by Ben Haworth
March 12, 2010
SATURDAY, 6 MARCH 2010
Before any International racing can take place there is always the worrying matter of getting there in the first place.
Bikes have to be packed, gear has to be checked and double checked, you have to remember to smile extra nice at whoever is checking you in in the hope that they didn’t see you struggling to lift an overweight bike bag..
Well the first hurdle is over and I’m in Kathmandu.
The journey was pretty uneventful… a mad dash around Nottingham to get Col some basic immunisation then a stress free flight and we are here.
The flight offered time to reflect on how I didn’t do the planned dieting I said I would after Arrowhead and the lack of callouses on my hands indicate that maybe I haven’t been able to get the miles on the bike that I would have liked but all that means is I’ll have to work that little bit harder but I’m quietly confident I can suffer through and get a finish… may even enjoy some riding on the way.
One thing I know for sure is I will be limiting my time riding a bike on the streets of Kathmandu… driving here is manic at best and lanes and rules are seemingly non existent… self preservation will be the order of the day.
Food is good at the Kathmandu Guesthouse so plan is to eat and drink up for the relentless climbing in the forthcoming week.
Bike building and Monkey Temple tomorrow 🙂
SUNDAY, 7 MARCH 2010
Not much to do at the moment but wait… i’m always worried of too much activity pre race in case of any bike or body mishaps which would take me out the race before the first day begins.
Instead today was spent building and checking my bike then taking a walk around the surrounding streets, the number of singlespeed bikes in Kathmandu is amazing… its not niche here its norm. Fair enough most of those are rikshaws and the rest are ‘make do or mend’ modifications to keep a vital mode of transport working but all the same its making me feel better.
We have a good bunch of riders assembled… discounting the sub 50kg rider category occupied by all the Nepalese riders we have a few brits, an Australian and a Swedish duo includng a previous Eurovision competitor.
The afternoon was finished with hiking the bike to the Monkey Temple… which pretty much is as its sounds.. a Temple with Monkeys…. i managed to come away with bike intact but Col annoyed a monkey and got a smack on the foot as a warning:)
Race registration tomorrow and then the day after we can start turning some pedals.
TUESDAY, 9 MARCH 2010
I never viewed my participation in this event as a ‘race’, I knew the local guys had the event sewn up as although we can match them on the flat and the climbs when you limit the supply of oxygen we have no response.
So with this in mind I have no idea why I couldn’t sleep last night, I had my usual pre race nerves and spent most of the time going over what little I knew about what lay ahead. Everything usually feels better after the first stage.
The race day started with a group ride to Dubar Square for the official welcome from the President of the Nepalese MTB Association, Chhimi Gurung, and the ‘Gary Fisher’ of Nepal, Sonam Gurung, the man who brought the fat tired back to this part of the world.
The turnout of Nepalese riders was fantastic with 50 strong riders coming out to join the band led procession through the streets of Kathmandu to the official race start on the outskirts of the city to the base of the first climb.
From the start the local favourite and current Nepalese Mountain Bike Champion Ajay Pandit went off hard, out of the saddle attacking the tarmac climb… I optimistically moved up alongside him and for the first 500m rode wheel to wheel until traffic stopped play… well for me at least… while I tried to negotiate around a van in the road I was passed on both sides by other riders.
The climb tarmac with a often changing gradient making getting into a rhythm impossible and with no option to adjust the gears to suit the slope I had to muscle the stiffer slopes and breath hard and recover on the easier stuff… the climb lasted about 6km before levelling into a traverse across the hillside on undulating jeep track, jeep track roughly translates as pretty rough going.
When the undulating jeep track reached the saddle between 2 hills we crossed and started the sizeable descent down to the valley floor but not before getting a glimpse of a fantastic view until the trail demanded full attention … 18km of fantastic descending through villages, passing buses, cars and motorbikes… every km I thanked DT for supplying me with some suspension forks for this trip.. The trail switched from rocky to sandy, tight corners to flat out straights… dodging locals, goats and dogs.
