Sachsen Classic 2013: A Saxon on the move

Dino Eisele
Saxony Classic 2013
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O b that fits? A VW Beetle convertible looks dainty enough in modern traffic. But when a giant like Lars Riedel tries to find space behind the valance, every centimeter counts that the seat can be moved back. But the 1.99 meter long athlete fits surprisingly well on the soft seat. Only the footwell is a little cramped with shoe size 48. The biggest obstacle for this discovery tour in the footsteps of the Sachsen Classic has been removed.

The 1996 Olympic champion in Atlanta knows the region - after all, he grew up in the small town of Thurm, less than ten kilometers from Zwickau city center. Today he lives on Tegernsee. And so the 46-year-old is also looking forward to the trip to the southwestern part of the Free State. He hasn't visited some places since the fall of the Wall. Such as Schönfels Castle: 'We were there as children with my parents, I'm curious what it looks like there today.'

Lars Riedel on the Saxony Classic Route

The carefully restored The walls do not correspond at all to the memories: 'It's amazing how it has changed.' Two ladies who take care of the walls can't quite understand his astonishment. 'The last time I was there was during the GDR era, I just didn't have time.' An excuse that doesn't seem to work, but with an entry in the guest book and the promise to stop by again soon, the always charmingly smiling multiple world champion maneuvers himself out of the affair.

Actually there is far too little time to to explore the region of the Sachsen Classic appropriately. And that is not only due to the limited time budget and the large number of attractions on the roadside, but also to the fact that the big Saxon is recognized at every corner. And Riedel always takes the time to chat with the fans.

With 25 hp, Riedel can make his way through

The beetle starts moving again. In contrast to its pilot, the oldie has resisted any form of sporting activity since it rolled off the production line in 1952. 25 HP from a displacement of 1.1 liters have a hard time moving 800 kilograms of the car plus occupants quickly. At least by today's standards.

Nevertheless, the Volkswagen painted in two shades of green is suitable as a luxury item. The roof doesn't even have to be closed on this tour. Sunshine, blue skies and summer temperatures are perfectIngredients for this convertible excursion on winding country roads in central Germany, where the participants of the Sachsen Classic will also drive. And even if the Beetle can only reach the three-digit speed range with difficulty, the potentially faster road users react calmly to the strolling Wolfsburg.

Patience seems to run in the Saxons' blood. The Göltzschtalbrücke near Mylau proves this. With a total length of 574 meters and a height of 78 meters, a monumental appearance in itself, it is also the largest brick bridge in the world. From 1846 to 1851, up to 50,000 bricks were piled up every day. In total, the landmark of the Vogtland consists of around 26 million building blocks, all made in Saxony. If you want to admire the engineering masterpiece, you can go 150 meters into the air with a tethered balloon nearby.

Rostbratwurst on the roadside

Riedel stays on the ground, the tour continues south through forests and on extensive fields in a wide arc east of Plauen. There are always snacks with sausages from the grill on the roadside. And even if it looks amazingly similar to another specialty: You can order a Thuringian in the neighboring country. In Saxony one orders roster.

Around noon the temptation becomes too strong. In Oelsnitz, the beetle stops in front of a grill snack. It's busy right now. 'Our hamburgers are very tasty,' smiles owner Peter Neidel, but it was already clear that it had to be a roster with mustard. Although Riedel is 'more of a sweet guy'. 'I usually prefer a jam bread to a sausage roll.'

Unsynchronized transmission speaks up

But soon he turns the cute ignition key again and presses it Starter button. The boxer starts immediately. Only the transmission is beating on the tour. In particular, changing from second to third gear is not always easy for car enthusiasts. With loud scratching, the gearbox reminds you to double-clutch.
When downshifting, the unsynchronized gearbox also wants to be kept happy with double-declutching. Comment from the driver after another failed attempt: 'Shifting is not a secret - everyone can see that.' A classic car takes a little time to get used to.

