#TCRN05 Race Report: Day 4 - 8


Opium for cyclists

Day 4 – CP2 Monte Grappa

Real rest on a real bed, which was cut short as my reggae alarm started blasting at 4:45am. I knew I had a job to do. And that was to climb Monte Grappa, CP2.

An awkward exit of the hotel as I could not operate the massive wooden door and had to get the strange Austrian man to help me. He was not very impressed as it was 5am.

I found it quite funny as I started to descend down the Brenner valley. Annoyingly a lot of my strava recordings on my phone did not record properly so I probably lost about 800km of data overall L . Today it did not record the beautiful cycle paths from Brixen to Bolzano.

civilised weirdo

Every day on the TCR presented a new physical niggle whether it be my neck, hands, knees, achilles or bum. They were all MY niggles. They all became very personal and you had to have a loving tender approach to how you were going to look after your body, whilst subjecting your vessel to the repetitive pealing trauma. I believe I came up with a good mental system that could manage my physical needs.

Everyday had at least one significant discomfort. But ON day 4 of the TCR it was the day of the BUM for me. It had been getting bad since Day 2. But It was sore on this Monday morning. Very, very sore. It felt like I was sitting on a pole of rusty spikes. Which meant I was riding out the saddle a lot which in turn aggravated my Achilles. SO I really needed to sort this issue asap, as I still had 3,200km to go…

I stopped in Bolzano for some serious faffing. Purchased anti-inflammatories, lunch & chamois cream. Finding chamois cream was a challenge with the language barrier. Radcreme, was what I was looking for. After being denied by 2 bike shops. I finally got lucky in a huge sports department store Sportler. I spent about 20 minutes looking for the stuff. Once found, I thought that I discovered the holy grail of bum cream and that all my pain and discomfort would melt away. I was wrong.

After riding through an isolated vineyard. It was a suitable time to apply the Radcreme goodness. 2 minutes after applying I was on the floor in agony. It was a burning, minty, tingling, sensation all down stairs. It felt like napalm on my bum. Extremely uncomfortable.

I felt really screwed over spending so much time and resources on chamois cream, coming out seemingly worse than before. After the pain subsided I only had one thing to do and that was ride harder to make up lost time. Funnily enough 20km later I saw a man with a van that said, “Italian supported bike tours” (slightly different to the nature of the TCR). I started speaking to him and noticed he had electrolytes for sale. I immediately bought a tube and then enquired about the sacred Radcreme. He had a tub of ASSOS (good shit) and I purchased.
my bum was happy, i was happy

After applying the Assos. Everything smelt and looked good. The people here defiantly looked after themselves. Much more so than the people of Portsmouth. Bronze & toned bodies. Lots of people riding bikes. Hundreds of them. These things made me happy. My bum was happy, so I was happy. The language was interesting as it turned more Italian. A strange hybrid mix of German and Italian. I found it quite amusing over hearing conversations. My route today was much less stressful than yesterday. I seemed to be riding on exclusively epic cycle routes which looked like they cost a lot of money to build.

Once I hit the outskirts of Trento it started to get lumpy again. It was lunch time!

was truly gutted when I found out that the sandwich I had been saving from Bolzano had been salmon. It had turned into a big hot fishy mess in my bag, making everything smell like rotting fish. Defiantly not my finest food moment on the TCR. I resupplied again in the supermarket and faced the afternoons blistering heat. Some of the climbs here were STEEP. 25%+ climbs. One bit of road I had to push the bike. Something I NEVER do, but I wanted to save my knees for Monte Grappa….

steep stuff

It was great riding when the steep stuff subsided and turned into more gentle rolling paths. I made progress that afternoon and covered lots of the valley with a few drink & ice cream stops. All perfect scenery and was like being in cycling heaven at times. Riding though these exclusive cycle paths cutting through these enormous valleys. 

They didn't even sell me a coffee

The time I arrived in Bassano del grappa, it was early evening but I was pumped up for Mount Grappa. Ready to climb this beast. I had not eaten enough proper foods and skipped dinner for a clif bar. (Rookie mistake that cost me later)

I manged to beg a fetching Italian girl in town to sell me some special biscuits. I really hoped these things would give me the power to climb this bastard. So, let the climb begin.

Steep and long is how I would best describe the Grappa. Although I was happy to be climbing in the cool temperatures of the evening. It took me around 2hours 34minutes to get up this thing. Nonstop. When I start climbing, I don’t like to stop as it can ruin focus and momentum. I was climbing with another rider. A Belgium chap who was a similar age, we were having some good comradery & banter about how I had the benefit of a 34t cassette baby gear. However, we both had to dig equally as deep towards the end. The climb really started to bite in the final 4km. Knees and legs feeling really feeble. When the gradient started to punch above 11%. Especially after riding 260km that day. When we finally reached the summit, it defiantly felt like I was finally on top of the mountain, thankfully. It was cold and windy, for the first time in this trip. Me & a few other TCR nutters bivvied on top of this thing in the car park. I didn’t fancy a fast/long descend in pitch black. I stand by my decision. The bivvy sleep was rough as I slept with the fallen soldiers around me. I did not rest in peace. My lightweight sleeping mat had developed a hole. It kept on deflating. I was frustratingly waking every hour re-inflating the damn thing.


