TCR No. 4 Part 4: Escaping the Mountains and South to the Balkans – CP3

Breakfast

I slept badly on the hotel lobby couch. There were a few coming and goings through the night with riders arriving late at the checkpoint, but I didn’t wake to see who as I was pretty tired. Stephane  #12 must have made an early start as he was gone by the time I woke up. My iPhone, Garmin & Wahoo batteries was flat too, so I would need to get moving in order to charge devices. Frustratingly, when changing over batteries in the tracker it became faulty so was given a replacement tracker. This would cause some problems later.

The first order of the day was to get some food and to fix up my brakes. The #212’s appeared for breakfast a little after I woke up and were in great spirits as usual. I duly obliged a request to do star jumps to show how happy, awake and energised I was. Truthfully, I’d not really eaten since McDonald’s the other side of Bolzano so not sure where the energy for that came from.

The hotel staff were really friendly and I had a €10 breakfast buffet. I ate a lot of food, piling my plate with all the delights of the much needed buffet. I also had the first coffee since Brussels. Not quite sure how that happened as back home I have at least two cups every day.

Taking a look at my brakes in the cool crisp morning air, a slight adjustment of the brake limiter restored all the braking power I could want. That was a relief! I also installed the new tracker and I could see it picked up satellite straight away.

Passo Giau

It was a late start in the end; Andy, James & I started rolling up the CP3 parcours to the Giau chatting away. As the road started to wind up, I had to concede to the #212’s and let them push on up the climb. Both are stronger climbers than me, and they’re unique approach to the TCR – smashing out fast days followed overnight in hotels meant they could be quite fresh by the morning. I felt anything but this, but we would meet again down the road.

Climbing a mountain is a great way to start the day, and had become something of a habit. The Giau was a great climb, and although it got steep towards the top I never felt it was going to defeat me. I posed at the top with the Pedal Ed guys for a photo or two, but declined the hot tea as I was keen to push on. I donned my arm warmers and gilet and pushed on to test the brakes on yet another great descent.

Passo Tre Croci

I stocked up on snacks in a small store in the town at the bottom of the Giau. I figured I would need to have my pockets and reserves replenished as yesterday was a big day, and today would match it. If not for climbing, it would match in distance for sure. Including the Giau, there would be 3 mountain passes before I could get to the Italian flats so it would be slow going for most of the day.

Sella Ciampigotto

I got to the foot of the last Dolomite just at midday. I spotted an open restaurant, and after some confusion over my pronunciation of Tagliatelli, I was served with a delightful bowl of creamy mushroom pasta. The heat of the day was building, so I drank a lot of water and coke to compensate – it was going to be a scorcher.

By now I had a decent charge on my iPhone and realised that my tracker wasn’t on the map yet. As with the iPhone no service and the previous issues, I wasn’t too bothered a this point as figured it would just need a bit of time to link the new tracker.

Straight after the meal, I was going up hill. Up and up. I hadn’t quite realised how much of a climb this was, and in hindsight should have had the pasta after it. All the same it was yet another glorious climb with some fantastic views. It got a little steep at times, but it was so quiet and peaceful I was just able to enjoy it for the most part.

Flat Lands

Suffice it to say I was pretty glad to get out of the mountains and start putting some pace into the day. The road went all the way down as the afternoon was getting hotter. There was a bit of a headwind but getting onto the aero bars made short work of this. I had pushed down all the way to the town of Tolmezzo which marked the end of the current GPX file, so I figured it would be a good time to find some food and water. I really had a craving for a chocolate milkshake or even a pint of milk. I managed to find an Aldi, but I somehow ended up buying a litre of strawberry yoghurt drink instead. I tried really hard to down it, but yogurt is not really suited to this. In the end I had to ditch half of it.

After topping up my water bottles, I headed out of town. I managed to find some good speed right up until I managed to find yet another hill. It’s a skill! Before heading up I made a quick stop for a magnum ice cream and yet another coke to keep the energy levels up. With that out of the way and across the Tagliamento river, I was on the aero bars turning a steady 40 kph heading for Slovenia. Cooking! This felt really good. Despite all the fatigue, my legs felt strong from all the days in the mountains. I was flying and eating up the kays.

It was late afternoon now, and I still hadn’t shown up on the map so I dropped a note to the race to see if there was anything I could do. I knew there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I just pushed on making sure my sister was able to track me on Find my Friends and make sure my mum knew I was OK.

I made yet another stop in McDonald’s about an hour outside of Trieste. I only made a flying stop as I could see I was making ground and catching up with other riders. As it was getting close I decided here that I would try to make Croatia that night, and for the first and only time I booked ahead a hotel in Rijeka.

Slovenia

I pushed onto the border making Slovenia at about 10pm and pulled straight into the first service station I could find. Finally, a service station that had lots of food! There were also a large number of flies about, but in spite of this I had a little picnic outside before pushing on. I chose to stick to the main road to try and get to Rijeka for midnight. This wasn’t a great road, but was quite quick. Lots of traffic moving fast and close. Sketchy.

Rijeka

Slovenia lasted about an hour and is a short hop from Italy to Croatia. Once into Croatia, I had to revert back towards my route as the main road turned into a motorway, but this suited me just fine by me as it meant little or no traffic. It was also all downhill into Rijeka.

