After the superb ride over the Moselle/Saar/Ruwer mountains, I was amazed when Gereon said that today would be even better. Hard to believe. But it was actually brilliant riding first down the Moselle on the cycling trail and then up the Ruwer Valley. Wow, surprising that you can get to Kasel as quickly as this - this is where we had that excellent lunch yesterday in the Paulinerhof. A few hints about having a coffee are cleverly ignored and we attack the first climb, up to the Mertesdorf waste dump. Since we're getting local support from Marco today I can hold back a bit to begin with, in terms of chasing the talented youngsters, which my legs are grateful for. We then have a fast descent to Fell, where we immediately tackle the next climb up the Schleicherberg. We whizz back down to the Moselle, where we gather at the Villa Rustica, an ancient Roman villa from the 3rd century that was uncovered here. Not here, though, is Maja with the drinks bus – seems like we've been too quick. No worries, we get fresh water from the public loo and set off again on the Moselle Cycling Trail. A small hill cuts off the Moselle Loop between Detzem and Leiwen, where Reiner saves me from writing off Gereon's third bike while I'm checking my Garmin – my rear wheel rises up as I stop about 2 millimetres behind a car waiting peacefully at a junction. Now the riding through the vineyards up the Zummeterhof is terrific, but we hit it a bit too hard to pay due honour to the scenery. It's now 11am and we've got 45 kms in our legs. So we head into the 36 kms loop that takes us back here where we'll have lunch. A great descent to the Moselle, lovely through Trittenheim and left towards the vineyards shortly afterwards. I have a sense of foreboding. As we stop at the gravel quarry Roland is relieved: "Wow, it's a good job we don't have to go up there, look how steep it is!" Not long afterwards the Garmin announces a change of direction, as it hadn't identified our location accurately. So we turn around and head up the hill. But the view from the top of the Piesport hills down over the Moselle Loop at Piesport is so superb that we take a group photo on the hang gliding ramp. A little bit later Gereon, who planned the stage, treats us to an even better view of the loop from a scenic car park. Down in Piesport we go over the hill to Neumagen-Dhron, from where we ride through the Dhron Valley to Papiermühle, which we leave via a wonderful, gently uphill, minor road up to the Zummeterhof. And here, if not before, Gereon exceeds himself: Amongst the vineyards, with a terrific view of the Trittenheim Moselle Loop, our caterer from the Paulinerhof has set up beer benches and tables and lays on a magnificent lunch spread. Rolled roast, sausage, feta cheese with veggies, fried potatoes, tomato mozzarella, couscous and a pine nut salad. Accompanied by a decent Riesling (NB: even I have some – the atmosphere makes it irresistible). Incredible. Gereon and Oliver are waiting for us here - they scheduled lunch for BEFORE lunch, and Gereon's chin drops as he realises that we've already done 80 kms. He had been assuming that I'd gone the wrong way again. Hey, watch it! You can hang onto the blind man's stick for today! We'll obviously be taking the version with all the elevation gain home with us, as we need to work off these calories. We don't flow quite as easily over the remaining climbs as the heavy lunch needs to be digested first. The brownie with mango sauce (a dream!) deters the brave warriors from attacking the hills with gusto. As our meal is waiting, the 800 metres elevation gain that waits for us, spread across four Hunsrück peaks, needs to be dealt with succinctly: Lorscheid, Osburger Hof, Morscheid and Galgenkopf. All very lovely and, in particular, the descents from Osburg to Rivieris, and the one we did yesterday from Morscheid to Waldrach in the Ruwer Valley, made our warrior hearts thump. As did the glorious ice-cream at the parlour near the Eurener Hof. Half-past four, at the hotel. Cool. Time off. Relax.Original stage description
Stage 2a: Today we play with wine, hills and rivers. To warm up, we pedal down the Moselle promenade through the Roman city of Trier to Ruwer, where we take the Cycling Trail straight into the cultivated lands of the Ruwer Valley wine-producing region as far as Kasel. As we enter the town, near the Pauliner Hof restaurant, we cross the tram tracks and ride uphill through the picturesque, wine-growing district of Kasel. From the top, our route takes us through vineyards on a swift descent to Fell, known for its wine and slate mining. Now we face the next, long drawn-out climb along the subterranean slate mines up to the Schleicherberg. From here we swoop down a fast, winding valley road to the lovely Moselle district of Mehring. A drinks stop awaits us at the Villa Rustica, a 3rd century Roman estate. We ride on along the charming Moselle to Leiwen, where the Sonnenberg, topped by the Zummeterhof viewing point, provides a splendid view over the Moselle districts of Leiwen and Trittenheim and the wonderful scenery. It's now not long before the day's highlight becomes almost tangible. After a strenuous climb up a hidden side valley of the Moselle, past vineyards and a stone quarry, we reach the heights of the scenic route offering glorious views over the Moselle Loop at Piesport. So beautiful, indeed, that we take a short break and just enjoy things a bit. At this, the loveliest time of year for the vineyards, the long drawn-out descent ahead of us down to Minheim becomes an unforgettable, indescribably gorgeous experience. We spin happily along a lengthy Moselle side valley via Papiermühle towards lunch which we take at the Zummeterhof viewing point which we're already familiar with. For everyone who hasn't yet gathered enough elevation gain, on the way back we offer a ride on traffic-calmed roads over the Hunsrück hills with a few tough climbs and spectacular descents into deep valleys. Just what you need to make the most of your end-of-season form!