Nipika to Whiteswan. 110Km and 2,567M of climbing
The next morning we’re both feeling a little better. Being able to sit down and get some relaxing time in has definitely helped us and we’re in much better spirits. The sun is out and it is a cold start to the day but we’re thinking that if we can make today we’ll definitely make the whole thing.
I’m a bit wary about the fact they’re going to ride us around Nipika for starters again. We both have definitely had enough of the on again/off again routine. But given the length of the stage plus the fact that we open with a decent fire road section means we’re not going to get shelled from the start. In fact we do have chance to have some fun conversation with fellow competitors while we’re actually riding. We’re digging on the fact that there’s a young man from Glasgow, Allie, and his father, Chris riding. Allie’s 18 and boy, is he going to have some fun stories to tell when he goes away to University in the fall. For us tail enders, these kind of moments are hugely positive, they lead to a kind of shared determination to make it to the finish.
The organizers must have figured they could never get the entire race, so near the start, down the Nipika single track so they route us on some grassy double track and then out onto a fire road. We actually do re-ride some of the stuff from yesterday and it amazes me how hard it was yesterday compared to now. Its not even really uphill. I guess it just goes to show that if you’re not there mentally this race is going to beat you up and then spit you out.
It is genuinely enjoyable today. The fire road is great fun and when we do start to climb its not insanely steep and we’re riding well together. Gina is repeatedly thanking the seat and is consistently cranking out the watts to keep us moving forwards.
We have our first encounter with “water bars” as we start the descent to the first checkpoint. These are great big dips in the deactivated logging roads where the drainage has been taken out and a big ditch left behind. If you pile into these too fast you will literally get ejected out the other side. So deciding how much speed to loose is what’s occupying my mind. Slow down too much and you have to crank to get moving again but going in too fast could blow the fork, and/or, visions of my wife being ejected and catapulting over my head are not good. Since the tandem picks up speed downhill pretty fast anyway we go cautiously and enjoy our ride to the first aid station. I think we’re dead happy because we’re riding with other folk today and that’s a huge motivator.
From the first aid station its uphill with the conditions going from fire road to single track. The single track is cool though, its up and down but doesn’t have lots and lots of slimy logs to contend with.
Soon enough we’re at the 2nd aid station and there is a proper river to fight our way across. Its about knee deep and the current is moving pretty swiftly. We’re careful to keep as much of the tandem as we can out of the water but it does still try to drag us downstream. When we reach the other side and look back at where we entered the river we’re a good 30ft downstream.
Now we know there is a very very long climb to come so we just settle in and take it steady. We even have the energy to joke around with the motorcycle camera guy and demand a tandem category. This is most definitely a good day.
I was hacking away coughing last night and as we get towards the 2/3rds mark I’m definitely feeling a bit under the weather. But the scenery is spectacular and we have a beautiful glacier view as we climb up and back onto a single track section that crests us over another mountain pass.
We’re not really that conscious that we’re close to the time cut off again as there are a good few folk in sight today. But as we head down and down we do begin to wonder where the last checkpoint is. We pal up with Ian and his partner plus the “Pink girls” as we rush down to the final checkpoint. I’m getting a little too enthusiastic and we’re heading over some rollers at a good rate of knots. Gina is suggesting that I’m getting a bit too competitive but before I can really acknowledge this I treat her to what we call the “Superman” position for the rest of the week.
Basically we barrel into a dip way too fast and as we come over the other side and come over the crest the rear wheel stays fairly planted but my wife does not. She has her arms completely stretched out and the only thing preventing the catapulting I talked about earlier is the fact she is clipped in. Her legs are totally stretched out too. Obviously I can’t see this but I do tone it down a bit and the other guys ride on ahead of us.
Still, better safe than sorry. A couple minutes later we see an awesome piece of helicopter flying as they take out a rider who we later learn did something similar, but really ejected himself and I think, broke his collar bone in the process. Not what we want to do and not what I want to be responsible for either so we do go a little bit easier.
We get down to the checkpoint with 15 minutes or so to the cutoff and we break back out to fire road. There’s still a fair way to go but because its gradually downhill we can really motor. As we catch the guys we motion them to get on our wheel but there is an incredible amount of momentum that we’re generating and we gradually loose our pace line. We hold up a few times to allow folk to get back on our wheel but the cord keeps snapping so we just let ourselves roll. The speed we’re going means that all of us should get in pretty comfortably today.
There’s one final climb up around a beautiful river gorge and then we’re at the finish with the weather being just perfect. What an incredible day of riding. Just incredible. And our riding skills are definitely improving each day.
So even though I go to bed early because I’m not feeling too clever I’m confident that we’ve got this thing under control.
For comparisons – Team “We’re too sexy for this ride” – 8:14:44; Italian Stallions 4:36:12.