Start 06:20am End 12:00am– 17:30hrs ride time including breaks
The last day….
I had split the route into 200k sections. That means the garmin can handle each ok – load a 3000k route into Garmin and it goes bonkers 5 hrs later .
I had 130k left from my Greek mosquito hotel directly east, into turkey to a town called Tekirdag on the coast, then the last 200k section from there looping around a long way to the north of Istanbul to enter via the mandatory parcour through Belgarad forest
The hotel provided breakfast at 8, I woke up at 6. I waited for an 30 mins then thought sod it, I’m off. I had a bottle of lemon fanta, a couple of mouthfuls of peanuts from a packet I had carried for a week (they had started turning into peanut butter), and some haribo for breakfast. