Monday, 3 August 2009

Day 6 - The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.

Sarnthein to Kaltern.

Scarcely believable, but today's riding is even better than yesterday's. Harder too, due to all the "wee" hills. 75kms, 3173m up and 3783m down. I fail to pay attention to the wee climb just before the finish line...

So off we go again. Start line banter, "Highway to Hell", unseemly argy-bargy to get going, up, up, up, up, down, up up up. Bit of singletrack which has a big queue of pushing riders which we bypass by riding stylishly through a river (well, Dave manages without a dicht) then a climb on gravel where I feel very one-paced. It doesn't last long though before we get to fast undulating gravel and then a brilliant wee climb. We see it coming and take the grassy shortcut onto it while others resort to pushing from the start. Apart from two very short pitched sections we ride it all and then we have a lovely open hoot along narrow, dusty walking trails with lots of fast corners and languid cows grazing either side. More climbing and more brilliant singletrack where we reel in lots of teams before a final steep haul to the day's high point.

From the high point we chase down a couple of German girls who Dave passes early but I can't get the measure of. They're too quick over the open, rutted meadow-land but I spot my chance on the inside of a sharp bend with lots of rocks and roots. The next section before the feed station is absolutely outstanding riding down rocky chutes and over dusty, rooty trails way high up with fantastic views over to the limestone peaks on every horizon. I have a wee tumble over the bars after some risky manoeuvres to pass a hesitant rider but the adrenaline has me straight back on the bike and raring for more. Hands hurt, toes hurt, but it's too much fun to hold back.

There's more to come after the feed station and then we're in another valley where the heat is staggering. It's another long, long climb with salty sweat pouring into our eyes. Each day we've managed to forget something fairly crucial - today it's the Nuun tablets which replace the sweated-out electolytes. As if this isn't bad enough, I'm so addled by the time I get to the last feed station that I omit to fill my Camelbak, or my bottle. There's still 30kms to go with lots of sharp climbs and some bone-shaking descents. I run out of water in short order. Dave has a little left, but he needs some of it himself. There's a section where we have to carry the bikes up a steep path over roots and mud. Dave hates these bits but I find they are a bit of a rest. From the top it's mostly downhill but I'm so dehydrated that my brain seems to be rattling in my skull. I'm thirsty for water, but the limestone hydrography is keeping it all to itself.

This is desperate. My head is throbbing from the effort and even the downhills are painful. The day finishes with a very fast plummet into Kaltern am See or Caldaro al Lago - I can see the lake through gaps in the trees and it's all downhill EXCEPT for the last bit. I've piled on the pressure at the head of a chaingang only to find that the last couple of kms are uphill into the town. I have nothing left. We get over the line in around 6 1/2 hours but I'm exhausted from the sustained effort without proper hydration. There are only two days to go but I'm struggling to do even the most basic of tasks. Washing my bike and fixing my loosening rear hub take a supreme effort of will and I struggle to make sparkling, witty conversation over dinner.

Tomorrow we'll probably forget the ibuprofen, or something equally perilous.

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