Lubsko-Tour de France 2005-The travel journal  

Day 1

LUBSKO-FREIBERG 
(distance: 224km, time: 9h52min., average speed: 23,53km/h, max speed: 52km/h)

Today my battle begins. Early in the morning. at half past five, me plus Piotr and Sławek set off. Andrzej Drobniak is filming me for about 10 kilometers. Guys decide to go with me to Forst where we part. We say each other good bye, they wish me good luck and safe way, healthy knees and good weather. It’s high time I faced the challenge. As usually, when I reach Forst, I get lost and have to solve that riddle where to go now. I have calf and knee ache for about 50 km, this does not allow me to fully enjoy my trip but it does not last long. I take some photos in town called Meissen, and later on I have to make some additional kilometers due to two road accidents – the police set some detours. The last 60 km are marked with bad weather and some elevations begin. The weather is not that bad, it is not any terrible rain but it makes riding a bicycle quite difficult and dangerous. I reach my destination after 10 hours. I am really lucky because the first people I ask about some place to spend the night I get a positive answer. I am surprised because some guys told me that Germans are not hospitable at all, and in reality it turns out to be a pack of lies. I am staying with a wonderful family, I have a shower and then we have a delicious supper – fried cheese sandwich. We are talking in English and I take few photos, later on in a really comfortable bed I send my first text messages.

Day 2

FREIBERG-GOTTMADINGEN 
(distance: 197km, time: 10h00min. average speed: 19,7km/h, max speed: 57km/h).

This is a really tough stage. Its beginning is really good and full of perspectives, I have breakfast plus I am given some supplies for the journey. I head for Chemnitz. I am lucky one, having barely gone first 10 kilometers I get a wonderful shower that stays with me for the following 150 kilometers. I can do nothing else but keep on riding. I waste a lot of time in Chemnitz this is because I have to stop at every traffic lights, which is a great lesson for me and I know that I should steer clear from big cities. I get some ache in my knees after 80 kilometers and this pain does not leave me till the end of the day. The terrain itself is changing, there is less flat stretches in favor of hills, this course of things brings down my average speed and time of my journey. At the end of the stage I reach an elderly man’s house who lets me use his lawn. I pitch up the tent. The man allows me to use his bathroom. We are talking about the race for a while, in my opinion Lance Armstrong is going to win, whereas he supports JanUllrich.

Day 3

GOTTMADINGEN-GROSWEISMANNSDORF 
(distance 165km, time: 8h30min., average speed: 19,87km/h, max speed: 69km/h).

Up till now, it has been the most extreme stage for a terrible pain in the knees (mostly left one). I barely reach the town of Bayreuth. I meet a beautiful German girl who says something about a bicycle track leading the veryFreiburg. I do not know why and how I trust her, and completely unaware of what I may come across there, I follow her dad to a train station where allegedly I might buy the map that is for bicycle users only. It turns out that I cannot buy such a map. There are some maps but only regular maps of the region, nevertheless I buy a road map of the whole country (expensive! 7 Euro). I am really sick and tired of the whole situation and decide to follow my original plan which is to stick to main roads and use bicycle tracks only in bigger towns or cities – under condition that they are parallel to the main roads and have the same direction. Due to all those troubles I am not able to reach my destination as I planned before – I stop for the night 20 kilometers away from there in the townGrosweismannsdorf. I am angry only just for a second I meet a really hospitable family who host me as if I was one of their family. I am surprised but not that much as I was in Freiberg. I take a refreshing and healing bath, then I sit with the family at a full table. It is really full of dozens of dishes and according to my hosts, all that is for me, I am a bit embarrassed, luckily I am able to talk in English with charming Carolin. Each of the family is trying to learn something about me. As we are chatting I find that Lance Armstrong has a really great sport spirit – he defeats Jan Ullrich in one-to-one battle and leaves him far behind. There is one more thing! My dear hosts assure me that I am welcome to stay for another night on my way back! I am really touched!

Day 4

GROSWEISMANNSDORF-WELZHEIM 
(distances: 148km, time -7h.00min., average speed: 21,14km/h, max speed: 63km/h).

