Day 14 – The final push – Pogradec ALB – Meteora, GRE

Spoiler Alert! I make it.

So I wake up, 100% un-murdered. That was the last chance the psychos of Europe had, mugs. I shower, and roll out. Greece here I come.

The road to the border is a bit lumpy, and despite my confidence I’ll see Meteora today, it won’t come easy. I stop prior to the border for breakfast at a roadside cafe. I’m served chips and a kebab in a bun, its unreal and despite the impression I may give sometimes Albania has been as class as everywhere else.

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My Dad lives in Crete and I love Greece generally so I was looking forward to this ride and it doesn’t disappoint. Its a nails day but in hindsight very enjoyable. I bump into Tom (#135) and Constantin (#84) and after an initial bit of back and forth we spend the final day riding together.  I will note that this is not a drafting scenario, more all three of us have the ability to maintain the same crawling pace and no more. We stop several times for ice cream, and each time restarting becomes more difficult, I really just want to be done now.

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The final two climbs of the TCR are tough. I barely get up the last one which takes riders to the top of Meteora, its like a clifface and I’m soon dropped by my companions. I don’t fret, I’ll see them soon enough at the finish. But I’m wrong, at the top Tom and Constantin are sat waiting whilst taking in the views, insisting we roll into Meteora together. True gents, and it was an absolute pleasure to soak up those final few miles in their company.

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Final pain face of the race
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Soaking up Meteora and the race as a whole

The descent to Meteora is stunning. The monasteries perched on the rock towers are outrageous. It’s no wonder the TCR kept coming back here. We stop for photos as some of the TCR team drive by. Camile the photographer quips that he’s here to take photos of racers not tourists.

Once we’ve finished being tourists we descend to the finish line, and more importantly the bar. Its mid afternoon and there’s a big crowd of those who’ve already finished plus friends and family. Its a really warm welcome and I’ve soon got the first of many cold beers in my hand.

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First of many. Photo courtesy of TCR

And that was that. I could write a whole post about how it felt to finish, and have a beer with all the people I’d run into over the two weeks. But it still wouldn’t do it justice. It was without doubt the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, and I’m not sure how I’ll ever beat it. It was also undoubtedly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It pushed me to to my limits and beyond. I have a better understanding of where I can push my body and mind now, which is both terrifying and liberating.

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Its taken me a year to finish this account but as I go over the notes I made during the post race days in Meteora it’s all very fresh in the memory. I wrote this because of all the blogs I read in the two years prior to TCRno6 which inspired me to take part, so hopefully it’ll have the same effect. I would recommend the experience to anyone who enjoys the simplicity of riding a bike and seeing new places. Don’t let the unknown put you off. And please don’t think to yourself “one day”. Just go and do it, you won’t regret it.

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Day 14 – 152.4 miles. 9,091 feet. 12.7 mph average speed.

119 bpm average HR   4119 calories

Total time: 13:50:15

Active Time: 11:57:26

“Cafe” Time: 1:52:49

Total

2450.2 Miles

13 Days 20 hours 0 Minutes

Daily Average 177.2

One thought on “Day 14 – The final push – Pogradec ALB – Meteora, GRE

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