Day 2 – Roma to Malealea
I knew today was going to take me to a dark place. After 5 hours my body was like: “Dude, you usually get off this thing after 55 minutes and then do some push-ups in the room where the gym keeps all those balls!”
The first 30km was a gift. A nice tailwind kept us rolling over fast singletracks and district roads. After the first waterpoint things got a bit harder as we started to take on the first proper climb of the day. Luckily the godsend of a tailwind was still with us and conditions for riding were just plain perfect.
After a series of rolling hills on a well maintained district road, we started to descend into the beautiful Valley of Desolation. The riding down in the valley was brutal and energy sapping. The terrain is notoriously rocky, with a lot of short, steep climbs followed by technical drops with a lot of wrong line options. I mostly took the wrong ones. Partly because I’m not the fastest on a rocky downhill, but more so because the views were so spectacular. I found it difficult to keep my eye on the line I was riding.
Eating the elephant
The second waterpoint was at 63km, but I needed it to be at 58. By that I time I was smack bang in the middle of my red zone, with only a few sips of water left. When we finally reached the waterpoint, I was shattered and extremely hungry. Unfortunately they did not serve elephant, although a chocolate brownie swallowed down with a boiled egg does the trick.
The true test of a man’s character was still to come. At 70km we had a hike-a-bike that would bring any hardcore hiker to tears. This was followed by a bumpy rough patch over grasslands that gnawed away at the last shred of energy I had left. From there it was a steady ascent through corn fields and small villages. At some point a young boy gave us water from a tap that tasted like something that should be bottled and sold at a price worthy of such a magical drink.
Falling, a lot
After the first day, my long-overdue-for-an-upgrade shoes were totally buggered. Luckily I got a pair of secondhand Shimano classics at the local bike shop at the Roma Trading Post Lodge. This turned my day into a struggle to stay on the bike, because one of the cleats’ screws was too worn out to fasten properly. I only realised this after falling for the third time and this time it was a tumble off a contour line singletrack into a bush.
This particular singletrack is the only manicured trail during this race. It’s a stunning piece of singletrack on the ridge line parallel to the road leading to Gates of Paradise pass. It is maintained by the local lodge and is on the edge of mountain biking bliss. I was looking forward to this section the whole day, but then I stuffed it up with my third and biggest fall of the day. Luckily we get to ride it again on Thursday, hopefully I’ll keep the rubber side down and my Silverback flying.
Photo credits: Wayne Reiche