The World's longest bike race - part 3!

Friday, September 4, 2009 6.30pm

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 third installment…

After three days of fast, excited pedalling, the toll starts to show on all of the riders. Ryan, a 23-year-old Canadian rider, claims first major stack of the tour after misjudging a speed bump. He doesn’t fall softly on the gritty hard shoulder and gets packed off to hospital from the crash site.

We’ve been hit by rain that the locals say hasn’t been seen during this season in 70 years. For four days we look out through a watery curtain falling from our helmet peaks and it takes its toll on Ben, who hits the floor hard with a fever. Man down on day five. But 17 hours of sleep gets him back in the saddle and back on the front line, battling with the elements. And whilst Ben is out for the count James comes up trumps and wins his first stage.

The tour takes us onto a range of coastal islands just south of São Paulo, where the weather takes a turn for the better and we get to glimpse a few rays. However the rains take their toll on the island roads, turning dry sands into sticky marshes. In turn we head for a 50km long beach. As rivers meet the ocean, we plough through them with cries of ‘Gamble!’, knee-deep in water. We beat the headwinds to complete a top day.

Quick to follow illness is injury. The sticky terrain takes its toll on our knees. Ben’s left and James’s right give way - all four knees appreciated the scheduled rest day.

Back on the bikes and we start with a 36km dirt track section. The sun has baked the dirt (with the odd swampy area remaining to claim a couple of riders), which makes perfect conditions for a race.

Christiano, our Brazilian comrade, flies onto a bridge not seeing the gaps in the wooden planks. His front wheel gets jammed in the gap, his feet don’t come out of the cleats and he ends up in a pile on the bridge. The rim cracks in two places and is so buckled that the wheel can’t move past the forks. It puts him out of the race. Ben goes on to take pole and James finishes on the podium, despite taking a wrong turn. The track conditions again take their toll and with tendonitis flaring in Ben’s ankle, the lunch truck couldn’t have been further away that day.

With a couple of easier, sunsoaked days following, we’re now 1,500km in and pushing hard, covering an average of 150km per day to Foz do Iguaçu. While the tanlines become more defined with the clear skies, the headwinds get stronger; the next few days will certainly test our endurance in the saddle under a Brazilian sun.

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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