Friday, September 23, 2011

Tour de Timor, part 2

Welcome to Illiamar/Illiomar! Thank you...

Stage 3

I awoke on the morning of Stage 3 relieved that I hadn't succumbed to some mysterious disease whose only symptom was Pinot-coloured piss. Speaking of waking, my body had well and truly fallen into line. Every night I was exhausted by 8.30 or 9 and would fall soundly asleep. This was despite only having a crappy yoga mat as a mattress (Pierre, if you're reading this, I am grateful for the lend!). Unfortunately, since I was drinking so much, I did have to go wee-wee once each night, usually at around 2am. Otherwise I would sleep through. In the morning, I would go immediately to the toilet and have the most satisfying and glorious shit. Then, after waiting my turn in the breakfast queue, I would eat an enormous breakfast including bacon, eggs, beans, noodles, bread rolls, cereal, cakes, juice and other things too. I had similarly large meals at lunch and dinner. We weren't allowed seconds but we were allowed as much as we could heap on our plate, so heap I did. I would have made my father proud if he were an engineer or a professional binge-eater. A highlight of dinner was the chicken, which had obvious Portuguese influences. I always put the chicken on top, as its shape renders it unsuitable for foundations. Soon after dinner, I would go to bed, and the process would repeat. It all worked like clockwork.

Very cute puppy in Illiamar

Stage 3 more or less followed the coast from Beacu to Illiamar. At 69km, it was considerably shorter than the first two days. While this was comforting, the day's profile did its best to undo said comforting;

The start of the day was fast and frenetic. Everyone was jostling for position and hoping to get in a good group. For me, this wasn't enjoyable riding. The rough roads combined with plenty of cyclists who were both exhausted and inexperienced at riding in bunches made me nervous. Furthermore, the rough roads made me concerned for my undercarriage; would my urethra ever forgive me for this abuse? (I guess this build-up of tension doesn't really work since I've already given the answer away in Tour de Timor, part 1 (see what I did there?))

Old buildings (ruins?) in Illiamar

And some more...

At about the 40km mark my nervousness proved not to be unfounded...or should I say, my nervousness proved to be founded? Since the roads were generally so bad, competitors quickly got into the habit of warning others of holes and other obstacles in the road. This was done by pointing down to the problem area or, more commonly, yelling out, "hole!" While this system generally worked well, the downside was that it generated a mild yet constant feeling of panic in everyone. It was a bit like being on a golf course and having someone yell "fore!" every ten or fifteen seconds. I think it was this state of panic that led the chap in front of me to crash when he came to a relatively innocuous hole in the road. I'm pretty sure that had he been riding blindfolded and ear-plugged, he wouldn't have crashed because of this hole. Obviously he would have crashed because of something else, likely a direct result of being unable to see, but the hole itself was in no way a complicated affair. So, this poor guy, who had been whipped into a sense of paranoia and panic by the constant barrage of "hole!", came down directly in front of me. I had nowhere to go but straight ahead and over him. As I flew through the air I thought I was screwed; the road was hard and I was moving fast. I could try and play the tension card again, and say my life flashed before my eyes, but that would be a lie. I did think, however, that I was going to hurt myself. So, it goes without saying that I was relieved when I stood up and realised I'd escaped with a slightly grazed knee and ankle. The man I rode over was not in such good shape. A few of us checked to make sure he wasn't in too bad a state, then we handed him over to be cared for by local villagers who happened to be observing.

Dog in a shop in Illiamar

I jumped back on my bike only to discover my handlebars were not at their usual angle. Hugh, a friend I'd made along the way, kindly waited for me while I straightened them up. Then, I jumped back on my bike only to discover that my derrailleur wasn't at its usual angle. Fortunately, I had my boy scout wits about me and was equipped with the necessary spare part to continue. So, I replaced the derailleur hanger (that's the necessary spare part I mentioned) again with the assistance of Hugh. Then I jumped back on my bike again only to discover...ha, just kidding, everything was fine, pretty much.

Sunset in Illiamar

The day ended with two longish climbs on roads that were considerably worse than earlier in the day (mind you, the roads earlier in the day weren't that great). The poor surfaces coupled with my fatigue meant that these last 30km took 2 hours. Hugh and I crossed the line in 3 hours 51 minutes, pretty much exactly 150% of the winner's time (although if I'm to be honest, maybe a few seconds the wrong side of...)


Stage 4

Another relatively short stage of 79km had us riding from Illiamar to the beautiful beachside town of Com. This turned out to be my best day. I rode the first climb cautiously, as I hadn't felt that good by the end of the day before. I'm not a particularly good climber but I am a pretty good descender, and Stage 4 was a really good stage for those that like to go down. The descents were long and pretty flowy, unlike any we had had previously. And what made it particularly sweet was the fact that the roads were closed. I have never ridden on roads without cars so this really was a treat. There is nothing like being able to dive into corners with complete impunity. Knowing that you and you alone have complete responsibility for your own safety is absolutely bloody liberating.

So, the first half of the day followed a fairly consistent routine that consisted of people passing me up hills and me passing them down. The second half of the day was more or less flat and on pretty good roads. This was a relief after the pulverising my arms had endured throughout the descents.

The last descent of the day was both joyful and beautiful. The cracked asphalt road snaked its way down into Com offering amazing views of the ocean. It was a great way to end the stage. And the last 10km didn't take much more than ten minutes. I came home in 3 hours 35 minutes, which was only 139% of the winner's time!

In Com, I enjoyed a few beers overlooking the ocean with some riding buddies and José Ramos-Horta*.

That's José! In blue...with his back to me...

*I didn't actually have a beer with José, but he was at the next table.

So, that's the middle two stages. I'll get around to writing about the last two soon...

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