Day 71, Stage 55, 120km, Mando day
Start, Bush Camp
Finish, Mangolosi football field
Day 7 of 8 consecutive days and riding and it keeps getting tougher. Today and tomorrow are ‘Mando’ days – that is, mandatory days for the racers (our final time is an adjusted time; we can drop our five slowest days; but we cannot drop our times for Mando days). Mando days are reserved for the toughest days. Great. The next two days could go either way. If it rained hard again they could quite possibly be unmanageable. If it didn’t rain I possibly had a chance.
The night before the clouds had been ominous but not definite. But we were lucky. It hadn’t rained. I set off early so that if it did rain I would have done as many kilometres as possible. The first 20km were on sand and took a lot out of my legs. We then hit a rocky and muddy track. About 55 km in with still 4 km to go to lunch I can to a 40 metre patch of mud covered with tree branches to give traction to trucks. I tried to power over the branches. Some were quite big and they were spaced 6” – 12” apart. Needless to say, the branches won. I lost. I came off. Cuts and bruises. Covered in thick clay mud. Nothing serious. But a clear lack of good judgment. I was tired. Italo came up just behind me and wisely got off his bike. He stayed a little cleaner. The wisdom of age. He is 63.
I hobbled into camp and went into the medical truck to get cleaned and patched up.
I headed back out on the road and kept the pedals moving. There were lots of hills today – we climbed over 1100 metres. There was lots more sand and lots of sharp rocks the size of cricket balls to bowling balls. I came off my bike four more times after lunch. I was clearly tired and not concentrating well. Three times I came off in the sand. On portions of the road there were compacted ruts in the sand that you could cycle on but 6” deep sand in the median and on the verges. I got me front wheel caught in the median once and the verge twice – soft landings in soft sand. Then towards the end of the ride we cam across some road construction. Fresh wet dirt (i.e. mud) full of rocks and about 8” deep had been dumped on about a kilometer and a half of road. A grader had started to push this muck around. If you followed the tire tracks of the grader you could get through it. About halfway through I could see a motorcycle coming along the same track I was using. It was a face off. He didn’t leave the track. I couldn’t leave the track. We slowed. Neither of us diverted. We stopped about a foot apart, wheel to wheel. I hadn’t unclipped, convinced to the end that he would divert and let me pass. He didn’t I fell over. It hurt. I believe I may have cursed.
The trucks were having a bad day on the mud again and weren’t at camp when I arrived. So I cycled a little further into the village of Mangolosi and found a place that served cold beer. I was a mess. I had come off my bike five times – none seriously – but all was forgiven with one taste of cold beer. It is amazing what will mollify a non-functioning mind.