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In der Trailarea Göttweig

Trailwerk Wachau


Sabotage Forces Closure of a Bike Paradise

A life-threatening wire trap has caused the Trailwerk Wachau network to close. What will happen next? An interview.

By Chris Cummins

The Göttweiger Berg is a perfectly rounded mountain overlooking the Danube and topped with a large white monastery. And it has seemed a blessed spot for mountainbikers.

Over the past 3 years, a team of volunteers from Trailwerk Wachau have invested thousands of hours developing and maintaining 13 trails for the increasing numbers of bikers who enjoy the forested slopes.

They’ve come up with a concept to avoid conflict with hikers and pilgrims, with clearly marked areas where bikers can ride and others, again clearly marked, where only hikers can use. FM4 described it last year as “mountainbiking without conflicts.”

But this week a saboteur left a potentially deadly trap on a trail and the Trailwerk Wachau has to shut indefinitely.

Martin Samek is the chairman of the society that founded and runs the trail network. I asked him about this worrying incident:

Chris Cummins: Martin, tell me exactly what you found in the trail network?

Martin Samek: We found a wire connected between two trees, which was kind of a trap, I’d say 25 centimetres above the ground.

And so if someone’s travelling at speed, then that’s probably going to cause a really serious accident?

Yes, a really serious accident. I’d say it could be life threatening because, you know, it’s a wire and you don’t see it. You literally don’t see it. There’s grey soil and then a grey wire between two trees. And honestly, when we were riding there, we pay attention to rocks and trees and things like that but you are not expecting a wire. This would really cause a very dangerous accident. And our signposts have been cut off at this section of this very trail by a professional tool.

I think everyone will understand totally the decision to close down the trails until you can guarantee, as far as possible, that people will be safe from traps when using these trails. Safety does have to come first. But it does this feel a bit like a victory for the saboteurs? If they don’t like mountain bikers, they’ve now managed to stop mountain biking in that area.

First of all, we have a contract, a very generous contract with the landlord that allows us to build trails, and maintain them. Mountainbikers can use their parking lots and so on and so forth. And our contract says we are, as we call it in German the „Wegerhalter“, and we are responsible for the safety of the trails. This incident is something that definitely was not on our risk analysis. We didn’t envisage they’re be an attack a not-for-profit community project.

We have no intention to earn money. We’ve invested nine thousand hours of our own free time just to build and maintain the trails and that is not counting any of the hours we spend on administration. And now we are facing such a dangerous threat. We had to close because we are now, honestly, so surprised and so shocked. And we need to talk to our lawyers. We need to talk to the insurance agent. We already talked to the landlord and we really need to find a solution and we need to go to the police.

You’ve described it as a life-threatening obstacle trap. What do you hope from the police? It seems like someone’s trying to injure another human being.

You’re absolutely right, because there was someone who deliberately tried to harm people. This happened on Wednesday at 2 O’clock in the afternoon. And we are “patrolling” our trails on a regular basis. And the last check of this trail - Plan B - was on Tuesday, at 7pm. So, there was just half a day in between that we have not checked and then this happened. We had no choice but to close the trails. I’m asking for the understanding of all the riders. We have to take our time and make the right decisions.

You worked on this system to try and keep everyone happy. It’s not as if the forest belongs to mountain bikers. You’ve created room for bikers, separate room for hikers. The FM4 story that my colleague Simon did when he visited you was called „mountainbiking without conflict“. So what’s gone wrong, do you think, in this case? Why is the still apparently a hate against mountain bikers?

We’ve decided to close on Wednesday somewhere around 10pm or 11pm at night. And I’ve just slept two hours since then. We are constantly discussing in the board of our club what might be the reason for this attack. But it’s pure speculation. We simply don’t know. What we know is this has to be a person that is very familiar with the trail and with the mountain. And as I mentioned before, he had to bring tools, he had to bring the wire. This is something that requires some logistical effort.

Until you find out who did it, you’re shutting the trails and you can’t say for how long. What has to happen before people can mountainbike on your trail network again?

Either this person gets caught. Once we bring that forward to the police, it’s under their control. Second of all, our insurance has to tell us what to do and under which circumstances we can open again. But we are now sitting together virtually and we are we are trying to find a solution, but we don’t have a solution yet. And I fear this will take longer.

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