Monday, July 4, 2011

Epic Rides: Nankunshan

Day 1 - Putonghua Colada

Some panic to start this trip off when upon arrival at the cross border coach depot I discovered the tickets said 8.05, not 8.25 as the travel agent had told us and the bus had already left! Even better, with non of the rest of our party of 6 present I had managed to lock myself out of the iBone so couldn't show the screaming woman the email from her own colleague...


Luckily at this point Colin turned up with a functioning phone and we all made another coach after some negotiation. What didn't make it was Justin's front wheel, somehow lost on it's journey through border control. Luckily we bought spare wheels. Less fortunate was Ed & 
Paulo witnessing a man crapping in the urinal going through immigration! Welcome to China!


Sadly minus Colin, the remaining 4 started the training proper with a nice 1000m elevation ride up the hill and back to soften the legs, but sadly no piƱa coladas were available for Aron come the evening. 

Day 2 - Apocalypse This Afternoon


The big one- a planned 180km with 2300m of climbing out into the unknown. Leaving the hotel at 8am we got off to an auspicious start when we took the wrong turn out of the hotel and inadvertently ended up adding an extra 10km & 150m climbing to what was already a long day. This detour turned out to be a very scenic one at least, and with legs still fresh there were no complaints.


Aron and Ed shared navigation duties herein and adapted to the 500m Chinese gps offset relative to our mapping. Another navigation error 50km in soon threatened to hamper progress when we were left in the position to hope a bridge existed over a river to get us back on track. When we got to the river no bridge was in sight, but what we did see was a ferry!


Aron was forced to pay the 2RMB fee as punishment for leading us over some dodgy pot holes at full pelt a few km's earlier, and we all settled into our little boat ride.

The river was a definate 'Apocolypse Now' moment on what was to be an 'Apocolypse This Afternoon' day. 

 The rest of the morning passed smoothly on pretty flat roads with some good water breaks breaking things up as temperatures soared and road surfaces deteriorated. 

The highlight was probably our stop for 1kg of lychees and some 'Euro Cool' sunnies for Aron.

Lunch came after 110km, as planned in Longmen, a wild west town where fake mcdonalds is in fact 7-11 and lunch felt like walking into a sort of Chinese saloon bar where a short tumbleweed moment was followed by much Waaaness. 

The fake McDonalds did at least offer the chance to stock up on dubious thai redbull in advance of the afternoon's estimated 2000m elevation still to come. The sense of anticipation as we rolled through the valley waiting for the mountains we could see in the distance was palpable.

Hitting the first proper climb moans and groans were heard as the k's started to be felt in the legs. 

Ed and Paulo had to wrestle their way up on their standard chainsets, whilst Aron's pace setting on the flat finally took it's toll when the bubble popped. I took the KOM almost as a resultant of my only option being to keep turning the 39-25. What followed was glorious swooping curves rolling up and down as we made our way up to the village where we had turned the previous day. The Thai redbulls were now kicking in and some second winds came into effect as Aron came back to life and Justin gave no hint of a man who broke his daily kilometre record shortly after lunch. 

Luckily the anticipated elevation turned out to be a bit of a Chinese GPS whisper and after a puncture break we hit the last climb up to the top of Nankunshan mountain where the only option was to leave it all on the road and see what was left in the tank. Ed and Aron pushed it all the way, while Justin followed shortly after and Paulo arrived with tales of how football was only 90minutes rather than 8hrs... 

One last glorious descent back to the hotel and with a solid 190km covered / 1900m elevation climbed at 6.30pm we called it a day. 'Epic' is what best describes days like this and what makes it so hard is what makes it a day to remember. On a personal level I was pleased to get around without any cramps and I think a few experiments with nutrition paid off. 

But what makes days like this is the 'in it together' aspect to these sorts of rides and it felt like a great sense of achievement to get back in one peice. Numbers wise (distance, elevation, pace) it didn't break any records for me but it was nice that everyone else broke either a distance or elevation PB. Taking into account navigation, road surface, heat and general day time events / banter it will go down as one of the more enjoyable & memorable 'epics' for me though.

Beer and steak was well deserved come the evening and a fading taurine buzz aside we all slept like babies.

Day 3 - Operating on a Fish

Out of the door once more for one last time Justin again took the brunt of the wheelie bad luck (ouch) with a tire blow out pretty much straight out of the hotel. Down to just 3 Aron, Paulo and I tried to keep it recovery style until a 12% hill got in the way, but such is life.


Time to hit the hotel for a 2nd breakfast then a solid 90min massage to boost the recovery some more...

Coming home on the coach we learned from Justin how to operate on a fish and it got even better on the HK side of the border when a man in Lycra asked Justin if he had lost a wheel. Lo and behold this unlikely man hanging out at the bus stop actually owned the tour company and had the wheel in his office back in Yao Ma Tei! What goes around comes around... All in a great weekend's training with banter and scenery to match.

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