Start 05:30am End 01:00am – 18hrs ride time including breaks
My alarm goes off at 5am. I want to be gone before the builders arrive. I am feeling a bit crusty after my emergency bivvy.
I pack quickly and get going. I find a garage 5k down the road. 2 coffees, some tuc biscuits (paprika.. It’s the balkans you know), a carton of juice… I start to feel human again. I use the loo, brush my teeth, buy some more tissues for bear in the woods duties. Simple things but I feel a lot better. I have another coffee
Ok – I ride through Sarajevo easily, find a hotel on the way out of the city for more coffee, I am too early for a supermarket but I do find a bakers. Lovely cheese filo pastry thing and 2 chocolate croissants go in a bag on my back…. For later.
I head south out of Sarajevo and up I go straight into a national park. The next section is 3500m climbing, 200k. I start to feel this is now more committing, with civilisation / easy hotel flights home being a thing of the past.
Up and down it goes, small villages for food. I eat a mystery chicken meal for lunch at a nice little restaurant, then on I go. The landscape is stunning.
Some 4k of 7% and into a 4k long tunnel, and thats the peak done. I just go at what ever speed my legs can manage up the hills.
4 o clock hits.. I start thinking of bivvi options.
I discover the bosnian equivalent of fanta lemonade – lovely.
Then I see the first competitors for a couple of days.. They are pushing for CP4 at Mount Lovcen above the bay of Kotor – These includes a pair of ladies, (the last in the race). After last night I really want to be off the road early. However, they plant the idea….. The next 130k sounds tough but it includes 30k of decent, and 30k round the bay of Kotor… Easy.
The climbing resumes immediately
Eventually I find the border out of Bosnia, and into Macedonia
Then the first proper dog attack so far
I am going 50 kph down hill. One dog in the middle of the road.? I avoid him. But his mate sees me coming, starts running at an angle… Holy shit. I get past him, back off, but he’s still there at max effort. A few more stamps on the peddles and away I go.
2 hours of rolling terain, then the down hill finally appears, 70kph + and 30 minutes later and I am on the bay. It’s 30 degrees plus – sweltering after the cool of the mountains. Its one of the most stunning bays I have seen – limestone cliffs surrounding the inlets – stunning. I see a sign for a campsite, but its still early.
Still no data service on my phone, so no hotel booking. It’s all apartments anyway, I try a couple and no luck
90 mins later I am at the bottom of mount lovcen.
I find a supermarket, buy lots of crap including plastic spoons and a small container of icecream. I buy rolls, mayo, salami and cheese and make food for later. Opposite is a grill, so I grab a grilled chicken sandwich
I hit a bakers and a petrol station on the way out of town for a coffee and I am good to go. I start climbing the hill at 11 with a plan of bivvying (again) once I am above people / dogs somewhere early on the mountain
Its beautiful riding up the hill, with street lights below and the sounds of Karoke filtering up.
I bump onto a russian guy who live 3 miles away from me at home – I first met him in France, eating a meal at Embrun, We climb the hill at a steady pace together. I am going at a steady pace, he is stronger but needs to keep talking to me to stay awake. The road flattens and we roll fast into CP4 at a restaurant. It’s 1am, and its been closed a long time, but we get our brevet cards stamped by the super, weary volunteers staying there overnight,
Then its another bivvy amongst the tables under the outdoor roof at the back of the restaurant….
I am very crusty
3 hrs sleep tops – 3 other guys already there rustle their space blankets, snore etc, then get up at 5. *sigh*