Sunday, 27 April 2014

Ride Twenty - The Dark side of the mountains

'Twas the day after Saturday and that meant only one thing. It was Sunday.

Sunday started for me at 7am. I debated jumping out of bed and onto the bike for nearly an hour before I finally made it out from under the duvet. Breakfast was light, a Banana and two pints of water. Looking over at the Mountains I could see grey clouds massing on the other side, I wondered if it would rain, then I decided that if it did that wouldn't matter. I was riding anyway and all would be good. It was.

Not one to be beaten I decided to ride the loop Cyclops had made me cut short the other day with his cruel spoke shattering joke. This time I would catch him unaware, I left before he woke up. Lazy git.

Riding along past Bogaz and up over the shallow end of the Mountains I found the bike much more responsive since the spoke job yesterday. The climb here is relatively painless compared to say Kantara or Mount Olympus. There is a mean looking stretch but, like most hills, they look worse as you approach them than they really are. Except the climb from Kaplica which is a totally wonderful pig!

The descent to the 'dark side' of the Mountains was fun, freewheeling because I ran out of high gears and reaching speeds over 35mph without even pedalling. Although the ground here is very dry and in real need of some rain, the roadsides are covered in lovely wild flowers, heather and what I think is wild Rosemary. I heard a strange droning tone as I took a picture.

 I looked down at the Heather bush to see it alive with huge aggressive looking 'Mega wasps'. Yikes, time to step back slowly and carefully. There's not much worse for a road cyclist than a dose of Mega Wasps down the old Lycra Y fronts! 

The views as I rode along the Northern side of the island are lovely. You have the rocky coastline with it's small coves to your right and the Mountains you have just crossed (and must cross back again) to your left.

The road rolls gently with a series of gentle gradients and pleasant downhills. The surface is excellent, there is almost zero traffic and there is a wide safe shoulder along this stretch for most of the way. Any traffic I did see, saw me first, tooted from behind to let me know they were there, and passed wide and slow with a friendly wave. I was waiting for Wally Wombat from Worthing to pass at speed within inches of sending me to heaven, but thankfully he went to Benidorm this year.

As I am on a Road bike I choose to ride on the faster coastal road here. There are however two coastal roads. The older coastal road hugs the coastline closer running in between the main coastal road and the sea. This older road would be more suited to riders on Mountain bikes or Hybrids fitted with thicker tyres. It has some rough surfaces in places and loose 'chippings'. The inclines are shorter and steeper in places. It does pass much closer to the delightful little coves and rocky outcrops in places. 

I'm happier on a road bike however and stuck to the better surfaced roads. Besides I'd had a chat with Cyclops and he mentioned that there were no Mermaids sunning themselves in the little coves today. The bloke really knows how to spoil a cyclists day sometimes!

As I rode over the brow of one of the many rolling hills here I saw what looked suspiciously like a cycle event. I raced down the hill to investigate and find out what was going on. As I approached people on the side of the road started clapping me and taking my photograph. I had just joined the Half Iron Man Triathlon race. Yikes!Clearly this was another one of Cyclops' warped jokes.  

 I pulled up and spoke to a Mermaid taking a break from her rocky cove and asked what was going on. Luckily the Mermaid was English and hadn't gone to Benidorm this year.This was a race of about 80km along the coastal road to the East of Girne. High end triathlon and road bikes everywhere. I haven't seen as much lycra since I got drafted into the Virgina Triathlon as I approached Yorktown on the final day of my Trans American ride! I was offered energy bars, bananas and water while I stopped to admire the Mermaid bikes flashing past at the speed of light. 

It was important at this point not to look like a pillock. Clearly I was up against stiff competition on the Mermaid front and the hill I needed to climb as I joined the race proper looked ok except for the six lycra clad Olympians cruising effortlessly up it. I clipped in, bade the fair Mer maiden farewell and shot up that hill like a rocket keeping pace with several carbon bling machines clearly powered by all manner of performance enhancing drugs. Ha! She couldn't help but be impressed, the benefit of added Maturity of years, more chunk than hunk, yet still easily capable of  keeping up with the big boys. Oh and did I mention that Celeste weighs twice as much as most of these younger model bikes yet? I feel able to mention that minor, yet crucial point, as fortunately she cannot read.

Onwards I raced. Clearly I had left them all in a swirl of dust behind me, either that or I was going the wrong way. I was down on the aero bars, peeling a banana with my teeth as I belted along at 25 mph convinced I was in the medals. The inevitable sound of a chain set switching behind me and  a cheery 'Helloooo' in a Russian accent relegated me to last place in an instant. Now, I've been blitzed by Old Grannies with flowers and bread in their handlebar baskets before, so I didn't feel to bad about being 'slowly overtaken' by Russias' Olympic Triathlon Champion, for I had no doubt this was he. It wasn't, it was a She. Ouch.

The race Marshall waved me to turn right. I waved back and turned left. While these 'wannabe' cyclists headed back for lap two, I chose a real mans route and headed up into the Mountains for the second time on this ride. Olympic Triathlon champions are apparently exempted from riding across the mountains here. Celeste and I laughed, pointed ourselves skywards and dug in for climb back over to the light side of the Moon. The southern side of the island and the Mesaoria plain.

The climb here was new territory for me. I had ridden it from the other side but not yet climbed it from this side preferring to take the pain and immense gain of the climb back over from Kaplica up to Kantara on several previous rides.I was pleasantly surprised and how easy this mountain pass was by comparison. Perfect road surface all the way up, good shoulder and no more than four cars. Not even any goat herds to negotiate in the middle of the road.

The climb here is steady and long, but the gradient is more forgiving than those elsewhere here. The downside is that it doesn't offer the stunning views of the other passes across these (now) 'mere hills'!
 That said these views would be considered stunning on many another rides elsewhere in the world. Perhaps Cyclops has been spoiling me recently on the scenery front.

Celeste and I were up and over the top before we knew it. Not a single complaint from her wheels either. The descent to the immense plain below was a simple free wheel down, no need for brakes here, and ended at the Petrol station below. Here there be cold coca cola, and it was time for a five minute rest. The wind here was strong and I knew it would get stronger as we neared the coast. Cyclops, the mean git, had saved his worst until last.

The wind on the plain was excessive in places today. One gust hit me broadside and it was all I could do to stop from falling. Riding on aero bars is all well and good in a headwind, but it can be a bit 'unsettling' in a strong cross wind. I grabbed Celestes lurve handles and took it slow and steady.

Onwards to the outskirts of Famagusta, Salamis and back to Iskele. The wind was getting silly in places, but my legs felt strong and Celeste was responding well. The dust from the plain was being whipped up by the wind, and the traffic increased as we passed around Famagusta. I was out of water but nearly back, I decided to ride on empty rather than carry two full water bottles the remaining few miles. Water out here on rides is easy to find. Unlike in America on the Trans American ride where in places it was tough to get  a drink  for many miles. Here you will never go for more than ten miles without seeing a market store. That said, riders are best advised to pre hydrate and carry two water bottles minimum in my opinion on some of these rides, especially in the mid day heat, which I guess it's best to avoid where possible. Mad dogs and Englishmen on a Bianchi is a phrase that comes to mind.

With a lot more miles in my legs still I was back at base camp Iskele. Great ride as always out here in Northern Cyprus.

63 miles
Max speed 41 mph
Total ascent 1002 m

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