Due to the late spring, we the season opening in Winterberg was postponed at least by two weeks. The bike park had just opened on April 27. Upon our arrival, all trails were not open.

According to Winterberg’s trail map, the bike park has a total of 9 trails. Our Suunto Ambit indicated that the vertical descent from the top to the bottom of the hill was 175m. Not huge in absolute terms but clearly more than an around 100-120m vertical in bike parks of the Southern Finland. More than the vertical, we were impressed by the good profile of the hill which did not involve flat parts as many hills in FInland, for example.

We started by riding “Giro Free Cross”, a 1300m long track with 33 banked turns (according to the trail map) and a few tables. This trail utilised very effectively every meter of the 175m descent with no speed-killing flat sections except in the very beginning. We found this track very effective for training high speed cornering on a smooth and hard surface. This trail is very accessible also for beginners.

Another nice trail was “iXS Downhill”, a natural trail with the same 175m decent and a length of 1000m. We found this trail very entertaining with number of gaps, rock gardens and banked turns. All more difficult sections had chicken ways for beginners, making the track accessible also for less experienced riders.

While some some other tracks were open as well, some were still closed at this time. We ride almost solely the two already mentioned trails. We would have liked to spend some time on “4X” track but it was unfortunately closed expect on the day of our arrival, when we didn’t ride.

Bottlenecks
At the time of our visit, there were two lifts running, a chair and a drag lift. May 2 and 3 (Thursday and Friday) were great days for riding with practically no queues at all. On Saturday, the park started to get packed after 11 am. By noon, waiting times to the chair lift were easily 15min. This felt really depressing considering that tracks themselves are relatively short and fast to ride from top to bottom. While we spent loads of time in the bike park on Thursday and Friday, we didn’t tolerate waiting times on Saturday for more than two or three hours worth of riding.

WinterbergBikePark
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