If this is the first page you have landed on then you are stepping into my TCR journey somewhere in the middle, check out what has come before:
Though I seemingly covered a fair distance in a decent amount of time today I actually spent over 15 hours on the road which means I spent a good 5 hours not riding. I was losing my head and that was always going to be the thing that would cause me problems coming into this race. There was a lot going in my life that all needed a lot of mind space, to try and box that up and pack it away whilst I was on the road was not all that straight forward.
Alarms again brought me back from sleep, though a quality sleep it hadn’t been. Myself and the other rider sleeping in the same spot had not slept well. They, because without a sleeping bag had struggled to keep warm, and I, because the troublesome motion sensitive lights from the night before had decided to spend most of the night going on and off. Some sleep is better than no sleep however and though I wanted more there was no point staying there, better to try nab some better rest elsewhere. We packed together and said our goodbyes as I headed off the backside of the hill leaving CP1 behind, they went to look for some equipment they might have left up at the Schloss gates after completing the parcour the night before.
Dropping down off the hill in the dark was unpleasant, my bike felt “wobbly”, thats the technical term. I would later tighten my headset just a little which eliminated the unwanted wobble and bring better handling back. I may have done that this day or the next but it was definitely sorted before I descended Monte Grappa, though other issues would mar that descent. The lack of good sleep combined with a wobbly bike did not make for the best morning but spying a bakery/coffee stop set back from the road a few minutes later lifted my mood. I didn’t have any food and I think it was about 0500, I hadn’t expected to find any so this was a bonus. I ate something but I’m not sure what, definitely had coffee and learnt some of the names of the food items with the help of a woman working there. Later at CP2 and on the road I discovered that not many riders seemed to have clocked this place after leaving CP1 and had struggled with food that morning, so go me. Struggling for food would become an issue for me later in the day, provisions turned out be thinly spread in this part of Germany.
I don’t remember much about the first part of the ride today except it being very rural and lots of trees with what may have been hunting or bird watching structures. Somewhere before Lauterach I caught up with a rider named Caroline. The weather was foggy and the sun had not brought much light into the day unfortunately. I mentioned to Caroline that her rear light wasn’t on and that she was all but invisible, I really don’t like interfering with other riders but sometimes I know that I have to because I think it would be dangerous not to. Caroline didn’t seem to mind which I was grateful for, we didn’t chat much at this point and I pushed on into the fog.
In Munderkingen I saw Caroline again at a petrol station. I stopped to get water and snacks after a fruitless loop through the town looking for an open shop. We discovered that we lived very close to each other in England, I in Manchester and Caroline in Poynton. That is one of those recurring wonders in this world, that one will often meet people from where they have come from whilst being far away. I remember when I was younger and I was on holiday in Corfu with my family, a yacht sailed into the bay of the village where we were staying and on that yacht was an old friend of my Mum’s from England. We didn’t stop long, Caroline had a strategy of riding slowly but all but never stopping. A fine strategy that pays tribute to the “Time In The Saddle” mantra. I pushed off first but Caroline would be a familiar face throughout the next few days.
A bit further on, about 60km into the day I was after more food but there was nothing to be found in any of the successive villages I would pass through. I checked OsmAnd on my phone for shops and even that told me there was nothing until at least Altrach which was a good 30-40km further with a chunk of climbing between myself and there. I had messed up a bit with food at this point and resigned myself to having to push on as quickly as I could, I was genuinely hungry at this point. I was delayed for about 20 minutes when I took refuge in a roadside shrine on the top of a hill to let a shower pass.
In less hungry times this would have been a landscape I would have savoured riding through, large farmhouses with architecture I haven’t experienced before connected by rolling green farmland. Arriving in Altrach I stopped at the first place that could conceivably have food in a drunk on hunger state, it was a cafe/shop style place. I ate an odd combination of things including a jar of peanut butter, a flapjack and chocolate. No bread though, I dipped everything else in the peanut butter. It was clearly what my body wanted so I rolled with it. As I began moving through Altrach again I spied many far more suitable and better value places to stock up, but when you’re that hungry you just feed.
I can’t remember my thinking on my next move but I was manually navigating to Aichestetten and thought it looked nice to go by the water. I am a huge proponent of OsmAnd but in it’s huge dataset available to display it can be easy to get confused about what a line on the map means. I made my way to the water just outside Altrach planning to track it for a while but getting there found the line on the map to represent at best a little used walking route. It wasn’t flat and it was just grass, it wasn’t terrible but it was slow and I found my way back to the road at the earliest opportunity. Reunited with tarmac I kept on spinning but found myself pulling into a supermarket with a cafe 15km later, mostly tempted by a rider named Gregg I had shared my hotel with in Geraardsbergen sitting outside. I stocked up on fluids in the shop then took advantage of the shade of the cafe seating. It was starting to get hot in the day as we moved further South, little did I know at the point this was the beginnings of the heatwave that would come to be known as “Lucifer”. I struggle with heat at the best of times and today it was sapping all of my will to keep riding.
I knew I had to keep moving and though I spent a good 45 minutes hiding from the heat after already having a lunch break 15km prior I dragged myself back out into the sun and got spinning. I remember basically nothing after that until 33km later when I stopped to lie on the grass verge of the road that had started climbing into the lower alps. I must have eaten and drunk in the intervening time and no doubt stopped given how the day was going but I remember none of it. Whilst resting by the side of the road a good 10 or so riders caught up with me, Jenny Tough amongst them, some stopped to chat and some did not. I found a little odd they were riding essentially as a group given the nature of the race, particularly since the big climbing of the Alps had begun, but to my knowledge pretty much all of these riders ended up scratching so it made no different to race positioning. I set off a few minutes behind them and slowly reeled them in, passing them before reaching the Alps proper and the beginnings of the Fern Pass.
The rest of the cycling of the day is again a bit of a blur, there was rain, some brief roadside stops and the passing of a rider pair somewhere on a cycle path in the lower Alps. I booked a hotel ahead in Biberwier at some point and aimed for that. I was tired, very tired. The hotel was much closer than I envisaged and I found myself rolling in about 2100 I checked in with the landlady who was incredibly kind and friendly. I painfully slowly peeled off my kit and got things charging before getting in the shower. Left my kit in the sink soaking whilst I grabbed some pasta. On the return to my room I tried to finish washing my kit but I couldn’t, I was dead on my feet and couldn’t help but fall asleep. It was 0200 when I stumbled to the bathroom use the toilet and remembered my kit, I finished it off and hung it up to dry. I didn’t set an alarm, kind of on purpose.
Before losing the ability to stay awake I realised that I was beginning to suffer from palsy in my hands, my little and ring fingers were struggling to straighten whilst my thumb and index had lost a lot of strength. This worried me and was not something I had suffered with before. Partly I think my new bike with a slightly different fit was to blame, I had more weight on my hands than on my old bike.
Carry on the adventure with me on Day 4.