With limited internet access for the last 3 days its not been possible to blog the race as it happened. Today we are in Manang at 3540m, a rest day to acclimatise before the next climb upto 4450m.
The last 3 days have gone like this;
Besi Sahar to Tal, 43km.
This stage started on jeep track from Besi Sahar, with 27km on jeep track then 16km carrying/climbing it didn't look like a bad day for singlespeeding on paper. The start was fast as usual with the Nepalese guys going off the front, Aussie Phil chasing then me.
The climbs initially were short and sweet but as the stage went on the climbs lengthened and the surface became more and more dusty till eventually i couldn't get any grip to turn the gear and back to walking.
After about 15km i glanced back to see another rider coming quickly... thinking it was maybe Andreas, a fast swedish rider, i was surprised to see it was Aussie Phil.. apparenly he had taken a wrong turn and was trying to make up lost ground.
As the jeep track seemingly went on for ever the temperature as always was pretty hot until eventually as expected the jeep track ended and the carry/ride section started... this short carry was pretty steep but ended in a water station.
After the water station it was a mix of carry and short riding sections along the side of a cliff.. passing numerous trains of horses.. some going in the same direction which caused delay until a suitable passing point was found.
The trail wound along the base of the cliff until the final carry came into sight.... it looked pretty steep but not so sustained... the carry was slow and steady until Col from Alpkit.com came into view nearing the the top taking pictures..
cresting the climb Tal came into sight.. sitting on a flat wide valley floor just a short ride and carry down to the flat then a short ride saw the end of the stage...
In the evening the skies opened and it rained hard but luckily before going to bed the skies were clear and it looked good again for the next days stage.
Tal to Chame, 23km.
Another lightening quick start from all but unusually quick start from Andreas who was quickly out of sight leaving all chasing as we quickly entered sections of carrying over rocks.
The crux of todays stage would be a lengthy carry through some woods just before the half way point... the carry was very very slow as i tentatively took every step bike perched on my back taking shallow breaths not knowing how long this climb would go on.
Finally the climb ended at a water station and from here on in the rest of the stage should be rideable. It wasn't long before another push up a dusty climb started but the riding that came after was worth the effort.. the trail was nicely packed and not dusty and very fast.. reminded me of riding through an alpine forest.. getting on top of the gear on my bike on the flat felt great.
The race went through numerous villages with rock paths and steps to negotiate dodging the usual mix of animals and children.
The stage end came pretty quickly as the pace quickened on fast trails, the weather again remained consistent with rain coming a few hours after the finish but relenting before it was time to sleep.
Surprisingly no Andreas at the finish, turns out he Swedish had been playing practical jokes and while the field chased him down Andreas was back riding with the our Rockstar the other Swede Martin, shortly after his lightening start he had found a good hiding place and let the field chase down a ghost :) .
Chame to Manang, 30km.
I think this was my best stage yet.
After the start i was mid pack and stayed up there with the fast guys until the first granny ring climb where i slipped back into my own riding rythmn. The trail wound on the edge of a landslide in places and demanded a good level of concentration... after a section through some woods i caught sight of Aussie Phil changing out his shoes after getting his riding shoes wet his feet had got cold so he decided on walking boots before the carry.
I led the carry up through the woods.. snow now present on the ground a reminder that we were gaining altitude... surprisingly as we got to the top of the carry there was no sign of Phil so i made the most of this advantage and pushed on the descent into Pisang. At the water station i just took a quick mouthful of squash and continued trying to make the most of my advantage... going through the village Col was there taking pictures and then he managed to run past me on a short push to take some other shots while i rode past a set of prayer wheels.
The trail was really singlespeed friendly and flowed very quickly so i pushed as hard as i could... when we reached a steep switched back climb i was mindful that Phil was riding up behind me where i was forced to push.. cresting the climb we were side by side and as i remounted i let Phil lead down the snow covered descent back down to the flat but the difference being the previous nights rainfall had left the trail a muddy hell and with no option to downshift i had to slowly grind across this flat watching Phil spin away.
I could really start to feel the effect of altitude with a dull headache coming on and when i could ride it was very very slow... Manang crept into sight and the last slow ride up the high street took an age.
After suffering from Altitude induced headache for the rest of the day i opted for an early night as snow fell heavily from the sky.
The nights sleep was patchy as my headache persisted, finally i succumbed to painkillers.
The weather now in Manang is sunny and clear.. going to take a tour of the village then do some bike care and attention.
(all grammatical and spelling errors can be attributed to altitude mountain sickness)