Pacemaker: Riding for a world without nuclear weapons
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pacemaker: Riding for a world without nuclear weapons

by Bjorn Haake at 3:53 AM EST   comments
Categories: General
150 riders ride 340km for peace on earth

PacemakersThe annual pacemakers ride was held near Karlsruhe in southern Germany for the sixth time this year. The record number of 150 people participated in the ride that spanned 340 kilometers, going from Bretten via Heilbronn, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Kaiserslautern and Neustadt back to Bretten in southwestern Germany. At a stop at the airshow memorial in Ramstein, the largest US Air Force base outside the United States, the victims were remembered.

The event is not organized as a race, it is rather a procession with the whole 'peloton' staying together. While the roads are generally open for traffic, the police closes off intersections, which allows a smooth proceeding for the riders. A tight schedule is to be held and the pace is set to an average of about 30km/h. Several stops are used for feeding the riders as well as giving the local peace initiatives the opportunity to raise awareness.

At five in the morning, many riders were already at the local school gym in Bretten to get a quick breakfast in and pin their numbers down. Right on time at 5:45, the 150 enthusiasts set off into the sun rise. The brisk morning offered a beautiful interplay between the rising sun and the lifting early morning fog. The latter was bathing the little towns along the way, sometimes only offering the top of the church tower for a view.

A first stop was done in Heilbronn, with an opportunity to have a second breakfast. The peace groups reminded everyone about Hiroshima and the dangers of nuclear weapons. On it went to Heidelberg, a well-known place for many tourists from overseas. But there was no stop, as the bunch made its way on to Mannheim.

The sun had now taken over fully, but temperatures were still bearable, not in the low 90's like in the few weeks prior to the event. There was a small mishap in Mannheim, as the pace was too fast. Arriving 20 minutes ahead of time meant to have to wait for lunch a bit longer, but the pasta was well worth it. The waiting time was used from the peace initiative to urge the German authorities to abandon the nuclear weapons. There are still 20 nuclear war heads in Germany.

After Kaiserslautern, a stop was done near Ramstein, the large US Air Force base. Riders proceeded to the memorial that was erected for the 70 people who died on August 28, 1988. At an air show, multiple planes collided and one slid into the spectators. The peloton passed the large hospital complex, where those injured in places like Afghanistan or Iraq get treated before returning to the US.

The ride went on in a happier mood, approaching some of the nicer areas of the ride. The forest after Kaiserslautern was beautiful and also offered two KOM's (the only time that everyone was free to go as fast as they could).

From the second KOM it was a long, gradual downhill to the final rest stop in Neustadt. There were only 60 more, mostly flat kilometers to cover. There was only one problem during those remaining kilometers. Not having obtained the right to cross a certain bridge, the field was routed over the only bike path of the day. In just 400 meters, two out of the 150 had a flat tire (compared to two riders, including a tandem, for the other 340km).

But the stop ensured that the pace, which was once again a little ahead of schedule, could be adjusted for a timely arrival at nine pm. The riders hung out at the finish in the warm summer night. Music and delicious sandwiches brought back the energy to everyone who had used it up in the 15 previous hours.


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