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German rider Bernd Hiltel rates the new on-post mountain bike course at Grafenwohr Training Area in Germany as “technical but not too fast.”

German rider Bernd Hiltel rates the new on-post mountain bike course at Grafenwohr Training Area in Germany as “technical but not too fast.” (Seth Robson / S&S)

European edition, Friday, May 18, 2007

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Mountain bikers here are enjoying an on-post, single-track trail that was built with volunteers’ “blood, sweat and tears” to host the second race in IMCOM Europe’s 2007 Mountain Bike Championship Series.

The trail, which snakes through a dense forest dotted with small lakes and streams inside Grafenwöhr’s TA5 range, is open for mountain bikers to use in the lead-up to Saturday’s race.

Grafenwöhr Outdoor Recreation chief Brian Jansma said he built the course with the help of three volunteers — Geoff Farrell, James Weber and Adam Schlang — all local mountain bikers.

“It didn’t cost anything to build. Just blood, sweat and tears,” he said.

The track is similar to one built for last year’s race but there are several challenging new sections, said Jansma, who leads mountain bike rides on off-post trails near Vilseck and Grafenwöhr every Monday evening over summer.

The hardest section on the new track is a newly built, winding, technical hill climb that has seen little use to date, meaning riders must grind their way through a layer of moss that makes it virtually impossible to get to the top without stopping.

Jansma, a tall former football player who rides a full-suspension German Cube mountain bike on local trails, said the Grafenwöhr race predates the IMCOM series, which started in the late 1990s.

The race used to be held off post, starting and finishing at the Grafenwöhr Shutzenhaus and making good use of the hundreds of acres of pine forest surrounding the training area, he said.

“It is on post these days mainly for force-protection reasons,” he said.

One lap of the on-post course is 5.78 kilometers. On race day, men will do four laps and women will do two laps, Jansma said.

“A good winning time for the men will be about one hour and 20 minutes, and the women should finish in just under an hour,” he said.

Outdoor Recreation plans to approach Range Control with a view to making the course available to mountain bikers year round, he added.

“With the influx of soldiers [to Grafenwöhr and Vilseck] I believe it would get a lot of use,” he said.

One of the first people to check out the course, local German rider Bernd Hiltel, rated it “technical but not too fast.”

Hiltel said there are numerous off-post mountain bike races in the Oberpfalz — the area surrounding Grafenwöhr and Vilseck — that American riders also could participate in.

The O-TV Cup, sponsored by a local German television station, includes 11 races in the area over summer, he said.

“The Oberpfalz is a nice place to ride mountain bikes because there are a lot of single trails and it is not too steep,” he said.

The IMCOM championship started with an April race at Aviano, Italy, and will include races at Hohenfels, Ramstein, Ansbach, Darmstadt, Dexheim and Garmisch, all in Germany, over summer.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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