The character of most days on this ride could be identified not by the events of a morning, but by the mood of the preceding evening. Last night was no different. The team was aware day 16 would be one of the most physically demanding, so early to bed it was. Some were not prepared at this point for how early tomorrow’s rise would be. At lights out someone asked what time their roommates were setting their alarms: “5:30” said Caitlin. The morning came and we rose bleary eyed. Tensions ran high in anticipation of the looming challenge as we prepared ourselves in the usual, albeit in a little more apprehensive manner.
Muscles stretched, tubes pumped and chains lubed, we took off on our 110km trip, including an 18km unbroken incline rising over 1100m. Last to leave the hotel, I confidently parted company with our rear support team, explaining; “Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast” (Rimmer: Technician Second Class). At around 10km the riders had taken their typical positions, each a small distance apart. Individual team members could be seen and heard going through rituals to overcome their own personal challenges. Of note, Rob was engrossed in conversation with himself: “We can do this Bob, yes we can, come on”, he said.
The road was winding and steadily rising. The scenery was improving around every turn. Around one particular corner, a vista presented itself. The hills had become mountains and in the distance were three enormous and slightly terrifying peaks. We were heading straight for them. Soon after, the rigour started.
|Semi-permanent spray paint to guide the way|
Aside from straight line distance the other test is altitude, and each member of this team deals with such challenges in different ways. Cycling uphill is about power to weight ratio, therefore some are disadvantaged having to work harder to climb the same hill. My thoughts were with other members of the team and in particular the fine specimen Mr Thai, who’s impressive frame requires a significant amount of energy to escape the earth’s gravitational pull. Suffice to say everyone made it to the top of the first big climb thus breaking the back of the toughest day yet. We were rewarded with sights of a waterfall, a burnt out bus, and a satisfying decent.
|Waterfall stop off|
|Burnt out sleeper bus on the way|
Following a forgettable lunch stop the second 55km to Ngoc Hoi involved more ups and downs with the team happy to arrive at their destination. Once settled in, we reflected on the day’s events. The human brain’s capacity to forget painful experiences is impressive. Having climbed over 3400m across difficult terrain, the consensus was; It wasn’t so bad.
|Chris Thai, myself and Matt Taylor - band photo on a bridge|