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2012-08-09 20:05:57

Underground biking adventure in Budapest

On 11 August 2012, an underground bike race is being held in Budapest’s Merkapt Maraton Sports Centre – the MOFÉM Underworld Cup, which will partly involve going through a 150-year-old system of tunnels. It is open to amateurs as well as professionals.

Damp, cold passages and sharp curves

The 2 km route runs over grass, pebbles, tarmac, cobblestones, gravel paths and off-road tracks. A 700 m section that takes the racers through the system of tunnels ten metres below Budapest’s Kőbánya area is sure to provide plenty of excitement. The cellar passages are on average 2 to 2.5 metres high and 3 to 8 metres wide, but since there are several very dark, narrow and low sections, the racers are not allowed to overtake underground.

“Those with enough experience and a certain level of mountain biking ability can take part in this race,” says Miklós Fülöp, the organiser of the MOFÉM Underworld Cup. “In addition, professional bikers can rise to the challenge in a separate race.” Throughout the course of the day, a total of five races will take place, each with a maximum of 70 cyclists. There are three age categories for men, one race for top mountain bikers and one for women and juniors. Racers from all over the world have registered, according to Fülöp, with bikers from Spain, Romania and Slovakia, among other countries, taking part in this year’s underground adventure.

Cooling off in dark tunnels

The underground cave system in Kőbánya dates back to medieval times, since the right to quarry stone in what is today part of Budapest was handed out then by the Hungarian king Béla IV. This limestone, a remnant of the Pannonian Sea from the Cenozoic Era, can be found in numerous buildings and monuments in the Hungarian capital. The quarrying of several million cubic metres of stone left behind a system of tunnels totalling between 20 and 30 km in length and concealing even today many secrets. From time to time, new, hitherto unknown shafts and passages are still discovered.

About 150 years ago, after quarrying had finished, industrial use of the tunnels began. When the Austrian Anton Dreher bought the brewery in Kőbánya in 1862, the tunnels were used for sprouting hops, and during the Second World War, parts of them were used as a factory for Messerschmitt military planes. Since part of the tunnel system stretches under the Merkapt Maraton Sports Centre, brave mountain bikers have been able to race through the damp, cold passages since 2010 as part of the MOFÉM Underworld Cup.

The number of participants in each category is limited to 70, so you’ll need to be quick just to get a starting place. Should you not be fast enough, you still have the chance to cool off underground during the hottest summer month as spectators.

MOFÉM Underworld Cup
11 August 2012
Merkapt Maraton Sports Centre
Free entry for spectators!