I could not resist… I beg your pardon , british readers, that I made you face another challenge in form of like-to-be english write up, but … you need some reading for long weekend!
… after month of whining about my back I had enough. In words of Emma Thompson from Love Actually “Get a grip, people hate sissies. Nobody won’t shag you.”. So last Tuesday I dusted off my bike and did 2 laps around pdo camp in relatively good pace. If I can do 2 laps, I can do Hamra climb, right? Wrong.
Thursday morning I received Johnny’s military style SMS “ETA 8:20”. (For you lucky enough not to have army duties: ETA = Estimated Time of arrival”). Combination of factors, wife’s car in Ruwi garage and visitors arriving just on Thu night, my family will not witness daddy’s effort to be hero. Johnny arrived with huge bump on his hand – courtesy of wasp hidden in his jacked. Fenistil on, load my stuff in, another 6 beers to coolbox, reshuffle all the bike bits and we are off. PRADO is loaded almost to roof, nothing like when boys going for weekend. 200kms down the road we are meeting Frans, Andrea and Siegfried (Andrea’s friend and helper for registration), start line drawn and we slowly go up the hill drawing line each kilometer. Bad news – The View is on 7 kms mark, not as promised 8. People will complain! Unload the wood and quick meeting of organizers.
After that we rushed to village for chicken&rice – you never can be wrong with that small places with cupboard full of grilled chickens rotating in front of it. Quick call to Red Bull – they are near Fanja, 150 kms from us and they should erect arch in 15 mins. As Frans commented – they will be just in time to be late for start! Mea culpa – I should call them at 11! Chickens in, 1 o’clock. Let’s use spare hour for searching of nice trails for next day so we parted with Frans, Andrea and Siegfried. Johnny drives us around on all possible and even impossible tracks, highlight was when he tried to wind PRADO around some boulder. Eventually we are passing beautiful palm tree alley which end in old village – and out of nowhere Andrea materializes, she just succeeded to arrange sponsored visit to Bait Al Safa museum – great effort. Just received phone call from Red Bull – they probably used time machine and they are on turn to Hamra. In few minutes we are meeting them on Hamra Petrol station – Red Bull convoy with Red Hummer and usual MiniCooper. Meanwhile Siegfried and Andrea are already manning Registration…
On Start point usual organized mayhem – people changing, assembling bikes, cars parked everywhere but in 14:30 all the puzzle bits are falling into places. Yes, race is on. I feel adrenaline rush in my ears. So it is time for me change and prepare myself too – I am leaving all unnecessary bits in car – on mountain you can feel each gram. Few minutes before 3 around 20+ riders are nervously wiggling on start line so I am sharing few bits of wisdom (aka briefing) when James calls “How far it is when I am in Bahla”… weeell, when u r in Bahla you are too far!
After few more calls, instructions and loud complains from crowd we better start. J. will be timed separately. Harsha from The View kindly wave us off and off we are. In spite of all advices “pace yourself” everybody is really racing – mind you, start area is on flat but first steep bit hits us. I am trying to got on Willy’s back wheel and all is looking good, group of 4 is formed with small gap behind so let’s go… for another 50 meters when my computer started to beep profusely – max heart rate, slow down buddy! So Willy is rocketing ahead and I am back to group. In a while Kenny in Red Bull red Hummer is passing me and I am hanging on their window just to get pulled ahead of Lake – just to tease him. But that’s not fair so just push that pedals…
…I am on 3rd gear from top, granny ring (resp. 3rd cosmic gear) on – let’s keep it that way, when it will get steeper I will take 2nd and keep the lightest one for when it’ll get serious. 50m on and I have no choice and shifting to 2nd from top, 28t. I usually use this sprocket only when checking if my derailleur works! Oh, well, at least I still have another gear in the bag… for next 20m! Last gear is on… that went fast!
