I actually gave thought to not doing day 8 given how hard day 7 was & also given that day 8 involved an early climb of about 10km, a descent of 15kms but then a long, steep climb from 750 to 200mts over a distance of 25kms at the end of the day.
However I’d come too far & 05.15 saw me sitting on the edge of the bed applying my Assos cream liberally to the chamois pad in my shorts & then theatrically throwing it into the bin with the ‘don’t need THAT anymore’. BIG MISTAKE – I’d put the bloody stuff on the wrong side of the shorts!! To then be told there was no porridge for breakfast & offered noodles or rice was almost the last straw, but I did manage an egg sandwich, a jam sandwich, some watery melon juice & a grim coffee so was not going to starve.
The weather was fine, the mood in the car park a mixture of nervousness & excitement as we were set to put this challenge to bed.
The scenery was stunning & got better & better & bigger & bigger & was at all times a wonderful & uplifting diversion. I decided also to use my new ipod shuffle, for the first time, for the days ride. That was to prove a good decision & I found great inspiration in the music, in particular odd tracks at random from a 13 year old CD from St Michael’s school choir featuring daughter Amy & her mates in some lovely diverse music.
The first uphill was fine & the downhill on good roads quite glorious & I am told speeds of 39mph were recorded.
Lunch was at the start of the final climb & even some local merrily wandering in our midst swing 4 dead rats failed to dampen appetites & the need to stoke up. I settled for a tin of tuna, a peanut butter sandwich, a couple of bananas, some dried fruit, a painkiller & a quick prayer.
Fairly early in the climb, I sat on the back wheel of Malcolm & a couple of the girls & just kept my head down so that there was no neck ache, no need to watch the road & no need to find a pace. However I found myself leaving ahead of them after a water stop so just carried on, feeling surprisingly good & indeed went to 2000mts & TRAM TON PASS feeling absolutely great & with energy to spare & St Michael’s singing ‘this song is for the children’. The ‘A’ team were of course already there & gave everyone a wonderful & inspiring welcome & indeed took to going back down the mountain some while later to help the weaker cyclists make the summit. This was indicative of the team spirit throughout the week, which saw the stronger members forever encouraging & helping those less strong.
Throughout the latter part of this climb, we had met cold air & mist & by the time the last of the riders made the summit, the weather was closing in & it was distinctly cold, with poor visibility.
After photographs, congratulations & tears we set off for the final ride, only to be stopped after 2 kms to be told we were not allowed to proceed until blasting of the mountain had been done. There was an hour’s delay before we set off in freezing fog, visibility down to 50yards & on unmade roads that were muddy, rutted & rocky. All this in contention with lots of trucks & cars. The only joy was that when the trucks then became completely jammed, we managed to squeeze through & head onto SAPA, the only hiccup being a shunt by Mo, which left him prostrate & dire looking on a wet, treacherous bend in the road. That slowed us all down & he mercifully got away with a few bumps & bangs.
We finally reached the football ground at SAPA & proceeded to reverse the actions of 8 days ago & took back our personal items & happily waved goodbye to the bikes, trudging off to the hotel in a scene of swirling mist that would do justice to a London Victorian street scene.