I am ready to hit the road and although I still feel a bit heavy after yesterday’s supper I get on my bike and go. Today’s stage is marked with hot sun but I still prefer it to rain which I already have had enough. Unfortunately, the weather changes quickly and there is nothing left of my good mood as I get into a horrible downpour, thanks God it is really short. I find a place for the night thanks to another good man, he lets me use his lawn, I am really grateful for his kindness. I set up my completely wet tent and he brings me some water for drinking. The next day his father, a really old man, allows me to use his bathroom plus he hands me his card in case I come around next time.

Day 5

WELZHEIM-ZIMMERN 
(distances: 150km, time: 8h.05min., average speed: 18,75, max: speed 56km/h).

The pain in the knee is really nasty and therefore I am having a nervous breakdown. It is getting worse, I take double dose of painkiller. This bad situation reaches its climax 7 km after I pass the town Esslingen. I feel completely exhausted, totally weak and powerless, I decide to stop for a longer time. I am crying and talking to myself You can make itI am writing a text message to my friend Grzegorz, I do not wait long, in a few seconds I get a reply with really strong words that encourage me and give some hope, and that helps! Bad luck, the weather breaks again. I am thinking to myself, if this rain is going to end some time? Can’t it be sunny at last? It is a quarter past eight pm, those heave clouds are still above me; I make a decision to stop for the night in the nearest village. In the beginning people decline to put me up but according to the proverb that third time lucky, I finally manage to find a place. I am welcomed by a lady, probably of some Japanese descent, the man is a typical German. They let me stay in their house. They are showing me their house and my place for the night. I go to a impressive living room after having a long bath, we are having a s supper there. I am talking with the man, it is good he can speak English. Slowly our conversation is getting to cycling, we both doubt that Ullrich can win, he adds that he is almost sure of it after that what he saw on TV. He brings a beer after the dinner and we are watching a film on ZDF. We are having a good time, meanwhile his wife is doing yoga exercises. It is time to go to sleep at last.

Day 6

ZIMMERN-EISENBACH 
(distance: 125km, time: 6h.00min., average speed: 20,83km/h, max speed: 60km/h).

Mountain stages are beginning now. Under normal circumstances, riding in the mountains is my passion but with my load it is completely different, but I must keep going. There is one thought that keeps me in high spirits, there is always road down after each road up. Although my legs are more tired my average speed does not differ from the one I had on flat roads. The weather is not that cruel as it used to be. Sun has been burning me all the time since the morning. I am not feeling well, I am having some stomachache. I stop at the first house in Eisenbach. I quickly learn that a friend of my hosts has finance in Bielsko Biała (a city in Poland). Having this man’s and beautiful Monic’s support  I can enjoy comfortable conditions. I rush to the bathroom and have a hot shower, then I am having a delicious pizza plus interesting conversation with the superb company. The lady of the hose is a warm-hearted woman who keeps asking me thousand of questions, she understands English but has some problems with speaking. We are having a great time drinking lemonade and having some sweets. There are loads of things to talk about, my country, economy, standard of living, and historic buildings. Midnight comes too early and a lot quicker than I would expect. It is time we all went to sleep, Monic is going to school tomorrow, her parents to work and I hit the road.

Day 7

EISENBACH – ISLE-SUR-LE-DOUBS 
(distance: 180km, time: 8h.42min, average speed: 21,37km/h, max speed: 60km/h).

I expect to reach France today. Initially, I am not thinking about it at all, I am just focused on riding at even pace and speed. There are lots of downhill stretches but this does not help a bit, I am still feeling bad. The pain dims everything else, plus it has been raining like cats and dogs since the morning. I make up my mind to wait till it’s over. I seek shelter in the bus stop, I am sending a few text messages, I am waiting for almost thirty minutes and nothing changes - it is still raining. I get nervous and just sit on the bike and go. I am using local roads because the main road to Freiburg is jammed. This costs me a dozen of additional kilometers but the views and the landscape are worth it. I am taking some photos of the town of St. Margen where, once famous, Jan Ullrich was born. I find it out by an accident from a passerby. Freiburg at last! It is not far away from here to Mulheim andMulhouse in France. I am beginning to believe that I will make it. Having faced many obstacles I enter French territory. I am completely wet but equally happy. I spend the night in a tent a nice man lets me use his lawn and although the redecoration works I can use his bathroom and he brings me some water for drinking.

