Part 4 of Lee Grieve’s epic assault on the Transcontinental Race, watch out for some colourful language and breakfast with the Slovenian army. If you’ve not read Lee’s adventure from the start, you can catch up here.
An early start was needed to make up for yesterdays pathetic mileage… only 115 miles! My target was nearly double that. I immediately knew that today was a different day from any of the others. I was climbing well, so well that I didn’t care that my route had taken me up the lumpier side of the valley. I was smiling and I was able to eat. Today was going to be a good day.
I was flying over everything in my way. My bike was running well even after the mileage and my bag setup was now pretty dialled. I was able to store food in the saddle bag so I could eat real food before I went too deep. As I passed rider after rider, I just kept comparing myself to Froome entering the third week of a grand tour… My legs were getting stronger and my mind was too. I passed through some amazing scenery… The Dolomites were amazing and I will one day revisit with a more leisurely pace planned. I’m confident I’ll still be using the exact same setup on that trip too.
The day ended with me rolling to the start of CP2 parcours with Richard Gate around 11pm. This was a pivotal moment in the race for me. He told me he was stopping so he could see the climb in the daylight and I carried on as stubborn as ever. I passed various riders coming down the mountain and one guy even stopped to warn me not to go up there. The wind had picked up and actually blown him off his bike. I carried on as stubborn as ever. The tunnels that carved through the mountain were eerie at night but my dynamo light lit them up in all their glory. This romance faded as the 12km climb took its toll on my legs and then the wind hit me.
It was brutal… I rounded a corner and was blown off course savagely. I thought to myself ‘you stupid, stubborn ‘d**k’. Then I saw it, the sign for a mountain hut just 2km from the top. I pushed up the path to see the lights on inside. ‘Thank god’ I thought. When I stumbled through the door I was greeted by a group of drunk Slovenians who stopped mid song… They looked at me in shock and after a few seconds silence one of them simply raised his glass in my direction and said ‘Schnapps?’. They treated me to a bunk and some traditional Slovenian stew… A great end to an amazing day.
I woke as daylight was breaking. Getting packed up was always quicker when not in the bivvy. I kept all my sleeping stuff in my handle bar bag – down jacket, roll mat and a bivvy bag, all safe and dry in the waterproof roll top bag. Leaving the hut I was treated to one of the best alpine views I’ve ever seen, now what Richard has said was making sense.
I finished the climb, grabbed some photos, then started the technical descent to CP2. I rolled in with Stuart White and we shared breakfast with the Slovenian military in the hotel. I tried to keep my stops quick and was back on the road within an hour or so. My front brake had started to feel a bit squashy which was worrying… I carried on with my usual ‘I’ll fix it when it breaks’ attitude. The next climb was still part of the parcours and was extremely tough. When I got to the top, it was filled with a mixture of sheep and tourists. I had no cash for water and my front brake was now completely gone… only a 7000ft descent to tackle with only a back brake. I managed to get down, stopping every so often to let my disc cool. I got caught out when I was rolling into the town at the bottom of the climb… the road got steep and rough and before I knew it I had complete brake failure. My cleats were slammed into the floor at 45mph and stopped me before melting too much of my carbon shoes. I limped into town looking for new cleats and a bike shop that could mend the brakes. I found both eventually but I lost a lot of time. My ride came to an end in a small sleepy Austrian village, the landlady of the local inn was actually from Hull so it made ordering food for the morning pretty easy. Another night in a real bed was a treat after the day I had… I was pretty broken after the climbing earlier in the day.
Carry on reading, with part 5 of Lee’s epic adventure here.
Don’t forget that the entire Ventura range that Lee used can be bought on our website, starting from just £39.99.