Alpentour 2004 – the ultimate freedom …

Alpentour Sign

8.- 20.8.2004

What is Freedom? A cowboy smoking on the Marlboro Ranch looking out into the endless prairie? Or a plastic card with which you can just buy you whatever you want?

Both sound convincing on first sight. But: the guy from the cigarette commercial died on lung cancer … and honestly, tell me how you can buy something that only exists deep inside each of us?

The advertising industry constantly plays with and abuses the word freedom. How do you now know what freedom really is, when your focus just lies on career and all the social activities that keep us busy?

But we are sure that there are many individual answers to this question. One of those is what the mountainbiker among us finds at 2000 meter above sea level. Up here it is totally irrelevant whether or not you have a platinum card, if you are a senior exec or an apprentice. In the mountains, you are all by yourself, your bike and Mother Nature. No traffic lights, no exhaust fumes, no noise, laws or bosses reminding you of your project’s deadline. Your limits up there are decided by the mountain, the weather and your own fitness level. Then you look down into the busy valley, start inhaling clean air and relaxing. Then you feel so small in the middle of all the nature and still, you´re feeling great. The best of – it is for free!

So for us this is freedom. No shopping excesses or a great career, but waking up in the mountains to   stunning nature and majestic vistas.

On our quest to feel freedom we decided to do the Alpentour Steiermark yet another time. This is a 14 stages Mountainbike ride through Styria. The great thing is that you can book your hotels upfront, and  your luggage will be transported to the next location. You only need to focus on biking, enjoying the constantly changing landscape and weather conditions.


Tour Data:

Date: 8.- 20.8.2004

Distance: 864 km

Ascent: 21.950 hm

Total time (net): 75 hours 29 minutes












Stage 1: Graz-Maria Lankowitz


It´s time to rumble. Our grand tour has started. Strengthend after a big feast due to my sister´s birthday and relaxed after a good night’s sleep at the 5 star “Hotel Mosheim”” we started at 8 am in the morning.

Along our usual training routes (from our time in Graz) we started our way to Stattegg, following the route oft the European Mountainbike Championships. The first proper uphill started already after a few kilometers up to Leber and further towards Geierkogel. Unfortunately, there were some waypoints missing and so we did some extra ascent and kilometer. Back on route, we did the downhill to Gratkorn.

Further on, the route leads us via Gratwein and Stift Rein up to Plesch. The uphill there was quite technical and would for sure have been more fun downhill. To make it worse, the restaurant on top of the Plesch – which we chose for a break – was closed 🙁

So we continued down to Geistthal – at least that was what we intended. We ended up in Pankrazen and had to go back up again to Geistthal. The first stage was too easy anyway, so why not do some extra ascents …

Back on track, we passed Heilige Wasser – „Holy waters“ which as a tip you definitely could drop, because it´s just on asphalt and not really worth the effort. We continued to Kainach and up to Ullikreuz. Through a nice forrest road and a fantastic trail we made our way to Bärnbach. Passing the Lipizzaner stud of Piber we arrived in Köflach and reached today’s target: Maria Lankowitz and our place for tonight – Hotel Herold.

Stage data:

Distance: 81,26 km
2142 hm
Net bike time: 7 hours 20 minutes
Weather: First sunny, then cloudy and at the end rain

Download file: Graz-Koeflach-Track.gpx


Stage 2: Maria Lankowitz – Knittelfeld


The first 65m climb of stage #2 were already done the day before, so we started right into the 16 km long incline to the Stubalpe.

The first couple of kilometres on asphalt, then going off-road in a technical terrain with a lot of slippery roots and rocks. Further onto some nice forest roads and into a smooth single trail, returning onto the road for the last climb. Just a few meters from the top we were caught by the first – but not the last – rain shower of the day.

After enjoying a hot soup and a Coke at „Altes Almhaus” (a little tavern on top of the mountain), we descended via Gaberl and Stüblergut to Kleinlobming.

Even though it was getting darker and darker, we decided to attack the second big climb of the day up to Steinplan. Another 900m climb (after already 1100m in our legs). After a few flat kilometres, we had to find a place hiding from the upcoming thunderstorm. After an hour with hail, lightning and thunder, the sun came out again and we continued our way up to the peak.

In the middle of the final climb, the thunderstorm came back and hit us in the middle of nowhere. With almost nothing to hide we had to speed up to find some shelter. After another 45 minutes of hiding, we tried our luck again escaping the thunder behind us.

Looking around, we could see the sun everywhere, but above us – A lot of dark clouds and heavy rain. With so much water from above, the muddy path just became harder and harder to bike on.

Hours later, we finally reached the top of Steinplan. The clocked showed 6 p.m. and we had to speed up in order to reach today´s destination Knittelfeld before dawn.

We speeded at the descent and arrived at the hotel at 7 p.m. for some nice and warm shower and fresh clothes.

