Day 9 – Merano, IT

Thank f*** god, Switzerland is behind me! The country is wonderful, but the route through it was absolutely ruthless. From where I started it was only about 40km maybe to the Italian border, but it took me all morning to get there, thanks to the Fluela pass and the Ofen pass that each climb up and over 2000 meters above sea level. Together with the Oberalp Pass, the Furka pass and the Grimsel pass I’ve now climbed 5 2000+ climbs in three days. If all goes well, I should be able to make it to CP3 tomorrow, and by then the worst of the climbs should be over. 

Italy had been calling for a while now

Physically all is still OK, although I’m clearly not fresh as a daisy. The Fluela and Ofen are passes that should usually suit me well, long but not too steep, they hardly get over 10%. And I still think I did OK, but by now I can’t manage them anymore without an occasional stop by the side of the road to take the tension off the legs and bring the heart rate down.  I guess that’s what added luggage, and fatigue from riding 1500km in a week will do to you. No, believe it or not, and this is such a first world female problem to say, my main physical concern right now is a ripped nail on my left hand. Due to the numbness it has happened more than once that my finger shut off the shifter when trying to shift, and that caused a painful rip quite low in the nail. Obviously there’s no way I want to scratch due to a broken nail, so I’m just trying to keep it from getting inflamed by cleaning it up as best I can and find a band aid somewhere.

Spirits were also way up again today. I felt well rested and the weather was great to ride the bike. And I was really happy to get to Italy, another country to check off the list. Only thing that very sometimes crossed my mind is that I could also just give up and get to my family at the Garda lake and continue my holiday there. But then I remind myself that the thing I looked forward to most was cycling in the East European countries, so I owe it to myself to at least get to Slovenia. And if, God forbid, nothing serious happens, I see no reason why I won’t, because the mind is in the right place again. That being said, it seems like a lot of people have had to scratch the past couple of days. I think it’s because a large variety of reasons, but it goes to show, this edition is again hard as hell!

Anna van der Breggen wins Olympic gold

And lastly, today’s ride will be dedicated to the Dutch female road racers and especially Annemieke van Vleuten, who had an extremely nasty crash. I haven’t been able to watch it of course, but the road race has been on my mind the entire day and I’m extremely proud we got to take home gold again! Well done, girls!

Day 8 – Saas, still CH

Back on my own from here on! I just had dinner in a very Swiss hotel restaurant where I will also spend the night. Henning kept me company while drinking beer and then decided to keep going. He’s a lot more comfortable than me to ride in the dark, and I was determined to get an easy day’s ride and an early night sleep, to then hopefully be fresh and ready to pull longer days. It was only a matter of time before we parted ways and after two days it started to become more apparent that you slow each other down, so I’m looking forward to continue alone again. That being said, he was great company, and I was happy to have him near. 

That guy in the distance is Henning πŸ™‚

In terms of riding it was actually rather uneventful today. We got on our bikes quite late. Truth is, yesterday’s ride knocked me out more than I even realized when I finished the post this morning. Only when I completely broke down when I talked to my mom, did it dawn on me how much energy I’d been spending on trying to keep myself together. My family did a great job on putting me back on my feet, and I felt a lot better after crying the emotions away. And what’s more cute and heart warming than having your 7yo niece tell you that you can do it?

Despite the good sleep and the extensive breakfast buffet, I promised myself to take it a bit easy today. The legs and mind were still tired, so better to reset it completely before the last hard bit of Alpine/Dolomites climbs. Henning and I didn’t necessarily decide to stay together for another day, but it just so happened to be that we left around the same time, so we just had a good time together joking around and chatting.

Excellent fuel stop.

After some deliberation I took the Albula pass out of the route and decided to go for Davos instead. Albula seems to be breath taking, but I couldn’t be bothered with such a serious climb today, so I’ll rather save that for some other time. It means that I’ll still have the Fluela pass ahead of me, but from what I could find online, is the profile a bit friendlier. And the way today turned out, meant that I could postpone the climb another day. 

