Day 35, stage 26, 162km
Start, Deb Anbessa Hotel, Bahir-Dar
Finish, Forest camp
When we left Bahir-Dar we knew we had five very tough days ahead of us. This was the section when we would have to descend into and climb out of the Blue Nile Gorge, when we would reach the highest point on the tour at over 3150 metres, and when over the five days we would climb a total of more than 10,000 metres. This was going to be a real test for me. I am not a climber. I am not built for climbing. I am not lean and fat free. I am built for comfort and stamina. Most of the other riders are very lean. They like mountains, or so they say. A few are more solidly built like me. A couple are overweight and would have real trouble.
The first day of this series of five days was 162km – a century in miles – just to get us started. In addition, it was a century that included over 1600 metres of climbing. It was tough. While I had felt good for the two day (or 1 ½ day) ride from Gondar to Bahir-Dar and had placed fairly well, I knew I would have to pace myself if I was going to get through the next five days. Several more would lose EFI over this stretch.
The landscape was absolutely stunning. I was determined to take it at a pace that would allow me to enjoy it. I was also going to take every coke stop available. I was now taking in 8 – 10 litres of fluid a day. The medics on tour say that you should ‘drink to thirst’. I have no idea what this means but assume it means don’t wait until you are dying of thirst to drink. Keep forcing the fluids in so that you don’t dehydrate. A coke stop is the perfect way to follow this advice. The real racers of course never take a coke stop. But they’re insane and regularly finish the day’s ride in half or two thirds of the time it takes me. Check the numbers.
Now that we are in the mountains it is also very cold and getting started in the morning is difficult. We like to have as much daylight as possible to ride in, just in case we need it. It is also nice to get a few kilometres in before the sun is too hot. So we get up at or before 6am when it is still dark and start cycling shortly after the sun comes up.
All I can say is that the day was tough and seemed endless. In addition to the hills and the distance there was a relentless headwind that had been with us since the last couple of days in the Sudan and would stay with us throughout this five day section. In addition to the headwind there were several sections of bad, non-tarmac road. We mostly still had our road tires on. This made the rocky, off-road sections treacherous and slow. And then there are the kids and their stones and sticks. I was hit several times, never seriously. Others were hit worse.
But I made it. There was little time to relax however. Tomorrow would be even tougher.