Stage 2: La Rochela to Salimana

Stage 2: La Rochela to Salimana

Today, the start was set for 6am… yes, you read that correctly, 6am !!! So being prepared, I got up at 3:30 to go for breakfast and as I feared, they were not ready to serve food at 4am. There was only rice at 4:20am, well, it is what it is!

After breakfast, I had to pack my bag to go on the transport for later, then it was almost time to go to the start.

Today, the start was a lot quicker and since there is no starting pistol, the people in front weren’t really ready. First, it was about 20k undulating fast gravel, but we had to stop after 16km. Catherine was losing air from the rear tyre…. I have to admit, this made me a little angry as she had spotted this problem before the start. Something was obviously wrong but not corrected! Now we had nothing with us to change the problem part. I wanted her to use her foam, but it turned out that she didn’t know how it worked, so we used an ordinary air cartridge and set off again.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t working and we had to stop again. Before we tried to sort it out, I looked at the canister carefully and found out how it actually worked..

We continued and at the Feed zone, I stopped, Catherine continued. I filled both bidons and set off after her to hand a bidon over. I tried to push her a little so she could save strength for the next climb.

This tactic was working well so she passed the second feed zone, I filled the bidons and helped her up the steep section…. suddenly, in front of us were Sonya and Amy! That was a surprise and we were pretty motivated at this point. Pushing hard was not an option as it was too steep….

Finally, we caught them, drove together for a while and could even overtake occasionally…

This happy set of circumstances lasted a short while, I had a rear flat. We had to stop, use a tyre plug, inflate the tyre and get going again. Irritatingly when we arrived in the valley I had to stop and pump again, Catherine continued on at this point. It didn’t take long to join her, but then she had to pump as well!!! We had about 7km to the tech zone and we could sort things properly there…

When we arrived, we put a tube in Catherine’s bike and pumped mine and what a difference! Finally, we could make progress and it was 30km to the finish. And these were hard kilometres, constantly undulating….

The landscape was beautiful, green gently rolling hills as far as the eye can see. I was wanting to finish now. My feet were hurting and it was hard to think of anything else. I was looking out for water to cool my feet. When the next puddle arrived, I stopped and stood in the water, it was a rare treat. Catherine looked a little bemused and carried on …..

I was thinking by now, we should only be descending, but there was always some “up”.

Although I had a snack at the last post, the tank was pretty empty and I had to chuck down my Sponser Power Gums

Finally, the trail went downhill and about as steep or steeper than the ups. I was thinking, please, not up again after this !!!

Finally, into Salimana and we were met by hundreds of people clapping, shouting, throwing confetti and giving flowers, home-made sweets and flags of every nation….. we were received and made welcome as stars!!! What a feeling after all the hardship.

I managed to get some warm oven fresh bread from a bakery, what a treat…. It was eaten in a flash !!!