Day 36, stage 27, 117km
Start, forest camp
Finish, forest camp
Today is a mandatory – or mando – day for the racers. There are a dozen or so of these days during the full tour. They are meant to be the most difficult days and so must be ridden and counted in total time (the racers get to drop a number of their worse days when arriving at their total time). A mando day also attracts a time bonus. So competition is stiff.
Today was only 117km but had over 2000 metres of climb. Although shorter than yesterday it was tougher for me because of all the climbing. Tomorrow is the Blue Nile Gorge. I did not want to blow my legs on a mando day and then crack at the Gorge. So I paced myself and it was a long day. People passed me and I resisted the temptation to keep pace with them or chase them down (wasn’t difficult to resist, I was struggling). I was very conscious of trying to keep something in reserve. When you are cycling hard it is easy to reach the red line. And you can feel it. It is that point at which there is simply nothing left in the tank. You can’t add any more effort. And if you try, your legs will simply tell you to fuck off and they will stop. (Although, I remember reading Tyler Hamilton’s book. He is the classic racer with a very high pain threshold. He says that you have to reach that final pain threshold and cycle through it. You then find whole new reserves of energy. I personally think this was due to drugs and not an option available to mere mortals.) Whenever I felt the red line approaching I backed off. I was not going to win anything but I was going to finish. And I did.