André Wagenknecht without a mountain bike - it's hard to imagine. The 41-year-old loves and lives cycling and is even German champion in the disciplines enduro and downhill. Even though he has already ended his active career, he can hardly imagine a day without biking. Around his adopted home of Pöhl with the Elstertal, the Elstertal Bridge and the climbing and hiking areas around, he is quite a lot on the road. As a test driver for new products, as a photo model and video driver or just for fun. He told us what drives him and where the most beautiful routes and trails for mountain bikers in Saxony are.

André Wagenknecht is a true great in mountain biking © Tourismus Marketing Gesellschaft Sachsen/Philip Ruopp

How did you get into mountain biking and downhilling? 

I already had a connection to biking in the 1980s, but simply riding around was somehow too boring for me. Even back then, I jumped over obstacles on converted folding bikes and rode on the back wheel. But I didn't even know then that there was a bike called a mountain bike that could do all that without any problems. However, I quickly became aware of these bikes when the first ones came on the market in the 1990s. Since I always had the urge to ride as fast as possible or jump as far as possible, I quickly turned my focus to the downhill sport, which was still young at the time. I rode my first race, still in jeans, in October 1995.

What are the differences between mountain biking, free riding, enduro and downhill?

For me, first of all, everything is mountain biking! Whereby the two disciplines Enduro and Downhill are pure racing sports. Freeride is self-explanatory in its name - anything is possible here, but 99 percent of it always takes place downhill. In pure mountain biking, it's definitely also uphill. But in me there has always been the racer, the downhill rider. I would even say that you are either a "racer" or not. That has nothing to do with skill, but rather with the way you look at the sport.

What fascinates you so much about this sport? 

The control of the bike. The speed. The smell in the forest. The technology and its possibilities. And the other people associated with the sport. Even though bikers have already changed a lot compared to the early days of the sport, they are almost always people with visions, lateral thinkers, all of whom love leisure and nature. Through the fascination of biking, they have found a back door to break out of everyday life every now and then.

What drives you? What motivates you during a lean period, for example?

Since I was allowed in recent years more and more into the development of bikes and accessories, move me today more the technology and the development of the wheels, as a tenth of a second. But as soon as you sit on the bike, it's the same feeling as back then: There is nothing! Only you are there and the bike! So the motivation is to sit on the bike again after a lean period and realize: Man was I stupid that I had this dry spell! But also new routes or unknown regions are always a drive to get back on the bike more.

Of course, André's favorite thing to do is hit the Saxon trails with friends - here, MTB greats Steffi Marth and Tobi Woggon. © Tourismus Marketing Gesellschaft Sachsen/Philip Ruopp

Where do you like to go mountain biking in Saxony?

Since I became a father, I've naturally tried to use my time on the bike more effectively. I still travel, but also ride a lot in my home country - and right now, of course, even more. Currently I enjoy the area around the White Elster, Schöneck and the Ore Mountains.

What makes Saxony so ideal for mountain biking and downhilling?

We're sitting on a bit of a goldmine in Saxony, because the low mountain ranges here offer endless mountain biking opportunities - for every biker, no matter what their level. The quick accessibility of small MTB hotspots is also unbeatable.

Especially the new Enduro and All-Moutainbikes allow extremely many bike experiences. They provide even more safety, are even better adapted to the challenges and are simply extremely fun. Long tours, good downhills and technical trails: Here in Saxony there is really no lack of opportunities, and the bikes do (almost) everything these days.

What makes the Saxon trails stand out?

The densely wooded areas and the long river valleys are a trademark of Saxony. When I think of the trails, I always think of the stones, such as in the Elster Valley, which also demand driving skills when wet. But also the ridge trails around Schöneck or the single trails at the Rabenberg offer enormous variety.

Spectacular stunts are as much a part of mountain biking and downhill skiing as rapid descents © Tourismus Marketing Gesellschaft Sachsen/Philip Ruopp

Which three routes would you recommend?

In any case the Stoneman Miriquidi. This is a challenging one to three day tour to discover the vastness of the Ore Mountains. Only this year there is a new route: with quite a lot of water, new trails and new panoramic views. It has been developed because of the Corona pandemic, because the border crossing to the Czech Republic was not possible. You can only experience this route in 2020! For all those who are looking for a great MTB tour - or wanted to compete in an event - the Stoneman is the perfect destination with its 162 kilometers and 4,400 meters of altitude.

How to get to Stoneman Miriquidi by train and bus: Plan arrival.

Next the TrailCenter Rabenberg. Germany's first and largest TrailCenter is in a class of its own. Here you can find really natural, partly rooty and stony trails for every level. At the Rabenberg, the public gets lost super on the trails, there are no traffic jams and thus infection worries, for example, at the lift. At the same time you meet the mountain bike scene, for example at the café, if you want to. The enduro events also offer a perfect opportunity to get back into race mode.

This is how you get to the TrailCenter Rabenberg by train: Plan arrival.

And finally the Bikewelt Schöneck: Of course, my home spot must not be missing. Here I associate my title as the first German champion in MTB Enduro in 2014. This is simply one of the best bike parks there is in Germany. Small, but fine! Here, with a lot of skill, a flow trail and a unique jumpline, pump track and a huge practice course were conjured up on an existing ski slope - and super accessible. At the same time, those responsible are currently taking great care during the Corona crisis to ensure that contagion is almost impossible. There are digital tickets, a modern four-seater chairlift, where you touch nothing unprotected and distance markings.

This is how you get to Bikewelt Schöneck by train: Plan arrival.

Cover photo: There's plenty of mountain bike action in Saxony, like here at the TrailCenter Rabenberg © Tourismus Marketing Gesellschaft Sachsen/Philip Ruopp

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