Stage 2

Stage 2

Firstly, I want to show you what a zebra looks like at the finish:

 And this is what a leopard looks like:

Rob had a great day, cruised it, which was no mean feat as even the zebra course was horrendous.  I, on the other hand, did not cruise it, well, I did for a while.  I started with Rob chilling at the rear, figuring I’d have a buddy system start then wind it up.  Although speaking to people and understanding the gravitas of the leopard course it became clear I was going to have hit out quite early to make sure I was safe for the checkpoint cut-offs.  I spent the first 10km moving up, then when it opened up I set off on my own on what were, once again, cheap beer gravel “roads”.  It was groundhog day, the rain has destroyed everything, at best it’s like giant corrugated iron, at worst it’s like a pump track made by drunk people and covered in rocks and sand. 

I passed a few people on the open 30km towards the first climb, and found myself sitting about 500m behind a small group that were rotating (I presume, I couldn’t see this, and couldn’t get closer so guessed that was the case).  Then we hit the 18km climb, I caught the group that was infant of me easily, then just kept going and started catching lots of people, finding myself at the summit with the leading women, I can’t tell you how pleased I was with myself, this effort turned out to be a terrible mistake.  We were at the same height as the Galibier, just under 2600m, yet verdant green and lush, which was strange.  There wasn’t a descent for what seemed a long time, then all of a sudden it was OH SHIT single track descent.  There were the two women, Sarah Sturmey and eventual winner, Luisa and Josh Reid, who finished 10th here last year but this year has decided to turn his ride into a content creation masterpiece.  He stuck a go-pro in his mouth and followed me down the single track, can’t wait to see that.  Not only that he was capturing video and photography at all moments, this was very cool to begin with, yet grew more belittling in direct correlation to my crumbling physical state.  Although, I now think it’s cool again as he’s going to have some magical stuff from our day out.

We came off the mountain and passed the zebra turn off and set off on 70+km extra loop, this was the hardest part of the day, which was exciting.  It was next level shitshow mountain bike madness.  We spent 30km in forests on single track, relentlessly going up and down, and forever dismounting to cross mud sections and rivers.  At one point I said to the women, joking but not, because I’d already told them third place was miles behind, that we should chill out and treat it as a nice day out on the bike with friends in Kenya.  They pretended to like the idea, then left me and Josh at the second feed zone at 110km.  Things went from bad to worse for me from here on in.  I was not loving it.  We were properly in the middle of nowhere, barely any trails visible, and when they did they would disappear into rivers or through bush that did not look like a path anybody would ever take.  I have no idea how they mapped this, but Bear Grylls must have had something to do with it.

My decline and fall continued, eventually third place woman caught us, Josh and her rode off unceremoniously and I stuck with an Amani rider, we chatted about how fucked we were, I asked his name, but at this point I could barely remember my name so I’m going to have to look at the results to find it out.

I got to the finish line and collapsed on the grass.  Rob came across looking fresh as a daisy and pleased as punch, having had a great day on the bike.  He was very kind, realising my broken state, he went about sorting all my stuff out.  Got me a burger and fries and sorted out my tent.  The pity was real.  I didn’t get off the grass for nearly an hour.  I can’t even remember when I was last so tired.  I was out there for nine hours, and it felt like I was on the pedals all the time, or concentrating on not crashing, or hiking my bike through deep mud or rivers.  It was properly mind-bending, and all above 1800m altitude, which maybe I didn’t take too much into account either.  Anyway, feeling better now, although it’s all relative, I thought I was going to die three hours ago.  Tomorrow is a mere 140km and 2000m climbing, so that will be fun.