TDT stage 6

Day six began as day five had ended, in the dry and dusty surrounds of the Manatuto high school grounds.  Previously we’d camped on village football fields, on (or near) lush resort lawns, surrounded by jagged mountain peaks or teetering hesitantly on the edge of reputedly crocodile inhabited waters.  These locations cried out to be photographed, they yearned to be captured for posterity, they grabbed one by the eyeballs and demanded attention.  It is only now in retrospect that I realise how precisely not like these locations was the Manatuto school ground, a realisation brought home to me as I search through my photo collection looking desperately for anything that would pass as an image of this completely bland place.  Alas, nothing.

Imagine that instead of Timor Leste we’d toured country Victoria, stopping at the Grampians (or Gariwerd if you prefer), at Hanging Rock, at Mt Buffalo, at Ninety Mile Beach, and at North Frankston.    Nuff said.

Here’s the profile for day 6:

Stage 6 profile

The two big climbs of the day were rated as category 3 climbs, which I suppose might warrant some explanation for the non-cycling reader.

In bike races there are hills, and some are easier whilst some are harder to get over.  The easy ones are called category 5, the hard ones category 1, and the really hard ones get called hors categorie, which is French for don’t try this at home.  The climbs are categorised based on a few factors – elevation gain, length of climb, average gradient, maximum gradient, altitude at the finish and so on.  Perhaps you’re thinking that a proper blogger would have included this information a bit earlier in the proceedings, and might even have put up each day’s profile along with the relevant report.  Well, too bad.  But if you want to see them all, you can check them out here.

At the end of the stage we were treated to a circuitous trip through downtown Dili.  Apparently we went past all the major sights.  Here’s what the race booklet said:

The route takes riders through most major landmarks in Dili including the Santa Cruz cemetery, the Dili Cathedral, Dili Esplanade, Motael Church, Palacio de Governu and the traditional finish line at the Palacio Presidente.

The last 20 kms looked like this:

This was the last of 6 days and I’m pleased to say I was feeling fantastic.  I felt strong, relaxed, fit, happy, and once I’d got the first hour of riding behind me my bum was numb enough that I was feeling very much at peace with the world.  My race plan for the day was to set my own pace the whole way, and to treat the last stage more as an individual time trial than a bunch race.  If people wanted to sit on my back wheel then so be it.  If they wanted to trade turns with me then that would be fine too, but only on my terms, and at a pace that I would dictate.  Sounds a tad arrogant when I say it like that, but it worked well for me.  I had my forearms down on the handlebars and I was tucked down low, powering along in a high gear, dreaming of 93rd place.  How the crowd would roar.  I even dared to imagine 92nd place.

I covered the first 60 or so kms in good time and in good order and arrived at the outskirts of Dili feeling every bit like the elite, champion cyclist that I’m not.  In response to the growing crowds I lifted my pace.  People on my back wheel began to drop as I bridged to the next small group up the road, and then did it again.  And here I’m being truthful with you, dear reader, having cast aside both poor humour and false modesty.  I really was feeling great, and riding well.   And with crowds like this, who wouldn’t lift a bit:

Perhaps a tad too much.  The long straight section on left side of the map above is a 6.5 km trundle through a dry river bed and it hit me like a wall.  From smooth and nearly flat bitumen to rough stones and soft sand was a shock to the system.  No good being tucked into a time trial position here!  Sadly four of those riders I’d so gleefully dropped on the previous section caught me here and left me in their dust as I struggled with the conditions for all of those 6.5 kms, and try as I might, and as aero as I tried to make myself, I couldn’t catch them back up on the remaining bitumen to the finish line.

In fact two more riders caught up to me, and the three of us worked together up to the finish line, which finally arrived three hours and twenty minutes after what had been a very early morning start.

Six days of hard riding, five nights of rough camping, and 607 kms later we had arrived at the finish line, and I can’t speak for the elite riders but I can say that in my case I arrived looking just as fresh and as clean and as bright as the day we left.

Fresh as a daisy....

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heidi
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 14:37:56

    Well done! And thanks for sharing your experiences. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Lizzie
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 15:48:33

    Ahhhhh… The champion returns glorious even if he doesnt have a fist full of american dollars to prove it. I was with you all the way, think im even having dreams about my timor ride ( that i didnt actually do). Well done spud. Hope to see you there next year- it will be a different route so a new challenge for you. Just have to leather up your arse before you go so the saddle sores dont come back.

    Reply

  3. Sandra Smith
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 13:43:07

    HaHa .. good one!

    Reply

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