From crossing the Danube, to sleeping in bus shelters. We’re getting to the business end of the TCR with Lee. If you’ve not read from the start, you can catch up here.
An early start as always. The legs were once again feeling great. Real food, decent sleep and some stretching before bed was really helping. I was blasting through the hills of Austria again with the tunes blasting in my headphones.
Unfortunately, I came across a man knocked off his bike by a car, his leg was pretty messed up so I stopped to help. I didn’t realise how hard this would be with the language barrier. An ambulance arrived and I made off up the hills again. The next time I stopped it was to help push a VW Campervan out of a hedge. The couple had cooked their brakes coming down the mountain pass… I knew exactly how they felt. I passed more riders; my natural pace and lightweight setup was coming into its own. I particular enjoyed watching the 2nd/3rd females on the road leapfrogging each other. Crossing the river Danube was a highlight, my best friend had ridden these roads just months before when he started his round the world cycling trip… I was tracing his footsteps but at a slightly quicker speed I imagine.
My day ended in a small town, everyone was hitting the bars and I rolled up craving 2-3 pints of Coke. I downed them, soaked up the atmosphere for 10 minutes in my now stinking jersey and shorts and then headed out of town to bivvy near the main road.
I knew today was going to be more of a mental challenge then a physical one. The Czech Republic was flat, full of headwinds and main roads all the way to CP3 on the Polish border. It rained and it made me even more annoyed… though as usual my kit performed well. My discs stopped me even in the wet and my bags remained dry on the inside. I kept hammering the pedals into the headwind… never ending torture. I found myself stopping more frequently to give my brain a rest. When I reached the foot of the mountains that spanned the border to Poland, the wind died down and my legs sprung into life. I stopped in a small town called Vrchlabi and set up my bivvy in a tennis club just around the corner from a 24hr petrol station, a real life saver for the weary TCR rider.
I had decided bivvying in public places worked well. It forced me to get my lazy ass up and ride before having that awkward conversation with the owner of the tennis club. I stuffed my frame bag with food and cans of coke… keeping the weight down low helped keep the bike stable and feel more natural. I could easily access them while moving too which helped keep my ratio of moving to non-moving time together.
I climbed towards CP3 and came across one of my favourite TCR memories. A single wolf had wandered into a small village halfway up the climb. As I approached it I noticed the locals trying to shoo it away… I rolled just metres away from it and our eyes met. The wolf was quite obviously starving and emaciated. I rolled on wondering if I should turn back for a photo but thought that some things are best left in the mind. I passed various riders coming down the pass on their way back across the Czech Republic but I was yet to tackle the beast that was Karkonoska Pass. I loved that rough, steep brutal road. It reminded me of Winnat’s pass in the Peak district… just 6x the length. Reaching CP3 was awesome as I had a warm Sheffield welcome from Angela. She knows the pain we’re all in as she completed TCRno.5. Her advice on the start line will stay with me for the rest of my days.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, I got my head down and smashed my way through the Czech Republic once again. I was determined to continue till I left the country. I treat myself to a beer with my ‘sit down’ meal… It was starting to feel like a holiday. That night I was flying for the last 40 miles. I’ll blame it on the beer. My bus shelter bivvy was great too, sheltered from the wind so I could sleep well for a healthy 3-4 hours.
The ‘dog days’ aren’t quite over for Lee, with part 6 throwing a few new unexpected challenges. Read it here.