Like many Saxons, Riedel has plenty of gasoline in his blood: 'In the past, cars were always the big issue during training.' In contrast to the majority of the GDR population, there is no Trabant in his car biography. 'I learned to drive in a Moskvich, I just didn't fit into the Trabi.' He bought his first own car after the fall of the Wall in 1991, a Ford Orion with 79 hp. Then a Mercedes follows. Back then, the Stuttgart-based sponsorTrack and field athletes with company cars. 'Normally you got a 190, but I didn't fit in. So I was allowed to choose a 124 for the same budget, but that was a 200 D with 75 hp.'

Sea of ​​flowers and healing water in Bad Elster

In view of the sluggish diesel, it may be surprising that Riedel collected a lot of tickets back then, but that is easy to explain: 'Downhill I wanted to take the momentum with me for the next ascent, usually the speed cameras lurked right there. ' Today he is spared in the Beetle.

The green Beetle slowly approaches the southernmost point of the tour, the spa town of Bad Elster. Another city that the axis of exile hasn't visited for a long time. A visit is not only worthwhile for health reasons: if in some places spa communities exude a rather musty charm, here in the triangle of the three countries, the spa houses, mostly built at the end of the 19th century, charmingly attract guests. Overman-high flowering rhododendron bushes in the parks underline the flair.

'Are you Lars Riedel?' Asks a nurse who is strolling through the park with a female guest. After a short chat, Riedel smiles and tells how he pretended to be his brother when asked: 'Look at me, do I look like a top athlete? With thin arms?'
The cheerfulness does not suffer much later when it comes to the healing spring. Nothing against mineral water, but if it weren't for your health, you would probably avoid the metallic-tasting medicinal water. At least you can gain this insight from your critical look after the first sip.

A piece of piebald has to be

'Well, now I need a check,' he announced a few kilometers later. Check? Calling the specialty a bland sheet cake would hardly do the sweet Saxon specialty justice. After all, the thought of his beloved cake often triggers acute homesickness in athletes.

Fortunately, a sign in Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz points to the Schürer bakery. The longed-for temptation can be found in the display as egg pancake, fruit pancake or, slightly modified, as a Russian plucked cake. The former discus thrower takes two pieces of cake.

Mecca for space travel fans

Around 100 meters behind the bakery everything revolves around the most famous son of Community: Sigmund Jähn, the first German cosmonaut. In 1978 it circled the earth for about seven days in the Russian space station Salut 6. A year later the 'permanent exhibition of the first joint USSR-GDR cosmos flight' was opened in his home town. Since 2007 the collection has been in new rooms with an adjacent planet park, space travel playground and Jähnsdecommissioned MIG 21 in front of the entrance.

The visit is not only worthwhile for space fans. Inside, space suits can be admired and an original training block from the Russian MIR space station can be viewed. 'They wouldn't have taken me as a cosmonaut back then. I'm too big and muscular.' Soyuz crews were allowed to bring a maximum of 1.90 meters and a weight of 96 kilograms. In the confines of the space capsule, such strict limits are hardly surprising.

The departure follows far too early in view of the extensive exhibition managed by an association. Now it's off towards Chemnitz. 'You chose a nice route,' said Riedel, praising the organizers of the Sachsen Classic. There is no shortage of curves. And the VW that pushed out early on also offers a certain entertainment value - despite the leisurely pace.

Tee near Chemnitz

Since the end of his professional sports career in 2008, the Saxon has a new passion for himself discovered: golf. At charity tournaments for the celebrity club Eagles, preferably for a good cause. When the beetle approaches Klaffenbach, Riedel decides to hit a few balls for a moment. 'Golf is totally relaxing.' The fact that threshing on small white balls has an unflattering old-man image attached to it has changed. 'Since Tiger Woods there has been less blasphemy,' says Riedel with a smile, alluding less to its successes on the pitch than to the ladies.