A quick cash machine stop, and onto the hotel where I checked in shortly after midnight. While running a bath, I had a feast of the cookies and some other goodies I bought in Cortina and Slovenia, put all my devices to charge on the loaner USB plug. About an hour later I woke up in the bath more than a little confused. Once relocated to bed, I slept through till about 7.30am much later than planned.

Checking my phone over breakfast, I had an email from race control confirming my tracker was now on the map. This was a relief as I know my mum had been worrying!

Inland Croatia

Once full up, I packed up the bike and rolled out of Rijeka. The initial road out of town was lovely, but I had wanted to move away from the twisty up and down nature of coast roads, so took the choice of cutting inland quite soon after leaving town. Unfortunately I found possibly the steepest and highest hill in the area. Like I said, this is a skill.

img_7963I realised halfway up that it was going to be hot out, and I would need as much fuel and water as I could carry. I spotted a small village shop and made the most of their food and water. This was a killer move, as little did I realise the next 80km would have nothing.

Found some elevation again! It's hot out too. #TCRNo4 #TCRNo4S154

A post shared by Matthew Falconer (@b1rdmn) on

The roads were OK, but were twisty turny uppy downy things, like most country roads in hills. It was quite lovely up here, but progress felt fairly slow, and not ideal for making ground on the field. I had resigned myself to just enjoying riding again by this point.

The road popped out most of the way up of the climb out of Senj. I figured that although I’d been going slowly, I had made a fair bit of ground in avoiding the coast. I need to validate this at some point, but it felt right.

img_7976

Chasing the Breakaway

This road was so much better, and after a short bit of climbing I was able to enjoy a nice descent for a bit. I was running a little on empty this day, so I was grateful for the next service station to loom into view. I would stop at just about every one between here and Bosnia, always fighting to keep getting the calories and water in me.

Looking at the tracker, I could see that I had been making some great ground on others, as well as seeing some behind dropping back a bit. This gave me a bit of a lift, but it changes the mindset a bit from relaxed and unhurried, to adding a little more urgency into things – time to chase down some riders ahead.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-23-52-50

It was about now that I realised that my iPhone wasn’t charging. At first I thought there was a problem with the dynamo, but that was still able to power the lights and charge the Wahoo. It was clear I had destroyed the  iPhone cable. I could do nothing about this, so went into a power saving mode, leaving the phone on airplane mode as much as possible.

Feeling Sore..

Some of the road surfaces are really bad if you are suffering sore hands, hot feet and saddle sores. It was a long hot day riding through Croatia, and I was not impressed by the roads. Lots of panelled tarmac with large seams in between meant a very bumpy ride. I was shouting and swearing at the road at several points. It was getting quite hard to keep going. I decided to take a short stop and let the pressure off the contact points. I sat on the side of the road in the heat of the day letting the body recover a little. It helped me psychologically more than physically as I’d been pushing all day.

 

Ok but just for a minute as my feet are killing me #stop #TCRNo4S154 #TCRNo4 #HotFeet

A post shared by Matthew Falconer (@b1rdmn) on

Getting Inventive

Later in the afternoon it began to cool down, largely due to some clouds covering up the sun. This was a welcome relief, but would be short lived as it spelt a significant change in the weather later that day. In the meantime, I rediscovered a love for Jaffa cakes largely born out of a hatred for 7 Day Croissants. I managed to turn my aero bars into a neat motivational tool.

Dinner. Of a sort. #TCRNo4 #TCRNo4S154

A post shared by Matthew Falconer (@b1rdmn) on

Rather sadly, about 10km down the road while descending a hill with some significantly dubious road surface as before, the bumps began to dislodge the cakes from the packet. They were in fact flying out of the end when hitting each bump in the road. I tried my best to catch them in my mouth, but I’ve not had the experience of a grizzly bear in salmon migration season and failed to catch any in my mouth. I had to make an emergency grab of the pack and secure them in my jersey pocket before the last 4 or 5 cakes disappeared.

Lightning Show

As I was rolling into Knin in the early evening, over to the east I could see a huge cloud mass that was putting on quite a light show. It was great motivation to keep pushing, but some of the pizza stores in the busy town were too tempting. Another national day by all accounts, and everyone was outside in a festive mood.

Bivvy Stop

I pushed on, following a fairly busy road south east towards Sinj. I had been checking the tracker and could see that there were some riders not to far ahead. I was trying to push on, but tiredness started getting the better off me. After a long sit down in a rest area, I tried to push on again but realised it was futile so the search for a bivvy spot began.

I’d learnt a little bit about bivvying now, but was certainly no expert. I found a decent spot in a small field back from the road and set up camp. My plan was to try and sleep through to dawn, find some breakfast and push on to CP4. Once settled in I spent a short time staring up at the cloudless night before drifting off, feeling quite content.

Rain

I woke up maybe 2 hours later. It was raining. There were loud rumbles and great big flashes of light. Shit.

After packing up in the rain, I tried really hard to push on through the early hours of the morning. I was exhausted and finally gave up the battle about 15km down the road from my bivvy spot after eyeing up a delightful bus stop. I sat down dripping with sweat, slightly delirious from exhaustion, overheating from being over dressed, and bonking a bit. I had hopped to push on, but my body and mind wouldn’t let me. I crawled into my bivvy bag in the bus stop, ignoring the occasional car horn passing on the busy road trying to sleep. I felt broken.

Stats

  • Distance: 694.5 KM
  • Ride Time: 29H 51M
  • Elevation:  7,907m
  • Calories: 15,176

Strava Files

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