Little youngGUNS Bikers Rode Through the Saalbach and Petzen Resorts in Austria
It’s been two years since two 12-year-old lads managed to go downhill on three active volcanoes in four days under the guidance of the MTB freerider Gaspi. These days, the two are already growing their first “dustaches” so Gaspi, as a coach with a nose for talent, chose two wildlings nearly half their age: the 7-year-old twins Kuba and Péťa who had enough strength, courage, and technical skills to conquer Austrian hills – and at two destinations at that.
“To take two such little shrimps to the mountains is a huge commitment but I trusted them because even when they’re only seven, they’re already experienced and I had no reason to doubt them,” says Gaspi.
The first host to the new youngGUNS stars was the Austrian Saalbach. The lads were faced with a tricky task posed by the BIG_5 Challenge, which is an extraordinary gravity bike tour in the mountains surrounding the municipalities of Saalbach, Hinterglemm, and Leogang. For the boys to make it, the whole accompanying crew had to be packing enough energy bars. Anyone with kids knows they need motivation. On the first trails, the lads did so masterfully, with their 24” rigid bikes and just 10 cm of suspension fork travel, that even the pimped-out biking champs with a complete DH gear had to make way and just shake their heads in disbelief. That encouraged the boys to even bigger shenanigans. They went off the leash and a few falls in dusty bends were even accompanied by one or two tears. But the boys are like rubber balls and the motivating Gaspi eventually led them to a successful finish of the BIG_5. Back at the hotel, the boys celebrated their skills with Fanta and Gaspi could finally catch a breather with a glass of beer in hand.
The next day, the lads looked like they’ve been on an all-night bender with gummy bears so they were greeted by an icy a bath in a glacial stream before breakfast. The water averaging 6°C was a swift wake-up call. The boys shovelled breakfast into their mouths and, with the vision of the first cable car up the freshly opened Hackleberg Trail, they quickly forgot the odd bruise.
From the cable car cabin, Kuba and Péťa were on an impatient lookout for the beginning of the trail, which is carved into a blanket of snow so they counted on a snowball fight before the ride. The melting snow gave the trail a decent chocolate spread texture, which made the whole crew look like they’ve raced through a sewage pipe. Nevertheless, the euphoria from the exciting trail was so strong that the youngGUNS rushed on board of the cable car over and over again. After the last “cable”, dead-beat and completely drenched, the whole gang jumped into the Vito car that already looked like mud spa inside and headed for their next Austrian destination. The boys dozed off right after the second turn so there was finally some sweet peace and quiet.
The very same evening, the bikers were welcomed by Petzen that lies in the Carinthia region and holds the World’s Best Flow Trail award, issued by the IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association). Unfortunately, the morning looked like we’re going to spend the whole day at our hotel, staring into smartphone and notebook screens, because the skies were gifting us with rain, rain, and more rain. But then Gaspi barged through the door and announced: “We’re heading up the rock face, we’re not sissies!” The lads pulled long faces for a bit but then started to obediently take out the rainproof gear out of their bags. Their cycling backpacks needed to be packed by spare layers of clothes because no one knew what the weather will be like up there. It was still pouring buckets as the whole crew hopped in the cable car cabin at 10 AM and headed up a pretty steep hill when, suddenly, there came a deafening bang and the whole thing came to a halt. Thunder, lightning, and an intense storm enveloped the cabin and the thought on everybody’s mind was, “will this thing start moving again or are we stuck here?”
After 30 minutes, the cogs on the pylons started spinning but there came another bang and another stop. This way, the bikers hopped all the way to the top and were the last to ride the cable car that day because it was closed right after thanks to that huge storm. What now? The group found shelter in a little chapel at the top but after one hour, they grew tired of it. Petr and Kuba were prone to setting the chapel on fire so they’ve all decided to find something else. How about a dive bar?
One couldn’t see ten meters ahead thanks to thick fog so the crew decided to risk it and set off in the Flow Country Trail direction but, lo and behold, they met an open pub on the way and the staff was visibly still recuperating after a Friday mountain party. The bikers warmed up their insides with a hot meal and waited for the weather to come to its senses and let them on the trail, but no one was too excited about going outside. The innkeeper made the decision for them – when he politely chucked them all out with a circus clown smile. He explained that the cable car is down, no other guests are coming, and that the staff is going to hit the sack, assuring the riders that the trail is going to be OK. He finished speaking, pointed vaguely into the fog and took a selfie with the crew as a souvenir, probably in case they were never to be seen again.
Not long after that, the Flow Country Trail gate appeared in front of them. The youngGUNS twins were chattering their teeth so there was no holding off and down we all went. The build of the Flow Country Trail is incredible because there wasn’t a single puddle to slow the boys down and the strikingly light colour of the trail had excellent visibility, even for those two little shrimps who were whooping it up again at high revs. The storm was slowly fading, the occasional lone lighting struck a nearby tree from time to time, but the lads could no longer be bothered. They were focusing on Gaspi’s coaching and valuable advice on leaning into banked curves and, gradually, they were picking up so much speed that one was overtaking the other and Gaspi had a hard time slowing them down. The Flow Country Trail is simply awesome even when wet and, in the case of Czech bikers, even during a raging storm.
Completely drenched and with a white limestone crust on all gear, they’ve jumped into Vito and because there was apparently not enough water that day, they set off to warm their bones in one of the warmest alpine lakes called Klopeiner See – which temperature reaches admirable 29°C. The nearby restaurant will prepare you a local fish as a gastronomic experience but two seven-year-old wildlings make savouring anything a hard task… simply put, circus mayhem.
The next day, the weather became kinder and the rain slowly faded, which brought up the question if we should drag the youngGUNS up the rock face on a long trail again. But the two tots loved the experience from the previous day so much it was a no brainer. Up the Flow Country Trail they went – and multiple times! That’s Petzen for you.
And what did the rising stars of youngGuns thought about Austria?
Petr: “What I liked the most was riding through snowdrifts in Saalbach and bathing in an ice-cold river. They have amazing banked curves and jumps in Petzen. Yeah and riding down was faaaaast!”
Jakub: “I liked the rides through snow and jumps on the Hinterglemm train the best, one could fly really high. Also staying at a hotel. Petzen was way too easy for me.”
Big thanks to:
Austria | Mercedes Benz Vans CZ | POC - LSK | FUNN
Mondarker | BikeWorkX | Mitas | Ride Fox | BOX | AcePac | DJI
foto: Milos Stafek
camera: Pavel Vigh
younGUNS: Jakub and Petr Tisler