I’m just back from a great day of cycling at an event called AJM Team Time Ride, a rather splendid, easy-going ride around the vineyard hills just outside the center of Maribor.
As you might have read in one of my previous posts, it’s a “race” where teams of 2-4 people compete in getting as close as possible to the average time of all teams. Sounds a bit complicated, right? Here’s how it works: Each team rides around the course together and their time is recorded at the end. When all teams finish an average time is calculated and the team that finishes with a time as close as possible to it is crowned the winner. Of course you never know what the actual average time is going to be, so it’s pure guesswork how fast or slow you should be going, or indeed how many Spritzer* stops you should make.
More than 220 team set out on a route that started in the village of Kamnica and went into the surrounding hills, which are a pallet of forests, meadows and vineyards. This meant a constant up-and-down mix of tarmac and dirt roads and even though the course was only about 25 kilometers long, it still took some time to complete. Mainly it was because of the hundreds of cyclist sharing the roads with you, but people also paused a lot at the many wine producers opening their doors to the masses cycling by.
The “most average team wins” concept kept pace low as well. Riders had plenty of time to make the hilly round trip, so no one was in a hurry to get back. I took my friends Nejc and Gregor with me and we entered as Prazni Krigli, or “The Empty Tankard Team”. We each strapped a beer tankard to our backpack and set off. Right around the first couple of corners came the biggest climb of the course which could seriously ruin your (otherwise quite perfect) day, if you weren’t prepared mentally or physically. Some were already stepping off and pushing their bikes through the forest, cursing their teammates for talking them into ever doing the ride.
Because of the local geography, the route was quite tricky and unpredictable.There was very little flat terrain. Short, steep hills prevented you from seeing very far ahead and there wasn’t a definite last climb where you could give it your all. You couldn’t really tell how much you still had to go. Even if you thought you were safe for a while, the road picked up sharply just around the corner.
Not that there was any need to go fast. We made good time, avoided most of the wine cellars and even though we helped one lady with a puncture and had lunch before going back to finish the clock, we were still 10 minutes faster than average. Prizes were given out to the winners (2 secs from average) and runners-up (4 secs from average), as well as a host of other achievements. Sadly our team failed to grab any of the prizes – holiday packages in Malta, Greece and Turkey, Scott mountain bikes and Briko cycling gear all escaped our grasp.
While we sadly didn’t get anything at the giveaway, nature more than made up for it and rewarded us with great views and lovely weather.In the end we had a great time and were quite proud of ourselves for having completed the course. As the leader of our team I was most pleased that both Nejc and Gregor, who are not that into cycling as I am, came with me, pushed through the hard bits and enjoyed a wonderful day. To me, that’s a lot more important than winning any prize or title. I hope they’ll come with me again when the time comes to spin the pedals some more.
The AJM Team Time Ride has now been going on for around 7 years, and I believe it’ll be here for at least that many more. With quality sponsors, a large turnout from all over the country and great organisational support, the event has nowhere to go but up. I believe we’ll be there to see how it goes next year, hopefully with some international teams as well.
Some more pictures for you down below, and click here if you want to go to the AJM TTR home page for more info.
For more on cycling in Maribor and the surrounding area, visit the official tourist info site.
*Just to let you know if you don’t already. A spritzer (or špricer, as we call it) is a glass of wine mixed with sparkling water. Served cold and very refreshing. 🙂