Day 114, stage 88, 172km
Start, Canon Roadhouse Camp
Finish, Provenance Camp, Noordoewer
If it took almost 5 hours to do 67km into a 40km headwind yesterday, how would we ever cycle 172km before the sun set if we had the same headwind? People were doing the math and getting nervous. Even the top racers were showing it. The result was that people were up earlier than usual this morning and on the road before the sun was over the horizon but there was enough light to see your shoes. It also resulted in 20 people not even starting. They had decided to put their bikes on the truck and take a lift, some to the lunch stop and some the whole way.
The wind we didn’t want was a southeast wind because that was the direction we were heading. Bridget had texted a pilot friend in SA to get intel on the winds we might expect today. Word had come back that we should expect an east-northeast breeze. While not a tailwind this was much more appealing that what we had had the day before. When I got out to the road the wind was strong and picking up and seemed to be coming straight from the east – so not on the nose but a good cross wind, not our friend but not an outright adversary. The cycling was much easier than yesterday, although still hard work.
The good news was that we took an odd route today that included a couple of stretches where we headed slightly west to pick up another road. The couple of times we did this we were rewarded with a tail wind that brought freewheeling back into our vocabulary. We had a brilliant 13km kite ride just before lunch t 92km and then another similar section just after lunch. This 30 or so ‘free’ kilometres made the day much more manageable. Spirits rose and by lunch we all began to feel that we would get there. The math was now working in our favour.
I cycled by myself all day today. And I felt strong. It had been a tough five days – psychologically as well as physically – so it felt good to feel good physically. I pushed myself and kept a decent pace. I finished in just over 8 hours (this includes time used to stop for lunch and fluids). The kicker was the final 6 or 8km. As we turned towards Noordoewer and the South African border we turned directly into the headwind. It stood us up and knocked us back. But it was only 8 km. Like any good horse, we could smell the oats – head down and push.
I was thinking of Tim the whole day as I road on my own. This was Tim’s ride.