The alarm rings again at 4:30 and I manage to pack everything and be back on the bike in less than half an hour. Generally I really like the early morning start and I like being on the bike when it’s still dark and today this seems to work out. Even the legs feel OK and when the muscles get warmed up I seem to make quite good progress. After less than half an hour of pedalling I pass by David and Arno who had camped a bit further ahead, David start pedalling behind me and we once share the road on the last climb before Baetov.
After two days of cloudy and murky skies today we finally have a clear morning. The red road on which we’re cycling looks spectacular against the backdrop of the snowy mountains which are visible in the distance and as we get to the top of the 3000 meter pass we share exclamations of enthusiasm.
From here it’s all downhill to Baetov, the first real resupply point after almost 300 kilometres of incredibly tough and remote terrain. Switchback after switchback the bikes fly down the mountain towards the flat “plains” where Baetov lies. Almost 2000 meters of descending and 30 kilometres which feel like free kilometres. In Baetov we struggle a bit to find an open shop and when we do find one it’s unfortunately pretty empty. We grab what we can and leave the trash from the previous section, I stop at another shop with hopes of finding some “real” food. When I look at the map with the trackers I see that I’m in 5th place and I struggle a bit to understand when I passed Lubos and Christoph.
The next section of flat tarmac from Baetov to Jangi Talap turns into a slow torture on the mountain bike, the cold morning has been replaced by a relatively torid mid-day and I could really use a coffee to get back in the rythm. I stop several times to eat, hoping that it’s a fuelling issue but unfortunately this doesn’t help.
I know at this point that the long climb to Song Kul is going to be a struggle, but there’s not much I can do about it. There are days and moments like this and I can’t explain why I felt so good this morning and why I’m fighting for every switchback right now. The only valid explanation in my mind is the heat, but I know it’s not only that and inside I’m afraid that I’ll have to struggle in the same limbo until the end of the race. To make things worse when Christoph passes me it seems that he’s flying on the bike. Or maybe it’s just that I’m so slow. I place my hope of kick-starting the day in the Checkpoint from Song Kul and this works to a certain degree.
I stop for almost 30 minutes, chatting and joking with Christoph and with the volunteers from the checkpoint, having some really good dumplings and enjoying the sunshine and the atmosphere. If there would be a place where I would like to volunteer during the race Song Kul would clearly one of them.
Unfortunately when I get back on the bike the hopes of kickstarting the day are shattered. The weird thing is that mentally I feel quite fine and I really enjoy being where I am the only problem is that I struggle on each small climb and that the engine doesn’t seem to work this afternoon. The mirror like surface of the Song Kull lake and the surreal light of the evening makes up for this frustration, especially during the bits when I end up cycling close to the lake. I could stop and stare at this lake for hours under different circumstances but now I know that I have to take advantage of the daylight and ride at least the next descent before the night falls.
I catch the sunset just in the pass above Song Kull , and I bomb down the mountain trying to delay the moment when I have to put on the headlight. It kind of works and when I reach the river there’s still a hint of light in the sky. At the same time I’m so tired that when I see an abandoned stable I decide to call it a day.
I set up my bivy in the light of the full moon, in the distance I can see the headlights of Lubos and Arno also descending from the mountain pass but at this moment I couldn’t care less, and after a brief and cold dinner I drift off to a very, very deep sleep.
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