… kilometer or so up the road and gradient is impossible, 26% on the display, I am trying to trick it by zigzagging, chicken in my stomach is wandering what’s that wiggle and is trying to have a look. On next curve James is rhythmically storming by, grin plastered over his face. I want to shout at him “slow down, you are depressing me” but I am out of breath. Still in the middle of group which stretched all where I can see. The riders around me are still strongly grinding the granny rings – some of them even displaying smile! Not good. Niki in family Volvo stormed by covering us with dust. Yes, she was late so did not hear my briefing! Couple of hundreds meters and I hit soft patch which knocked me off my zigzagging pattern just in front of snapping spectators. Bugga… But gradient eased down so off I go. Somehow I am getting back to good pace… and again beep-beep, slow down, max HR! Common sense is screaming to get off the bike and I am trying not to be sick. 1 minute rest did the trick and I am on bike again. Frans and Johnny just caught up with me. Yes, “organizers are riding here to be sure that things are going well on the tail!”. And yes, you need to take time to enjoy the view, which was spectacular … when you did not have pink mist in front of your eyes!
…My body is getting accommodated on that torture after 2 month sabbatical off the bike but going is slow. Just last kilometer and I am sure I am last. Again on soft patch on steep section, back wheel just spinned and I saved it in last moment. … and next day gravity takes you down… it’s trying to get me down each now and then! Few zigzags up the road and again – spin, almost fell. F@rk! (this was first time I used F-word … after last 67 meters). C’mon it is maybe last 500 meters! I am taking it easy and soon I am passing finish. Well done everybody… but I feel like looser really ;) Big hill – I had average HR 167 bpm!
Prizes and trophies were handed over to ones who deserved it. Lorretta again pushed to dust half of the men from the group. Patrik got 3rd, Willy 2nd and James 1st place. We all put t-shirts on and got group photo in fading light. But night was settling quickly so we gathered on patios and enjoyed the view and ale. It was quite chilly in spite of fleece jumper. Paul gave me ice cold beer – “Do you have warm one?”. The evening rolled nicely, good dinner and camp fire. Great day in saddle and even better night. Good night.
More photos from Jane Guinane (thank you Jane for sharing with us) on her gallery
On Friday we woke up to misty morning – all valley was hidden in grey fog. But that cleared soon and after breakfast we hit the downhill. Great fun. Maybe we should have downhill race here next time …
We regrouped down in previous day start area. Then I led the group thru village and by pure luck we hit the nice pathway in Hamra gardens enjoying beautiful single track and small bridges over falaj snaking around fields. The greenery was amazing.
We cycled in really relaxed pace stopping now and then for photos. The path took us out into the wadi but asap we turned back – now riding below palm trees just turning left or right wherever eyes lead us, tall grass whipping our calves. Excellent. We took pic in front of ruin of small mud house and Andrea crussened it to be “her summer house”.
But soon we were out on tarmac leading on the outskirts of gardens but soon we turned towards old village and waded thru its narrow lines.
Eventually we ended in the garden where Andrea arranged with museum refreshment with display of local skills/activities – plowing, date collecting etc. – in really nice set up with mats and pillows to rest our (not so much) tired bodies. Local coffee – kahwa, dates and halwa went down without touching the sides. From that my – short black hair was protruding after first bite. Lorretta burst of lauging – you have their pubic hair! Nah… that’s only eyelash… then I pulled it out – 4 cm of genuine curling… well u have the picture. I ate the halwa anyway… ;))
After that we walked to Bait Al Safa museum – great and very interesting. What a finish of excellent weekend! Thanks very much to Andrea for all this arrangement, great effort and much appreciated by all.
All “THANK YOU”s were already told in previous email so just very short – thank you to all who make all this happen – Harsha and Gautam from The View, Andrea and Frans and Oman Bicycle shop, Red Bull for continuous support and all the helpers and local community. I hope we successfully planted the seed – and Al Hamra Uphill/ride/weekend will be part of our annual calendar.
Great weekend indeed!