Day 10 – “There will be no miracles here” – Daruvar, CRO – Nova Bila, BOS

I wake up and dare to dream. Then I move my leg and wince. Devoid of a miraculous recovery I roll out of my bed, finish last nights cereal and pull on my pungent bibs. It hurts but I can ride, so the Condor is boarded and pointed in the direction of Bosnia and Herzegovina which is exciting. I get to the border and there are big queues. I use my riders prerogative and roll to the front, whereupon I am admitted to the Wild West. The traffic is hectic but it’s a border town and I assume it’ll die down. Assumptions cost lives. The road to Banja Luka is long and straight. Judging by the presence of every man and his dog it’s also unique, it quickly becomes clear that this is the MAIN road to Banja Luka from this direction. There is no hard shoulder, there’s not even an inch of tarmac outside the white line, just ditches and gravel. The lorries, of which there are many, care not for mere cyclists. I get the impression people think I’m exaggerating when I describe huge articulated trucks brushing my shoulder but the passes were genuinely that close. It was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. It was made all the less pleasant by the worsening ache in my leg,  one of those rare times where cycling proves not to be the best medicine.

By the outskirts of the city the pain is fierce, and the reality of the afternoons climbing is starting to hit home. I can’t get out of the saddle so I’m not much looking forward to the mountains. I spy a chemist on the roadside and decide its worth a shot. If you’ve read the rest of these blogs, it wont come as a surprise to learn that I do not speak Bosnian, and the chemist does not speak English. I leave with a leg brace; useless. I also leave with a tube of cream, this is more appealing so I unscrew the lid. Its mustard in colour. Its mustard in scent. Its mustard in texture. By god it must be mustard. That bastard has sold me mustard. I rub a generous helping of mustard into my thigh and continue.

I stop in Banja Luka for a big sandwich and a rest before I head into the mountains. I get a text from 3 telling me how many hundreds of pounds I’ve spent by inadvertently leaving my data on for 35 seconds. Great. The upshot of this is I’m now mega dependant on wifi until I get to Greece, which for a child of my generation (a millennial…) is about as bad as it gets. I put the iPhone into aeroplane mode glumly and force my sarnie down.

To get anywhere near the road that leads to CP4 I’m required to climb for a considerable time. Any other time this would be fantastic, the roads are far emptier in the mountains and the scenery is stunning. However, my leg is an agony, I’m glued to my saddle and I’m wincing with every other pedal stroke. Joseph (#165) catches me up and we talk briefly on a short descent before he drops me the moment the road heads back up. At this point I decided discretion was the better part of valour and stopped at a garage to ask for wifi in order to book a hotel.

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Bosnia was stunning once I was off the main roads

I get a hotel the other side of the climb and down the valley. The final few miles of the climb really push me to the limit of my pain threshold. I end up walking the last half mile or so as it becomes unbearable. I haven’t the strength to climb seated, but when I stand on the pedals the bad thigh just gives way and I slump back down. Every time I try this I feel physically sick with the pain, and ultimately walking is my only option.

I descend for a while on the other side before reaching my motel on yet another awfully busy road. Fuck me its seedy, there’s only one reason people stay in a place like this. However, they have wifi and a restaurant so I’m a happy camper. I have the worlds saltiest pizza and a beer, which momentarily takes the edge off the day. I buy a bag of frozen veg from the shop next door and retreat to my room. I plan to ice it and not set off before breakfast in order to give myself the best chance of recovery.

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In case you cant imagine a sore leg

I ring Katy again, and have no shame in admitting I had some tears. I genuinely thought that this could be the end of the race, and I was in no fit state to contain that emotion when I vocalised the thoughts that I’d had bottled up all day. As usual Katy is very positive, and I lick my salty lips and man up briefly…

At this point I think I get what some would consider outside assistance. I post my usual cringe inducing evening Instagram videos, explaining the situation and how I’m feeling about the whole affair. The positive response and encouragement I get  from friends and family is truly overwhelming. It genuinely motivates me; so I think in that respect I can’t argue against the suggestion that it’s a type of mental assistance. How do you avoid that? For me sharing the journey was a big part of it, because I’ve enjoyed following the journeys of others in previous editions. I don’t know the answer, its a pretty central part of our culture these days and the event wouldn’t be the same without the stories from the road as far as I’m concerned. It gives the dots a bit of personality.

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Frozen veg in a seedy motel. Also social media.

Anyway, with a slowly defrosting bag of peas clamped to my thigh and the encouragement of others resonating in my head, I settle my naked and chapped arse onto the rough nylon sheets of my roadside brothel and ready myself for the next days instalment of torture and agony.

Day 10 – 135.2 miles. 6,574 feet. 12.9 mph average speed.

117 bpm average HR   2770 calories

Total time: 12:34:13

Active Time: 10:28:23

“Cafe” Time: 2:05:50

https://www.strava.com/activities/1758796102/embed/7b6e3006c1c3bb1b574ef737129ef0d2e47a95ae

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