I’m really really looking forward to be crossing into Italy tomorrow. Switzerland is beautiful, but the expensiveness starts to bore me. Besides, I’m looking forward to just be in the next country, and of course to overload on pizza’s! Most likely scenario for tomorrow is that I’ll get close to CP3, so I can stamp it off on Monday. 

In other news,

  • I haven’t checked the tracker, but I think Kristof is already enjoying a cocktail by the pool. Or it won’t be long now.
  • Another Belgian, some guy no one has ever heard of, also seems to have won some small race somewhere in Brazil. 
  • If I wasn’t smelly before (I was), I’m definitely smelly now. Thanks to the rain the stench of sweat is now mixed with the stench of wet dog. I need to come up with a plan to get laundry service while I rest somewhere.
  • Marianne Vos will try to defend her Olympic title tomorrow. Her road to the Olympics was not exactly smooth and she is even more a strong outsider than a real favorite. Since I’ll have to focus on my own ride, please will her on for me! And let me know how she did it. 

Day 7 – Tujetsch, CH

We’re now a week in the race, and quite the week! I was going to do a little bit of reflection on the entire week, but this past day was so damn intense, that it currently occupies my entire memory. I started this post last night, but fell asleep halfway in.

Strava tells me we’ve only managed to ride 89km at a painstakingly slow moving pace of 11,4km/h. But I’m still surprised we (Henning and me) managed to do that much, because we still had 2/3 of the parcour to do, but the Alps didn’t seem to like our presence very much and continuously spit us in the face. The average temperature was 11 degrees, with a minimum of 2 degrees.

The alarm in my nun’s cell yesterday morning went at 6am, when it was raining very hard. The deal was if it was still raining, we would allow ourselves some extra sleep. I got to reset the alarm to 730, still raining. So Henning said he wanted to try and score a poncho somewhere, but of course the shops wouldn’t open til 9am. Hop, back to bed for another hour, enjoy our complementary breakfast and to the shop.

My cell

It was quite nice to have an easy morning like that and as a bonus it stopped raining when we left. That first part up the pass was like a fairytale! I’m pretty sure I saw a troll washing himself in a waterfall and elves playing hide and seek down the valley.

But the higher we climbed, the further we got into the low hanging clouds. And the clouds brought their friend rain, who brought his girlfriend wind. The wind was so strong that I nearly got knocked of the bike twice before I deemed it too dangerous to continue riding. Problem was, up there was actually NOTHING to take shelter, so the only option was to keep pushing the bike. But even that proofed very difficult when another gush of wind came by. Henning was already further up the road out of sight, so I was just hoping for a message he was drinking coffee somewhere, because that would mean the end was near. I actually posted a video on the Transcontinental Race FB page to show everyone what was up (this page is by the way a wonderful resource for those of you who got hooked on dot watching and would also like to get some news from other racers). Video Grimselpas

The plan was to warm up a bit before descending, but the restaurant owner on top of the pass wasn’t very welcoming. Back on the bike it was, getting down to Gletch and get a real lunch. The descent was extremely difficult due to the rain and especially the wind trying to push you over the cliff in the switchbacks. So we had to take it really easy, which meant braking a lot, which meant very frozen hands when we got down. We took our time a bit to get warmed up and dry our kit as much as we could before the Furka pass. 

Luckily the Furka pass was a lot less bad, although the wind was still really strong on top. But altogether it was a lot more doable, Henning just felt bad for me that I didn’t get to see the pretty views. I still think they were very nice though, just in a different way.

This descent was more or less the same story, especially the wetness of the road really forced us to be extra careful. It didn’t matter too much, we were already congratulating each other for having this ridiculously steep part behind us. We decided to have food in Andermatt, which was by then only a flat 9km away. But just out of nowhere it started to piss down and strong headwinds came up. We just cracked on as quickly as I could, but it did feel like a bit of a slap in the face from the weather gods.

