25 Apr Day Five: one massive climb and one massive dessert table
Paul’s time to post!
People around here have been buzzing about the incredibly tough days 5 and 6 of the race. The climbs, the rough roads, the heat and the length all combine to make for a fearsome couple of days. Today, we completed day 5 and made it through still smiling. We even shared a beer after with a couple of gently obnoxious and fun South Africans. (Mel here: I don’t know how it came about, maybe Paul joking how strong I was, but he told the guy I could suck a cork out of a wine bottle. Ever since the guy seems to like us. Maybe too much?) Paul here: ahem, context is everything, and the sense of humour here with a bunch of exhausted, sleep deprived, adrenalin frenzied cyclists with raw bum sores is really fuckin’ crude!
The main fear for today was a 30km long climb with a gradient approaching 20%. That’s very, very steep, even for a mountain bike, especially over such a long distance. Over 2100m climbing over 122km! Mel, especially, handled it with aplomb, chatting with whoever was around pretty much the whole way up. I, on the other hand, needed to find my own pace and rhythm and hypnotically keep at it until I reached the top. We finished in about 7 hours. Now, 3 hours later, the last riders are still coming in… (Mel here: I could hear announcers talking about riders coming in at 9 plus hours! Can you imagine sitting on a saddle for 9 hours? Me arse!)
Paul: One of the surprisingly great things about this race is the routine. We wake early, get dressed, eat, ride, shower, eat, chill, massage, eat, attend the racers’ meeting, then go to bed. The only differences are the stages and the camps. The camps have mostly been spectacular. And it’s the awe inspiring quality of the organisation that makes this possible. Kudos to Craig Wapnick and his team (thanks, too!).
Today, the dessert table was something to behold, cakes, cookies, date balls, brownies. (see below). I can’t wait for dinner! Now, massage…
Mel here. We heard yesterday that this is by far the hardest day. But, if you love climbing, as we both do, then it wasn’t so bad. Put your head down, lower the gear and get into a rhythm. I certainly picked up steam after about 11am, passing some big guys. How satisfying! I think a coffee flavoured energy gel helped tremendously. It also helped me drop Paul on one of the climbs– a first!
Coming through a field, near the beginning we had little children lined up to slap our hands as we rode along. It was a little unnerving, however. A few kids were grabbing my hand– I felt like I was going to fall off the bike!
On the final hour or so, we caught up with a team of German women who were machines! Paul got on their tail and we hoofed it through the gravel road. For a good half hour we stuck with them — it felt like we were all digging in, fiercely peddling to finish, and finish strong. And at the last water stop, a really fast break, there was a bagpipe player!
When the path dipped into a pine forest, Paul held back so he could bomb through it. Needles coated the forest floor making it a spongy ride to the finish. I waited for Paul to finish and we sped across the finish line holding hands.
Tonight we’re set up at Clifton School. As usual the kids were at the finish line handing out water, taking our bikes to be washed. Lovely. But the highlight, the showstopper, is the dessert table. Must have been 10 different kinds of cakes from red velvet to carrot to chocolate cake. Brownies, cream puffs, cookies, brioche, puff pastries…. endless. This is why I ride. Well, not entirely.