Whiteswan to Elkford. 88.5Km and 2147M of climbing
Its almost routine now – the waking up to the slamming of porter potty doors, the search for the torch so that we can do the sun cream, warm up cream and bum cream before the fill your face breakfast. The overdosing on the kick ass coffee before curling a huge….ok, ok, lets not go there….
Yesterday we were 24th and we’re pretty pleased with that. Obviously we’re not yet ready for the 2nd starting paddock, and I don’t see the Italians looking nervously over their shoulders at us, but 24th of 29 is a whole lot better than 27th of 29 on Day 3.
We’re rolling out on a logging road again which is great. And slightly downhill again therefore also great. The uphill is steady and being around folk again is such a lift. A couple of times we’re riding with guys who have some kind of physical disadvantage. There’s a team called 15 toes, a rider with a prosthetic below the elbow, a guy recovering from cancer (whose buddy only took up mountain biking a few months back) and I’m sure there are others who should be mentioned. These guys really blow us away; they expect no special treatment, and, ride like they stole their bikes. Truly incredible people and motivation to get to the finish line and have a beer with them.
We seem to go up for an awful long time and my arse is also joining Gina’s in the land of uncomfort. But we finally make the top and it’s a great descent back down. We’ve got our water bar approach fairly well dialed in and no more superman moments occur.
Its funny how our technique is improving. I’m doing a better job telling Gina when she has to get up off the saddle if we’ve got something really large coming up and on steep angled traverses where the trail just slants away beneath us we’ve even got our “clip one leg out and dab against the side of the trail” technique developing. It is still really hard to pedal backwards and forwards on command but the locals probably think an Iditarod team is coming through when they hear me yelling “Easy, easy, hold it, hold it, now drive, drive drive”. My wife is yelling back how many gears we’ve got left in the rear “ Three left, Two left, One left”. It’s a long way back to the rear sprockets from up front so having the information coming through really helps me to figure out if I’m going to need to drop to the granny or not, or if I’ve got the chain sufficiently aligned to start lifting the chain onto the 44 tooth front chain wheel.
Getting to the second stop is another milestone and we’re back riding with Ian and his partner. They tell us this last section before the descent to the rock garden is brutal and they’re right. Its back to walking and I’m finding it really tough with nothing in my legs. Gina notices and even spells me a period pushing the tandem so I can get rid of the lightheadedness. What a trooper.
We get to the top of the ridge and then its wickedly steep downhill followed by wickedly steep uphill and I’m just not contributing enough power to drive us up the other sides. So we’re doing a lot of exhausting walking. Sometime we get a roll going and catch up with Ian and then he gets a roll going and we see him move off into the distance.
Ian lets us know we’re entering the rock garden. To be fair, before I biff it, we’ve been riding probably a good half of the rock garden but there are sections that are beyond my skill level and I should have taken the sensible decision and got us off earlier.
Which leads me to the predicament I open our account with. Its just a combination of exhaustion and stupidity on my part that lead us to go down and luckily, as Gina breaks free of the tandem, her boots do not target my ribcage!! But I am most definitely in the dog house and we are most definitely walking the rest of the rock garden. And I am, most definitely walking the tandem down on my own, with my wife following at a distance just inside the maximum allowable distance for a team member to be apart from their partner.
In fact there is a comical video moment when the guy filming does a double take as I appear walking the tandem and my wife is a good way in the distance. He should be a diplomat as he says nothing and I plod onwards for a ways more.
Eventually Gina decides I’ve done my penance and we hop back on. Team player that she is, she acknowledges it wasn’t a deliberate decision on my part to put us down. We were lucky in that we went down in the grass at the side of the trail but we’re pretty done with the day’s stage and cruise into a very hot Elkford in 27th of 29th place. So much for lofty ambitions at the start of the day.
USA 7hrs, 47mins – Italy 4Hrs,11mins.