Turns out, it wasn’t the last thing they had in store for us. While having schnitzel dinner in Andermatt we decided to reserve a hotel in Disendis, 20km further up the road, which seemed to be the only somewhat reasonably priced hotel in the area. 20km wasn’t too far, but we knew there was still the annoying little Oberalp pass in the way. It’s only 6km long, but it was 830pm, so we quickly had to get going. 

Turned out, the ascent wasn’t too bad, but we underestimated what it would do to us mentally to have yet another climb late at night when you’re just ready for a shower and a bed. Also, darkness fell completely before we were well on top, and the little drizzle started to get worse. When we finally reached the top, I think it was a little before 930pm, we passed a hotel. Henning suggested to stop there, but I just felt like continuing to a place where we were assured of a bed. Big big mistake! The road was pitch pitch black and the rain was getting worse and colder. Where we usually would have been able to use the descent to cover the distance in no time at all, we were really forced to slow down to probably 15km/h. The road never seemed to end, it was so so cold, we were so so wet, and the end never seemed to come in sight. Going back wasn’t an option, because it would mean yet another climb, so the only thing we could do was keep going until we found shelter. I was really a bad place at that time, not only because my hand and feet were about to fall off my body but also because I felt so stupid and guilty for making us descend in conditions like that. 

By that time we both agreed we would take whatever next hotel would take us, at whatever price, and forget about the hotel we already reserved. I was at a near mental breakdown and so so so cold. Poor Henning was probably having a hard time putting up with me at that point, I hope he realizes that I was in fact very grateful that he was with me yesterday. 

Finding another hotel wasn’t that easy, because as we already noticed when looking for a hotel earlier that night, a lot of them were fully booked, and were turned down three times before we found one with available rooms. It was like a damn oasis! The hotel is really nice, and expensive, but not outrageously. Besides, it had a wellness shower and I took full and long use of that. I could easily stay here another 3 or 4 nights. By this time I felt like getting under the covers, but I decided to have another drink with Henning at the bar, just to have a wind down and also to try and be good company after being the witch I was earlier. 

So of course, as always, all ended well. But it was a hard time getting there. I promised myself I would only get going if all my clothes were dry, so I will soon check their state and then we’ll see what the plan for today is. Probably taking it easy a little bit, to give the body a bit of time to rest. Will keep you posted as always!

Day 6 – Innertkirchen, CH

Just to start with a warning, I’ve had my first race alcohol tonight and I cannot guarantee this won’t influence today’s post. πŸ˜‰

Today was a day of one major up and one major down, both literally and metaphorically. The major up being of course reaching CP2, where I had to self validate because the checkpoint was closed last night. But also the pass we had to climb. Anyone who has been watching my dot this afternoon, might have noticed it went a ‘little’ slow. Yes, I have had to walk more than halfway up. My god, that was steep! I started it off with #165 Henning, whom I met at the CP in Grindelwald, but the heat, the tired legs and the loaded bike had me resorted to my feet quite soon. But in all honesty, I’m not even sure I could ride this thing all the way up with fresh legs and a stripped down bike. Henning went on quite strong, so I thought I’d never see him again. But sure enough, a couple of hair pin corners later I saw him also pushing his bike and from there on we pushed together, without drafting of course. πŸ˜‰ Like he said, speed wise it doesn’t really matter, so why waste the energy. Not that pushing your bike up 14% slopes costs no energy though. But despite it being tough as balls, it was so incredibly beautiful. You could feel the temperature dropping the higher we got (thank god!) and some dark clouds started looming over the mountains, giving it a very dramatic look.

After what seemed like forever – and turned out to be two hours – we finally made it to the top. We took a minute or so to soak up the view, put our jackets on and started on the major down. The descent was highly technical, slightly terrifying and unbelievably beautiful! We had now left the tourists of Grindelwald behind, and were completely surrounded with pine trees, smells of wood fires and creeks. I really wanted to stop more often to take a bunch of pictures, but it started to drizzle a little bit and at all costs wanted to avoid riding down a wet mountain. Luckily it didn’t get too bad and we stopped in Innertkirchen to have dinner and then tackle the Grosse Scheidegg. However, while having our schnitzel and really started to poor, so the major metaphorical down was that we were forced to stay in the valley.

