Even Kim commented on it, though when I rocked up to the start in Zeehan the next morning and tried to tell other riders of my woes I found them to be a less than supportive bunch with the strong insinuation that I was making up excuses for being a great big wuss.
But, as the next stage was about to demonstrate ... I wasn't.
Competition stage 5 is a time trial (in pairs) up through the Zeehan Spray Tunnel and then out along to the highway.
As one of the slower riders, I was one of the earlier riders to go, and within five seconds of the line I had already lost 10 metres on the guy I was paired with ...
|That's me in the orange ... look how close to the start we are|
and the gap he already has.
It wasn't good, and I wasn't looking forward to what I knew was going to be a killer hot session in the afternoon.
To be honest I was seriously asking myself whether I should continue on the next competition section as I set off to ride the 15km cruise stage to Trial Harbour for lunch.
Then, just shy of 2kms into the cruise stage ... my rear tyre burst.
F*#k, f*#K, f*#k and f*#k.
I got off my bike and rotated the tyre expecting it to be just another "wheel off rim" adventure, but this time as it span around there was a great hissing of air and on closer examination I discovered a 1cm long gash in the tyres side wall ... and the Stan's just wasn't going to seal that (I know this as I watched as it all just poured out the hole with no sealing happening at all).
This is the point in your day when you find yourself asking two questions:
- What the f*#k am I doing here? and
- Why is my support crew currently 50+kms away sand-boarding on Henty Dunes with my spare tyre sitting on the back seat of the car?
I consoled myself with the thought that at least they'd be thinking of me ...
... or maybe not.
What one does not do at this point is remind oneself that you had been strongly advised (OK, told) by a certain person that one place you really want your support crew to be with you is at Trial Harbour ...
After considering my options and knowing the road is closed to traffic, I began pushing my bike back towards Zeehan, but after about 500 metres (by which point I was getting heartily sick of saying "Yea, I'm OK, thanks - I've wrecked my rear tyre") I figured that I may as well try stripping out the tubeless system and putting my spare tube in and seeing if I could ride my bike that way.
Fortunately after the first two days adventures, I had traded my small pump in for a much higher volume pump today so the inflating was a lot quicker and easier, and the tyre, well it went up ... and held.
But getting my tyre back up was the highlight of the stage for me: my lungs were really struggling, I was feeling very nervous on the bike expecting the wheel to burst at any moment, I was hot and bothered following my performance in the first stage, and my mind was in a very negative space ... oh and any dreams I had of chasing Pete had long since vanished.
This was survival time.
After 40 minutes, this was my list:
(1) Because I know I'll regret it if I pull out.
(2) Uhm, err ... nope. That's it.
I basically spent the two hour lunch break trying to convince myself I had to continue in the race and deliberately avoiding anyone I knew who could potentially put the temptation of a lift out of there in front of me. The only interlude I allowed to my internal meanderings was a trip to Sprung where I had just enough money ($20) to buy two spare tubes which was pretty much all I could do to get ready for the afternoon's stage.
Then it was time to go, and as I had avoided all the other options, I found myself on the starting line, and then I was riding ...
The ride out of Trial Harbour is a longish climb back up the road we came in on, before the route turns onto the more technical Granville Harbour Track and as will be no surprise I quickly dropped towards the back of the pack and settled in for what I knew was going to be a real grind.
I won't go through the ugliness which was the Granville Harbour Stage, except to say that Kim has a video of me coming over the finish line and it is safe to say that she could have crawled along faster that I was riding.
Like the other stages this one was a story of lots of overtaking on the technical descents, and then gasping and crawling my way up each of the ascents watching everyone I overtook go past me again. It was kind of fun in a very painful sort of way and I drank nearly two waters of water when I got to the finish line.
But I did get to the finish line, and my support crew was there to cheer me over it despite standing in the sun for two hours (which is pretty good for a couple of young kids). Actually it's awesome.
Dinner that night was roast chicken and chips down at the little beach at Strahan followed by a cooling swim and bourbon and cokes as the sun set ...
|Oh ... and a sand fight - I forgot the sand fight.|
I think the cooling water helped my breathing a bit, because after late night ice creams and Markus's favourite DVD ... Jurassic Park I managed to get a reasonable nights sleep for a change ... bring on tomorrow.