Braving the Elements - Wacker Chemie AG


Braving the Elements

Sven Vetters, 44, looked into several downcast faces as he met his colleagues on the morning of June 3, 2013 in front of the Siltronic site gate in Freiberg. Yes, they had certainly agreed to cycle roughly 500 kilometers from Freiberg to Burghausen, but on the road, not in the water. It was pouring with rain, not only that morning; the downpour had been unabated for weeks – and the planned route was going to take them right through the middle of the flood area.

Wind or rain, Sven Vetters rides in any weather. Together with his Freiberg colleagues, he has cycled to both the WACKER Nünchritz and Burghausen sites.

That didn't deter Sven Vetters. “A little hardship doesn’t put me off,” he said. He began doing major long-distance bike tours in 1995. Since then, he has cycled roughly 100,000 kilometers, or two and a half times around the Earth.

He started off doing short tours with the Freiberger Radfreunden bike club, but he has also cycled from Normandy along the Atlantic coast to the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. He works at Siltronic AG as a plant engineer in the dispatch center where he monitors and controls the central materials supply and waste disposal. In 2010, he took time off from his job to do a bike tour through Austria, the Ukraine and Russia all the way to the Caspian Sea. “I’m still very grateful to WACKER for giving me the time off to do that trip,” he said.

Now, he was supposed to head off to Burghausen in the summer of the great flood. Vetters spoke encouragingly to his colleagues: “The weather report shows that we will have sunny weather soon. Honestly, so let’s get going.” After all, one of the trip’s goals was to collect kilometers as part of the City Biking initiative to promote environmental awareness.

In 2012, twenty-one employees organized a bike trip to the WACKER Nünchritz site. Last year, 24 Siltronic employees took part in the Germany-wide event – with cyclists ranging from a lab worker who rode 60 kilometers in three weeks to Sven Vetters’ four-man cycle team.

After cycling just a few kilometers on that memorable day in June, the one thing happened that everyone, except Vetters, was worried about: the Mulde River flooded its banks and the police barricade prevented the men from continuing on their route. But not for long. The bike path was no more than half a meter under water, easy to ride through. Afterwards, everyone had wet feet, but it didn’t matter; it was raining anyway.

On the second day, just before Waldsassen, the sun actually did come out. Nevertheless, at breakfast on the third day, the Siltronic Team decide not to take the bike route along the Danube toward Passau. They altered their route and took the B15 via Landshut. Though they had to wade through a flooded stream, the rest of the route was reasonably dry. They found guest houses and inns along the way where they could hang their wet clothing on radiators to dry.

After five days and a distance of 530 kilometers, the men finally reached the front gate of the WACKER Burghausen site. As a reward, a plant tour had been organized for them, not by bike, but in a VW van. And the best part about it was that the sun was shining. Sven Vetters and his team are glad they did the bike tour, despite the hardship. For one reason, because the trip contributed considerably to the total number of 9,639 kilometers that the entire Siltronic team had gathered for the 2013 City Biking initiative. In fact, they placed a respectable 4th out of 32 teams in Freiberg.