I just finished my first brevet, a 200km in the Niederrhein region of Germany. On Friday night I took a train to Venlo on the other side of the border. There had been quite a bit of snow in the preceding week and as a consequence the trains were a bit chaotic. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to get to the youth hostel that I had booked in Hinsbeck before it closed. I found the newly constructed but almost completely empty hostel at about 10pm. The assigned bunk room was completely mine, which was nice so I could spread out and most importantly no snorers to keep me up. I woke the next morning to see that the light snow that started just as I arrived had continued and there was a dusting of snow on the roads. Having cycled to work in the week before through much more than that I wasn't phased. I hit the road for the 10km ride to the start of the brevet in Wachtendonk. I should have slept in a little more, I arrived way too early and soon discovered that I hadn't really brought warm enough clothes to be standing around for long. I was very glad when the group of 10 riders got moving at 8am. The first part of the brevet was along very minor roads, covered in snow. This caused a bit of chaos in the peloton, one rider fell twice in the first 5km, not a good start! Our bikes were a real picture, the wheels derailleurs and chain caked in snow! Soon afterward we lost a rider, who fortunately managed to catch up. Of course we got lost, the first checkpoint was Nederweert, which was only found due to my GPS! From there things became simpler, most of the road was in Holland where there had been less snow and more salt seemed to be used on the roads and cycle paths. Even so it snowed on and off all day and never went much above 4 degrees C all day. From there we headed in the direction of Eindhoven and Helmond to the next checkpoint in America where some food and a little self administered massage did wonders. Not long after setting off I had a puncture. I think I was getting a little frazzled, I couldn't work out how to use my new pump and found that I didn't bring a puncture repair kit. If I punctured my new tube I'd have been stuck. From there we were on the home stretch via the last on the road checkpoint at the BP station in Well, the ticking kilometers were watched very carefully. My chain was seriously squeaking and I made a mental note to carry chain oil in my tool kit, I had some with my luggage at the hostel. The reduced group was in silent road eating mode. The arrival back in Wachtendonk about 90 minutes inside the time limit was muted. Somehow I'd expected a bit more from the end, maybe everyone was only too happy to stop cycling and it was too cold to stand around outside and chat. The 10km run back to the hostel was much slow and the arrival was much appreciated.
The next morning the sun was out, though it was even colder than the day before. The water froze on my bike as I cleaned it! I re-oiled my chain and was greatly relieved that the squeaky punishment that I'd meted on it seemed not to have caused permanent discernible damage. I set off South without a particular aim in mind, other than to pile up the kilometers. 130km and a couple of a castles I arrived in Maastricht, 3 hours later I was soaking in a very nice shower. I'd 350km in a weekend!