Part two - The World's longest bike race

Saturday, August 15, 2009 5.00pm

We’re following two MBUK readers Ben Talbot and James Gozney take on the first two stages of the Vuelta Sudamericana – billed as the longest and toughest organised bike tour in the world.

Here’s their second report…

We start the race at 7am in the rain with our fellow riders. They seem a good bunch - around 25 people in total, most of whom have a few years on us with several long distance veterans in the flock. Our briefings the previous day included mention of maps, bike lights, and medical packs we don´t have, but we´re no boy scouts. We have a mobile.

We stay in convoy out of Rio, ominously passing two battered cars on the coastal road round the first mountain as we go. Before 10km is up, Ben gets a flat tyre. Before 20km, Max (another rider) stacks it at traffic lights. Nicely done. The day is scheduled to be 108km, mostly on highways. We break convoy at 35km, climb our first hill and pedal into a typically strong headwind that blasts the open roads here. However in spite of the wind we finish strongly, after getting a bit lost at the end, arriving at the hotel in Mangaratiba with the leaders. A light introduction to what lies ahead we feel.

We rise and shine on Monday morning at 6am in preparation for a much longer day. 147km of hilly coastal terrain awaits. The scenery is stunning, enclosed beaches outline sheltered bays, leading to deep blue waters freckled with local fishing boats. Islands litter the skyline. And the best view of all this is naturally from on high, which gives an extra push to the pedals as we climb through the endless peaks and troughs of the mountainous landscape. We bosh out the kilometres fast though, averaging 25kph over the day and finishing 2nd and 3rd at our damp campsite, with inevitable debate over who finished where. After a brief exploration of Paraty, the local town, we hit the hay in our tent, exhausted.

Day 3 is 159km, the longest yet. Ben and I (James) decide to take it a little easier today, since 430km in 3 days isn´t a regular occurence in our home routines. A 350m vertical climb hits us quickly, not high or steep by our training standards, but gruelling given the mileage already in our muscles. And then the heavens really open. Catastrophically torrential rain pounds us and Natasha, our third wheel(!), kilometre after kilometre. Thunderclaps echo off the surrounding mountains. Zeus is not a happy bunny. Our tanlines will have to wait.

We arrive into camp weary and weater-beaten, but we conquered the distance and the hills, so we have smiles on our faces. After playing point and shoot with a Brazilian pizza menu and coming up trumps with ham and bacon, we pass out, knackered.

Related links:

Read Ben and James' first blog entry

www.tourdafrique.com/southamerica/index.html

More info: on the charities and casues that the guys are riding for:

www.headway.org.uk

www.bermudasloop.org

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