At midnight tonight there's a major international sporting event that the entire world will be watching. Something called the "Olympics"? we wouldn't know, we're far too engrossed in an event that's already highly entertaining, undoubtedly the craziest international sports race ever - #TCRNo4. We would love to see a new 'ultra-endurance cyclist' discipline included in the Olympic games, but only if the riders were unsupported. Then we could sit back and watch as the athletes got totally lost, supplied crying videos mid-race and took to making impromptu plastic hats when it rained:
SInce last writing Kristof Allegaert (003) has travelled another 300kms through Serbia and will very soon reach Niš, where we expect he'll make his way onto the E-80 down to Sofia and on to Plovdiv. Now there's nothing that Kristof can't handle, we all know that, but it's well reported by other riders and even by Kristof himself in one of his previous blogs that the E-80, especially South of Plovdiv is torturous. The holes in the road are less of the 'pot' variety, more of the 'sink', the tarmac is completely destroyed and riding it in the dark is like an Indiana Jones challenge. Parts of it has little to no hard-shoulder, and it's full of truck drivers with spacial awareness impairments. The heat in the day is apparently almost unbearable, dusty too with rain storms so colossal it seems like the second coming has arrived.
Adrian O'Sullivan #TCR2013 finisher and E-80 survivor wrote this about the road "A relatively better road than the first half but very busy through out the night with heavy trucks and lorries all heading for Turkey like me, on pitch black roads I glimpsed in the corner of my headlight in the middle of the road a big red mass of skin and flesh and as I passed it not sure what kind of animal it was, only big like a sheep or large dog or even a human torso. A big lorry thundered past rolling it forwards and across towards me just missing my back wheel and off into the darkness. I thought if a lorry hit me out here in the pitch black and decided not to stop I’d probably end up a unrecognisable lump of red flesh half bike half man by morning too"
And James Jordan, #TCR2013 veteran wrote this about the route "The roads in central Bulgaria are, in a word, terrible. In a few more words, they’re really really really crap. In the dark with my woefully insufficient head lamp, I’m having to zigzag slowly back and forth, inching the bike along the narrow strips of ancient tarmac rimming cavernous potholes. This is not the triumphant charge through the night I’d envisaged."
So to sum up, that should set Kristof back by about, hmmm, 10 minutes?
Control 4 is reached via the longest control parcour yet: a 50km stretch though the black mountains up to it's peak - Durmitor Massif. The route takes our riders from Pluzine to Zabljak, crossing lake Piva and climbing sharply through hairpin tunnels hewn into the rock, past wooden hiking huts and the twisted strata of the peaks towards Montenegro’s highest pass at 1907m; Sedlo Pass or as the locals call it, the “Saddle of God”. They also need to pay a national park entrance fee of 3€, let's hope they've remembered this before they have to turn around and curse their way back to the nearest shop.
At the time of writing only Neil Phillips (172) of the lead pack has made it to the top and is currently sleeping in Zabljak. However, the route Neil took into Montenegro it seems was for locals only, passing the border through a forest, presumably paying Robin Hood and his merry men 50 shillings and a firkin of mead to cross, but crucially not getting a Montenegro stamp in his passport. It might take a little more than that to get out of Montenegro... Carlos Mazon (060) also took that same route:
Peter Sandholt (077) took a huge detour South to ensure he passed through an official border control. This detour may have lost him time now but it could pay off later. He's staying at the bottom in Pluzine, riding the course first thing tomorrow morning we expect. Behind Peter is James Hayden (075) who has crept up into 4th place overnight. Still super strong, he is putting pressure on the lead group to maintain their positions, and only 50kms from 2nd place. We think in another place and time, James Hayden might have what it takes to challenge Kristof's crown.
Behind these are the usual suspects, Hans-Rudolf Nyfeler (056) as well as Alexandre Bourgeonnier (002) and Ultan Coyle (004) but joining the gang is a new face - Geoffroy Dussault (093) a professional cyclist from Canada, so he's technically at work right now, putting in some overtime. Nelson Trees (080) took the same North route as James and Kristof, 1,000m less altitude than the southern route and puts Nelson in a good place for tomorrow's ride. On the Southern pass there's Matija Ilic (105) and recovering from his extra trip to Stelvio Pass, Andy Sallnow (144).
We're sorry to hear that Mathias Dalgas (150) who was in this lead pack scratched this evening, due to a bad knee. He will still make his way to Canakkale for the finishers party, but this is where his race ends. However Bjorn Lenhard (026) is feeling much better after experiencing breathing difficulties and knee issues. A bit of rest has sorted him out and he's back on the move.
That concludes our top riders. There have been another five scratchers today: Kees Steinebach (121), David Coulon (130), Nick Pusinelli (139), Pair half Romain Mousset (205) leaving Laurent Carlier (205) and Pierre Spielewoy (227), leaving Arthur Janus to continue (227). The race is brutal - that's 38 so far.
A quick look at the ladies in the race. Emily Chappell (007) is currently in 35th, on the coastal path through Dalmatia and looking great. Her breakfast today looks tasty!
Jayne Wadsworth (005) is about 300kms behind Emily, she's just completed CP3 and looks to be taking Kristof's route out of the Alps.
Johanna Josten-van Duinkerken (141) has also completed CP3 and is on her way to Passo di Giau. She's mostly been using her hammock camping gear but was delighted to have had hotel last night in Bolzano for the first time. Hilde Geens (031) is just about to reach CP3, currently resting in Forchiade. The weather today has been repulsive, so many riders are still hiding out - but it's not getting Rose McGovern (136) down:
It's wet up in the Alps, very, very wet. So wet that our riders' hands are pruning up like they've been sat in the bath for 2 weeks:
Speaking of "Hands"...
Hans-Rudolf Nyfeler (056) has been attempting to get in to Montenegro all evening but just cannot find the way in. He made the call not to follow Neil and Carlos in through the forest, but only when he got all the way up to Gacko. He then retreated, following his tracks around 22 miles back and then took a run up at Preraca, but changed his mind at the last second. He's currently travelling South on the M20, he may be aiming for Granicni Prelaz Vraćenovići but this indecisiveness is costing him positions.
Due to the rain, many riders have been hiding out today, resting, eating, sleeping, reflecting. Nathan Jones (076) took this video today showcasing the weather:
Prune-y fingers crossed that the weather improves tomorrow so everyone can get off the mountain, but for this evening we'll remind everyone of Velominati's Rule No. 9: "If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period."
P.s. No blog tomorrow from me, i'll be back Sunday!