Stage Five – somewhere to somewhere else

As you can see by the title it’s all blurring a bit into one at the present.  There’s a fckload of hills, a plate of pasta and a hotel at the end of it. Hautelife.  No complaints but as Gordo Byrn apparently puts it we are showing signs of the appropriate response to the training load.

Before I start an apology.  It seems I’m responsible for a global epidemic of incontinence.  Quite a few people seem to have ‘pissed themselves’ at my minor part (it was cold okay?) in the low budget soft porn movie in St Moritz.  Here’s a couple of snippets I didn’t include but maybe now I should. I wasn’t quite sure of the ladies nationality but I can confirm she definitely wasn’t a Brazilian and on leaving I checked the guest book – right there under my name was a Mary Hinge.  Pretty sure that’s our gal.

Right enough of that nonsense.  Today there was a proper bike race.  Firstly standard fare up the Gavia with just the ascent timed.  Just as well as the descent was brutal.  More twists and turns than a Jackie Collins novel (I don’t really read  books so that may not stand close scrutiny – forgive me) and a surface that  would make Robert Davi’s face look like a baby’s ass!  That makes for one hell of a lot of braking and that means very little rest for your forearms the whole way down.  Felt a bit perkier than yesterday and started a lot closer to the front of the field when I rolled over the timing mat.  Pretty happy with the output on the way up and took a couple and got taken by a few.  I’ll take that.  Not bad for a Popsicle on bicycle.

Second col of the day and there’s a whole group of guys at the bottom seemingly waiting for someone or something and generally in my opinion taking it all a bit too seriously.  Bollocks to them so I turned left rolled over the timing mat and started the big timed section of the day.  Something in the region of 75k (40-odd miles) so a proper bike race.  I was hoping to take the climb at a steady tempo (mainly as I’m pretty tired) and then couple up to a train over to the last climb.  A handful of people passed me and a couple came by just on 2k to go.  Gave it a big effort and managed to just about get over the top with them and we were soon joined by a couple more.  Perfect.  Some pretty tasty descenders on a very tasty descent – woohoo.  Touched over 60mph a couple of times as it was a pretty good surface and nice sweeping bends. I covered one 10mile stretch in under 20mins. The wagon was rolling.  Not a lot of chit chat but it was clear these guys were pretty serious about getting the job done asap.  Bit of through and off as we hit the flatter sections.  I was actually in a bike race.  I knew the race (for me) was right here and if I could stay locked in then I’d be saving a whole bunch of time.

Now for those who don’t really know a lot about cycling (I think I’m talking to myself here!) there’s a phrase ‘Eating shit’ – which basically means going harder than you want to go for longer than you want to.  I ate a lot of shit as well as bit of tarmac today.  There’s a short story I once read called The Rider by Tim Krabbe.  If you’re a cyclist you should read it and realise that you’re not the only one that thinks the way you do and if you’re not a cyclist (if you’re reading this I’m guessing you have a passing interest) then it might make you understand what’s going on in the mind of a cyclist.  It’s not that complicated as it often amounts to keep sucking up the pain against your better judgement but it sure as hell aint logical, captain.

Generally how you look after a good day’s shit munching.

Then it all got a bit bizarre.  We were directed onto a twisty cycle path less than 2metres wide.  Open to the public.  I saw elderly walkers, kids, families on bikes, a few horse riders,  amongst other things and here were half a dozen guys doing well in excess of 20mph with the clear aim of getting from A to B as fast as possible.  A and B were probably 10miles apart.  So it’s not safe to climb a mountain in forecast snow and only really put yourself at risk but potentially nuking members of the public is fine.  Okay, gottit.  Would love to know who signed off the risk assessment on that one.  Seemed like an accident waiting to happen to me.

And it did.  Another sharp bend onto a bridge, a bit of farm mud and boom down I went.  Luckily enough I didn’t take down the guy behind me who to his eternal credit did check I was okay before carrying on.  It wasn’t his problem anyway so before checking I told him I was fine.  Which actually I was.  Chain off, shifter a bit bashed some minor road rash and a couple of chunks out of my hands – so glad I took my gloves off literally 30seconds before this happened.  Couldn’t help but think of Buddha at this point – if you’re gonna shed a chain at least 5 times every freaking ride at least do it in style buddy.  So I straightened the handlebars a got back on.  Kept it as honest as I could (which was still pretty legit) but I knew the train had left the station with me on the platform.  Darn it!  There was still a way to go to the climb and the whole cycle path thing was a little confusing – several times I was toying with the idea of turning around to check I hadn’t taken a wrong turn.  Fortunately every time I was just about to (and begin composing a pretty stern email to race HQ) I saw the welcome sight of a black arrow on a yellow background.  Not sure how much time it cost me I doubt I was rubber side up for more than 30seconds but not making the train must have lost me many times that amount.  Hey-ho that’s bike racing for you and it was freaking ace while it lasted.

