Part 6 - Surprised to say I'm happy to see the Po Valley again

Part 5
Gummereregg --> Checkpoint 3 --> Gospic
09:00 Belgium Time 4th Aug - 23:00 5th Aug
Time: 38 hours
Distance: 537km
Speed: 14.1km/h

Stefan and I woke at fairly late and headed down to breakfast.  I quickly ate mine and got on out - I'm always keen to make a quick start in the morning.  I said goodbye to Stefan for the meanwhile as I would probably see him today at the checkpoint.

All of the climbs I had in the morning were fairly low but incredibly steep.  It was a cloudy morning however the temperature would seriously begin to pick up.  At around lunch time I got to the checkpoint.

It was around lunchtime that I got to the checkpoint.  I was pleased to discover that I'd arrived before Stefan despite him being obviously the stronger climber.  I'd gotten a little burnt in the sun and one of the volunteers told me off.  I sat down in the restaurant and ordered a pile of food whilst chatting to the volunteers at the checkpoint.  After my delicious meal I now had to ride up the mountain.  Emily and I set off up to the top of the control however she soon punctured so I decided it was time to attack and win the race.  My attack didn't last long as it was like cycling in an oven.  My whole body was drenched in sweat and I struggled to use my phone as my hands were so wet.  After a 2 or so hours I reached the top.

Stefan got the top shortly after I did and after drinking some tea together we started the descent.    The roads diverged and we made our separate ways, little did I know that this would be the last time I saw another rider until the next checkpoint.   I had one final climb through a very 'Dolomity' section of the Dolomites and then I had a very long descent out of the mountains back into my favourite place on earth, the Po Valley!

Just before beginning the Po Valley I got the very typical TCR meal of two Pizzas. The owner of the Pizza restaurant insited I tried his special hot sauce which I accepted but didn't take too much in order to prevent emergency toilet breaks. Whilst eating the pizza I discovered that my tracker was stuck at the top of checkpoint 3, unfortunately I didn't have any batteries on me.  

I have mixed feelings about the Po Valley.  At first the Po Valley is a welcome relief from the climbs of the Alps however it quickly turns into a dull, hot flatland with headwinds and lots of drivers not giving you much room.  However today the Po Valley played nicely.  The temperature was perfect.  There was no wind and as it was night there were very few cars.  I glided across the Po Valley in a matter of hours. 

The Po Valley ended and I began long but fairly steady ascent into Slovenia.  I could feel my eyes beginning to close so I quickly googled hotels and find one just off the track.  When I arrived it was locked down and I realised I wasn't going to get a space there so I slogged on.

Dawn was approaching as I got to the Slovenia border and luckily as soon as I crossed I saw a Casino and hotel.  I went in and they gave me a room for an hour, something that didn't seem too unusual.  15 euros poorer I laid my head down and woke up to the receptionist calling me and telling me my hour was up.  Feeling relatively fresh I got on the way.

I acquired some batteries and now I needed to find a screw driver.  A car garage presented itself  and I went in.  The mechanic in there was super interested in what we were doing as he had soon lots of cyclists going past his shop during the previous day.  From the previous TCR I remembered enjoying the bakeries of eastern Europe loads so I quickly located one and stocked up various slices of pizza, Borek and doughnuts.

My stay in Slovenia was a short but pleasant one.  The border to Croatia was a busy one with lots of Italian holiday makers.  I was glad I wasn't in a car and zoomed to the front of the queue. Overall my journey through Croatia wasn't great, especially compared to the previous year where everyone had been super friendly and the drivers had been courteous.

I followed the coastal route down Croatia and in the first town/city I had to contend with a pissed off bus driver.  He was really aggrevated that he'd have to wait behind and that I would delay him ten seconds.  He kept blasting his horn and would overtake me and immediately cut me up when he pulled in.  The bus driver and I became great friends as this happened three or four times as we went through the town.  The day continued in a similar vein.  The route was fairly nice with great views of the sea however it was ruined by the busy traffic.  I also had to contend with some fairly strong headwinds but I would later discover that the riders behind me would have to face much stronger winds.

At around sunset I finally turned off the coastal road which I pleased to do as I suspected the traffic would subside.  I had a 5km or so climb to get off the coastal road.  I was climbing up it and one driver began blasting their horn loudly and revving their engine.  The driver did an elaborate overtake to illustrate how much of an inconvenience I was.  One of the drivers cronies shouted something out of the window so I shouted back.  My response was a bit of a mistake.  The driver reversed backwards luckily I was able to cycle down the hill.  Two large topless men go out of the car and one of them shoved his chest into my face.  He began shouting at me in Croation. He realised that I couldn't understand him so got back in the car when he knew he wasn't going to get the argument that he wanted.   After that, I was keen to get over the pass and into rural Croatia.

The sun set and I could see dark clouds looming.  After about 2 hours of riding I heard the rumbling of thunder.  I checked the weather forecast and I saw that I was about to get absolutely soaked.  I decided I had better locate some shelter ASAP.  I found a hotel in a town about 10 miles from where I was.  The following half an hour was pretty spectacular cycling and it was certainly the best lightening I had ever seen.  The sky every 20 seconds was completely illuminated by sharp spikes of lightening.  I tried taking some photos however looking back now they were pretty crap.

I got to the hotel and I ordered two Pizzas, some pasta, milk and a coke.  I was just finishing the second pizza when the rain really got going.  I hit the bed and set the alarm for 6am.