We are now in a hotel called Alpina, and it’s all kinds of weird, I love it! My room looks a little bit like a nun’s cell, with a bed I hardly fit in. Also, I just noticed that track leaders still has me at the restaurant where we ate. I forgot to take off the spot tracker before it started raining, so I’m hoping it’s still working. Will keep an eye on it tomorrow.

Lovely schnitzels here, but that’s not where I am.

Hopefully everyone else also managed to find cover before the rain! We’ll try to aim for a 6am departure if the rain will let us.

In other news:

  • I had my first real life ‘Go Louise!’ from a woman on a balcony about 7km before Grindelwald, which was really cool.
  • I also had ‘guidance’ from a Swiss man named Beat (pronounce with German accent) all the way from Bern to Thun. It was a bit confusing, he suddenly rode next to me on his bike -clearly not one of us racers – asking me if I was 29. I was going to say yes, until it occurred to me that he probably didn’t talk about my age, and then pointed at the cap and said I was 149. He stayed with me and we chatted a little bit in French, which is important to know because I can do chitchat in French but I’m far from fluent, so I didn’t always understand him. So when he started to get all fatherly and giving me historical information of the surroundings, his company started to tire me out but he showed no intention whatsoever to part ways. He was the sweetest man, but I just wanted to enjoy the looks of Switzerland on my own account and in my own tempo (I actively had to create holes to not draft him, which he read as a request to slow down. I didn’t have the words to explain the rules). But the weirdest thing came when I finally found the heart to ask him to let me continue alone after Thun – which he took very politely – he said “well Louise, it was good talking to you, best of luck.” I never gave him my name! All this time I thought he got out on his bike to look for a racer he happened to know, but when he mentioned my name, it finally dawned on me that he has been closely following the race and actually came out to ride with me. Interesting!
  • Had my first mechanical today. My chain fell off when I shifted back on a particularly steep piece of road, which caused my rear derailleur to no longer align properly. Took a bike mechanic in Grindelwald about 5 minutes to fix.

Body update:

  • The knee seems to be healing! I still treat it gently whenever I can, and understandably he complained a bit when we were on the big pass. But it’s going well enough that he can make a serious contribution on the climbs.
  • The two fingers on my left hand are still gone, which makes handling a knife and fork very interesting. I don’t think this issue will go away before I’ll get off the bike, but I’d be happy enough if all the other fingers kept working.
  • My butt got off my back! Or well, it’s still attached to my back, but it’s not so painful anymore. Aside from a couple occasional requests to adjust my position, my butt seems to have come to terms with the situation. It’s still a war zone down there, but a war zone in control.
  • Legs in general are stiff and heavy, but once warmed up, still very much OK.
  • The tan lines look ridiculous, especially those in my face.
  • My boobs are fading before my eyes. I’d expected I’d lose a little bit of weight during the trip, you just can’t consume as many calories as you’re burning, but why the body starts eating from the area that should be left alone?? I don’t know…

That’s about all to report, I think! Switzerland is so goddamn post card pretty, I will try to take more pictures next days!

Auf wiederschnitzel!

Day 5 – Neuchatel

That moment when your Garmin diverts you from the nice rolling main road you’re on.

That moment when you have a slight hunch the main road may be better, but you stick to plan A after all. 

That moment when plan A turns out to be a ridiculously steep path that may or may not be suited for bicycles. Like, 18% steep. Like, every horizontal meter equals 1,80 vertical meter. Draw that in a triangle and you get it.

Perspective is shit, but I promise that was 18%

That moment when you half cycle, half walk that path anyway and all the way up you keep having doubts, so you check your Garmin again and plan A turns out to be not plan A after all.

That moment when you hike down that super steep path, get on the ‘cycle road’ you were supposed to be at and again have some doubt about the quality of the road.

That moment when you go on for a few km anyway, try to decide at what point it really makes no more sense to keep going in hopes for a better path and deep down you know that moment has long passed.