Stage data:

Distance: 69,30 km
Ascent: 2244 hm
Net riding time: 7 hours 42 minutes
Weather: Started with sun, followed by thunderstorms, hail and sun again

Download file: Koeflach-Knittelfeld-Track.gpx


Stage 3: Knittelfeld – Oberzeiring


Sunshine all over Austria – all Austria? Not really, a little town called Knittelfeld is still not giving up its resistance against the warm and sunny weather.

We had to start into stage 3 with low temperatures and cloudy sky. Yet another time, we struggled to find some Alpentour signs and experienced another detour. This time only 5 km and luckily almost no additional climbs.

Back on track, we started with a warm up, up Tremmelberg. From there down again to towards Seckau – a bit bit strange as this was actually the wrong direction … this new loop brought a couple of additional km’s including 320 meters ascent that were tougher than we thought.

Having done this extra loop we can at least say that we have seen the monastery of Seckau from all different angels :-).

We continued our rout to Gaal and up a long ascent to Sommerthörl. A steep uphill on asphalt was getting very soon much more technical. This time, the weather god was with us and pushed the dark clouds into different directions. We finally arrived at the peak, this time in dry (but sweaty) clothes.

After the downhill towards St. Oswald, the last kilometres towards Oberzeiring were just a piece of cake.

Stage data:

Distance: 61,20 km
Ascent: 1639 hm
Net riding time: 5 hours 46 minutes
Weather:  very cloudy in the morning, then sunny and very warm (up to 32°C)

Download file: Knittelfeld-Oberzeiring-Track.gpx


Stage 4: Oberzeiring – Moosheim


Day 4 started with a heavy climb up Lauskogel. There we met the icon of the Alpentour: „Ossi”. He has been the man on all brochures and posters of the Alpentour and knows the trails in Styria like no one else.

After the downhill back to Oberzeiring we continued our climb up to Gellsee. When we arrived at the top, Ossi’s “team car” (in form of his wife) was already waiting with a proper biker snack and they invited us to join.

This was the fuel we needed for the downhill to Oberwölz and the climbs to come.

Normally this stage would end in St. Peter am Kammersberg. But we decided to go further and added the Sölkpass with another 930 meters of ascent (maybe a mistake?). And if that wouldn’t be hard enough we also had heavy head wind down the Sölkpass – never experienced having to pedal on a steep downhill …

After we arrived in “our” Schloß Moosheim we relaxed with a great massage and a great dinner.

Stage data:

Distance: 86,20 km
Ascent: 2165 hm
Net riding time: 7 hours 51 minutes
Weather: sunny and hot (up to 36°C) and some dark clouds in the end

Download file: Oberzeiring-St.Peter-Kbg.gpx;
Download file: St.Peter-Kbg.-Haus-I.-E.gpx


Stage 5: Moosheim – Ramsau


The first couple of kilometres from Schloss Moosheim to Pruggern were relatively easy along the river Enns. After that coffee ride, the first climb up Galsterberg started: given the high temperatures that morning, we had have seen easier 600 meters of ascent …

On the top of the mountain, Katharina had a brilliant idea: “Let´s take that shortcut over there, such that we can stay on the same level of altidtude to get over to Seewigtal.” At the end, we had to do 200 meters of additional climbing, cycled on beautiful trails in the woods, had to cross two barbwires and were mostly doing that on paths that were prohibited for mountain bikers. One of those unexpected adventures which we love and will always remember …

Back on the route again, we went down from the Styrian Bodensee and up again into the Gumpental valley. After a little Kneipp treatment in “our” little creek up in the mountain – the one we try to stop whenever we are biking in that area – we continued up to Hauser Kaibling.

Climbing up to Hauser Kaibling the heaviest part of today is the 100m climb up the the Alpine world cup downhill slope … quite a challenge …

From the Kaibling, we had a great downhill to Oberhaus, enjoying the nice trail along the river Enns to Schladming and from there right up another climb into the Wellness and Spa center of the Hotel Berghof in Ramsau.

Stage data:

Distance: 50,30 km
Ascent: 1610 hm
Net riding time: 4 hours 58 minutes
Weather: Sunny and hot (up to 38°C)

Download file: Haus-Ramsau-Track.gpx


Stage 6: Ramsau – Bad Mitterndorf


The heavy rain in the morning didn’t really make it easier to get out of bed for yet another stage in the rain. But no way to escape: the next hotel was already booked, transport of luggage organized – so we had simply had to get there by the end of the day …

Well equipped with our well-proven rain gear, we made our way down from Ramsau to the valley via Lodenwalke (the famous little factory for loden textile). From there further up to Burgstaller and finally down towards Weissenbach. From there we continued on the easy bike trail along the river Enns to Moosheim and the short climb up to downtown Gröbming.

