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Day 3.........catching up

Leaving Gorafe at 5.00am we were immediately faced with the 3km and 1,500-2,000 ft climb back up to the plateau we had left the previous night to rejoin the official route. The ramps once again so steep that hike n bike (ie: push your bike) was the only option.

Having been stationary in Gorafe for almost 8 hours we were were well behind our plan in terms of distance covered and allocated time.

First objective was to get to Gor some 25 km away for breakfast. Arriving there at 8 am we discovered, somewhat unsurprisingly that both cafes in town were closed. One because it is always closed on a Tuesday, and the other closed because its owner had left town to go to a funeral.

At this stage it felt like we were following a wave of shop closures. Monday closures, now Tuesday. Desperate for food we made enquiries as to when the supermarket might open and informed it was 9 am. So that was another hour lost waiting for food. The town square was littered with bikers all wakening from their nights rest so we took time to rest some more and replenish our bottles from the oversized village fountain.

It was at Gor we came across several riders who having been struck down by the heat of the previous day were now taking the decision to withdraw from the race. It transpires that over 30 riders made the decision that day. A clear indication that we had not been alone in the suffering we had endured the previous day.

When you note a fellow rider standing there shivering in 25 degree morning warmth whilst wearing a feather down puffer jacket you know he's not cycling much further. Nor the chap who made a rush for the local playground rubbish bin to empty his stomach of the contents he had just eaten.

Gor village fountain

The local bakery opened up and after a breakfast of fruit and yogurt and hams and fruit juices sourced from the supermarket we availed ourselves of some bread and other supplies for lunch and set off on the steep climb out of Gor.

Climbing out of Gor the views back down to the village were inspiring.

The climb out Gor was relentless and a few cyclists were passed along the way which did much to buoy our spirits as it marked progress for us as we sought to make up positions and time on the field. The track switched from paved road for the first 15km out of Gor to a forest trail that weaved itself amongst trees taking us high into what turned out to be a very alpine type environment. Much of it was through forests which afforded us welcome shade. A great transformation from the previous days ride of zero shade. The air cooler too as we climbed ever higher.

The forested trails wound themselves across countless hills, their only consistency being ever upwards in slope. The remoteness of the area was highlight best by the fact that in the 4 hours we spent in this area the solitary car we saw was that 4WD of a park ranger. We both commented too on how 'big' the countryside felt and how insignificant we appeared in comparison.

Always good sometimes to look back from where you have come. The track we have ridden clearly etched into the side of the hills at the top of my index finger and ran from right to left.

At times the tracks were paved roads which despite their gradient was always a relief.

Then it was back to dirt tracks and the white knuckle rides around slippery corners. I was always cognisant of being just one poor judgement away from coming off the bike. Something I wanted desperately to avoid doing.

Lunch of champions with food sourced that morning from Gor. Those banana's were not ripe when I had purchased them 4-5 hours earlier but Nick W-W suggested that I leave them in a plastic bag at the back of my bike in the hope they'd ripen by days end. Solid suggestion from him. Failed to eventuate though. By days end they were still inedible and I doubt they would've ripened by weeks end. Those raisins seemed a good idea at the time. Came back to bite me in the ass they did. Literally. Sweaty jamon was an interesting choice too.

You take your rest where you can.

The forested tracks of the morning ride made way for open treeless expanses that had a very alpine feeling to it. It was warm but not the searing heat we had experienced the previous day. Being at altitude also brought with it a certain coolness. The air was dry however. Very dry, and the throat felt every bit of it.

At one stage we crested the last of a very long hill to find ourselves adjacent to a series of telescope observation stations. This was the highest elevated point of the entire race. Some 2,150 (7,050 feet approx) meters above sea level. It didn't pass me by that we had cycled to a point almost as high as the highest mountain in Australia. (Mt Kosciuszko at 7,310 feet)

The descent down the other side in to the town of Gergal was a quick one aided by it being mostly on tarmac. With the late afternoon casting spectacular shadows across the landscape it made for a lovely hour or so of riding.

Gergal, seemingly like every other town we had ridden through was shuttered for business. The only source of food and water being the local supermarket which was inundated with cyclists stocking themselves with all manner of fare in preparation for the night ahead. After a brief dinner held roadside we set off into the darkness to tackle the entrance to the desert that would take us to the township of Tabernas the next morning. This next section also held what the race director called a ''mandatory hike n bike ' section. That being a section of the track so steep and rough with severe consequences if you were to fall off the very narrow ridge that you were forced to push your bike a km or so along. We were joined at this stage by a fellow competitor called April who hailed from the USA. She had been warned that the hike n bike section wasn't something you should attempt on your own in the dark so she rode into the evening and navigated the terrain with us suffering a puncture along the way.

About an hour after entering this section we came across 3 drunken and somewhat aggressive Spanish boar hunters jammed into a small car with what seemed like 3 rabid dogs in the back. In an overly aggressive manner they wanted to know what we were doing in the middle of their hunting patch. April, who lives and works in Madrid and thus speaks passable Spanish politely told them we were mid bicycle race. They didn't seem to comprehend that at all and after some more aggressive words sped off into the night in a cloud of dust. It was pitch black, we were in the middle of nowhere, and I did wonder out aloud once they were gone how the scene would've unfolded had any of us been on our own. Several scenes from the film ''Deliverance'' were playing through my head and the sound of yukelele's very loud.

I could understand their frustration to a point given we had passed through what seemed like private land. The route we were taken over the past few days had left me questioning the reasoning of the race organisers and I added this trespassing on someones land as another to be added to the list in my ''constructive feedback'' email I am going to write to the organisers at rides end.

My Spanish is non-existent. But to me that sign says this land is private and you are not allowed to pass.

By 2 am we had been riding since 6 am the previous day and had covered 160km. Our goal of getting to Tabernas which was another 20-30km away would have wait to morning. So we set up camp and rolled out our bivies and lay down to fall asleep to another view of magnificently clear star laden skies.


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