Day 8

ISLE-SUR-LE-DOUBS – VILLEBOIS 
(distance: 225km, time: 10h.48min., average speed: 21,46km/h, max speed: 65km/h).

I am fully enjoying today’s ride. I make up for the distance. I am able to do it because of the weather which is sunny but not hot and the key factor is that there is almost no wind at all. There is only one thing that I am always doing wrong, I follow people’s advice when I ask about roads for bicycles only, I waste too much time searching for possible way to get there. Sometimes it is really worth to use a road for bicycles but generally the best way to travel is to stick to the main roads. This night I am going to spend away from people’s houses, I am carefully choosing a safe place and secure water supply beforehand. Everything is OK.

Day 9

VILLEBOIS – CLAIX 
(distance: 145km, time: 7h.00min., average speed: 20,71km/h, max speed: 55km/h).

All is OK. Each meter brings me closer to Grenoble, and the weather is fine. All I can do is to enjoy such conditions, I forget about the pain, I guess it is not so severe now because it is not absorbing my senses, there is only one unpleasant situation when the second battery in my camera runs down, I will have to do without photographs for the time being and the most important is the fact that I am so close to my final destination. I am surrounded by supreme beauty of nature, I can see mountain that I used to watch only on TV, all that is in my hand’s range. I am really lucky, I ask first people, who I come across, about any tourist facilities, we are talking in English. I give them my card plus a postcard that shows Lubsko and in return they offer me their own house for free. I find it really difficult to believe but the people again confirm what they have just said. This course of things changes everything, I have an opportunity to leave my belongings and ride freely in the mountains but now I am thinking only about resting and regenerating. Beatrice and Nicolas are truly nice and warm-hearted people, they treat me as an old friend and say Help yourself! That opens a brand new chapter in my journey.

Day 10 

I AM RESTING

Today I am not going anywhere, I am just resting. I spend my time talking with my new friends, we exchange opinions and ideas. I am talking about Poland, standards of living, plus I make a hint on my last year’s trip toCroatiaBeatrice and Nicolas are really interested in it. They are keen travelers themselves, and their preferable means of transportation is also the bicycle. I feel so small when they are telling me about their journeys. They ask me about the highest mountain that I have ever reached on a bicycle, I was on the top ofŚnieżka Mountain (1602 meters) in 2003. It seems nothing to their achievements, they have been to so many countries, they show me a huge collection of photos. The longer we talk the better I feel. Later on my friends serve supper, this is typical French cuisine and I guess that this is the only time I am ever able to try it, so there is delicious baked cheese, and customary coffee at the end of each meal, with some chocolate for those who like it. Next, we move to living room to watch the first news from Tour de France, we are drinking some cold beverages, when the news ends I ask if I could use their computer , of course, there is no problem with that. I record my photos on a CD plus I send some free text messages to my friends. Nicolas makes a very interesting proposal. He wants us to ride 200 kilometers tomorrow. We are going to cross four legendary passes (Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier, and L’Alpe d’Huez). I again ask if he really means that, it all seems impossible to me, then he says something about a race that begins at quarter past seven and makes a hint about seven thousand cyclists from all over the world, he says: We won’t be alone. My excitement reaches climax, I am listening very carefully with pounding heart. At last, my dreams are about to come true in just a dozen of hours! I have been dreaming about it since I was a child. Time is running so quickly, we are having supper and the discussion keeps going. At about 11 pm I decide to go to bed, the race is so close.

Day 11

LE BOURG DE-OISANS - L’ALPE D’HUEZ 
(distance: 200km, time: 10h.08min., average speed: 19,84km/h, max speed: 74km/h).

