|Bobby, AD & Sean sporting their Boys on Bikes for Babies shirts, me representing the Combe Raiders|
As we had to get to a certain park gate by eleven o'clock and with fifteen minutes lost to three tyre stops we had to pick the pace up a bit. That part of the park required a motocross escort leading groups of riders through due to elephant activity (we saw none, just had to avoid many large droppings). Our pushing the pace as we steadily climbed to 2400 m continued for about half to an hour, until I worked out that we should make the cut-off comfortably. AD was pretty exhausted by the end of the day, which I may well have had something to do with.
|Another rickety bridge crossing - not quite the Bridge of Death.|
With a fair bit of ridge-riding above the valley through little villages, we eventually plunged down on a gravel road with the race organiser's warnings of fast uphill motorcycle taxis ringing in our ears. Inexplicably an air bubble in Bobby's rear brakes manifested itself approaching one tight corner (he lost all rear brakes) & he completely wiped out - thankfully the only real damage being a rather cracked helmet. A new section for the race this year was Dead Drop, which started off with an all too brief rocky downhill before turning right and following the top of a canyon down to the Lunatic Express railway line - it was OK, but I found it didn't flow well.
What followed was the toughest climb of the day, the first section was steep and very technical - I rode most of the first half & then found I had to dab every so often before the trail started traversing the hill rather than going straight up it. We climbed & climbed & finally it was time to go down the Lunatic Express downhill - easily the best of the day down a huge open hill to the valley floor. We hit the valley floor eventually and followed the rails to the final feed stop of the day.
With only twenty-five kilometres across the valley floor (with the odd climb & down), we set off - I hung back with AD trying to motivate his wary legs with the draw of a rather yummy (as far as gels go) rhubarb & custard gel. Just as we approached camp we finally started to see some wildlife in Hells Gate National Park (it has geothermal activity, just like Hells Gate in NZ) - giraffes, various antelope, baboons and so on. With an excellent little downhill strewn with babyhead rocks to finish we were at camp. I was pleased with how I survived an almost ten-hour ride (total time), 100 km & with over 2000 metres of climbing. However, I didn't realise how tired I was until I sat down & tried to eat a pizza - pretty exhausted. Strangely, I couldn't really eat all that much or even finish a well-earned beer - I wasn't expecting that.