So I’d ridden strong up the first climb in this section and caught a train part way to the base of the last climb and ridden pretty strongly as a result (well over ½ IM pace for any of you triathletes out there).  If I could boss the climb I’d be pretty sure I’d have a pretty high placing for the day.  However, didn’t quite pan out like that.  Burying myself on days 1, 2 and 3 and tacking on the Stelvio on day four is going to take its toll at some point.  It was a case of ‘Engine room to legs : more gas please’ and the legs politely requesting that the engine room might like to consider combining sex with travel.  Turned into a bit of a grind and get pretty close to a full on ‘welcome to la-la land have a nice day’ crack.  I made the mistake of reading the roadbook last night and it said ‘despite being 17k long, the Passo Castrina only (my itallics) rises 1081m and is one of the easier (my itallics) climbs of the week’ – well whoever wrote that can join the engine room in combining sex with travel.  It was a brute.  Pilsbury aside everyone I’ve spoken to said it was super tough – Big Guy even rated it harder than Furka and Jeff hitched a little ride in a vehicle with a sweeping implement attached.  Big crater for Dee-oh but good news is he’s still glad he crested the Stelvio yesterday.  No regrets.  That’s the spirit carpe a diem every now and then.

I suffered like a dog.  This isn’t eating shit as that involves going hard then going home.  This is more like mind over matter and continually trying to eek out as much power as you can without running up the white flag at the first opportunity like some kind of cheese eating surrender monkey.  Right on the raggedy edge of a big crack but just about held it together.  At the top I was spent.  Needed some time to gather myself before going anywhere near the aid station offerings.  A bit of coke and a handful of crisps eaten Cookie Monster stylee didn’t real make a huge difference but it was better than the last hour plus of hell.  Nice touch to set up the aid station a couple of hundred metres from the top of the climb too.  I loved that.  Then it was another super fast descent with breathtaking views and super sweeping bends.  A long way down to the finish.  Pretty empty there too.  No queuing for a massage and then the one on one attention of what seems like my very own osteopath.  Dude laughs at me every day walking in like an old man that’s just inadvertently released some chocolate hostages, explains what the problem is to the masseuse and then waits to do his stuff on me.  Really nice guy.  Gonna tip him hard at the end of the week.

What you generally look like when you’ve been to the brink of cracking.

Then the guys start rolling in.  K-squared is an airline pilot and flies the big mothers.  His pretty low key, kind of pops up here and there from nowhere…makes me wonder if his planes ever show up on the radar.  Big E’s still big and talking about power numbers a lot.  He also has two hobbys.  One is emphasizing the penultimate syllable of a lot of words. Yesterday for example whereas I climbed the STELvio Big Guy would have gone up the StelVEE-o if he hadn’t have pussied out.  Today he was thinking of taking out a portion of tira-MEEE-su.  It’s a strange hobby but then he is one of them Mericans.  His second hobby is taking things out of people’s asses.  He’s an ER doctor back home – I’m sure he does a lot of other boring stuff like saving lives but that’s not good blogging material.  Dude was telling us some of the shit (well not shit actually) he’s taken out of people’s asses.  My personal favourite was the butane canister story that ended with all 6foot 9 of him diving for cover after inadvertently letting it off up the guy’s ass when he was fishing around up there with some tongs.  Guy was too embarrassed to tell Big E what it was up there so he wasn’t fishing as carefully as they’d have both preferred when the shitfest began.  Funny as.  In the end I passed on the tira-MEEE-su – I’m sure you can see why.  (Apparently the Big Guy doesn’t read the blog so I should be safe giving it to him a little.)

This guy’s been bugging me for a photo all week. Finally cracked…he even made me use my phone #prolife

As for old Pilsbury? Dough boy’s kinda chirpy cos he took some time out of me…on one climb.  The one I suffered like a dawg on.  He’s further back in the GC (not 100% sure he’s even still in the same race as me anymore) but dude’s strutting around all brash trash talking like…well a typical fckn Merican really.  I’m planning on soft pedalling most of the stage tomorrow and then bossing the last climb #petrostylee.

Just seen there’s a comment from my numero uno Stalker Joseph ‘The Sprag’ Spraggins on yesterday’s blog.  Funny thing is one of the things that went through my head for the blog today was ‘Are you out there Sprag’.  Funny old place the inside of my noggin ;o)

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