After the kerfuffles of Stage 3, the organisers announced we would get a bit of a sleep in and that Stage 4 would be shortened from 175km to about 120km.
Stage 4 brought out the true ‘roadie’ in me with the racing being fast and relatively flat. Cam and I got in an awesome group of four just smashing turns and motoring along.
Pacelining on dirt is a lot harder than I imagined, especially when there is a lot of sand. All of a sudden the rider in front starts to slow and swerve all around. You also really have to trust that you can handle whatever the rider in front rides over, because the vehicle ‘tram tracks’ made it hard to change lines quickly.
Nothing exciting happened in Stage 4 except that we got to the finish at 95km, fully expecting we had taken a wrong turn and missed 25km of racing. The carefree organisers shrugged their shoulders and said the 120km was approximate. And so with that, we were finished by 12.30pm with a free afternoon ahead!
The campsite was a makeshift Ger camp on the stony banks of the Kherlen River. A mostly stagnant creek gave us something to wash our bikes in, but later we found the water was actually flowing and further downstream the water was being used in our little single-man cold water shower tents.
Inside our Ger we had a large piece of felt (obviously a spare side panel for a Ger) on top of a large red carpet. To our surprise, none of the other Gers had this and people were complaining about the dirt floors. We kept our mouths shut but later that evening one of the Mongolians came an took the Ger felt. Doh, at least we still had the carpet!
That evening the Mongolians killed a sheep for dinner. I am all for fresh and I know that meat has to come from somewhere, but there was something about seeing the sheep’s head on the washing up table that put me off the mutton pasta and dumplings that night.
Strava route – http://app.strava.com/activities/82240821
A video interview of me, Bleeksie and others about the day –
Daily MBC video –
My body seemed to be warming to the idea of racing day in, day out, and after the opening 20km of Stage 5 I found myself riding in a bunch which included Sonya, Erin, Jess and Jennifer. Bleeksie and Seb both dropped back in the group at various times and had confused looks on their faces, not expecting me there!
The stage began with a KOM at the 30km mark and another climb to follow soon after at 52km.
After the climbs the rest of this stage was furious and flat. I found myself in a group of six riders which split on the descent into three pairs: myself and a guy, Jennifer and a guy, and Erin and a guy!
Slowly me and ‘my guy’ reeled in Jennifer, then us four worked together to pull back Erin. Erin and I rode together briefly on the next climb before she looked around at me with that “I am going now” look, and sped off. I rode the last 10km by myself, only to hear someone approaching at the 1km mark. Jess screamed past and yelled for me to “get on”. I tired but her technical skills left me for dead on the sandy descent to the finish.
It was great to be able to feel a bit more competitive now that my health was on the way up, and actually feel like I was bike racing. I was lucky enough to escape a fairly large batch of food poisoning that went through the camp that night, forcing a few rider to retire from the race, and left others facing an unpleasant 170km stage the next day. Maybe it was worth avoiding the sheep after all?
Sadly in the afternoon while Seb and I were asleep in the Ger, two Mongolians appeared inside, one with arms firmly crossed, the other pointing at the rug. After playing dumb for a while, we gave up and the Mongolians confiscated the rug from under our feet. Onto the dirt for us that night!
Strava route – http://app.strava.com/activities/82240811