This stage can be surely called supreme. I make the speed record, which on the other hand seems to be a piece of cake when one takes the unbelievable downhill roads into account. I never thought that I would cross the four legendary passes, which I have only seen on TV so far, in one day. At that time it seemed impossible. All in all, I am up to the Nicolas’ challenge. We set off at 6 sharp. We get to the start line by car, and then there is only the bicycle. The race of my lifetime begins. The beginning is nothing but the famous Col du Glandon. There is only one way to get to its peak, 27 kilometers of road that goes up, average grade is 7 per cent but it reaches twelve at times. We agree that each of us is going to ride at his own speed. If there is a need we are going to wait for each other on the tops of hills. I start aggressively, I just forget about my problems with knees and that my bike is simply amateur. I just step hard on the pedals and reach 15 km per hour. It is a decent speed mainly due to the fact that the grade reaches 12 per cent in this place. I leave my friend behind but after 3 kilometers he manages to get me. I make a few stops, not because I am tired but to take photos of the wonderful views. Nicolas agree to it, he understands that such moments are really important, he used to experience similar feelings when he himself was riding here for the very first time. The sun comes up after the foggy morning. We are the first on the top simply because the rest of the cyclists started the race an hour later. There are many people who cheer us up and encourage, I really feel like one of the professionals who compete in the Tour. We take a photo to commemorate this moment at the table showing the height of the mountain, change our clothes and next there is 30 kilometers down. There is much easier here, a bit of flat road and then again hard road up to Col du Telegraphe. This time I have to climb 12 kilometers and the average grade is 7 per cent. I spot a group of cyclists ahead. The distance is slowly shrinking as we keep going and quite soon we reach the stronger competitors. Many cannot believe their eyes when they see an ordinary guy riding a plain MTB bike who is overtaking other who are using professional bicycles. Another photo to my collection, a short road down (circa 3 kilometers), and then deathly way up the Col du Galibier (19 kilometers), the last 4 are unbelievably hard, me legs are feeling heavier and heavier, my speed is somewhere between 7 – 8 kilometers per hour, and on the top of that the pain in the left knee is back again. I grind my teeth and finally make it to the top. I have never had a more difficult and straining effort in my life so far. The bliss of my joy remains pure and perfect, I am so happy that I am about to burst in tears. I tell Nicolasthank you, my euphoria reaches the climax when I meet a Polish guy from Bieszczady Mountains, we are talking for a while. I am taking lots of photos from the very top of the mountain, it would be very dangerous to take them on my way down, the speeding cyclists sometimes reach 90 kilometers per hour. I put on clothes that are designed for riding downhill (trousers, windstoper and bands to cover my neck and ears and my 30 kilometers long ride begins. The wind is really strong, I sometimes get the impression that the wind is so strong that it can stop me, Nicolas is following me like a shadow. This is safer and better, we will not get lost in the pack of other cyclists. If I was behind him he would easily leave me behind (he has far much better equipment than I, plus, it is suitable for racing), and even if he stopped and waited for me we would not be able to find each other in this swarm. After the wild road down there is time for some flat stage, many bikers leaves us behind, the have really expensive gear. The most important is that we are all right and nothing bad has happened, we move on to the next stage which is the famous L’Alpe d’Huez, one would like to say that this is Lance Armstrong’s mountain. He won on this mountain twice during his rich carrier(once in 2001 – sprint, and the other time in 2004 – time trial). The weather is still fine and good for riding. We are entering the town of le Bourg d’Oisans which marks the beginning of 14 kilometers long climbing that ends at 1860 meters above sea level, there are 21 bends – some of them turn at 180 degrees, a real stairway to heaven, never-ending mountain story. We have ridden quite a long distance today and there is another steep slope. We are riding together, simply our stamina seems to be at the same level, just as if we subconsciously agreed that it is better to ride together.

We start from the first bent and I get creeps when I think of the next 20, I know that I have to do it. I can’t waste those 1500 kilometers and now just give up this killing pleasure. We reach the summit at 7 pm. This is our last time when we get to the top together today. I have never been happier in my life. I still find it difficult to believe what I have gone through in the past nine hours, and what have we done. I would like to tell ally beloved ones about my happiness. I buy some postcard in the nearest shop, I am going to send them to my best friends and family. We rush down where we left the car. We return in glory and Beatrice welcomes us and congratulates me on the achievement. I am deadly tired but happy as well. I am taking a decent shower and next go downstairs for supper, we are discussing each and every detail of this marvelous day, and finally I go to bed.

