Above is our video diary from the race. Apologies for the lack of riding footage and the missing pieces. The race was much more difficult to film than we though, but we still hope you enjoy! And beow is John's race report for stages 4-5.
-Rob and John
Day Four: Stage four arrived and I was still not feeling 100%. Another 6-hour day is in store for us, but lucky it only climbs 10,000 feet... Ugh, it cannot get worse than this (NOT true as I will later learn). The master plan today was for Rob and me to ride together. This worked out very nicely for the first four and a half hours, but when we arrived at the last feed zone my stomach just wasn’t cooperating. I sent rob on his way to glory without me. I cannot recall how much uphill I had to go but, it was way more than I climb in a month in Arizona. Again I was a broken man, walking, crawling, and telling myself this was a bad dream with an amazing view. Up, up, and away I went. It seemed in the flick of a light switch we went from humid hot to putting on a jacket. What happened to arm warmer weather?? What I didn’t know was that I was getting cold now, and wouldn’t be warm again until the race finished. I ended up sitting on the side of a hill (mountain anywhere else) trying to put myself together. There is video footage of this fine moment to follow. I made it to the finish, but Rob was not looking too happy. He made it; however, this was the start of Rob’s roller coaster of not so fun. Upside, finish line was in the courtyard of the hotel.
Day Five: Hello snow! I was feeling much better, finally. Today started with a switch back climb up single track in the snow. It was entertaining to say the least. I started the day behind my favorite Belgium Keevy and we set out into the Himalayas. We were all slipping and sliding up the hill fighting the urge to just get off and walk. In reality walking was probably faster and easier but we all want to be the last one riding. Keevy ended up lying down in the snow next to me. The snow was as soft as a pillow that was frozen solid. This was not the last I saw of him however. I made my way to the top of the climb, proud of myself for riding it all, and made my way down the other side. I was sliding all over the place and trying to stay on the small path of rideable snow.
All was going to plan (as if I had one) when I happen upon some locals. I made an emergency left turn through the snow. I was sure that I would crash, but as luck would have it I managed to keep it upright until I hit a patch of dry ground. Mule avoided. Harmless looking bush not avoided. It turns out that the plants here are relatives to the plants in Arizona. Everything has thorns and they are not afraid to use them. This bush of no particular importance has thorns bigger than a Saguaro cactus. My left leg was ripped to pieces and bleeding. Luckily I am too cold to feel anything... I continued on down to the flat run into the finish, which turned out to be a slog though the mud. Nothing is easy here… I have no power, I can see my breath, and I get slower by the minute. The sun is shining on my shoulders and one would assume this would be a good thing. I am warming up and the finish is coming closer. Not true. It is like a summer thaw and the ground is no longer solid beneath my wheels. The mud is getting deeper and the end feels like the end will never come. I pass the airport, the finish must be close. Ha, the airport is all by itself kilometers from the end. I make it finally, thankfully. Time to rest for the day in Manang.
Rest is good. And Manang is the perfect place to get it. There are bakeries on every corner (No corners really) and a major movie theater (with yak wool benches and a single projector). My spirits are high on the rest day and Snow Monkey (guide) takes us through his hometown and gives a tour. We hike to a disappearing glacier and get a history lesson. Rob is resting up, I am hiking all over the valley. We finish the tour off by visiting a temple and learning about ancient texts. Afterwards I meet up with Rob for the nightly movie. We decide on Seven Years in Tibet over Into the Void. The second choice seems a little off putting since tragedy on a mountain is not what we are hoping for. I guess being lost looking for Tibet is not much better…
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the final write up on Stages 6-8 coming soon!