HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

H2H 2013 Day 16: An absolute beast

Day 16 was set to be a monster - 114km, the longest climb of the ride, and blazing heat added to the mix for good measure. It was a beautiful morning in Kham Duc, but we knew the sun would be intense. This was one of the much-feared Evil Bitch Days, and people were nervous.
The first 20km or so were great - rolling terrain, fantastic views, and light traffic. Except for the occasional truck loaded down with enormous logs of timber rumbling by every now and then: 

Then, around 22km in, the climb began. It unfurled over several stages along 17km, with a total altitude gain of over 2,200 feet. On this day last year the weather had been awful, with steady rain, cold temperatures and low visibility making life miserable. I had hit my lowest mental point on the ride on that climb, and I wanted to see how I would handle it this time.

The much-improved weather, along with my much stronger legs, made a world of difference. The climb was certainly hard, but as I plugged away I realized it wasn't as hard as I was expecting it to be. A steady breeze wicked the sweat away and kept me from feeling too hot (though a few times that turned into a headwind), and the incredible views were a morale boost.

After climbing for a while and taking a few breaks for water I figured I must have been getting close to the top, and soon enough I reached a little hamlet that I knew meant the end was near. I was on my own, and I had a couple of cold drinks and talked to a man from Kon Tum who said Laos was just a few kilometers away.

Conor, Rory, Andrea and Allegra caught up after a bit and we set off together, looking for a good vantage point to get a group picture at the top. Unfortunately we hit the downhill on the other side of the mountain before we found a good spot. The others stopped, but since my brakes are so bad I have no choice but to bomb downhill without stopping once I hit a descent, so I missed out on the pictures.

The views at the bottom were amazing.

I remembered that there was another climb just ahead, but I had forgotten how long it was. Though much shorter than the beast from the morning, it was tough after we had already exerted so much effort. We slogged through, hit another downhill, and rolled into Dak Glei for lunch. We had covered around 50km, which meant we weren't even halfway.

That being said, I assured everyone that the remainder of the day's ride would be a joy. Last year the weather had cleared once we went over the mountain and entered the Central Highlands, and we had loved the dry, rolling terrain. This year, however, I would end up eating my words.

There was more wind this time, and I think the sun, which had made the climb more enjoyable, had taken more out of us than we realized. I was not able to keep up the pace that I had expected to. There were some majestic vistas along the way:
Despite the heat and my tiring legs I was able to make decent progress. Andrea wasn't far behind me, and with 10km to go I stopped to let her catch up so we could finish together. I didn't want to ride into town alone and have to wait, and I knew that would help her feel better as well. After a few more downs-then-ups on the rolling hills we finally reached Ngoc Hoi, our destination for the night. It was nearing 5pm already, and I was worried people wouldn't make it in before dark. (No riding once the sun sets is a strict H2H rule.We don't have lights or reflectors on our bikes and driving here is even more dangerous at night.) Riders gradually rolled in, but with darkness coming we were still short six people. I had no choice but to tell them to get in the rear support van, which sucked since they couldn't finish the day on their bike, but in terms of personal safety it was the only choice. We hit our hotel soon after and passed out hard - it had been an Evil Bitch Day indeed, with everyone in agreement that this was the hardest day yet.
the kids that appeared while we waited for the rest of the riders

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