- 360 km overall length
- 40 °C heat
- 4 counties
- 3 sections
- 2 days
- 1 hiding Lake Balaton
- 0,5 pack of salt tablets
- Countless bottle fillings
I heard about the Hungarian Divide bikepacking event in 2017 in Greenzone bikeshop (Zalaegerszeg). In 2017 I succesfully finished the XCU series (=10 hour long XCO race on diverse locations). I am a relatively slow rider on XCO/XCM races. The longer races are a bit better for me. I like the monotony of riding, the narrow forest paths, and climbs. The bikepacking riding style got popular and it reached me as well. Of couse on such races is the competition strong. There will be always a stronger/quicker/luckier rider in the peloton. I am too sweaty, I can’t ride far away without any sleep. I have a competitive self and a wanderer self. They complement each other well. In Covid times is my lastly mentioned self much activer.
I did a couple of tours in the past years around the Lake Balaton. Once I did it in one day. 250 km (from Veszprém)/15 hours in the saddle of a 16 kg weight MTB. I had a two day long adventure with a restday (and different concerts). And I had a 3-day-long-round with my friends as well. Road bike definitely comes in handy on such long, but paved roads. It has the same sports value, but it is much easier. You must hold a relative uncomfortable “aero” position for hours. But the rolling resistance of the skinny tires is really low. You can have some rest even on the flat sections. Wind shadow of other riders can give you some helping hand too.
I would say that the Balaton Bike Derby is Lake Balaton round with extras. It is performance oriented as a solo cyclist, but you can do it with you friends too, so you can have more fun. Don’t fall in the trap of the illusion: either way you will be tired in the end.
The first day
I was in a good shape at the start line. The first 120 km had nice and spicy mtb sections. I enjoyed that part of the race. The legs were OK, my camera was working, I had food, and the temperature was cool. The sun was not friendly today. I always needed the safety of two full water bottles.
I don’t know much about gravel/CX bikes, but hats off, those riders weren’t kidding. I think the force concentrated in the first couple of riders.
The second 120 km was forgettable. Neither I nor my bike liked it. Between Keszthely and the Small Lake Balaton I could not find any shadow, water source. I could only breath warm, heavy air. After that the buffalo reserve had a really noisy gravel road. It countinued in a hot desert aside of the motor way. The sweat and the plain surface caused bruises on my skin. My palms, shoulder and neck were numb and sensitive.
After Fonyód the race area was locked up due to the hunting. That was some sort of CP. If you couldn’t reach it in time, you could have continued your race in the next morning. It was a good motivation for not stopping. The restaurant and pubs were shining aside of the road. After I reached Fonyód, my brain melted down. Fortunately I found a small pub and I drank almost instantly 1 liter of Spritzer. And an half package of salty hazelnuts.
After my camera card got full, I made a couple of photo breaks with my phone. And when I did not find my place in the saddle I made alibi pee breaks. Before the sunset I even eat some sour cherry from a tree. It was deliciously sour.
Around Kőröshegy I got eaten up by the darkness. I was lack of water, when I reached the first village, I cycled to the first house, where I could see some light/movement. They offered me water… beer… barbeque… whiskey with ice… hot shower… and bed for sleep. Their kids weren’t at home, so they could give an another (but bigger) child accomodation for the night. That is the true hungarian hospitality!
Mint Oázis a Sivatagban, úgy ragyogott e bungaló a Fonyódi Magasokban
The second day
After an ultracycling day I usually make a rest day. But not today, because I had unfinished business. 100 km separeted me before the finisch line. I could start the day after 9 am. I got some steep uphills for warming up. I didn’t felt myself well in the saddle. Thankfully other riders were awake and I was able to hunt them down slowly.
The view was fantastic on the top of the hill. I could see the whole viaduct above the valley. Last night I could only it’s silhoutte, and some red lights.
I had the power to maintain my speed from the first day. My left calf muscle was in a much better shape than the at night. But the weather got hotter. Sometimes I was unsure about, if I can reach the next village. In Enying I robbed a backery and I countinued my journey with fresh energy.
I did not get along with drivers this day. Sometimes I sweared, because I had to stop in crossings. And the sun was killing me. Those seconds felt like hours.
My last ultra race was 4 years before. I didn’t have technical issues (my memory card got full und my pedal sensor were not working), I didn’t take any risks in the downhill sections. 29er wheels are amazing. They roll over anything. The mtb geo was uncomfortable on the long flat section. The Fast Trak tires were good, and gave me always enough traction on the loose surface. Even on 2,6 bar. The bar bag touched the preload adjuster of the fork. Next time more SAG is needed. And I need bigger bags, because I could not find enough storage place. This bike might be a good choice for ultra races. But carbon bar, more flexible seatpost, and better padded seat is a must for sustainable riding. Ergonimic grips with barends would be more comfortable in the long run. T-Shirt choice is crucial. I got sunburn while wearing a T-Shirt.
No1: I really liked the end of the race, because I got nostalgic. I have ridden those roads while I was a student in Veszprém.
No2: The course around Marcali was also familiar for me. Zsiga showed me this route in 2017.
No3: Once I have ridden those conrate ribs roads near Kőröshegy. (I love MTB Marathon, 2015) And I ran on them in 2017. Cycling was waaaay better.