Words by Ryan Sherlock

I have ridden many stage races, mostly on the road but I never remember
feeling this tired after only two days when I woke up (and I have done 10
day UCI road stage races). Not so much the legs - just all over, more a
general battering. Very different from the road. Three weeks ago I raced
the 3 stage Belgian Mountainbike Challenge and although longer with more
climbing and a very high level of competition it just doesn’t compare. Both
races I rode my hardtail but only in this one I really wished for rear

Today was a little shorter then yesterdays stage at 68km but with almost
3,000m of off-road and at times super technical climbing it would be
another nail in the coffin. And to add to that, the unusually high
temperatures (which has greatly diminished the mud for which this race is
known for) upped their game some and creeped into the mid 30s at times. I
have raced in South East Asia where temperatures hit the mid 40s but this
is different - slogging up a 20% wall using every muscle in your body at
8kmph is a world away from cruising along at 40 with wind keeping you cool.

Like the previous day, we had a few rolling kilometers of tarmac until we
hit the first off-road climb - from there, it was tough to the finish. I
didn’t have the best feeling on the bike and the climbing was a suffer fest
for me only split up by the crazy fun descents I have come to expect.

At the top of the days major climb Ben and Torsten had a 3 minute gap on me
and a few others but by the end of the (how many times must I say crazy,
but yeah, crazy) descent I had caught up with Torsten but Ben was still out
front. A couple of riders would come and go from the group but as we hit
the final set of climbs I pushed on in pursuit of Ben. I went full out on
the final climb and finished at the top empty on the finish line - good
enough for second on the day but not close to catching Ben.

There was an eight kilometer roll back down to where the car was parked - I
don’t think I have ever coasted so much in my life - I was cooked, fried,
well done. Only a 15 minute soak in a cold river got me back down to normal
working temperatures and feeling somewhat human again.