Day 106, stage 81, 112km
Start, Arebbusch Travel Lodge, Windhoek
Finish, Weisenhof Guest Farm
There is a lovely paved road that goes from Windhoek to South Africa, the B1. We didn’t take it. We headed onto the dirt, gravel, rocks and sand of minor C and D roads, where we will stay for the next 8 riding days. We are heading through the mountains and then the Namib dessert. After following a bit of tarmac that got us to the dirt we also started to climb. By the end of the day we would climb 1300 metres – and to no avail because we would also descend 1200 metres. Having said that, these dirt roads were probably the best we had travelled on so far on the Tour. There was clear evidence that they had been graded in the not too distance past and we did have sections that were hard packed and almost smooth. But we also had sections that were badly corrugated and made every effort to shake your fillings out; that were deep, sandy gravel and tried to grab your wheels and turn them sideways; and that were studded with large, sharp rocks that felt like riding over the spikes on a pit bull’s collar. The deep, sandy bits were usually at the bottom of a hill – just waiting to catch you and throw you off your bike when you were at your maximum speed. The corrugated bits were usually on the flat straightaways – designed to keep you from generating any kind of decent pace. And the sharp, rocky bits were usually on the uphill sections – designed to keep from you from cycling a straight line (the shortest distance between A and B) so that the line you took when ascending a steep hill looked like you were following John Cleese on a tricycle.
But I had a fairly good morning to the lunch stop. I had some hills in my legs from the couple of days of hills leading into Windhoek. My pace slowed a it after lunch but I still made good time to camp. I probably would have cycled faster if Bob were still there to pace me but Windhoek was his last stop. His bike was boxed. His bags packed. His flight booked. He got up early with us and came down to the trucks to say goodbye to everyone and see us off. It would have been great if he could have cycled all the way to Cape Town with us but it was fantastic to have him with us for as long as he was. He did 3500km through 5 countries and didn’t miss a f***ing inch.
Claus was also at the truck early this morning saying goodbye to everyone. Claus had fallen when brushed by a truck as we were leaving Nata in Botswana. He was originally X-rayed and told nothing was broken. But he was till in a lot of pain so in Windhoek he had an MRI and discovered there was a break in his pelvis. Claus was also a strong rider. It was sad to see him go.
However, we were joined in Windhoek by a few new riders, including a crew of three from Cinelli, the bike and cycle clothing manufacturer. There was the Cinelli rep, a filmmaker and a pro racer. There are here to film a 5 – 7 minute film for Cinelli and TdA. There first day out though was a bit of a wake up call for them. Wrong tires. They had close to 10 punctures – all those pit bull collars. At camp that night they made frantic efforts to beg borrow or steal better tires.
And they weren’t the only ones. As well as maintaining my EFI status for the last 3 ½ months I also held the record for fewest punctures. I hadn’t had a single one – a record hard to beat. I spent a lot of time wandering around looking for wood to knock on. But it didn’t help today. I got to camp all right with tires still fully inflated. But an hour later, after a shower and a coke or two and went to put my bike away for the night. The back bloody tire was flat. My bike had betrayed me. I was already composing ad copy for Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire: “TdA rider completes 12000km on Schwalbe MPs without a single puncture” etc. When I took the tire off I found a centimeter long slit on the rim side – a pinch puncture. But perhaps not. Three other people had ‘phantom punctures’ in camp that night. Was it sabotage? Hmmm. Oh well, the ad copy wasn’t that good anyway.
We camped tonight at a 4,000 hectare guest farm. They ran 250 head of cattle (very dry land – grazing capacity is 16 hectares per head), bred horses – currently over a hundred on the farm – and ran a camp and guest house. It was a lovely place in the middle of nowhere with Pueblo style architecture and a hedgerow labyrinth. People get up to strange things in remote places. It had originally been part of a 10,000 hectare land grant to a German soldier in 1908.