Day 46, stage 36, 98km
Start, riverbed camp
Finish, Yabello, Yabello Motel
Today is a ‘mando’ day. Mando days are reserved for the tightest days of the tour. Today was a real test. We did over 1400 metres of climb off road, some of the climbs of 10% and more. That much climbing on good roads is a challenge. On boulder strewn dirt roads where it is tough to get traction it is more than tough. Today was unanimously voted the toughest day on tour so far. I was out there for more than 8 ½ hours – this includes several stops for coke and lunch. And once again I drank at least 10 litres on the day. Many people did not make it. May people did not try it and road the truck. But there was a real holiday atmosphere at the end. All the finishers were clapped and cheered as they made it into the courtyard of the motel. The last people arriving just as darkness fell. A long day indeed. And there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – a hotel, hot showers, cold beer.
Vince, the crazy Kiwi share a room with when there is a hotel available had won the stage the day before. He is a good off road rider, has a bike built for these conditions and is fearless. Vince’s strategy is to be last to leave camp every day. When he catches people up, as he always does, he has then gained time on them. He usually passes me some time before lunch and finishes well before me. Since he had won yesterday he insisted that there was no pressure on him today and he would take it easy. He had his stage win for this section. About 20 kilometres from the end of today’s ride there is a long and steep hill. I had been cycling since lunch with Italo, an Italian rider about my age. About half way up this hill I realized that Vince had not yet passed me today. My immediate thought was that the crazy idiot had completely forgotten what he said last night about ‘no pressure’ today and had come flying out of camp like a kamikaze and had crashed. Sure enough, at the top of the hill there was a TdA Hilux driven by the tour director. He filled my once again empty water bottles and then asked if I heard about Vince. Sure enough, he had crashed within 2km of camp going like a banshee down a steep dirt track. His bile went left. He went right. His right shoulder left its rightful place.
Italo was right behind him – Vince had passed him at full tilt a few seconds before – and found the poor bugger in a heap in the dust. Italo then spent the next half hour pulling Vince’s arm in a direction that would keep the muscles from seizing up. Half an hour later, when the m3dics had arrived, three additional people put their backs into trying to pull his arm back into the shoulder socket. When it finally popped back in Vince jumped to his feet and said: ‘right, where’s my bike? I’m off then.’ And after taking a couple of painkillers, he was off. And he finished. One tough son of a bitch! This will be the only time on the tour that I finish before Vince. But there will be an asterisk next to the results.