It really won’t get better (it got worse)

That moment when you accept defeat, hike all that shit back and get yourself to the main road again.

That moment when the main road turns out to have another nasty climb and all the way on top you finally remember why your Garmin routed you off: a prohibited tunnel.

So basically that’s how an otherwise wonderful day made a very sudden 180. When finally reaching Switzerland earlier that day, I still had every intention to do the next 100km to CP2 before midnight. My lack of sleep hadn’t been noticeable and the legs were doing well.But when that huge navigational error occurred, I lost a good 90 minutes and all hopes of making it to Grindelwald while also be assured of a heavy meal, a shower and a bed. So once at the start of the tunnel, all confused, tired, fed up and on the verge of tears, I decided to accept whatever the consequence (most probably a time penalty) and use the SOS sidewalk to walk to the other side of the tunnel. 

I then and there accepted that CP2 that night would be off the table. Food, a shower and a bed were now no. 1 priority, because the whole situation clearly proved that I wasn’t in a state of making the right decisions. Initially I thought of pushing for Bern, but then my Garmin beeped it was almost out of battery, as was my power bank, as was my phone. So I read that as a sign on the wall and am now resigned for the day. 

Tomorrow is CP2. That itself should be OK, it’s the parcour that follows afterwards that should be interesting. To give you an idea, the elevation is more or less the same as I rode today, except it’s in 70km instead of 180km. I’ll send some sun towards The Netherlands and Belgium, because I prefer to do those climbs without the sweltering heat.

Oh and just to let you know, despite the setbacks here and there, I’m enjoying myself a lot! πŸ™‚ I hope you are too!

Just a quick shout out

…while I’m waiting for lunch, to already say thank you to all of you who has tagged along for my ride. Though I feel a bit watched sometimes when I’m taking yet another break or going reaallly slow ;-), the support is 100% heart warming and encouraging! 

Almost as cool as finding my own name on the road! πŸ™‚

Day 4 – Louhans

Sorry, I missed my daily post yesterday evening. I’m currently waiting at a hotel in Lons Le Saunier for breakfast, so I have some time to catch up.

The early hotel on day 3 really worked it’s wonders. Only problem was the extremely comfy pillows, which made it really hard to get up. It wasn’t terrible though, I think I hit the road around 6:30. The morning was chilly in a good way, the roads were good and spirits were up. Where I thought the day before I wouldn’t stand a chance in the Alps, I now felt I would even walk up the hilly bits if I have to. πŸ˜‰

My bike had company at the hotel.

My knee started out quite OK, but as soon as I really tested it and hammered up a hill, it got extremely mad at me and refused to even rotate. So I gave it some medicine and a new layer of Voltaren and gave it the rest of the day off, in hopes it would perform better when I really needed it. The route was fairly hilly, but the kind where I could get away with really low gears. And also, the area that I rode through was absolutely amazing. 4 days in it’s definitely confirmed I can take so much more if the scenery is nice.

Another novelty is that I’m really making the most of my aerobars. Not because I ever lie in them, but because I’ve been using the armrests to sit completely upright. It’s not exactly aero, but it’s the least uncomfortable position for both my lady parts and my hands. I’m sure I’m getting some laughs from French people in their car, but I’m well beyond the point of caring (I actually never was at the point of caring). 

Anyway, after leap frogging with pair #227 – whom I’ve nicknamed the B-twins – all day, I was all smug for arriving at Louhans by 9:45pm. My route on the Garmin is broken down in sections of about 250km, and today’s route was actually supposed to end in Louhans, so it felt like I was more or less on schedule. The smugness was short lived though, when I soon found out all hotel receptions in Louhans closed around 7pm or so. I thought arriving before 10pm was very decent and I’d surely find a hotel still open, but no such luck.  I checked Google and the nearest Ibis was another 20km further up the road. I tried to call them, but couldn’t get through. So at that point I thought the risk of going on for another hour and possibly strike out of luck again would be too great, so I opted to bivvy on the comfy garden furniture of one of the hotels that wasn’t open. This wasn’t too bad, it was semi OK to sleep on and never got really cold, but it wasn’t exactly what I’d call quality sleep. Also, to not have a shower, toilet or sink at your disposal is not really something for me. Being able to clean yourself after a long sweaty day, tremendously helps with feeling at least somewhat human. 

