The highlight of week two of the RV racing tour was the 39th Annual World Loppet King Ludwig Race near Garmisch Partenkirchen in Germany. The race was named for the famous German King Ludwig the 2nd, who at the age of 40 was declared insane and shortly there after, met an untimely and suspicious death in a lake with his psychiatrist. Near the time of his death he was in the process of building his 4th castle, the Neuschwanstein. For 17 years a huge fortress was being erected on a hilltop that would have the most modern capabilities of the time, including running water from a spring in the mountain. At the time of this death in 1886 the construction of the castle was halted. Ludwig was heavily in debt and building the castle would only put more strain on the creditors whom which he owed millions of Marks. Only 34 of the 126 rooms were completed and the castle was missing another tower, which was to be constructed later. The castle is said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle. This castle was to be the centerpiece of the race. We were to climb over the hills and through the woods to King Ludwig’s castle and then back. All in all, the course would be 21 kilometers. Due to warm temperatures and a lack of snow, the course was changed and we would only ski up and down the sides of the valleys and would not circumnavigate the castle.
This race was a World Loppet race and is said to be one of the biggest cross-country races in all of Germany. In total, close to 3,000 people lined up for the start of the race on Saturday. Some would be doing the marathon or the 50K while others (us) would be doing the “sprint”, or the 21K. This would be Lanny’s longest ski race she’s ever competed in and would also be our first race with this many people. The start would be in waves, with the top competitors from other World Loppet races from the year, and the top competitors from this race last year in the first wave. A “wave” is a group or cluster of people that start all at the same time. You are packed in, shoulder to shoulder. The start is as long as several football fields and as wide as a landing strip. The waves of people are separated by several yards and a banner. Each wave is 20 or so people deep with people shoulder to shoulder, about 100-150 people wide. There’s no room to move, let alone ski. As Lanny and I are standing at the start, we are thinking to ourselves, “how is this going to work?” We are standing at the start of the race, surrounded by thousands of people who are all eager to “win” the big race and suddenly the gun goes off… no warning. The mass of people then lurches forward, then comes to a stop. Nobody can move, it take a few seconds for things to start up again and then…. It’s utter chaos. Everyone is trying to win the first 100 meters. With no room to move, people are skiing all over each other’s skis and stepping on their poles. I see a gap and I dive into it. I see another gap and I sprint for that. Meanwhile all around me people are going down. It’s total carnage! Left and right people are falling and then people are plowing right through, and over the people who have fallen. There’s screaming and some cursing in almost every European language. Broken ski poles lay strewn all over the course. I feel like Kevin Costner in “Dances with Wolves” when he goes out on that buffalo hunt with his new friends. He’s riding his horse and is totally over whelmed by what is going on around him. Down goes a buffalo on his right and another on this left. He’s wide eyed and riding hard. Suddenly he get’s his groove and starts the hunt. That’s me now. I yell to Lanny to follow me and I attack! I dive for an open piece of snow, just barely making it ahead of some guy’s skis. I double pole (just use my arms to push myself) up a narrow opening between two very aggressive German men. I then narrowly miss a collision with a Russian as I surged into another opening. Every once in a while I’d look back to see if Lanny was there and my last two glances confirmed a fear… I’d lost her. She was momentarily swallowed up by the sea of carnage and took a fall. She later said that she was so nervous about getting left behind that no sooner than when her butt hit the ground she was back on her feet fighting through the crowds to reconnect to me. And thus so went the race… see a hole make a sprint for it. We spent the entire 21K sprinting to pass people. It took all of the 21K to pass the earlier waves of people. It was one of the fastest 21K I’ve ever skied. There was action the whole time. Even as we neared the finish there were people still falling and poles still being snapped in two by aggressive skiers.
When all was said and done we finished 3rd and 4th. Not bad considering we started near the back and fought a huge fight to get to the front. After the race we couldn’t believe how exciting the race was. We loved the carnage and the aggressiveness. It was entertaining for us to pass people and get nasty looks from the guys who thought they shouldn’t be passed by two little girls in American flag suits.
After everything was winding down we took a drive over to the castle that we didn’t get a chance to race around. It was, like most castles, and amazing piece of work. We did a tour and were able to see most of the finished rooms in the castle. The paintings on the inside where breathtaking and must have been excruciatingly difficult to do. The year after King Ludwig’s death the castle became a museum and still to this day was never and will never be finished.
Unlike the Neuschwanstein castle our little RV trip does have an end. One more week of racing and we’ll turn in the RV and fly home. Our last week takes us to Ruhpolding, Germany in southern Bavaria. We will once again compete against the Germans in a German Cup race. We are both looking to again finish strong against the German’s with clean shooting, and fast skiing. Check back for an update on the final week of the RV racing tour!