Reaching the hills

Tuesday was very nearly the worst day at the Giro. Almost complete disaster. It all started on Monday night…

So on Monday I finished Sunday’s stage, but then caught a train to the start of today’s stage. Well, four trains actually. And in each one I locked my bike up while I went and sat down.

Getting off the first train, I noticed the lock felt a little rough. Getting off the second, I noticed the same thing. Getting off the third train I decided I had better give the lock some care, and the fourth trip was spent working out where I could get some graphite. Until it was time to get off the train. At this point, I took my bags to the bike, set them up on it, then tried to open the lock. It didn’t work. We were about 3 minutes from the station. I kept trying. It kept not working. I started to worry.

When we reached the station my bike was still very firmly locked to the train. Not good. Now I spent quite a bit of my life working on security systems, so I know that you can get through any system, given enough time and the right equipment. A quick estimate looking at this system and the equipment I had told me about 12 hours. Or about 12 seconds, if the key worked, which it wasn’t.

Now to recap, by bike wasn’t locked to a lamp-post, which would have given me a 12 hour delay, it was locked to a train, and trains move. This meant I was looking at a 12 hour plus who knows how many km delay. That would pretty easily have made Tuesday the worst day at the Giro. I was a bit stressed.

The guard knew this was my station, and stuck his head in to tell me we had arrived. Great. I was wondering which bit of train might be easier to dismantle when suddenly, as if by magic, the key moved as I turned it. Just like that. It even felt smooth, that time. And the lock was open. And Tuesday was not going to be the worst day. I threw the bike and my bags off the train, and jumped after them. The guard laughed. I didn’t blame him.

But at least I had got off the train. Then, stupidly, I closed the lock.

I rode to my hotel, and started trying to clean and lubricate it. But it was closed, so I couldn’t get to the mechanism. It had taken probably five minutes on the train, and I was sure it would open again. So I worked at it. And kept working. For over an hour, during which I would have liked to be sleeping. A wasted hour, because at the end of it the lock was still closed. Not good.

I didn’t know if I should invest more time or cut my losses, but eventually I decided the lock had come to the end of its life. The problem is, I need a lock. If I duck into a cafe for a sandwich it is fine, but when I go into a supermarket or to sleep at night and the bike has to wait outside, I need a lock. So I needed a place I could buy one. I searched, and there was one on the route, very close to the start. It opened at 9:30. I had planned a 6:30 start. I couldn’t find another place. Of course I knew there would probably be dozens, but as an engineer probably is just not a term I like. I decided to wait. So I did. Of course, a delayed start meant a delayed finish. The price you pay. I would still get there in plenty of time.

image

The colour of the water was breathtaking.

Now though the race would pass me, rather than me being ahead of it. No problem. The course started of reasonably gently, going past some beautiful lakes with stunning milky green water.

image

The scenery was spectacular!

There were two category 1 climbs on the route, and the first one actually felt pretty good, except for a little bit of knee pain from about half way up. I had been feeling twinges all day, but then it turned to actual pain. Only when I pedalled though. So in general, it felt good. It was also a beautiful climb. Just stunning lush green vegetation until it opened out over the snowline.

At this point, the race passed me. The only downside of this is that they take down the signs showing you which way to go. Navigating for yourself slows things down, but it was pretty simple that day, so didn’t slow me down much. The flat tyre did.

Now on my racing bike I can change a tyre and be back on the road in under 5 minutes, if I am pushed. This time, it took longer. A lot longer.

First step is getting out all the equipment I need. As I said last time, I am an optimist, that that equipment is at the bottom of my bags.

Next pull all the bags off the bike, because it makes it so much easier to handle. Then remove the wheel. The wheels are locked on, so I have to get the key, remove it from my keyring, put an extension on it to get leverage and undo the wheel.

image

Finding the cause of the puncture was relatively easy this time!

Actually changing the tyre is easy. Finding the cause of the puncture is sometimes harder, and of course you want to do that to make sure you don’t just get another one. But this time even that was easy. Then there is pumping it up. I am running large volume tubes, and carrying a small volume pump, so it takes a while.

Then there is reassembly of the bike, reloading, getting the chain back on…

Basically, it took an age. When it was finally done I was getting worried about where I would find food after I finished. So when I saw a restaurant that was open before the final climb, I grabbed the chance. It was tasty too. But all of this meant I was climbing in the dark. And my knee was really sore.

I realised I was coming back down the same way, so I left my bags at the foot of the steep section. It was still pretty steep. But I got there in the end. Was it worth it? Well, I think so.

image

I got there..

After a great night, Wednesday should have been super easy. It started out that way. The only real problem was that now my knee hurt all the time. I was thinking of Lars, a massage therapist who I knew was following the race. Then he drove by. Even better, he stopped. He offered to take my bags to the finish for me. Brilliant. So off he went, with my bags.

At that point, I hit the headwind. It was tough. But then I saw someone turn onto the road ahead of me. Perfect. Working together would make things much easier! I set about chasing.

As I gained on him my knee hurt, but I just thought of the massage. Then the other guy fell off. I don’t know why, he just fell of. Right in front of me. I stopped to help. He seemed ok, but pretty shaken.

So we rode together for a while. Nice and slow, to let him calm down. I doubt he really slowed me much to be honest, and when we got to the next town he was able to show me a cafe to fill my bottles. Wonderful. He also bought me a drink. I didn’t want to seem rude, but I was on a tight schedule. I sculled the drink.

We both said thanks, and I leapt back on the bike. In that five minutes though my knee was locked solid. I rode slowly getting it moving again. There were only two little cat.2 hills today, and I was right near the top of the first one when I was pulled off the road.

I still had quite a while to wait for the race, I am pretty sure they just wanted to pull me off before I started the descent, where it would have been much harder. Whether being 5 minutes earlier would have made a difference I do not know.

Anyway, the race went by, and again I followed. Again not a problem, and I knew Lars would leave my bags for me if he had to go. But the problem once again was navigation.

Now as I mentioned the other day, one hugely resourceful friend had managed to get some maps for my garmin to me. I must have missed a turn somewhere, but it soon became apparent I wasn’t on the course. No problem, now I had maps in my GPS. I simply asked to be taken to the next big town on the course. It bought up the options of towns, I selected the right one, the distance even looked right, and I started riding.

The climb leading to that town was tough, let me tell you. I was riding it and thinking that it could be a cat.1 rather than a cat.2, when it occurred to me that it should come after the town.

I looked at the GPS. I was still on the route it had calculated. I zoomed the map right out. I was nowhere near the race route, and was going in a huge loop. Over a mountain range. I had been riding the wrong way for ages.

I didn’t know if I should keep climbing (I was already several hundred meters over the finish) or go back. Eventually I realised back looked shorter, and was at least almost all down hill, while I had no idea how much more climbing was forward.

I turned and went back as fast as I could. My huge worry was that the place where my bags were would close, leaving me sleeping with nothing and waiting to get them in the morning.

Finally I got to a town big enough to have a taxi, so I grabbed one and drove to the finish.

It may sound like cheating, bit remember I had already done a much bigger climb that I shouldn’t have, so I am not worried.

I did get my bags, but only just. The place really was about to close. So that is how Wednesday was very nearly the worst day of the Giro. But again, only just, it wasn’t. Now it is Thursday. I never got a massage in the end and the weather looks nasty. Let’s see what it can bring!

Here is the livetracking link.

Rowan

Don’t forget, if you enjoyed reading this you can subscribe to hear about new posts. Just enter your email address in the box on the right of your monitor (or bottom of your smartphone screen)

Help raise funds for charity, just by sharing this post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>