Day 96, stage 73, 146km
Start, Bush Camp
Finish, Nata Lodge
If you haven’t ever cycled 150 or 170 km into a headwind I suggest you don’t. It isn’t much fun. And the type of headwinds you get here get worse as the day goes on. The winds are lightest before 8am so you try to leave early and get in as many kilometres as you can before the nastiness starts. At around 8am it starts to pick up and to be a bit more of a pain in the ass. But you struggle on and get into lunch around 9:30. You feel like you’ve pushed hard but you aren’t dead or ready to throw in the towel yet. After a half hour break you get back on your bike. You immediately find that somebody has turned the wind up a couple of notches. What was tough but manageable can now make a grown man cry. It is relentless and it is going to keep going for another 80 or 100 kilometres. You want to scream at somebody – but who? and it will be a waste of energy and you know you will need all the energy you have. Beside which, your legs are already doing enough screaming as it is. Head down. Keep the pedals moving. It’s always better if you can join a peloton into a headwind. But one is not always available. Or the one that is available is too fast and you just can’t stick on the wheel. When you get one you can work with though, it helps a lot. Drafting can save 20% of your energy. But the catch is you have to spend your turn pulling. And this takes more energy than cycling on your own. I was in a good peloton until lunch but then they left before I was finished eating and I spent most of the rest of the day on my own.
The carrot was that at 137km there was supposed to be a Wimpy’s Hamburger Bar – with milkshakes (remember this is Botswana, not the Sudan – and even though you only get a town every 150km, not every 10, you do get KFC and Whimpy’s). And it existed. It was like finding an oasis.
Once again though, this was not the end of the day. The final kicker was a short 9km ride directly into a 40km headwind. Every time you stop, somebody turns up the dial a notch or two. But once again we had an all services camp site – all the mod cons and a good bar. At least we could recover. And tomorrow we headed west and hoped for a tailwind. Tough two days but life would get better. We hoped.