282km, 18.5 hours riding, 1 732m alt gain, 35.8 high temp
Today was a good day, I got my mojo back, the bike ran well, and I covered excellent kms. I am also loving Serbia. The people are as friendly and welcoming as the Bulgarians but the country is a little built up with regular towns, good roads and beautiful countryside.
The day started at 4am to beat the heat, and those early hours I clocked some awesome pace. 145km just before 12pm was top. Legs felt strong and really felt ‘free’ after me relaxing day yesterday – a move that was definitely vindicated today. My morning stops tend to lean towards a double hit of Espresso or Turkish coffee followed by a cold yogi sip type drinking yoghurt that plain – delicious! The only admin was a surprise running low of the Tracker batteries which my Dotwatchers picked up, as well as Katie from race office who sent me an SMS. I was in a shop at the that time and quick sticks I was sorted.
The afternoon again surprised me (shouldn’t have) as the heat that kicked up from 1pm plus block headwind was insanely draining. 20 pedal strokes of extra ordinary watts then a resting free wheel for 5 seconds. And so it went on from 145km to 210km. This meant for both mental freshness and hydration I was taking a tea room stop every 20km, killing serious time.
So I changed my route and headed straight to the Danube riverside town of Smederevo where I thought it would be cooler and take some climbing out of the hill south of Belgrade by coming in along the river from the East (this would have its own surprise). The food and chill time at the Park SD restaurant was excellent and just what the body needed!
The Danube river holds a special memory for me. It was on a boat cruise on the river (from Vienna) with the outlaws (wife’s parents) that I asked Lawrence outside for a chat. I promptly asked him if I could marry his daughter – now given it was a winter cruise and was brass monkeys, I think I used the circumstances to my advantage to get a hurried yes out of him (thanks again Loz). Later that week Tash and left them and headed off for our own Skiing holiday in Austria (Zell am Zee) where I popped the question, and the rest is history!
My assumption that the 43km from Smederevo to Belgrade passing 3 Inchanga type climbs would be calm and lovely in the cool night air where shattered when climbing the 2nd hill a pack of 3 black elsation type dogs jumped out of verge and started going full on for my ankles and back tyre. I first shat myself, then hit what felt like 3000 watts for 200m lactic threshold test up a cat 3 climb after 250km and 17 hours in the saddle. I managed to put sprint them but shit my legs were then blown. Bastards!!!
Finally I dropped into Belgrade and am now holed up in a hostel for the night – not before the traditional McDonalds before bed. You may laugh why the hell is he eating McDs at midnight when he should be sleeping? The 2 fundamental rules of ultra cycling are 1. You must replace those 10000 calories with food before bed so the body can use it to recover the damage over night and have energy stores ready 6 hours later, 2. Always wash your kit when you shower after a long day. Dirty kit creates infection which can terminate your ride.
So new plan for tomorrow, find a spot to crash from 1pm to 6pm to avoid heat depletion then rather go later into the early morning, let’s see how it goes?
Thanks again for all the encouragement from home – amazing 🙏