I cheated today! 🙊 The plan this morning was to make it to Sebes, an 'easy' 120km away. Except that throughout the day I realized I did something wrong while studying the route, and Sebes was actually more about 180km away. I decided to see how it went, maybe I'd make it, maybe not. In that case I'd just end a little before Sebes. Well, my chosen route caused me to lose a fair bit of time, and I thought I'd most likely not make it. But when the time came to figure out where I'd sleep tonight, it turned out the closest place to sleep was in… Sebes! Thing was, Sebes was still 50km away, I was extremely hungry and food wasn't easy to get by on that part of the route, and I really couldn't be bothered with probably 2 hours more riding. Maybe more, if I'd encounter more of those surprise climbs I've been riding all day. So I went over to a little bar with a man and woman sitting outside (food is sometimes hard to find, alcohol is never an issue). Yesterday's process of a Google Translate aided conversation was repeated and it was just as hilarious. Their first reaction was something like 'just cycle there!'. Ouch, that was a painful burn from a beer drinking shirtless guy and chain smoking woman. But they sat me down, gave me coffee, and eventually Google Translate said "I will get you out of here". That sounded a bit radical, but the point was the woman was calling a taxi for me. She came back a little bemused, saying it would be 100 lei, which is about €20. She looked a bit weird at me when I eagerly said that wasn't an issue, so I went on the explain to her that's about the cost for a 10km ride in Amsterdam (yes, all through Google Translate). Minutes later I was in the taxi. Of course, while on the road we passed at least 4 guest houses, one of which probably would have had a room for me. But then I wouldn't have mingled with the locals like this, so I was fine with the decision.
Restaurant view here in Sebes isn't too bad either
Rolling through Romania
Today's ride was finally a real test for the legs. Now that I got to proper hilly terrain, it would be interesting to see how my day 3 would go. Apparently Day 3 niggles don't occur when you're in touring mode! The body is 100% fine, and morale was highest it's been so far. Sure, it feels like I'm sitting on a bruise (because, basically, I'm sitting on a bruise…), but delicately sitting down, changing position often and riding out of the saddle a bit more and it was very manageable, nothing like last year. However, I had forgotten what it was like to climb with a fully packed bike. But then I ran into Simon, a Dutch guy on a Santos Travelmaster who'd ridden from Nijmegen and was on his way to Constanta. When I asked him how heavy his setup was, he casually said the bike was 20kg and his luggage 25kg. And here I am, whining about going uphill with a 17kg setup. You really gotta give it to those cycle touring guys. I know TCR style riding is by no means easy, but the thought of hauling 45kg around! And apart from uphill, I don't think he's really that much slower than me. We were both on our way to Brad, so decided to stick together and find a lunch place in Brad to exchange experiences and compare notes. Apparently he's riding for an organization that supports Romanian orphanages. He was on his way to the Romanian office, where he would also get to visit one of the orphanages. Kudos to him!
After Brad our routes went separate ways. He was travelling further up north, and I was to take the back roads towards Sebes. The area got very rural and there was hardly any other traffic, I was having a great time (as I had been the entire day). But out of nothing, the road turned into this:
You can't really tell from the picture, but this was quite a steep uphill.
The joke was on me really, because I'd been stealing Paul Ferguson's routes. Paul is also a volunteer at CP4, and rode the route a week earlier. He even put on Strava that he encountered this rough road. But somehow I thought this wasn't where the rough roads were, or that they wouldn't be that long, or actually I'm not sure what I thought. Lesson learned though: it pays to do your homework! Anyway, I had to track back quite far if I wanted to re route over a main road, and it didn't seem that long. I figured I would still be faster if I hiked this part until I got to a better road. In mileage it probably really wasn't very long, but on cycling shoes, while pushing a bike over big rocks, it felt really really long. I was almost on the verge of losing my sense of humour over it a few times, but every time there was something that cheered me up, like a patch of shade, or a much needed water source.
Still I was hoping for a big 4WD to drive past who could take me to actual tarmac, but only two cars came by, and they both went in the wrong direction. Eventually my perseverance got rewarded when to road finally changed in the smoothest tarmac that took me downhill for 15km. But by this point I already lost too much time to make it to Sebes in good time, and after the 15km downhill, I got a lot of punchy hills to chew on. The early evening had started and this is where I got to the bar with the shirtless man, the chain smoking woman and my new best friend Google Translate.
Even played the tourist today
All in all, I had a wonderful day. Enjoyed the country, enjoyed the ride, enjoyed the company, and happy with how the body is holding up. Plan for tomorrow is to ride to the foot of the Transfagarasan. It's not that far (I think… I'll study it some more) so if I feel good enough, I will even ride it up to the checkpoint. Otherwise I'll keep it for Thursday morning. Thursday is also when we expect the first racers coming through.
Speaking of racers, they are killing it at the moment! First riders came through CP2 on Monte Grappa last night, and riders have been passing through ever since. At the back of the race, the red lantern has just passed CP1, so the front and back of the race are about 1,5 checkpoints apart, but that's very normal at this point in the race. Riders in Italy and beyond have reported extreme heat, so clearly that wasn't just in Romania. Many of them will cycle really early mornings or all through the night, so they can stay away from the midday heat. At the front of the race we have Bjorn Lenhard, an accomplished ultra endurance rider most known for his victory in Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015. Even now he's still averaging 30km/h. In the women's race, Melissa Pritchard (#233) now put in some distance between her and runner up Karen Tostee (#228). I don't know Melissa, but I've understood she meant to ride this race conservatively. Either she had a change of heart after she started, or she has a completely different idea of conservative than I do. Very impressive, she remains at the front of the pack overall. I'm hoping she will show the boys who's boss. Exciting!