Nipika to Nipika: 44.2Km and 1,514m of climbing
“That was Heinous. Absolutely heinous. I have no idea how you got through that stage. I was thinking of you as I was carrying my bike yesterday.” So says Linda when she sees us at breakfast. Linda is an absolutely amazing rider, and get this, with her partner are attempting it on single speeds. Single speed? At least we have gears, and suspension. Anyway the point is that those kind words are very inspirational and more importantly Linda lets on that the terrain does open up from here once we start heading south again tomorrow. This is very heartening.
But first we have today’s time trial to contend with. We’re both dog tired after those first 2 harrowing days and mentally we are looking at this as a bit of a recovery day. Baaaaad move. Very bad. A little voice is saying inside my head that although the elevation change is fairly small relative to the other days the ride seems similar to one we have been doing back home on Sundays. And we’re knackered when we finish that ride. Hmmm…
Anyway, pushing the bad thoughts to one side I even conjure up some whipping (with my imaginary whip) of my wife as we hurtle out of the start block. Not sure if she found it particularly amusing, or anyone else for that matter, but that’s the best I was capable of humor wise. There had been a real comical moment at the start line when, given that we are a tandem and it only takes one of us to hold us up, my wife proceeded to clip in ready for the start. I guess the starter really was taking it seriously and immediately ordered my wife to put one foot on the ground so as not to have an unfair advantage….
Anyways it is nice to take off on some fun single track which does not require us to get off every 15 seconds. It’s an amazing place and we’re really enjoying the ride. We even take a photo over an amazing gorge. The scenery is just absolutely stunning.
We roll up to the first checkpoint fairly content. And it’s from here things seem to go a little harder than they should. There is some great single track back through the forest and down to the cliff tops overlooking the river. We’re riding just about everything that the regular bikes are managing but it seems like the second checkpoint which is back at the start finish just seems to be taking an awful long time to get to.
I can tell Gina is getting quite uncomfortable in the back because she has to constantly shift her position and I can feel every movement. When you ride a tandem if you’re both working together it’s a dream. When you’re not it is a nightmare. The person in back can inadvertently steer by countering the captain’s inputs – either consciously or unconsciously but when this happens the tandem behaves more like an out of control semi than a bicycle. The same thing happens if you’ve got a wriggler on the back and today my wife is wriggling big time. About this time I also realize the folly of not having a lock out in the rear shock. I can dial down the front so there is very little springing at the front if I stand up to ease my booty but the back starts boinging up and down and its irritating for Gina when I do. In addition I am starting to twig that because Gina starts boinging up and down when she stands, she’s not standing. At all. And that means pressure you know where.
Anyway all this malfunction plus the growing realization that we’re not even at the second checkpoint is making us realize this is not a rest day. Not even a recovery day. And unfortunately both of our heads are not really in the game for a hard day.
To top it off rolling back into the start finish the chain breaks and we have to spend a few minutes relinking it. Well, as I mentioned on Day 1, that would be the royal we. I actually watch my wife mend the chain while I helpfully hold the bike upright.
When we get going again we have to go through the start finish on another loop. The organizers helpfully route us past the pond and folk who have finished are already lying out in the sun with their legs in the water. Lucky bastards. More negative feedback for our deteriorating mindset.
The final loop is psychological torture. We know we are heading away from the finish and are waiting for the turn around to come. And waiting. And waiting until we start second guessing if we’ve even gone off course. We have a second spat somewhere on this section but finally we realize we are making turns that will put us back in the direction of Nipika so we both take a deep breath.
And then the bastard Italians pass us. They’re not really bastards, they’re probably really nice folk, but they must have started at least 3 hours after us and they’ve bloody caught us. And passed us like we were standing still. Actually I think we were standing still because we’d heard shouts behind us and pulled off the trail. But you get my point about why, in our state, you might think of them as bastards.
We drag our tails the last 2 or 3 miles back to the start finish and make it across the finish line. As we pull ourselves off the bike I take a look at my wife’s saddle and my mind simply can not comprehend what I am seeing. The saddle has deformed completely and is nearly a perfect mold for my wife’s butt cheeks. No wonder she was wriggling like a worm on a hook – that must have been excruciatingly painful to ride on and I can see she’s really really hurting.
As luck would have it when we did our final raid on the bike shop back home we’d pulled a spare saddle just in case. And since I like nice padded saddles, not the razor blade SLT thing my wife rides, we’ve got one with plenty of padding. So we had a replacement for tomorrow but we needed one more lucky break as the damage had already been done and my wife could easily have fit in with a pack of baboons. (If you are a cyclist this is enough detail.) And by lucky break I mean verging on the miraculous if we are to continue. Surprisingly enough we got one – and that was our decision to go to the medic’s tent and get some of his magic monkey butt potion.
I have no idea what was in it as I didn’t become a user until the fifth day but when I did I was hooked. I think its probably safe to say that the spare saddle and the monkey butt potion saved our race.
Still, when the dust had settled and showers had been had we noticed that we’d beat the cut off again. For comparison, our time – 5hrs 36mins. Italians – 2hrs 20mins.