Day 5- Italian border & Enter Slovenia

I woke with the sun rising over me and the mountain. It was truly beautiful and one of the most memorable mornings of the trip.

North view

South view, looking down on Bassano del grappa

Me being me, and slightly unconventional, I didn’t go to the official checkpoint to get my Brevet card stamped before the climb up Monte Grappa. So, this meant I had to descend Moute Grappa and go back to CP2 checkpoint adding extra time. However, it was nice seeing a familiar face; Rob Jordan. A TCR vet from Winchester who I met at Valleycat previously. CP2 controls, was campsite turned TCR refugee camp. I could shower and sort my bits out here. Many riders preparing for the climb. I was happy to have already ridden up it in the cool evening temperatures. Although I was disappointingly promised breakfast that never came…

On the road again but this time east to Slovenia. The route profile today looked flat, fast & busy. I needed fuelling so got 4 croissants and a few expresso's. 

I miss the coffee from Italy
The day was dull, no scenery. Then Lucifer came in full force. This is something that I never experienced before. The heat wave (Lucifer) stopped everything in its tracks that afternoon. Cars were not on the roads and no people walking on the pavements. I think it was this point after CP2 when it got really hot & busy many people scratched. Either way I was having a tough time that afternoon. Getting frustrated with myself that I couldn’t hit my targets considering it was so flat. At 14:00 I took refuge for an hour in a Macdonalds. Was good to sit down and eat something ‘proper’. It was still so hot. My neck was becoming increasingly sore and I was getting paranoid about the dreaded 'Shermans Neck'. SO I decided to faff and waste some more afternoon time by buying a new lighter helmet. I think the fact it was white made little to any difference in how it was heating my head. But it felt good to have a new lighter & more comfortable helmet. 

Also purchased a new 'toy'
As it cooled down, I managed to put in some better shifts and got the miles down. I had a lovely vegetarian pizza near the Italian border and about 4 litres of coke. It was testing not drinking any beer with my food but I knew it would make me lazy and tired. I had to make up lost miles this evening, so a night ride into Slovenia was to be. I road through the night & made timely progress with a few easy hills into Slovenia. Once through the border I managed about 30km. 

Made it out of Italy

I quickly got tired. Was about 1.30am. I knew that there was massive climb coming up and thought a rest in a bush would be suitable. Was happy to have made it out of Italy. Managed about 260km that day. Not ideal but still decent progress. Was not going to be unrealistic with myself and overdo it and try and ride 450km every day. I think I would just crash. I wanted to be safe.

Day 6 – Slovenia

I woke at about 5.30am. 

TCR effect had started to morph my face

Found the nearest gas station and got a resupply. The climb at Ajdovščina begun immediately after this. I stuffed my face with the various cereal bars and fruit juices I had just purchased. Was not really awake yet and this was a big boy, 950 meters. Immediately I liked the vibe of Slovenia & the people. They liked waving at me and seemed jolly.

Lovely woodland climb

After climbing I stopped for coffee in a town outside of Ljubljana. More curious local people asking in foreign languages what I was up to. I just gave them an awkward smile and carried on. After drinking the coffee, the manager insisted that I have a shot of their local strong ethanol. I could not refuse (gulp). It made me feel sick to my stomach. My system was not ready for that at 9am, but, hey, it’s all part of the TCR experience. Past Ljubljana, early afternoon it started to get hot again. Passing other riders, they all had their pain face on. The heat was damaging everybody in a big way.

It became my tactic of riding 20km quite fast then stopping at petrol stations for cold drinks, salty snacks and ice cream. It was working. I was wasting time but I couldn’t really think of anything else I could do.

Sometimes time for a pretty photo

As it cooled down I got faster and was ready for a big night run into Hungary. I got a bit too pumped to drum & bass and had a crash down a gravel road. It was light tumble but should have been worse. But a grazed knee and bent shifter, it was of morale kill. After about 280km I thought it would be best to rest my knee, it was swollen. Gutted that I didn’t make it to Hungary that night.


Day 7 – Hell is flat. Hungary is flat. I am in Hungary

This was my worst day, the day I came closest to scratching.

damaged goods

After a dodgy bivvy sleep, I had to ditch my inflatable sleeping mat - it just wasn’t working anymore. My knee and stomach felt like crap. I could pedal but it hurt. I got into Hungary and was denied water because I did not have the correct currency. A bad start to the day.