At least it got me on the road really early, but of course I didn’t have any food and very little water, so I rode to Lons Le Saunier ever so slowly, which is where I am now. Of course, on the way here, I came across at least 10 hotel options of which I probably would have found one that could let me in, but that’s how these things go.

Look what arrived while I typed this

I feel very tired now and the legs aren’t in the best of shapes, but once again I’ll just try to get as far as I possibly can, probably with a roadside nap in between. In an ideal world I would get to CP2 late tonight, but the most important thing is that today’s ride needs to be rewarded with a real bed.

Have a good day everyone!

Day 3 – Ennezat

Today was a bit of a ‘hanging in there’ kind of day. Although yesterday’s ride was tough, the scenery kept the morale up all day. Today was a bit different. I woke up realizing the deterioration of my body, and was a bit worried about how quickly it was going. We’re only on day 3 and my knee was stiff, I lost any sensation in two fingers of my left hand and my saddle sores were rearing their ugly heads. Nothing to seriously worry about, but they do create a lot of discomfort. (Oh the joy of sitting back on a saddle with saddle sores. Oh the fun to need four fingers to try and shift)

Puy de dome, also known as not-CP1. We had to climb to Col de Ceyssart at the bottom.

What was good today was that CP1 would be a certainty, and even while the checkpoint was still open. What was also good today was running into other riders (pair #207, I think their names were George and Abby? And #29 Franziska) and spend some time with people who understand what you’re going through. 

Despite our joined breakfast together, I found it hard to fully enjoy the day. I was very unimpressed by the road from Moulins to Clermont-Ferrant. The road was both busy and boring, and the tarmac was the kind that set my butt on fire. So to make it a bit more interesting, I tried to push for an arrival at CP1 by noon. It wasn’t to be though, traffic and red lights made for poor progress and then I even managed to pass the checkpoint at first, having to back track 2,5km. 2,5km is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but I could’ve done without. Also, my knee decided that I pushed too hard that morning, so CP1 turned out to be a very short break, so I could go to a pharmacy.

The hotel was all out of coke, thanks to everyone who came in before me. I call that bad preparation.

Then it was time for the parcour, I had to climb the Col de Ceyssart. It took me a lot longer than I’d like to admit. A double Ibuprofen and a lot of Voltaren hardly helped to ease the pain, but that was only part of it. I started worrying about how the hell I would survive Switzerland if I could hardly even manage this. Then I started looking at all those parapenters at the top of the Puy de Dome, thinking they were having so much more fun than I. I just wasn’t in a good place. But thanks to a couple stops, I still made it to the top and had a chat with Louise and Peter there. 

Then I descended, found a Carrefour and had a parking spot lunch/dinner, checked the route and decided to see if I could make it to Vichy tonight. It started promising, the D road was actually flat, had a real designated bike lane and progress was good. But then the side wind came out to play and I was just DONE. Navigated to the nearest hotel, now ready to thoroughly was myself and the kit. Tomorrow another day!

Day 2

Gorgeous ride through national park Morvan today! It did put me back a little bit time wise, but I think I’m still on track for the polka dot jersey. πŸ™‚ At least I managed to write down one (just one??) QOM on Strava. And the knee was doing much better. But I can tell the power of my left hand is giving in, the tip of my pinky is already numb. I expected it to happen at some point, but not this fast.

Tomorrow shortest route to CP1, generally it should well be possible to get there before they close the checkpoint at 3pm.

Goodnight everyone!

Ps, didn’t see a single rider today, but I did see a dot watcher and he took this photo:

And so it beginsΒ 

I’m actually way too tired for an update, but I’m so worries I forget details. Besides, I HAVE to eat before I go to sleep, and I think I can manage both at the same time. I’ll try to keep it coherent.