The secret recipe lies primarily in the technique, the correct use of the swing and one a good shot of positive thinking - he's giving seminars on this topic today. And so he thrashes the ball over 150 meters into the green on the driving range. It is difficult to believe that size and strength should be completely irrelevant. The author's pathetic attempts at least suggest that a little practice should not be enough.

Hearty food in the Zwickau brewery

Back in Zwickau, it is time for the oldtimer to move into the hotel's underground car park for the night. Meanwhile, its occupants head for the brewery in the old town. As the name suggests, home-brewed beer is served here, so it's better to be chauffeured in a taxi. Anyone who loves hearty cuisine is in the right place in the cozy restaurant. Riedel chooses the brewhouse pan with three different steaks, bacon, bratwurst, sauerkraut and fried potatoes. 'Since my active days, I've been eating what I like. It's enough if I exercise healthily and don't overdo it.' The former high-performance athlete claims that he no longer does weight training. In view of his physique, that sounds more like stooping.

The next day, the town of Meerane is on the road book. Famous and sometimes feared because of the 'steep wall'. This is the name of a 340 meter long street with twelvePercent gradient, which sounds like less than it is. In a bike race in the GDR, the Peace Tour, this section was one of the highlights of the race.

The steep face of Meerane: test for real guys

'As children we are here on our bikes up. Anyone who managed to do that without getting down was a real guy. ' The special trick is that there is little run-up and to top it all off, the slope tightened a little shortly before the end. After all, the Beetle manages the task confidently in second gear. By the way: A special test will take place here at the Sachsen Classic.

From Meerane with its neat Wilhelminian style villas - many of them in need of renovation - it is not far to Mülsental. The future top athlete grew up in the village of Thurm and was infected with the car virus at an early age. 'They drove here in the GDR rally championship, and as children we knew a double corner that hit a lot of people.' For the boys, the pilots' departures were obviously a highlight.

Riedel visits places of childhood

The village runs along the banks of the stream of the same name. Riedel shows his old school, the gymnasium, the sports field, and the forest behind, in which there are plenty of mushrooms. Then a diversion to a dangling to the other bank of the stream is necessary. 'After the flood in 2002, a lot was done here for flood protection,' explains the driver when the reason for the changed traffic routing becomes visible: During this year's flood, the stream underwent the road to about ten meters on the other bank, the asphalt surface is lying There now a good two meters lower.

Past his former home and over a curved bridge, the Volkswagen rolls back onto the main road towards Zwickau. Out of the corner of his eye he suddenly notices a cyclist: 'That doesn't exist, it was my mother.' So turn around and afterwards: 'I didn't tell her at all because I thought we didn't have time to visit anyway.' The green cabriolet stops on a side street next to Mother Sigrid, who was initially quite surprised but then delighted.

The 16-cylinder Auto Union roars

'Nobody believes us that we happen to be my mother met ', Riedel suspects on the way to Zwickau. There is still a mandatory visit for car fans in the August Horch city: We want to go to the museum in the heart of the old Audi factory. On an area of ​​3,000 square meters, the exhibition shows the entire spectrum of Saxon automobile construction. Noble Horch luxury models are here in a contemporary ambience like a replica gas station. One of the highlights is of course the prominently placed Auto Union Silver Arrow. 'Would you like to hear how it sounds?' The question ofMuseum guide first causes astonishment. Does he want to turn on the 16-cylinder engine especially for the celebrity visit?

With a smile, he walks to a screen embedded in the floor next to the right front wheel: 'Now that's only half as loud as it is in real life.' And a little later the legendary mid-engine roars while idling - even if only virtually via loudspeakers. Probably the most beautiful music for people with petrol in their blood. Even if not necessarily in the long run.

When the boxer starts up again a little later, it sounds much less spectacular, but somehow calming. Another small lap of honor through Zwickau, then this trip is already over. For Lars Riedel it was just a foretaste: If nothing comes up, he will come back to the Sachsen Classic.

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