Day 12 

RELAXING AGAIN

I am sitting in the terrace and just enjoying the breathtaking mountain landscape. I am writing the postcards trying to share my recent emotions, and there are many people whom I would like to tell about my experiences. The weather is just perfect, it is sunny but not hot, plus I am eating a good German chocolate, 35 Eurocents each bar. This is a remaining of German Lidl shops. I can smell something wonderful cooking in the kitchen. I feel almost fulfilled as far as cycling is concerned. I only need to go to and Courchevel, meet the Tour there, but I will do it tomorrow. For the time being, I am watching some French TV channel showing Tour the France and enjoying the beautiful scenery around me. Of course it is not the same feeling as experiencing it by myself but today I totally do not feel like doing so. I need to regain energy and relax, there is a really difficult stage tomorrow in the mountains. I am preparing my bicycle in the evening, washing the old grease, and putting fresh, checking the tires and adjusting the brakes. I spot a broken spoke in the rear wheel (I guess that it might have broken down during going downhill), the roads in the famous passes are far from being perfect, there are full of holes and drive many cyclists into madness. They are really dangerous especially for speed bikes.

I do not have a proper wrench to undo the rear case therefore I have to bend a spoke in order to fix it back in its place, by the way, I develop my skills in fixing wheels (making it round again), I just knew how to do it but have never done it before. After those fruitful repairs I get back home, wash my hands and sit at the table. The hosts are away and I am alone, I am watching TV, surfing the net and sending emails. Tomorrow is going to be interesting day and I am excited about it.

Day 13

CLAIX-COL DE MADELEINE 
(distance: 150km, time: 8h.10min. average speed: 21km/h, max speed: 70km/h).

I am really determined to reach the legendary Col du Courchevel (2000 meters above sea level)where the next stage (10th) of Tour de France finishes. There are two extremely demanding mountain primes, the first one isCol du Grand Cucheron at 1188 meters. This seems to be a not so long way up, only 4 kilometers, but the grade reaches 12%, so indeed, this is really tough to do with so much luggage as I am carrying with me. The next pass is the classics. The famous Col de Madeleine, I am going to climb it using the easier side, but this does not mean that it is going to be that easy. I begin this really difficult climbing really late at 6 pm, I meet a guy and he says that it is a bed idea and recommends me a camping site. I do not know whey but I follow his advice only to find out that the prices are horrifying – 8 euro for washing and there is no shower! I decide to try my luck, even if I will not get to the top till dusk I am going to be somewhere near there. I meet two Germans, and I soon find out that they are living in the camping site. They have decided to slowly climb the mountain. They are quite surprised to see somebody like me, fully loaded with luggage, is able to ride at their speed. They are asking me lots of questions and I am giving them detailed answers. We are riding at average speed 7- 9 km/h, I am sure I could do 13 -14, without the luggage, leaving them far behind – maybe some other time. More or less in the middle of the stage we stop for a while, one cannot trick his body, after a few seconds with the bladder empty we are riding again. It is important to keep the muscles warm, so I am keeping moving. I have nearly drunk all my water and yet, there are still five steep kilometers up to the top. We split up after 22 kilometers, I am not able to ride their pace any more. I make another stop when I reach a bit of flat terrain, I am sitting for a while on a small desk, it looks as if it was set there on purpose just for cycling maniacs like me. After a while I get my bike am ride again. To my surprise I meet the Germans one kilometer ahead of the top, they are even more shocked that before, they cannot believe and are rubbing their eyes that I have been able to catch them. When we get to the top, they are shaking my hand and keep repeating Respect. We take pictures at the height of 2000 meters, then we are chatting for a while and breakneck way down, with the only one difference, they are going all the way that they have come and I am going the other way. We wish one another good luck. It is getting dark and I have just started my swift ride down. Having gone 10 kilometers with dozens of crazy 180 degree bends I come across a deserted wooden cabin, somebody tells me that I can surely stay there for the night, it is great for it is really dark now. I spread the foil that usually is the flysheet of my tent then I the pad and the sleeping bag. My bike and all the sacks also find shelter in the cabin. It turns out that there is toilet not far away. There is everything I need for one night. I go to sleep quickly so I can wake up early tomorrow.

