“This is the day I see a man on a motorbike and a woman with spunk….”
That’s the opening line on my post race notes about Day Seven, so it must have been a cracker. These two separate incidents happened in the early hours of a Sunday morning, a particularly wet Czech Sunday morning. As I rode through one bland village an old motorbike coughed and spluttered towards me. The rider, a man in his 60’s, nonchalantly rolled past wearing nothing but stained Y-fronts and what appeared to be fabric knee-pads. That was it. It was pissing down. It was Sunday. It was dawn. I tried to rebuild his night in my mind, establishing how an elderly man finds himself in that situation. A few miles later I passed another older lady alighting a clapped out car. I noticed her modesty was hidden only by a tatty pair of knickers and t-shirt which had been freshly ‘splattered’. I can only assume the smiling gentleman still sat in the car was responsible for the splatter.
And so Day 7 began, the Czech Republic clearly doesn’t sober up until the afternoon.
Day 7 is all about Checkpoint 3 and then whatever I can manage beyond that. I’m knackered but confident I’ll be heading towards CP4 by late afternoon. The climb to the checkpoint is a long one, so I stop at Lidl to stock up my trusty musette. Lidl had until this point been very kind to me. Standard practice was wheel the bike into that weird entry foyer all Lidl have, in order to keep my precious machine safe. It had never been a problem until today, when the Czech Republics most officious security guard hustled me back out the door. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t particularly polite in my response to this affront; “Don’t you know how much custom I provide your employer Madame!” or something like that anyway… It slightly sours my mood. However, after 5 minutes raiding the baked goods section (the Europeans really do excel here), I’m a happy man and ready to make my ascent.
The climb is long but steady and pretty enjoyable. The view from the top, as at all of the CPs, is stunning. The volunteers at the CP are also very welcoming; such heroes! I see Joseph(#165) who is looking super fresh (motherfucker). He explains a mental 2 hour sleep strategy that he’s been employing over recent days. It sounds like hell on earth to me, but that’s the beauty, what works for one man would destroy another. After a quick chat I head back down the other side of the mountain, into Poland, in order to ride back up again to complete the mandatory parcours.
Everyone at the checkpoint had warned me the climb was riddled with potholes, and that most people had walked for stretches. I can confirm it was riddled with potholes. I can confirm that I did indeed walk large chunks. Of all the checkpoints it was my least favourite because the bar was set very high and it just wasn’t quite as awe inspiring as the others. Later in the race I had a vehement hatred for the parcours of CP4 , but it redeemed itself visually. Parcours 3 therefore, you lose.
Once back at the top, card stamped, parcours completed, I sat with Karl (#67) and one of the volunteers and ate some cake. The volunteer had cycled there with his daughter in this mad trailer setup he had on his bike. Legend, and an experience I’m sure she’ll thank him for when she grows up. I’m pretty tired and dreading setting off, which makes my decision to have an early night in a hotel an easy one. That way I can get an early start and be on my way in the darkness the next day, which is my preferred tactic.
My hotel selection is almost as painful as my bivvy selection. I umm and aahh about how far I should go, is it too far, is it too close. Decisiveness is something I will work on in future.
The rest of the evening goes by relatively uneventfully and I reach my rather shitty hotel before it gets dark. The rotund inn-keep informs me the bike must go in the shed. The 7 days spent on said bike has made such separation difficult but as usual we can’t communicate much so I give in and leave my only possession in the world in his shed. I take the front wheel off though, I don’t want it to be an easy theft.
There are no restaurants anywhere apparently so I end up in Penny Market for my tea. Now if you’ve never used a Penny Market before then go and give thanks to whichever deity you subscribe to. They are a very poor mans Lidl. Everything’s shit and they become more common the further south and east I get. In this instance I treat myself to some cereal and milk as well as the obligatory stale baguette and ham. As I eagerly pour the milk I’m faced with the horrific sight of lumpy curdy wanky miserable milk ruining most of my cereal. I’ve purchased some sort of awful local delicacy and ruined the only part of my dinner I had any appetite for. Furiously I chuck the contents of the bowl down the bog. Several flushes later all of my Penny Market Nesquik is still stubbornly floating around the bowl. I’m hungry and now it looks like I’ve invited a family of rabbits round for a group shit. I give up and return to my stale baguette.
I turn to more grave matters. My route into Bosnia takes a road that we’d been advised not to use. Having seen other roads we’d been advised against, I decide that I will follow this advice. This means a re-route, which I need to plan now as it’ll determine tomorrow’s direction of travel. It stresses me to fuck because I should have planned an alternative in advance, not be sat naked on an itchy eiderdown in the Czech Republic doing it. I decide on a general entry point that keeps most of tomorrows route the same. Its not ideal but its done.
Its a shitty end to the day in that respect. But I have a bed and I’m on my way to CP4, so chin up misery guts.
Day 7 – 142.5 miles. 8,556 feet. 13.2 mph average speed.
116 bpm average HR 3354 calories
Total time: 13:42:56
Active Time: 130:48:40
“Cafe” Time: 2:54:16