Day 29, Stage 23, 107km
Start, Village camp
Finish, Goha Hotel, Gondar
2500 metres of climb today over 107km. I have not climbed that much in a single ride ever. The prize at the end is Gondar, a hotel room and two rest days. Just got to get there.
The scenery was spectacular, mountains, switchbacks, cayons. The riding was punishing, continually up for the first 35km, with some very steep gradients. I felt ok at the beginning but didn’t pace myself well enough. By km 24 I was suffering a bit as we hit yet another increase in gradient. I got off and walked for about three hundred metres while taking in a litre bottle full of fluid. I got back on and pedaled again sfor a while until I hit a really steep set of switchbacks. I walked again. By this point I was really wondering if I had cracked and if this was it. I still had about 70 km to go and I was walking. But my legs welcomed the short walk and when I got back on I carried on to the summit. We than had a glorious bobsled ride down for a dozen kilometres into a valley. This brought some life back into me. After stopping for lunch at the 60km mark, although tired, I began to feel a little more optimistic. Less than 50km to go. I set off from lunch with Jan at a pace that I felt would allow me to conserve enough energy to finish. After only 7 or 8km we came across a group of people surrounding one of our riders on the side of the road. Heat exhaustion. His day was over. The medic soon arrived, put him on a drip and whisked him into Gondar. We got back on our bikes. I cycled the rest of the way with Michael Howard.
I still had doubts about making it until we had less than 20km to go. Then I think the adrenalin carried me through. We cylced about a dozen km through town in an almost euphoric mood, and in spite of a criminally steep climb to our hilltop hotel, made it to the end. We had survived.
Among the survivors, the mood was electric. The beer was cold. The cheeseburger was huge.