Day 14

COL DE LA MADELEINE – COL DU MADELEINE 
(distance: 120 km, time: 6h.00min., average speed: 20km/h, max speed: 66km/h).

I wake up early, I head for Courchevel, but before I get there, there is the famous town Moutiers. I am worried that the roads may be closed for any traffic but far from it – I am not alone many cyclist are overtaking me, If I had known that I would have not been worried about it. There is only one difference between me and them, they are traveling light, without any luggage. Some are turning their heads showing their disbelief, some other are clapping. I am trying to maintain 12 – 14 km/h speed in the first part of my way up, but after a few kilometers I am able to do only 8 -9 km/h. There is a huge throng of supporters at the both sides of the road, there are also many small traders selling beverages. I stop at a one and sped 4 Euro on 2 cans of Coke. I drink the first one just after I am back on my bike, it is a relief about nothing special as one would expect. The sun is burning like hell but I am hammering against all odds like the pain in my knees. I am watching the real and true fans gathered at the sides of the road to support their idols and for the time being they are giving some support to us the amateurs. I have an impression of taking part in something grand. There are some shops and small hotels at the 8th kilometer of this exhausting stage and I can also see two ski jumps far away. I decide that it is high time I stopped to refill my bottles and buy some food. The prices are probably the highest possible, I spend my last 10 Euro that I can afford. I get back on my bike two kilograms heavier and try to hammer but all my efforts go for nothing, plus, my left knee is aching. I decide to walk, I am doing so for about two kilometers. I make up my mind and wait for theTour at the gate with the inscription saying: 10km ARRIVE. I get there about noon. The heat is beyond any imagination, unbearable. I leave my bike and the sacks on a hill and I myself go to a creek to wash and drink. I luckily stop nearby the legendary devil who many times took part in the Tour, the supporters are fighting to take a photo with him, the guy is having a really hard time. It is known that when the peloton comes he is going to run among them yelling ALE! ALE! I am sitting next to him and having delicious yoghurt and fresh rolls, in the meantime I am sending a text message to my friend Maciek to inform him about my location. I remind him to record the transmission and ask for any information about the race. I receive several messages which builds my confidence for I know what is going on in the peleton. I know that my dad and brother are watching the transmission on TV. I learn that for just a second, they have shown me on Eurosport channel. It is cool. It almost 5 pm, there is really little time before the peloton arrives. I can excitement written on each and every face around me. At last! The first row of motorbikes and then the best of them all - Lance Armstrong, he is on the lead. I take a photo of him, I am really glad. Later on, I am taking more photos I recognize many faces and my happiness develops with each next photo, after a short time they all are gone. I am thinking, what next? The first thought pops into my mind, I will spend the night right here but just after that a better idea is to ride down and stop for the night down there. I am taking more photos on my way down, I cannot refrain myself from doing it, maybe it is the last time I am here? I should save this wonderful landscape forever. When I reach the foot of the hill I again head for Moutiers, and the to Col de la Madeleine. I meet a group of German supporters who are camping near the road. I get the feeling that I should spend the night with them. Initially I do not intend to climbMadeleine the next day as my new friends but after a while and short consideration I come to the conclusion that it is a great and the last opportunity to mark my presence in the French Alps. I set up my tent and have a big supper, I am going to need a lot of energy tomorrow. We are talking in English, I give some of them my cards, the atmosphere is friendly, at 11 pm I go to sleep.

Day 15

COL DE LA MADELEINE- ANNECY (CAMPING MUNICIPAL) 
(distance: 130km, time: 6h00min., average speed: 21,6km/h, max speed: 57km/h).

