Gospic -> Checkpoint 4
09:30 Belgium Time 6th August – 23:00 7th August
Unfortunately this was a fairly miserable day. I was berated with drizzle for the entire day as took a route through Croatia just in land. The only slight enjoyment was the hourly wedding convoy which punctuated my journey. One of them even handed me a glass of champagne. After a thoroughly long day on the ride I managed to pump up my tyres in a bike shop and continued into the night.
The rain eased and the evening was actually rather spectacular. As I climbed out of Croatia I this amazing sunset behind me:
I descended from Croatia and into Bosnia and by the time I had crossed the border it was definitely nightfall. The wind was really blowing and it even better, it was warm. I decided to push on and I finally had some luck and was blown to Mostar, Bosnia's second biggest city.
Arriving into Mostar I found a petrol station and stocked up. Strangely, there was an American traveler there stocking up on some vodka. I had a bit of chat with him but I didn't get anything major coherent out of him and continued out of Mostar. As I was leaving the city I got fairly large fright. A driver on the other side of the road began heading into my lane so I cycled off the road into the hedge. The car continued into the side of the road where I had been. I'm not entirely sure what was going on, given it was 1 or 2 am I'm guessing it was a sleeping driver.
After leaving the city I had a long climb which I really began to feel tired on. I realized I had run out of caffeine pills and now I had to resort to digesting Red Bull - which also does not have that much caffeine in or at least not as much as necking 4 Pro plusses do.
Climb over and a cold descent followed. I kept my eyes peeled for somewhere to stay . I went through a one horse town which surpassingly had a brothel. I decided I'd keep on going and head for the checkpoint. The final town I reached in Bosnia was the town of Gacko. Now this town has a special place in my heart. I have cycled through some miserable places and this is number one. It's a small town dominated by a power station, the drivers weren't great and a smile was unheard off. It didn't make it any better that the weather was overcast and windy. Sorry.
Prior to the race there had been lots of discussion regarding a 'locals' only route between Gacko and Pluzine. Initially I had planned to go around it and use the an official crossing but having observed some other riders already use it, I decided to take the risk. I was at Gacko at about 7am so I thought my odds were looking good. I found the road and I was immediately reminded of the previous year. There were moments of regret as the road surface was pretty sketchy. I walked some of it just to be safe. Luckily, upon getting to the border with Montenegro the road surface immediately changed in lovely beautiful asphalt - with not border guard!
Off-road done and a quick but cold descent into Pluzine where I was hoping for the checkpoint to be there. It was 40 or so over a series of climbs through Durmitor National Park. I waited at the cafe, warmed up, chatted with the volunteers and luckily found a place to sleep for a few hours for 10 euros. I returned a few later nice and refreshed, ready to tackle the climb. I headed out with Jacapo and we leisurely chatted about the race and what could happen in the future. We noticed that we had done 20km or so, yet with no real climbing. We consulted our maps and we realised we had not done the correct parcour. Immediately we sprinted back down to Pluzine and began the real climb, which was certainly a real climb.
It was pretty interesting and went through some sketchy tunnels and by the top of the
platea it had become dark. Then it became misty. And then rainy. And then extremely cold. For two hours I cycled blindly over meandering hills. I have never felt cold like that. My knees had stopped working. I made it to the town of Zabjlak which I guess is a sort of ski resort town and began pacing up and down trying to find the checkpoint. After a while, I eventually found it where I was shivering profusely and the volunteers had considered driving up onto the mountain to make sure that I was still okay.
Camille, kindly gave me a shot of something local, which apparently all of the riders had done.....
I was offered a bed and nearing midnight I concked out in a neighbours house.