After getting on the road after resupply. It was already hot at 10am. Hungary is as flat as a pancake. Exposed straight roads with trucks where my new mountains. Today was going to be a real slog. I pulled over and grabbed a mid-morning coffee boost. This seemed to make matters worse. It was so strong and seemed to give me palpitations alongside general sketchiness. It was not a pleasant feeling. After riding about 100km in the exposed flat lands of Hungary. I was on my mental & physical limit, hot and very uncomfortable. I decided to emergency stop in a town called Nick. I literally thought my heart was going to explode. I took off all my kit and lay in the shade. It was one of the worst feelings that I have ever experienced. I felt overheated, weak and fucked up. Was in a real state now.

Munted selfies from the afternoon sting
I knew I really needed to rest & eat some proper food and hydrate more. I slowly rolled through this empty town desperately seeking a pizzeria or restaurant. Everything seemed to be shut! It was moments like that that the ride was most demanding. Forcing me to muster strength and accept that you can’t always get what you want in the TCR! A decent life lesson on patience.

I had to keep my cool (literally) and just deal with the situation and how my body was feeling. I found a supermarket and just put up with the limited stock that they had on offer. Bread, some cheese, bit of ham & loads of those salty sticks. Feeling marginally better. I got my act together and rode on. After about 10km I still felt like death. SO pulled over again and had a power nap for 1hour by a river in the shade. I awoke feeling groggy, but better. I booked a hotel in Slovakia. This meant I had to ride hard tonight so I could get to this hotel before midnight. The reward was priceless; good food, bed, shower and restart. I felt like I needed it more than ever. Once it cooled down at 6pm I found my rhythm again and got on with it. The river crossing road into Slovakia via Gyor was horrid. Narrow, rough roads with loads of trucks. I was so desperate for this hotel. I put everything out there on road and made good pace.

Once arrived I was greeted by a friendly local woman who had dealt with racers on previous nights, she was informed about the craziness and demands of the TCR. She had a huge plate of food ready for me and massive beer. This was perfect! Just what I needed after a tough day at the office. I only managed about 210km that day. 

I don't care anymore what it is, get in my belly

I was overwhelmed to make it this far to Slovakia. Getting through today day was one of my biggest tests. Will never look at a bed the same way again! 

Day 9 – Slovakia; STILL hot, STILL hard
My staple #bigcorny#cornybig

Riding was still very difficult for me and I lost a lot of time and positions here. My body was still recovering from yesterday. The heat and strange coffee had really damaged me. After a good first 80km in the morning. As soon it got hot from noon this overwhelming feeling of weakness took over me. 

down with the locals

I was really struggling to ride more than 15km without having to stop and lie down. Another low moment for me. I needed to make real meals my priority now. These did seem hard to come by. No restaurants or café's seemed to be open, ever! I will not remember Slovakia for its cuisine. However maybe poor route planning on my behalf that avoided many of the major towns. Late afternoon I did manage to get some salmon and chips in a road side restaurant and the nutritional value of this seemed to help body & mind out massively. 

fuel food

30km later I purchased a pizza. My body really needed this fuel and could feel the nutrients hitting my blood stream and making me feel human again! Such a simple solution, real food. But not to be taken for granted when not readily available, especially a week into the race. My body was shutting down without the stuff. Petrol station snacks simply where not cutting it anymore.

It started to get lumpy again Confidence booster after getting some wholesome foods in me. My strength was returning. I was determined to get to the High Tatras CP3 that night. After a few navigation errors, I manged to get to the Low Tatras… I set up my bivvy in another random field. I needed the rest.


Day 9 CP3

My Mantra 

Awoken by a fox and his strange mating calls. I got up confident and strong. I was ready for CP3 after a turbulent few days. After some climbing in the Tatras national park I was feeling good. The meals from yesterday and good rest was working. It was cooler the higher I climbed. I liked this. It was overcast and slightly damp, a refreshing change. 

From the start of climb to CP3. I knew that this was going to a Mike Hall special. It was an maintenance road for the Tatranská Polianka Sliezsky Dom Resort. If I was going to die of a heart attack on any of the climbs, this was the baby. It was steep,gravely and gnarly. I ran out of water about half way up the climb and was really struggling up this one. I smashed down my final energy gel and I am glad that I did. I could see other riders descending yelling GO,GO. This was sort of hopeful. I reached the top, satisfied. I had made CP3 in good time, all the Kinesis gang where there. I climbed of my bike and was warmly greeted by handshakes and cheers. Was nice seeing other riders and volunteers. 

Last 2 or 3 days have been hard and I had not seen anyone. I sat in the posh restaurant with other riders, it was surreal. The staff defiantly did not appreciate our smell or presence.  I did not need a Slovak translator to understand that. I ordered, ate and shared stories with the other riders. Everybody knew that they couldn’t get too comfortable as we where all up against it and had lost time. I saddled up and headed south to Romania for CP4. We only had 75 hours to get there.

After a long descend into Poprad everyone split. I was on my own again. After a strong evening, I decided to call it a night when an angry thunderstorm hit with torrential rain. I luckily found a friendly family run hotel that took me in. The room and breakfast was £22. Amazing. However I did not hit my mileage target… again. However feeling positive getting to CP3 in time and heading back down South. The TCR's back was broken. 
Heading south