Riding Home

I’ve had some time to think about what to write for this post, I think I’m onto the 5th mental draft, though do not think that makes it any more coherent, my brain is operating closer to chimp than human. My body is bit of a wreck.  But I’ve never felt better.  To set yourself a challenge and achieve is personal glory.

I write simply to clear my head and get some good memories down in a fair fashion.  That said, I also really would like to get people to start supporting me. I love what I do, I do it simply because I can and wholly for myself, for the purity of self-achievement. This is just the start.

The trip.

I am training for, with the intention to win, The Transcontinental race (http://www.transcontinentalrace.com/) July 2015.  A 2500 mile, un-supported bike race from Belgium to Istanbul, passing through 4 checkpoints.  I wanted to get away training into Europe, I love being on the road, just riding. Exploring the new is why I ride.

I decided to ride the route I’ve planned for the first half of the Transcontinental race, out to eastern Italy via Mont Ventoux and Sestriere.  Racers have to plot their own routes, in the ethics of unsupported racing, trying to get between the checkpoints via the quickest route.  On the ride out, I covered 1500 miles in 8 days, so some good miles in the legs. Now being in Italy, I needed to get home. I decided it was time to push my limits and test myself.  This challenge wasn’t intended for anything other that a whimsical decision.  I have this odd logic, if an idea comes into my head and I feel I can maybe do it, then I have to.

1000 miles, 3 days was born.

It was 1000 miles 4 days, but that’s not challenge enough.  So 1000 in 3.  And then anything under 4 is good.

Preface.

I’d ridden out to Italy to basically eat pizza and drink espresso.  For only Italian pizza is worth eating.  While in Italy I spent a few days hanging out and watching the Giro, I’d ridden the 1500miles there in 8 days.  So after much pizza I was rested.  Italy is a beautiful place and it was hard to leave. The people are so friendly and the food amazing, did I mention the pizza already!

I never stop to take pictures, they are all taken while cycling! In the spirit. So appreciate the beauty.

So brief facts.  Because everyone likes the details first.

800miles.  3days 6h total time (80h).  2days 12h riding (60h).  And 91,000 feet. Longest single ride without sleep, 36h, 420miles.  That’s 11,000 feet per 100miles!!

So not 1000 miles, and not 3 days.  The Alps were brutal.  The Black forest after the alps was brutal.  And Belgium was brutal.

My power2max stopped working, but I’d put TSS at 1800 for sure.

https://www.strava.com/activities/313351033

Day 1. 24th May

Today I’d ride to the campiglio di madonna to watch the stage finish and then continue north. I rode up the SS46 from Vicenza, what a road! Honestly.  A must ride.  The view down onto Lake Guardia was breathtaking! Switch back turns and valley views.  Passing through the Grappa region, sadly no time to stop for a tasting.

I didn’t quite make it to the stage finish on time.  I got about 8k from the summit.  As I was coming over the 1st cat climb before, Passo Doano my chain snapped, thanks shimano.  Trips like this are about adversity.  Chain fixed.  Actually my platypus hydration system broke too, an hour into the day I was leaking water all over my bag.  I’d managed to put a tear into the bladder. Nothing is ever plain sailing!

So watched the Giro.  Great.  Saw Adam Hansen, shouted some words at him, think he smiled at me, dude is my favourite rider. Great!

Back on the road and pushed on into the evening, up on the top of the madonna and a nice fast descent down, I only managed to get to around 50mph this trip, sadly not near the 70+ I set last time on my steel bike with panniers.  Going up the valley I had a few people get on my wheel and follow me up into the wind.  If only they knew were the wheel was going.

I called it an evening in Tirano, at the base the Bernia Pass.  I was done from all the climbing of the day.  It was about 11pm and I found a little cafe that had covered area.  Perfect.  Bivi bag out, mattress inflated.  4h later I woke up feeling sprightly.  I slept in all my clothes.  No point changing, just put my jacket on and got into the bag.   There really is something liberating in sleeping rough, it’s freedom. Just moving.  Though I’m glad I have a roof over my head, and appreciate that.

Day 2. 25th May

Some climbing today, seriously high.  Not the way I’d wanted to pass though the Alps though.  The Stevlio was snowed over.  So I had to go around, which brought me over the Bernina pass. Up at 7600ft it was snowing.  The cold of the first climb killed my Power2Max battery.   I love power data and the data from this was going to be wicked.  Anyway, slow progress climbing.  A 34×28 wasn’t a enough (I was carrying my stuff still so an extra 10kg)  and so I was doing 60rpm, which is to low for me.  I would pay the price for this.

As I climbed the Bernia Pass, the sun rose.  It’s at moments like this when the reality of the world slips away and you are just there, in that moment of purity, just you and the sheer serenity of this singular life you have.

 

Sadly those moments are fleeting and special.

Onto the second pass as it was a beauty.  The Albula pass.  Totally covered in snow over the top, still snowing too and a descent from heaven made the climb worth while.

The rest of the day was crossing industrial Switzerland.  Nothing really that special.  That afternoon it started to rain and didn’t stop till lunch the next day!

Into Germany and climb up into the black forest, still raining.  A bus shelter and bed around 11pm again.  Out of the rain and into the dry of my bivi bag.

Day 3. 26/27th May

Bus shelter was nice and warm, it was still raining but I’d dried out a bit.  When it’s raining and you’re already wet, there wasn’t much stopping me getting out into the rain.  Even if the bus shelter was warm and dry.

Pushing up into the Black Forest.  It was black, for it was 3am and I’d already been riding a while.  I missed most of the really beautiful part, sadly.  But I’ll just have to go back, with Isabelle and on a motorbike!  The sun sort of rose around 10am.  I was cold and wet so this was welcome.  Finally around 12 it stopped raining.  And Germany.  Wow.  What a beautiful place.  Possibly one of the highlights.  You must go.

 

This is where memories start to blur and become one.  I’d decided that I’d get the Eurostar home from Brussels.  So much easier than messing with a ferry then train from Folkestone.  So as consequence I’d ride straight out, no sleep to get there, to make up for the loss of distance, I’d make the distance longer!

Riding though Germany in the afternoon was an amazing time, the roads are smooth, the countryside beautiful and just a lovely place.  I rode the 500 for the length of it, a must ride road again.

The night was brutal.  It was so cold.  -1 for about 9hours.  So cold that it got into my bones.  Nothing to do but to keep going, got to keep moving.  Around 6am I came through a small village just across into the Belgium border and got some pastries and coffee and warmth.  Thawed out, I was back out.  It wasn’t until 10am that it warmed up and I started to warm up.

I was pretty done by now.  My left hand had gone half dead, it still it.  I’ve clearly done something to a nerve.  My knees were sore, I paid the price for that low cadence and I was drifting in and out of what felt like euphoria and total shutdown.  But I’d done it.  I was so close.  50 miles to Brussels and they were the longest miles of my life.  So long.  10 miles to go and I thought it would never end.  Getting into Brussels was a nightmare, confusing bad bike paths and traffic.

I got there.  Into Brussels in 33h straight riding, 36h total.  Not stopping for longer than a beer an burrito!

In the end, this trip was a preparation for racing Transcontinental race and it’s done just that, but it was so much more.  I’ve learned a lot of needed lessons, and I’ve shown myself the strength I have.

I am only just getting started.

 

 

And yeah. I rode some damn cobbles! Because I can.