MACEDONIA – GREECE
The day the wheels fell off, well actually it was the day after; not the bike, or the legs but a full body shutdown due to bacteria. Game over no answer, crawling under a bush the only option. Today was to be my final Transcontinental race day.
The luxury of a 5:30 start today, waiting for sunrise. I wanted to see and explore the Macedonia Lake resort that was so vibrant late last night. There was certainly plenty of open sleeping available for the brave TCR rider. Coffee and a chat with some locals at a petrol station café got me ready for the long hills to start the day.
And it was a long hill, a steady gradient through heavy woods. At the summit I sat down and shared my food with a timid local dog. It was also time for a little bike maintenance, I’ve not mentioned the bike much during these trip reports, mainly because there’s nothing to report. It performed faultlessly apart from the front mech going out of adjustment, and just needed a chain lube and a quick brake adjustment for the whole ride.
Feeling the need to spend some Dinar I stopped in nice little town called Peceh. Locals were sat at the pavement café watching the world go by, an old man proudly offered me Nescafe as his top Coffee. I went inside to the toilet and he was brewing up an instant coffee with water from a simple 1 ring camping gaz setup. It was one of the most enjoyable coffee stops I’d had for days, simple pleasures.
Just as I started to move a rider whizzed by on the Tribars, obviously a serious chap I thought in such a busy area. On the next climb I found him and had a chat with Luke Allen. He had suffered some big puncture experiences that tempered his early fast pace and was playing catch up, we rode the climb together.
A long fast rough descent threw up an interesting comparison in aerodynamics and tyres. We both set off rolling down this 30+ mph hill, and Luke pulled away no problem. No matter how hard I tried to crawl under my paintwork the gap kept growing, pretty soon he was actually out of sight on these long straight drops. Certainly got me thinking, he definately had thinner tyres and a more aero ride. (I never checked my tyre pressures all ride, when I got home they were just over 60psi)
After a bit of a look round Bitola, where I should have spent the last of my Dinar, the Greece border appeared. It was bleak and pretty deserted, in retrospect an apt advert of what was to come. I can’t really bring myself to describe my impressions of Greece here, I don’t think riding the E02 through the country does it justice, it surely can’t all be that dull.
Some incidents of today:
- Girl in ” Fu#k the clock” T-shirt, perfect for the TCR
- Fear of stopping, without the cooling breeze it was intolerable
- Flash flood from a storm out of nowhere, 10 mins later dry roads
- Luke passes me again In Thessilonika on the hunt for food
- Where did I get that route round Thessilonika, it was brilliant
- Riding into a lightning storm at 10pm was both bonkers and deafening
At 200 miles for the day, I had plans to ride through the night to avoid the heat of the day, but as more storms loomed I found a great part built house to doss down in. By 2am I was throwing up and out of it, there was a lot of liquid in there, I was sure it wasn’t dehydration but in the heat had I just been too casual with the odd iced water.
Pretty irrelevant now but with 400 miles to go in two days I was ready to party, day 12 the last day of my TCR2015.
157 Luke Allen finished in 19th place in 14 days 59 mins almost spot on my party pace.
Non TCR – Day 13
I spent a very sick last night in Apollonia, come first light it was all I could do to move out and sleep under a bush from the morning sun. I even fell asleep mid text, telling my wife not to worry. Come 10am I crawled to a roadside bar so I could see other riders. When I couldn’t hold any water down at all, it got worrying. In and out of consciousness I ended up sleeping under a table. At 5pm I’d stopped throwing up and felt brave enough to ride 17 miles in search of a hotel, it took a long time and I got utterly drenched again. I had no bad feelings about this, I was in survival mode, just get on with it. Lots of wasted time in Kockalu resort and finally found the last bed in a nice hotel on the main road. Thank you Strimoniko hotel, my saviours for 3o€
Non TCR – Day 14
It took a long time to start moving, hour after hour I tried to get out of bed. 36 hours with no food and a few sips of water I finally snapped out of it with a cold shower forced down some Oreo biscuits and mixed up a hypertonic tablet drink. Not ideal but I figured if it stayed down I was on the move.
The decision was made to quit, it wasn’t hard then and hasn’t changed since. I’d had a great time, had nothing to prove and no commitments in Istanbul. Thessilonika airport hotel, Taxi to a bike shop for a box and a flight home, that was the new plan of survival.
A tentative breakfast in the bakery next door and with no sudden movements I was back on the road at midday going the wrong way. Waving to a few riders probably confused them, then I found Piero and friends in a café. Remember Piero, I’d left him on the Italian border, as we drank coffee together once more I did feel a little guilty abandoning while they were planning there last few days.
Then a true Gentleman dot watcher turned up sweating profusely on his bike. Thank you Phil and Veta who helped me with a smooth and trouble free repatriation.
P.S. Greece why are the most colourful things I saw memorials to lives lost in road accidents.
Lessons Learned: Good kit choices and a trouble free bike only come with practicing in full simulation mode. My trouble free Transcontinental Bike