Continuing through the village of Gröbming, we followed the valley back to Winkel (a continuous slight incline), towards the king’s stage of the Alpentour. That’s where the real fun starts: Up the “Öfen” (ovens), a steep, but beautiful climb at 25% for more than 1 kilometer and probably the most epic climb during the whole two weeks of biking …

After managing the Öfen climb, there are some 15 kilometres of climbing until you get up to Viehbergalm – unique mountain pastures. We really recommend you to stop for a break and some of the best original food you get in the Ennstal valley – Go for a Steirerkasbrot and Almdudler at Ritzingerhütte.

The rest of the stage was relatively easy. First a couple of hundred meters descent, rolling from the Salzastausee (a water reservoir) further into our final location: Bad Mitterndorf.

Stage data:

Distance: 61,20 km
Ascent: 1229 hm
Net riding time: 4 hours 42 minutes
Weather: First rainy and pretty cold (15°C), then sunny and warm

Download file: Ramsau-Bad-Mitterndorf-Track.gpx


Stage 7: Bad Mitterndorf – St. Gallen


Yet another morning where view out of the hotel window wasn’t very promising: Dark clouds and rain against the window. And as always: there is no such thing as bad weather, thus: rain clothes on and back in the saddle.

First thing in the morning, we rolled by the ski jumping hill of Kulm and from there to Wörschachwald and up to Spechtensee. Totally soaked we took the downhill to Wörschach and stopped at Sport Scherz to buy the ultimate rain outfit.

Better equipped against the rainy weather, we passed Döllach before we had to climb the Mitterberg. From there further on to Lassing, passing castle Strechau and Selzthal before we started on the tough way to Admont – 15 kilometres of up and down …

After we arrived in Admont, we had another 5 km of relaxing ride before we headed up a steep and technical ascent towards the Buchauersattel. From there a technical trail brought us to our final destination for today, St. Gallen.

Stage data:

Distance: 79,84 km
Ascen: 1223 hm
Net riding time: 5 hours 31 minutes
Weather: Heavy rain and dark clouds

Download file: Bad-Mitterndorf-St.Gallen.gpx


Stage 8: St. Gallen – Palfau


It would be more surprising if sunbeams would wake us up. But yet again, the rain against the hotelwindow said „Good morning!”

Nevertheless, and well used to rainy days by now, we got on our bikes and made our way towards Palfau, our next destination on this tour.

First peak of the day was Erbsattel. Since the path up Zinödl was more or less a mudslide after the rain during the last couple of days, we decided to take the normal road. Once we reached the top, we continued on the original route to Hackenschmiede. After a short ascent we followed another downhill to Kirchenlandl.

After another up and down we came to the village of Gams near Hieflau. From there the going got tough. It started with a technical trail and got tougher and tougher. After a while, we had to climb with the bikes on our back, just next to a steep cliff.

Arriving at a bridge over the Salza, we know that we were at the bottom of the last uphill for today. Luckily, we didn´t know how though it would become with the deep terrain and lot of mud.

Therefore, we had a short pit stop at the Naturfreundehütte, before we continued up to Niederscheibenberg. The last couple of kilometres from there to Palfau were easy and we happily climbed off the bike after yet another tough and wet day.

Stage data:

Distance: 67,84 km
Ascent: 1693 hm
Net riding time: 6 hours 01 minute
Weather: Heavy rain showers

Download file: St.Gallen-Palfau.gpx


Stage 9: Palfau – Mariazell


Today was the day when the weather gods finally decided to be nice with us again … We didn’t see the sun at first, but just after breakfast the first sun beams made their way through the fog.

It seemed as if Katharina was powered by solar energy when we did our first ascent up to Hühnermauer … and she seemed to be re-loaded throughout the whole stage today. Just amazing.

À propos Hühnermauer: Roland was reminded again to listen to Katharina and her navigation skills, because that hill was unfortunately the wrong one to climb … a couple of meters in vain – we had to go back the way we came from.

Thus, we choose a different route on forest roads and nice trails far away from the main road up to Reuschlackenhütte. From there we pedalled our way up to Köckensattel and down to Mariazell, today´s final destination.

Since Katharina had turned on the Turbo today, we already arrived at the hotel at 3 p.m. and decided to do some sightseeing and shopping.

Stage data:

Distance: 62,32 km
Ascent: 1297 hm
Net riding time: 4 hours 27 minutes
Weather: first foggy, then sunny and warm

Download file: Palfau-Mariazell-Track.gpx


Stage 10: Mariazell – Spital am Semmering


We left Mariazell with the sun shining down on us – and it continued that way during the rest of the day.

Crossing the village of Mariazell and down the Kreuzberg towards Mooshuben. From there we ascended up to Dürriegelalm. Last time we biked there, Katharina went off over the bar in a spectacular fall – luckily she avoided the move this time …

From there a technical descent lead us to Mürzsteg. Since we´re in the Alps, we knew that going down means that we had to go up again …We took a bite of our energy bar, and up we went towards Neuberg an der Mürz. Seemed as if that climb was too hard for Roland’s back wheel which decided to deflate spontaneously.

