The toughest day I’ve ever had in the saddle
We’re 5,575 km into the Race Across Europe World Record Attempt, seeking to be the first and the fastest to cross Europe by bike. It’s been torturous, however we knew once we climbed over the Pyrenees and into Spain the hard work would be done..
- We would have escaped the Russian roads, where another cyclist had sadly died two days before we departed from the start line in Ufa. The cause of his death – a drunk trucker, something that would fly past me at 80km/hr every two seconds for the next 12 days
- We would have covered the unfinished roads between Belarus and Poland
- We would have battled through the German hills, wind and torrential rain
- We would have climbed 116,653 feet, the equivalent of over 4 times up Mt. Everest
- We would have suppressed the pain of tendinitis and I would still be riding fast across the 6 borders that lay between Russia and Portugal
- It would be plain sailing until Cabo da Roca, as long as we stayed focussed and managed every risk to near perfection, as we had done for the last 31 days.
Until attacking the first climb of Day 32 when suddenly a shooting pain rattled through my left leg and forced me back into the saddle..slowing me down almost to a standstill.. The pain doesn’t subside and I then realise I can’t put any power through my left pedal.
‘Thank God I still have a right leg’ I think to myself..
After the adrenaline subsides I realise we still have over 450 miles to the finish line. The speed we were carrying with us across Europe briskly turns into pure agony and suffering.
We then hit a gravel road across what seems like the desert, and then more hills. If I’d had the energy I might have shed a tear on the next descent. Following this I hit more gravel roads, a farmer’s mud track through a field and then up a hill that would be difficult to walk up, let alone cycle. Due to the way the Garmin tracks our GPS data I have to cycle up it, losing control of the back wheel and having to unclip twice.
80 miles later, with 23 to go until our next rest stop, I have time to think about what the team and I are learning from all of this, why the **** would anyone put themselves through all of this?
To come out on top, and stronger than before.
For every gravel road we cross, a paved road lies ahead.
For every 20 mile climb I suffer up, a descent awaits.
For every pain that toys with our physical and mental strength, a feeling of health will overcome it eventually.
After persevering through 5,575 km, 40 degree heat, injuries, severe fatigue, storms and every other obstacle we have encountered, today taught me one thing. No matter how tough a situation gets, if you surround yourself with the best people possible, remain focussed and continue to fight, you’ll eventually be rewarded.
Personally, I know that after today that this race can’t get any harder, and no matter how much tougher it gets physically, I’ll have the melon on my shoulders with the mentality and determination to see us through to Portugal and the finish line.
Breaking point? Not quite…