I finally got some good sleep last night, but the 5:30 alarm still came too quick. I was still tired, but feeling good. The hotel had breakfast ready for us. I was ravenous, the eggs may have been the best I have ever had. The day was looking warm, but there was just a little rain in the morning air also.
I was really concerned about what to expect today. The word was they were going to make it hard. It was not a good sign when we saw pro and expert riders coming back down the trail in the first few miles of the day. The hobby course was very challenging for the first 35k. There were two large mountains that we went over. The trail was all rideable, but many of the riders were just not up to par today, too tired and exhausted. We hit a couple of bottlenecks. I had to again get out in front and wrangle everyone into order – get everyone else off the hill before the next guy just adds to the pile. They are going to give me a Romanian name that loosely translates into “he who pushes bikes”.
Somehow I am a far better hill climber than most of those I am riding around. I did nearly everything first try today. I had one bad line and had to back up and try again, but other than that, all fine. I pulled up a nasty rutted climb and was sure I was going to lose momentum, but the 300 just chugged up. I could not belive it kept traction when I was near dead stop. At the top I realized I was in third gear!
The last half of the day was lots of fun. Some of it was the same course I rode around on last year. It is comforting to see something familiar when you are so tired. As I could see we were headed to the finish and realizing I was really going to make it, then I started to dread what was in store for us there. It was worse than I imagined. There were four down hills that I simply nudged the front wheel over the edge, held on the rear fender as long as I could and then let her go. I was sure I was going to break a perch or something right in sight of the end. I watched more than one rider and bike tumble in a pile down these.
But the up hills were even worse; 20-25′ high with a 4-5′ vertical at the top. There were three of these, along with a couple of lesser note too. The problem is that you are on a side hill trail and have to just turn up the hill and go, there is no approach possible. If you don’t make it, it is going to be you sliding back down the hill with your bike close behind. I made it up each, just pushing my fear out of the way. Trust me, it was real fear, but the hills were all doable. Two of them I had to do a half launch at the top to get both of us over the top.
But we made it to the finish, that was the important part. I am so glad to have done it and have it over. It has been a huge amount of work. The ISDE is like a Sunday trail ride by comparison. I have to give a big thanks to everyone who helped, Spela from Husaberg, Tom Moen and John Hinz from KTM, for arranging the bike. Golden Tyre helped with the mousse and tires. The Factory race team, Xavi and Phillip were always happy to help me with anything I needed. Graham and his mechanic Damon were helpful too. Mostly I have to thank Neena for getting us through another race. With her taking care of all the details, I just have to concentrate on the riding. She has had to work nearly as hard as me this week, including driving around some very remote Romanian mountains to get to the service points.
I will have plenty more stories to tell, but they will have to wait a few days until I get home and rested. Here are a few pics from today.