Start at market square

The start day was actually a lot fun, getting to know some of the people you’ve been interacting with on Facebook. I could mention all the riders, but my special shout out goes to Marion, she is basically the uber dotwatcher and she always has a kind word for every single person on the TCR Facebook she moderates (I accidentally called her the mother of all racers, but I meant that in the caring way, not in terms of age πŸ˜‰ ).

Once we made our way to the market square, I was amazed about the turn up of fans. I’d expected supporters from racers and the odd one from down the street, but there were a lot of Belgians from the area that were genuinely interested. And even a Dutch family who happened to be on the Mont Ventoux (last year’s CP1) when racers started coming through, and they wanted to come to the start this year. So when the town crier started counting down, the sides of the road were properly filled with fans.

Anyway, we’re nearly 24 hours later now, and I’m too tired to give you a full run down. I was hoping to get 400km done today, but with all those rookie mistakes I made, I’m pleasantly surprised I made it as far as 350km!

  • It took me all of 30 minutes after the start to get off track. (But on the bright side, it took me 10 minutes to get unlost, and the Garmin and I are still going strong. Despite the uncoventional and probable impractical way I’m using it)
  • It wasn’t until my lights went low, that I realized my lights can’t shine while they’re being charged. Unbelievable I never came up with the idea to check that… This happened at 2am on a particularly poorly lit road. And it’s one of those lights that takes hours to fully recharge. I took 15 minutes to hang the light on my battery pack, have a sit down and eat something while overthinking the situation. I was in the middle of nowhere and staying there for a couple of hours was not an option. So the plan was to put the light in it’s lowest setting, which would hold for a while thanks to those 15 minutes. This would mean I was somewhat visible for a car heading in my direction, and I could just barely see where the edge of the road was. Impossible to see the state of the road though. I was hoping the light would hold long enough until I caught up with other riders (which it did), so that I could safely ride to the next little village following their tail lights. This is not really allowed I think, but I wasn’t drafting and in my opinion this was the only safe option, so I found it justified. By the time we reached a town, it was 4am and I parked the bike and myself next to the canal on the completely silent (across from us racers) town square to sleep for an hour to wait for dawn. This strategy worked flawless, but also resulted in me not seeing another racers for hours afterwards, because everyone close to me had now passed.

  • I failed to stock up and thus eat properly. Obviously this happened right when my route planning turned out to be faulty, meaning I was bound to follow a bush/river path for kilometers on end. Not a town or civilization in sight. I still had some croissants and granola bar back up, but I still had 45km to go and due to way too low energy I was struggling to even ride 20km/h on a flat surface. So I had to try and spread the emergency. The last kilometers were not exactly fun.

And in other news:

  • My right knee started acting up during the night. This is a new injury and I have no idea what causes it. It forced me to take those gazillions of hills today as if they were the Ventoux, meaning slow, steady and sustainable. This worries me a bit for CP1 and especially Switzerland, but we’ll see how it’s doing tomorrow.
  • The media car caught up with me a couple of times. The first time when the cool blue Volvo with Anna’s friendly face rolled up next to me, it gave quite a mental boost. The team was taking pictures, and it reminded me again I was in a race, so I immediately knocked it up a gear. Of course, 5 minutes later they were out of sight and I was out of breath, so I soon went to my touring speed, taking the hill easy. But alas, as I rounded the corner to the top of the hill, there they were again, waiting for me. No less than three cameras were pointed at me. So I got up out of the saddle and tried (and probably failed) to pretend it was all super easy. And a few hours later they busted me while I was chilling on the terrace with a coke. I think they have some compelling footage of me…
  • While on the terrace, Anna filled us in that last year’s winner Josh Ibbett scratched, due to a back injury. A shame to lose a Titan like that, I know everyone was looking forward to the show down between him and Kristoff Allegaert. I hope he heals soon and can come back with a vengeance next year.
  • Troyes seems to be a really nice city!

Well, that’s all for now, it got already much too long, and I need sleep! Hopefully another update tomorrow.