It looks like another exciting day of competition. I wake up at 8, I feel full of energy and ready for the challenge. This is my last chance to struggle with the famous Col de la Madeleine, this time I am going to do it from at the most difficult side. I decide to leave my luggage in the tent which I close. A quick morning washing, refilling my flasks with Isostar and I am on my way. I am not alone, the track is full of other maniacs of cycling, mainly raiding sped bicycles, and similarly to me trying to conquer the mountain, 28 kilometers long, and 8% grade (sometimes 12%). Since the very beginning I have been riding together with an older guy. We are drafting and overtaking others. Many are looking with disbelief, they are looking at my bike rather than at me. It is good that the weather is just fine. The sun is shining and the air is still, almost no wind. The fans are standing on the both sides of the road waiting for the peloton but for the time being they are supporting us – amateurs from all over the world. I am feeling good from both the physical and metal point of view. It seems that my left knee is cooperative today. On the tenth kilometer I leave my veteran friend behind, I am full of respect towards his stamina though. I hope that I can be like him when I am his age. I am overtaking others, I can see women of different age and like everybody else they are struggling with the deficiencies of their bodies. The last four kilometers are real pain and torture. The grade reaches 12% and it stays the same till the very top. More crazy bends, that give an opportunity to see the whole picturesque road behind, stairway to heaven again. Those down can rise their heads and see another steps to heaven and those up can delight in the panorama of surrounding views. This is almost the end of my climbing and it is so close to reach for the crown of my adventures with the Alpine passes. The finish line and my belovedMadeleine finally becomes mine. I am so happy. It is almost 10, I am checking my stopper and just cannot believe my eyes! The whole way up took only one hour and fifty-two minutes! That gives average speed 17,0 km/h. That is cool taking into account all the steep way. I am drinking a lot on the top, my body needs refilling the water shortage and the I am looking for the best place to take photos of the cyclists. I eat the last of my sweets, it is almost 2 pm. I am sitting one kilometer away from the top. I am taking pictures of everything around me. I can feel the excitement in the air. And here they come! Aleksander Vino Vinokurov is on the lead, and a dozen seconds later the peleton with Lance Armstrong on the lead. I take photos, the most important is the fact that I am here right in the center of this event and feel the atmosphere of this cycling feast. Now, they all far away. I got to be going too. I am riding really fast and very soon I am back at the tent which is still where I have left it. I pack my stuff in a few minutes. I am going to a beautiful town Annecy I am passing equally picturesque Albertvilleand Ugine. I am riding along a straight bicycle track, it differs completely from those in Germany or Poland, it is parallel to the main road plus it surface is in perfect condition. I pass a number of sportsmen, they are rollerblading, cycling and riding those roller ski, each of them has a smile on his or her face; I am also meeting elderly people who simply chose to spend their free time actively to the benefit of health, I just admire their attitude. It is a quarter past 8 pm, I have to look for some place for the night. As usually I am trying to ask people to put me up but very soon I change my mind and give up when my request is turned down a few times. There is a really good looking camping site, The owner agrees to half regular price, I guess that it might be due to my professional looking gear. I set up my tent, take shower, eat something and go to sleep.

Day 16

GENEVE GENF-MULHOUSE –TUBINGEN 
(distance: 210km, time 9h15min., average speed: 22,95km/h, max speed: 42km/h).

I get up at 5 am, and I am thinking only about Geneva. There is 40 kilometers of pure riding and then 350 kilometers by train to French Mulhouse. I get to a boarder town at about 12. I stop for a rest in front of a small shop (I buy there some sweet rolls and drinks) and then go forward to Germany. I head for FreiburgNeustadt,Tunningen. The journey is just perfect and I do not  go below 25 km/h, it seems that my alpine voyages paid back in really good stamina, plus there is no front wind, all in all, all seems to be on my side. I stop after the next 100 kilometers. I feel that I just needed that camping rest. I feel whole loads of energy and I decide to totally use it up for my riding. I reach my destination at about 9 pm. I make the decision and stop for the night just somewhere.

Day 17

TUBINGEN-GROSWEISMANNSDORF 
(distance: 224km, time 10h02min., average speed: 22,35km/h, max speed: 49km/h).

The weather breaks totally. I was just expecting it to happen for it all just had been too smooth, too perfect. The only thing that keeps me in high spirits is the fact that soon, in the evening, I am going to meet my friends, this thought is accompanying me through the following kilometers. My shoes are full of water, I am fighting with all my power to overcome all weaknesses, luckily the pain in me knees reached the level that I almost do not feel it. I am riding steadily against all odds, I do not want to waste my time and the distance. At the halfway the weather is getting better a bit which helps me to speed up, and my moods get better. It is almost 10 pm, I arrive at the small town where I am going to stop for the night at my friends’ for the second time. There are really surprised that I am back so quickly. We all have a wonderful supper, there is so much I want to talk about and show. The atmosphere, as usually, is warm and family-like.