After a short pit stop we attacked the tough ascent, before going downhill Kapellen. From there we continued rolling towards Mürzzuschlag and the last 7 km up to Spital am Semmering, our stop for tonight.

From our hotel room we could already see our next day´s biggest challenge: the Stuhleck – known from the Alpine Worldcup races on Semmering.

Stage data:

Distance: 70,39 km
Ascent: 1606 hm
Net riding time: 5 hours 46 minutes
Weather: from start to finish just great and warm (up to 36 degrees)

Download file: Mariazell-Muerzzuschlag-Track.gpx


Stage 11: Spital am Semmering – Fischbach


What a weather this morning – makes it easy to get out of bed and on our bikes.

The way from our hotel to the bottom of the Mountain Stuhleck was just the right warm-up. We passed the Geißschläger Mill and from there we started the steep 1000 meters of ascent towards the top of Stuhleck. A climb with almost no possibility for a short break until you arrive at the summit. We caught our breath while watching the Austrian Armed Forces during their military drill.

The owner of the Landhotel Onkel Fritz, where we spent last night, recommended us to take an alternative route from up there. Instead of going down and up again (as the Alpentour original route suggests), we continued along the plateau via Pretul, Peter Rosegger’s home, Hauereck,  and further on to Alpl. A fantastic tip, since it took us on nice little trails –  sometimes quite technical – to Alpl.

Despite a little crash of Katharina and a little detour around Alpl we arrived well in our hotel in Fischbach. What a hotel: when entered the bathroom to take a shower, we felt being time travellers back to the 50´s. That itself is for sure worth a trip – just for looking at it, but certainly not for staying there…

Stage data:

Distance: 45,79 km
Ascent: 1709 hm
Net riding time: 5 hours 18 minutes
Weather: Very warm and sunny in the morning, followed by thunderstorm twice during today

Download file: Muerzzuschlag-Fischbach-Track.gpx


Stage 12: Fischbach – Birkfeld:


Today was psychologically tough – know that we would end up only 10 kilometres away from this morning (taking the direct route), but having to complete a full 63 km on the bike with a lot of climbing is a mental challenge.

Nevertheless, we were in a great mood and started with a high-speed descent down to the bottom of the skiing resort Strallegg. From there we passed “Toter Mann” (literally “dead man”, a known hiking spot in Styria) and around the mountain (always ascending) down to the village of Miesenbach.

From there we had to climb up again to Wolfsgrube, but were rewarded by an epic downhill followed by a nice ice cream in Pöllau.

After this short break, we finally headed towards Birkfeld (up until now we were only heading away from today´s final destination all day long).
The only thing between us and Birkfeld was a very sunny and hot 500 meter ascent to Gschaid. From there the only thing that was left today was a nice downhill to Birkfeld.

We were really looking forward to Birkfeld all day as we had agreed to meet our dear friends Susi and Didi for dinner, who we haven’t seen for months.

Stage data:

Distance: 63,14 km
Ascent: 1578 hm
Net riding time: 5 hours 10 minutes
Weather: extremely hot (up to 42 degrees) and sunny

Download file: Fischbach-Birkfeld-Track.gpx


Stage 13: Birkfeld – Graz


The last stage of our 2nd Alpentour – and this stage is not really an easy one to finish with.

We had started with the first 150 meters of ascent into downtown Birkfeld. After a short downhill we headed up again towards Brandlucken. Since the normal route was not picturesque enough for Katharina, we decided to take the tougher one on a hiking trail. It is hard to admit that, but I have to say it was a wise decision.

From Brandlucken we continued down again to Weizklamm and towards Passail. From there we took a shortcut directly to Arzberg – thanks Susi, and Didi for the great tip. From there on, we only had one tough and long climb up the Schöckl before finishing our 13 stage-trip in the Styrian Alps.

When we arrived on top of the Schöckl, we celebrated amazing two weeks with an Almdudler.

From there it only went downhill … especially for Roland´s front tire. After the first couple of meters into the final downhill that we have been looking forward for the last 13 days, Roland’s tire said good-bye … Katharina had to go down alone and get some help for Roland and his bike as we didn’t manage to fix his tire.

At least Roland had a nice walk down the mountain with his bike on his shoulder and we had yet another story to share from a fantastic trip through the Styrian Mountains.

And did we find some freedom? Absolutely!!! Just try for yourself …

Stage data:

Distance: 64,26 km
Ascent: 1813 hm
Net riding time: 4 hours 57 minutes
Weather: very humid, warm (34° Celsius) and sunny

Download file: Birkfeld-Graz-Track.gpx


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