TDT stage 4

Did I menton saddle sores?

This new exciting addition to my list of life experiences arrived on the scene at the end of day two.  Ouch, I thought.  So that’s what people are on about when they talk about saddle sores.  The medical people gave me some fancy adhesive bandage to put over each sore.  These are supposed to last a few days at least, and to let you know when they’re ready to be removed by just coming off all by themselves.  But that doesn’t allow for the addition of sweat and constant pounding against a sparsely padded bike seat.   The fancy adhesive didn’t last the day.  On day three I tried the fancy cream that they gave me, which I think is really just a tarted up zinc and castor oil cream, with instructions on the outside for use in treatment of nappy rash.
Nappy rash, saddle sore?
Potato, potarto!
Well, I’m not sure what was supposed to happen, but given that the cream was followed by the inevitable sweating and constant battering of another day on rough roads, you can pretty much guess.  By the end of stage four those pesky little areas of superficially-ulcerated, serum-oozing, skin-deficient, raw-nerve-ending-exposed flesh had grown just a little more.  Which is to say that they had got just a tiny bit worse.  By which I mean OMG  they hurt.  But only when I sat, and especially when I sat on things other than a bike seat.  Weird.   Would I ride stage five?  Time would tell, but I suspected yes.
You see, the funny thing about these bothersome bottom blisters is that although they hurt like buggery (perhaps a poor choice of simile) at first, after a half an hour of so or reacquaintance with the bicycle seat a kind of numbness sets in and what initially seemed impossible starts to seem less so until by the end of a few hours riding one wonders if they mightn’t have magically healed during the course of the day.  Then one gets off the bike and sits on the ground or any kind of chair and the pain begins again in earnest.
If you are brave enough, there are some pictures here.
As for today, apart from constant battering and lots of sweating what is there to report that won’t sound like a whole lot more of the same, I wonder?  Flat sections, downhills.  Uphills, of course.  Ho hum.  The things that stood out today were, in no particular order:
The heat.  Basically it was hot.  Very hot.  But so what, you say.  What else?  OK, then…
The bitumen.  Amazingly today presented some long-ish sections of reasonably smooth bitumen.   Not that they’ll have a stage of the Tour de France here or anything, or even think about holding a race on road bikes.  But bitumen it was, none-the-less.  And a long, straight downhill section of it ran through the sizeable town of Lospaolos, whose entire population had turned out to cheer us on.  As luck would have it I passed through Lospaolos more or less alone, the nearest rider in front of me being about 100 meters up the road, and a similar distance separating me from the closest follower.  So I had the full rock star treatment all to myself.  People lined 4 or 5 deep on both sides of the road; flags, bunting, cheering, yelling, clapping;  and it all went on for about 500 meters, including a right angle turn at the bottom of the hill with a policeman kindly pointing the way.  Perhaps it was the heat, of the sweat, or the speed as I flew past, but I swear that policeman looked just like a gendarme…
If ever there was a moment when I wished  that the helicopter and camera crew were over me and not the race leaders,  and that a motorcycle camera was pacing just ahead of me, and the treacle tones of Phil Ligget could be somehow spliced into the picture, then this was most definitely that moment.  It wouldn’t really matter what Phil was saying.  He could be commentating on the sadness of seeing me slip back off the pace when I’d started out with such promise, or exclaiming to Paul Sherwen what a fantastic job of work I was doing, to which Paul would reply something about me doing the work of ten men today, and riding like a man possessed – any of that stuff would do.
But I shouldn’t get carried away with little fantasies.  I was telling you what stood out today.  Lospaolos sits in about the middle of a wide undulating plain – it reminded me a lot of the Bogon high plains.  Expansive meadows off to the horizon, cattle (and goats, pigs, chickens and dogs) grazing, the occasional hut or dwelling of some kind.  Not at all like the up and down hills of the last few days.
The day ended back on a rough dirt road with a fast and sometimes technical downhill run of about 5 or 6 kms to a recently created short section of  actual single track (just like a real MTB race)  before the last few hundred metres of bitumen to the finish line at the little coastal resort of Com, a pretty collection of buildings and huts in a nice enough grass and garden setting, surrounded on three sides by dry dusty ground, and girt by sea on the fourth. (Actually I think to be ‘girt by sea’ is to be surrounded on all sides by salt water, so while an olive might fit that definition, a seaside town does not.)

Nothing quite says "welcome" like coils of razor wire!

How welcoming the waters looked that hot afternoon!  How wonderful the soothing sound of gentle waves lapping at the sandy shore.  How sad not to be able to swim, but the ever-present threat of salt water crocodiles is real enough to keep the water at arms length.  Or perhaps a bit further.

Beautiful beach, nobody swimming...

It turns out that the whole island of Timor was created by a crocodile, or actually is a crocodile, or perhaps both.  In either case the salt water crocodile is considered sacred by the Timorese, and as long as you only say nice things about them, you probably won’t get eaten by one.  At least, that’s apparently how the Timorese guard against attack – by the power of loving thoughts.  Most westerners prefer to add the extra precaution of staying out of the water, presumably because we’ve all read popular psychology books and are aware that we may subconsciously have less than flattering opinions and thoughts about huge unpredictable human-eating reptiles that survived the jurassic mass extinction.

Later in the day the top 30 male riders rode a short race around the camp ground, following the same sections of single track and bitumen in a short criterium.  Ostensibly the purpose was to offer options to further separate the leader board I think – the first three places picking up time bonuses, and the winner getting a 500 dollar cash prize.  But really I think it was an excuse to get the President involved for the afternoon.

Michael Stone and Ramos Horta.

(You can read about Michael Stone here.)

The 6 lap race was over in less than 10 minutes, and was won by one of the local riders.   No one seemed to take it too seriously.
 Tinker Juarez, the imported American world champion and veteran over 50s rider was knocking back a couple of Heinekens in the bar just before the start, so it didn’t look like his heart was really in it, and one of the other riders had cleverly converted his helmet to a time-trial helmet for the occasion.

This rider made himself a special time trial helmet for the occasion.

 Tinker Juarez, the imported American world champion and veteran over 50s rider was knocking back a couple of Heinekens in the bar just before the start, so it didn’t look like his heart was really in it, and one of the other riders had cleverly converted his helmet to a time-trial helmet for the occasion.
After the dry and dusty surrounds of the last few days, it was nice to sit on some green grass and eat in some pretty surrounds, even if we did have to park our tents in the dust outside the resort.

One of the smallest meals I ate all tour, but the only one that I photographed.

Soft green grass. Mmmmm....

Com resort building

Queue for lunch.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sandra Smith
    Sep 19, 2011 @ 23:51:59

    lol .. sounds like you hit ‘rock-bottom’ .. so to speak .. oh! What special memories you will retain from this experience JP .. lol

    Reply

  2. Jeff
    Sep 20, 2011 @ 05:55:10

    It is Tuesday here John and no doubt there are copious more things of funny nature and of grimacing-inducing sorts since your last post but I enjoyed reading it. You a much more clever than me how you can do a blog like this and link it to facebook and all sorts of stuff. See you soon.

    Reply

  3. Heidi
    Sep 20, 2011 @ 18:38:39

    Oh goodness, how could you link us to such hideously graphic pictures of saddle sores I am scarred for life.

    Reading these entries make me tired! I have to applaud your drive and endurance.

    Reply

  4. Trackback: Dili Videos « bikenarian

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