The next few days of the race are determined by my right knee. It’s just fine in the mountains and becomes hard to cope with on the flat. Sometimes it hurts so bad I can only maintain a pace of 15 km/h on the flat, which is… frustrating to put it gently. As I’m still in the mountains, I manage to keep my mood high – the weather, the views, it’s all really rewarding and helps with keeping the pain away. I’m lucky enough to meet my loved one on the CP 2 Obidza Pass where she was volunteering and stamping the RTP cards. It’s great to hear these stories of other riders passing through, how they looked, when they arrived, it helps you feel it’s still a race and not a Sunday trip. Move on then! It’s a road race but we were surprised from time to time with some gravel sections too – one of the longest was the way to Żłobki Pass – 10 km of uphill and another 10 km of descending. Ascending was not so bad, I would even say it was fun – pretty good gravel and quite comfortable % . It was not so good downhill though – the terrible condition of the gravel made this descent really hard and tiring. No time to rest at all as I’m expecting to get to Zakopane this day. A couple more steep climbs and I arrive at my destination. Eat, ride far, sleep, repeat.
The next day, more mountains to conquer, and hopefully the last ones before heading west for the last part of the race. Zakopane – Bielsko Biała. 220 km / 3,600 m. I consider it to be a good result as I can’t forget my knee isn’t in the best form – great weather in the morning and quite a solid ride from Zakopane to Zawoja in one go. The Klekociny pass, a gravel section up a hill and the well-known region of Beskid Żywiecki. A dead-end road that forces me to grab my bike and walk through the mud. Meeting my loved one and a friend in Koniaków. Sunset chasing on the Salmopol Pass and a CP 3 Magurka night ride. The city of Bielsko Biała and a comfortable bed. That was a good (and long) day in the saddle.
The first three days in the mountains were super hard, but it was nothing compared to the ‘flat’ section between CP 3 and CP 4. The 230 km transfer from Silesian Beskid to the Sudetes Mountains was complete madness – having problems with my knee, I couldn’t find the right rhythm for the whole day so I was riding ridiculously slowly. It was also a pretty gloomy day that ended with rain. Let’s top it off with my completely empty iPhone battery. Still, could be worse? What about the navigation problems, in the rainy, completely black and misty forest. Yep, this was definitely the hardest one, but at the end of the day, I was glad I managed to get there, with my knee swollen and hurting badly. Huge thanks to the woman in the hotel I stayed in that night for giving me a mobile phone so I could contact my loved one to say I’m okay. Thanks for the delicious sandwiches too!
Yep, the finish line is in sight now, as I only have around 250 km to go. The weather is great, the leg is just okay,so I’m able to keep up a decent pace. It’s great to see new places too, the Sudetes and Owl Mountains are almost empty now, in the middle of the week, and the views are spectacular with this Indian summer colour scheme. What a nice places to be, what a great time to be riding my bike. Even though my knee still hurts, I fully enjoy the day. My spirits are back on track again. The bike seems to think the same as I have completely no problems with it – my Rondo served me more than well for these couple of days. The first 160 km and 3 km of uphills through the obligatory parcour that lead to the last CP 4 gave me hope that I’ll be able to reach the finish line soon. But it’s not over yet. It becomes quite chilly now, it’s 6 p.m., my lamps are pretty much empty and I still have ~100 km / 1,700 m to go. As the time limit gives me one extra day, I decide to look for somewhere to stay this one last night and attack the last obligatory parcour tomorrow. I’m in quite a big village currently and it shouldn’t be a problem to find a nice place to sleep here. This time it’s not the best choice though. After a lack of free places in one guest house, I was given the address of the next one. Holly cow it was creepy AF! An old house in the middle of f’cking nowhere, with an even older owner, full of animal skins on the floor, cold water in the tap and used linen on the bad. If I was in better form, I’d probably run from there in a second.
As I don’t have a mobile phone (I thought it died for good during the rainy day, my girl fixed it on the finish line) and no clock or alarm to set, I have no idea what time it is when I wake up. It’s dark and it’s cold for sure, as the previous evening was below 5 degrees celsius. I’m slowly packing my gear, eating some food from yesterday and putting on all of my clothes as I’m expecting to meet a pretty cold last morning of the race. Damn it was freezing! What’s even worse, my knee is in terrible form. The previous day was really not so bad, but today it’s just as bad as it could be. 100 km to go, it’s cold, it’s something like 5 a.m. and I’m doing a cobbled uphill with an average speed of 5km/h. It just seemed endless. It doesn’t get any better with the first rays of the sun. The weather is great but it’s cold AF and I don’t have much left in my legs. After a couple of hours I’m finally reaching the finish line in Ożary. Tired but happy. Happy that even without proper preparations and with the knee problems, I was able to achieve my goal – I’m there within the time limit. 1,455 km / 19,300 m. I’m also delighted how well the bike performed during the race – absolutely no issues whatsoever, it was fast, it was comfortable, it looked great and it was my best friend for these couple of days. Damn it was good! Couldn’t be better with the finish location too – the small tourist resort called Przystanek Raj (eng. Paradise Stop) located in a small village called Ożary is just perfect to chill and rest after the week of serious riding. The race afterparty, with everyone gathered around afire , talking with each other about the race, and everything else seems to be a cherry on top.
It wasn’t an easy one. It wasn’t always comfortable either. But it was super fun to be a part of this great race. Am I going to do it again? For sure. Ultra cycling races seem to be so close to a real adventure that it’s clear that I have to try one more time. Ride your bike and have fun!