Leave the CP3 hotel and quickly pull into a small outdoor bar to buy food – they have just fruit sweets and some hipster quinoa bars or some shite so I buy it all and carry on. Someone (I can only see a headlight) coming the opposite way yells “Hi hippy” and I say “Hi.. err.. who is that?” and they say “James!”. What the? I’d read on Twitter that he’d scratched quite early due to lung issues. Was it the same James? Was he carrying on? Had he just traveled to the CP to wave at other riders? I trundled on – if it was @skinny and he was back in the race it wouldn’t be too long before he passed me – younger, lighter, faster and not stopping for beers or to tape his butt cheeks gives him a small advantage 😉
Giau – no photos, no smartarse tweets, just me climbing extremely slowly nursing sore knees up a partially illuminated mountain. No nice scenery to make the climb worth it, nothing but gradient.
“Knee tender after lots of standing climbing so taking this very easy. Had fill of bread soup and pasta at hotel. Back to just bibs
I can generally climb anything, I’m just not fast about it but with the Giau I was in and out of the saddle, stopping to eat and drink, stopping to adjust shorts, messing with lights, all manner of stuff. I saw Michael Wacker and another rider descending. Michael told me to enjoy the tea so I assumed there were TCR guys up top. After hours of hard graft I made the top and it was deserted. I rode around the carpark and probably disturbed some doggers who, when queried about the TCR, had no idea what I was talking about. I checked my course notes and decided I didn’t need to do any validation here and should descend. Changed to warmer clothes, tightened headset AGAIN and then slowly rolled away. James caught me around here. I was pretty shelled but at least heading down wasn’t more bloody climbing. Must’ve taken my glasses off (I carried two pairs – sunglasses and clear glasses for night) because I was hit right in the eyeball by a bug and rode the last part of the climb with one eye closed. On the last corner the back wheel hit a rock and I almost overshot the bend, sideways. Fun times. At the village I thought I might be able to get a coffee from the bar I’d seen hours ago but of course it was now closed – never get your hopes up for anything during these races!
“In lots of pain after Giau. Met James on climb out of town. He’ll storm the field. Back on 2 knicks but not working. Need scissors.”
James and I now rode side by side up a smaller climb since we both had a similar route that would now take us south towards Udine and the coast. I asked him all about what happened and we chatted about the race and I dunno, general shit to take our minds off the slog. I remember really needing a poo. We descended for ages and I was constantly looking for a bar to get a coffee and use their toilets but nothing was open. After a while we hit another climb and I couldn’t be bothered keeping up. He was going to find a bivvy spot soon but I was going to push on into the morning and was still looking for a toilet. I never found one and had to ‘go bush’. I made a mental note to restock my zip lock of emergency toilet paper at the next possible opportunity.
In the early hours I found a coffee bar that was doing a decent trade in croissants and espresso. Heaven.
“So tired. Was going to ride through and get hotel but might just pass out in bivvy. Need to wash kit though. Sweaty from south.
I stop in Pordenone and scope a bunch of hotels. Finally lock in Hotel Minerva who turn out to be great. They have a half day rate, I eat their food, borrow their charger and scissors and get some sleep. I also wash my bibs which causes some controversy on Twitter but they dried under the aircon before I left so no big deal. I used the scissors, not on my pubes this time, but on yet another type of tape I’d brought for emergencies.
“Who else brought 5 kinds of tape on
It was special arse tape, designed to move in all directions and be placed over blisters and saddle damage. I’d bought it before my LEJOG record attempt in 2014 but never tried it. I don’t know why I didn’t apply it sooner. It seemed to help the next day as I cycled along the SS13 towards another place I’d been before, Udine. The flatter roads again having me tweeting random stuff while riding along – I’d started out just wanting to take notes for myself but I seemed to get a lot of interest so kept it up when I could.
Borders are coming thick and fast now. Slovenia and before I know it I’m in Croatia, a country I’ve never visited before.
Slovenia was a rolling flat, fast, truck route whereas it’s a long descent into Croatia and I quickly find myself in the ‘burbs. Actually on mountainside with crappy roads and no idea where I’m going. The lights of the big city disappear and I’m suddenly worried again about my navigation and chances of finding food at night. Stupidly I once again pass a few bars thinking “oh, there’s bound to be a better place soon”. Idiot.
“Past two bars. Now in nomansland. Might have to hunt and kill dinner
“16k and I finish another route file. Arbitrary goals are arbitrary
“Long section of dirt roadworks. Bar with guy singing trad music I presume. Sounds like Polish. BBQ smell
I find another bar in the hills but they are not serving food. They direct me, with no English, to where I might find food. I follow their directions (I think) and find a place doing pizza. Ooh, I get to use another new currency and I’m so glad I had the foresight to obtain all the currencies I could in advance of the race.
“Some arse just found 5k of unrideable fuking loose gravel after 13% climb. I hate this.
My route took me from the coast right back into the centre of Croatia and in doing so up a long, steep climb. But I had my mp3 player going and was super pumped to be clawing back time on the others. Then the road stopped and I was on the sketchiest gravel path I’ve ever ridden. I couldn’t work out why the bike handled so badly but I think it was because it was basically round pebbles interspersed with little rock gardens that kicked the bike wheels all over the place. I lost it – mentally and control. At one stage I almost veered over the edge. Wait, edge? What the? I turn my lights over to the right and see tree tops! Where the hell am I?! It must end soon I convince myself as I ride 200m and then lose control again and again. I’m yelling at everything now, cursing my route. Dogs are barking somewhere. I think someone’s coming out to see what the fuss is but I can’t see anything just hear a car. Eventually I get onto tarmac again. I could’ve kissed it! I should’ve stayed on the E65 to Senj and then climbed.
So I rode through the night and in the early hours found a hotel. After a long non-English discussion with a cleaner someone else arrived and they wouldn’t have me. Some guys going fishing at 6am were already on the piss and asking me if I wanted a drink! It was hard to tell them no but I had to press on.
“Hotel in Gacka wouldn’t have me but I got water and toilet from them. BAKERY!!!!! Omg!!!”
After the baked goods though I got dozy and just sat against some dude’s fence. He appeared after maybe 15-20min but he wasn’t upset or anything, motioned me to stay but I’d woken and moved on.
Found a bar and got some caffeine into my system. Very odd place, old couple already drinking and smoking at 8am. I climbed out of the park and was still struggling to stay awake.
Sveti Rok? Distances between towns were long, it was hot and monotonous riding.
Found a roadside restaurant and had lunch but could barely finish reading the menu. I ate and then went out and had a snooze lying on one of their outside bench seats. Back in and bought a coffee, used their toilet and filled bottles maybe.
“Contrast 40 heat, 8% slog, needing a poo, you know. Then opens into MASSIVE Valley and looong descent. Get driver thumbs up and portaloo!”
I’m in busy Knin. It’s going off. I stop at bakery and get food and drink. Apparently they’re celebrating the war ending (21 years ago?). People everywhere. Crazy town. As I climb away from the town people are beeping and cheering. It’s encouragement though, not malicious like the idiots here. Rider #144 goes past at some stage – again. He passed in the morning and I guess I passed him at some stage but I’ve not been looking at the tracker so have no idea where anyone is. I ride into the night and eventually stop at Motel Kiwi in Bosnia. Guess that means I crossed another border?! Another first time in a country for me. There’s no one around so I just write my name down and grab a key and sleep in the room after a shower.