Day 18  

GROSWEISMANNSDORF-GROSZOBERN 
(distance 207km, time 10h17min., average speed: 20,35km/h, max speed: 54km/h).

The weather conditions are more than difficult, it is not the first time I have experienced it. Again, I am struggling not to give up and to go on. With every turn of wheels my final destination, my home, is closer and closer. I decide to go through PegnitzBayreuthBad BerneckHof. Those places are well familiar to me, I was there on my way to France. I swiftly pass Bayreuth. I still remember the time I got lost and ended up in some forest, therefore I decided to go through it as quickly as possible. I am not visiting my friend, simply, there is not time for it. Again, I am under huge impression of Bad Berneck and its old houses, perfectly cobbled streets. Originally I entered this town riding down a hill this time it is quite the opposite, I have to climb circa four kilometers. I manage to find some time to stop and have the last glance at that beauty that I am going to leave behind. The weather finally gets good when I reach Hof, the sun is shining again, and the rain ends at last! My next target isPlauen but this is the schedule for tomorrow. I guess that the best thing is not to strain my poor knees too much. I stop for the night at a very small town, as usually I am asking local people for a place to spend the night. They tell me about their neighbors. The usual price is 20 Euro but I negotiate and we make a deal – 7 Euro. There is shower, a cooker and satellite TV. The next day, in the morning I am having breakfast, prepared by the landlady.

Day 19  

GROSZOBERN-RADEBURG 
(distance 231km, time 11h26min., average speed: 20,51km/h, max speed: 47km/h).

I wanted this day to be the last day of traveling fast, of course, under the condition I manage to make up some more kilometers, eventually I ride over 200. The weather is just fine since the very morning, it is sunny and no wind. This is crucial especially if I am to set a new record. I stick up to my rule that the first stop is only after 100 kilometers, and so it happens in town called Thalheim. The I head for Chemnitz and Zwickau. I bypass those two behemoth cities. I am experienced enough that entering them would cost me too much precious time. I am positively surprised at the ease I am riding. It is true that the mountains finally paid off, plus I get the feeling that my luggage is at least 5 kilos lighter. This is a proof of my friend Piotr's rule that the way back home is faster although one is tired. On my way I am thinking about the moment I am going to reach Lubsko, how is it going to be, is there anybody to welcome me? So far nothing changes, just my daily routine. I am entering the memorableFreiberg. Again, I am going to my friends but I only met their daughter. I ask her to give her parents my regards and go my way. After a moment I just realize that I was a mere luck, It is almost 6 and I have an opportunity to make up more distance. I really care to enter Lubsko in dinner time, it makes me to go 60 more kilometers today. I take some photos in Meissen, so far I hale ridden over 200 kilometers, but I am feeling as if it was only 100. It is really good. I was planning to stop in Konigsbruck, but I do it in Radeburg when my timer shows 231 km, and this is my record of daily distance. I am warmly welcomed in the first house. The hosts let me use their garden house plus the give me some food and beverages. I hand my host my card and a postcard from Lubsko. I send a few text messages and fall asleep at about 10 pm.

Day 20 –Final–

RADEBURG-LUBSKO 
(distance 145km, time 6h47min., average speed: 22,41km/h, max speed: 44km/h).

I am beginning this last stage at 8 am, in my mind, I can see myself entering my hometown Lubsko. This is the end of my life-time journey. The conditions are pretty good although a light shower in the morning. I head forKonigsbruckHoyerswerdaSprembergForst. I am riding steadily still thinking about entering Lubsko. Nothing can stop me, I am just too close to fail. I am riding down a well-known road, there is no way I could get lost. I make the last stop in Forst to buy some chocolate bars and then go to the border post in Forst-Zasieki. The officers ask me where am I coming from, and I say that from France. The do not believe me, I guess can recognize one that I met three weeks ago at the beginning of the journey. At last, I am in my fatherland! I just feel tears of happiness in my eyes. There is only 20 kilometers to go, it is nothing compared to those 3000kilometers behind me. I can see it, the sign Lubsko, I speed up. I am joyful, this is the best thing I have ever done in my life.