Its fair to say I was nervous, I usually do get a few butterflies before a big ride but this time more so, I think it was mainly down to the change of routine, I was out of my comfort zone, for every ride I’ve done the routine is the same, early to bed, wake up early, a good power breakfast, coffee and out. So having to leave Athens at midnight by car, to start the ride at 3 am, put all my usual preparations to pot. The Brevet Orxomenos was going to be a different ordeal altogether.

The day before

I had taken a couple of days off and was well rested, had a decent night’s sleep Friday, which was to be my last sleep until 3 o’clock Sunday night, I spent most of the day around the house, eating carbs and trying unsuccessfully to get some sleep, I’m not sure if it was because of the carb loading, or the cold that I had in the previous few days , but my stomach was not a happy bunny, several trips to the toilet and I was getting a bit worried, after a while it calmed down, but it was to follow me throughout the ride,
So after a visit and some last minute encouragement and advice from my more experienced randonneur friend Lillian, it was off, a 2 hour drive to the starting point.

Let’s go…

We arrive at orxomenos . unload the bikes, stuff our pockets with bars, energy gels, bonk breakers, chocolate and sandwiches, one last boost of carbs with a cheese pasty, stamp our card and were off, around 40 cyclists we all leave together lights blinking in the black Greek countryside
After a faulty start with Giorgo’s light falling off, we soon picked up a decent pace, Giorgos and Manolis taking up the front, we caught the main group and and followed with them till the bottom of the climb, a steady long climb up to an altitude of 650 m, not too difficult, and was feeling good at this point, a long fast winding and scary downhill in pitch black and we had done 80 km, a bit further on and a coffee stop it was, at this point I was not feeling in great shape, dizzy, cold and already tired, I was starting to get a bit worried, anyway, refuel with a huge chicken pastie, coke, apple pie and we were off again just as the sun was starting to come up, we had to get moving, we had a ferry to catch at 11.

Check point 1

We reached the first check point after a fairly steep but short climb around 9 :30 , 137 km had now passed, it was on this climb though that I could feel a tweak on the outside of my left knee, so a quick stop, a few stretches, more fuel and we were off again downhill toward check point 2 and the ferry, time was looking good

Checkpoint 2

We soon arrived at the next checkpoint around 10 40, ticket for the ferry, a coffee, more fuel re- stuff the pockets, and on to the ferry, and chance to get some rest, and talk to the others, spirits were pretty high, although my knee was hurting, we arrived at Evia, and a friend of mine was waiting to meet me, a quick chat and she gave me a chocolate bar, I put it in my pocket without much though,, little did I realise just how much that piece of chocolate was going to mean to me !

Evia

I had cycled this part of the route before on my Evia tour last summer, so it was nice to have the memories come back and once again I was taken aback by the beauty of the island, Giorgos and Manolis again setting the pace, a few photo stops and we were going well, my knee ok but I could feel it pulling with every pedal stroke, we had 50 km till the next check point, but then came the first of three steep and tough climbs, it was on the second climb, after a couple of switch backs that I hit the wall, or bonked as they say, my legs wouldn’t move, my head felt dizzy, I could see the guy in front get off his bike and push , that was my cue to stop,, food, chocolate, PowerAde anything ,, just give me food… now !!! I reached into my pocket found a bar,, not enough,, I reached again and there it,, the chocolate bar given to me by my friend, all melted and soft, fortunately at this point I was on my own, so nobody could see me almost orgasmicly licking every last bit of melted chocolate from the wrapper, words cant really describe the feeling at moments like this, the pain, the tiredness and then the pleasure off feeling your body fill up again with energy like a wave coming over you, a swig of water and 2 minutes later I was off again, caught up with the others as they waited for me at the top,.
Down hill all the way to the checkpoint

Check point 3

Cheese pies, coke, toilet ( again!! ) and a good rest before we set off once again, a steep climb back up the village which despite my knee now hurting like hell, I got up fairly easily, a steady pace toward aidipsos where we would again board the ferry, we just missed the 4 o’clock ferry so we had to wait for the next one at 5 , 220 km, another 80 km to go

The hardest part

So after refueling , a sit and a chat on te ferry, one final trip to the toilet we were off again, the end in site, we had roughly 5 hours to do 80 km, which was not too bad but it was going to be tight, we didn’t have my room to hang around or have any bad luck, we set off on a steady climb at a quick pace, for the first time I was finding it hard to keep up at that speed, I started to slowly drop off the the back but kept on going.. it was on the next climb that I was to bonk for the second time, emptied my pockets stuffed my face with whatever I found, at this point I’ve no idea what I ate ,, but it worked, got me to the next and final check point, nerves were starting to fray and the mood was pretty grim as everyone was feeling the pinch now, and as time was running out it was by no means certain we were going to finish before the cut off

Last leg

40 more km to go,, cant be hard no,, ?? well it wouldn’t have been if we didn’t have the steepest 3km climb I’ve ever ridden, or at least that’s what it felt like,, my knee was now causing serious pain I tried to grind my way up but about half way up I just couldn’t any more,, down I got, and for the first time in a long time I walked pushing my bike to the top together with Ilias, and in the process broke one of my cleats, after a few heated words between ourselves and the stress mounting, it was all down hill and flat all the way home, the closer we got, the easier it became, the mood lightened and energy returned, home was in sight, time was ok, and so it was at 10 15, 45 minutes before cut off time, we rode into Orxomenos to applause from the 4-5 people still waiting there.. that was it, done, we had made it , 2 huge sandwiches and a beer before heading home,, extremely tired, worn out and but quietly satisfied; Brevet Orxomenos was complete.

The day after

Surprisingly woke up quite early after a decent sleep and apart from a sore knee and some 3rd degree chaffing burns under my balls, was feeling pretty good, on reflection I enjoyed the ride and feel satisfied that I complete it in the time,but im not sure that brevets are for me, its not the pain or the tiredness, that’s is part of riding that we are all addicted too, its just that I don’t feel I gained anything by completing it under a set time, but I feel that a lot was missing from the way I normally ride, it felt too rushed, too stressful, the amazing scenery passed us by without hardly noticing, no relaxing coffee stops looking out over the sea and enjoying the moment, just stops to refuel then off, the difference is small, but was enough to make me enjoy the whole experience a little less.

Will I do another brevet again, or maybe try for a 400 km ???

Of course I will !!

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