On the valley floor the jeep track followed the course of the river… the going was pretty harsh and the 32/18 gearing I was thankful of on the first climb was now stopping me going fast enough to get on top of the bumps.. All the time I was convinced my slower than geared progress was going to see me getting caught by one of the other riders.
We passed under a large suspension foot bridge and not long after that turned and crossed another bridge popping out onto a tarmac road… again I felt under geared but pressed on as hard as I could until one of the volunteers signalled the turning for the last climb to the finish at Nuwakot.
This climb was on some awesome dry red dirt… the real heat of the day was now bearing down and it wasn’t long before I was forced to give up riding in favour of a brisk push… the climb would probably be singlespeedable but this being the first day I was picking my battles… this climb as the first was pretty lengthy at around 7km.. as it eased off I was able to turn some pedals and as we reached what looked like the top I made sure I rode more than I had been… after 3 hours of riding I reached Nuwakot and the finish line.
A good opener to what looks like is going to be another amazing experience on the bike…. stage stats of 11km ride to the start… 45km stage… just under 1000m of climbing and 1300m of climbing.
The tea house accommodation as I type is offering some amazing views and time to prepare for tomorrows transition stage to Dhadingbesi followed by jeep transfer to Gorka.
THURSDAY, 11 MARCH 2010
After a transition stage group ride yesterday of 50km with a healthy serving of both up and down we found ourselves in Gorka.. the old capital of Nepal.
Stage 2, Gorka to Besi Sahar, 60km… the days stage was sold as a half and half, jeep track and sealed tarmac rode.. on paper it didn’t sound too tough although with that much tarmac involved it was never going to be a singlspeed friendly day and best i could hope for was to minimise losses.
The day started with a descent of around 6-7km, not too rough but pretty rutted as rain has carved the surface into multiple channels to choose from… the jeep track flowed from reddish clay, to grass then into villages and back onto the familiar dusty brown surface of the last 2 days…
The first proper carry of the race came after a footbridge crossing which led onto a set of stairs.. with the Swedish guys, Andreas and Martin, just behind me on the trail as well as in the race overall i tried to run the first flight of stairs which quickly turned into a brisk walk and then to a slow walk…
Cresting the stairs the trail then wound undulating down the valley finally ending in a steepish climb to up and over down into the next valley… the going was a fast as my gearing allowed but still painfully slow… geared too high for some of the ups and too low for the flat.. the curse of the singlespeed rider.
My only salvation was going to be the easy tarmac section… 30km was going to be slow but manageable.. and at first it was pretty easy going if a little slow.. the road was either gently uphill or downhill and progress was acceptable.
As the tarmac continued the frequency of the ups and downs tightened and the downs were steeper and so were the corresponding ups.. with no ability to capitalise on the downhill spinning out the gear i had to bear the full brunt of every climb and it started to take toll.
The morning had started with a poor breakfast selection, well what did i expect ordering chocolate pancakes in Nepal, and the soon the lack of food was apparent. I had managed the first 2 days on nothing but fluid and felt fine but today i gradually ground to a halt and an SIS Caffeine gel was taken to try and salvage the situation.
The road signs indicating the mileage to Besi Sahar were only every 5km and weren’t coming fast enough… i rationalised the distance to training routes and rides at home which is always the sign of suffering.. even the sight of the big mountains couldn’t lift my tempo.
Gradually i reached the base of the last climb before Besi and ground slowly up to the finish.. maintaining my place in the overall.. gaining time on the riders who were behind but losing to those in front.
So far the riding has been pretty tough, the Nepali foothills are very steep in places and relentless in there delivery of height gain… the scenery has been immense.. the people so friendly… the Hike a Bike starts tomorrow on the way Tal.. 30km riding followed by 10km steep hike 🙁 ouch.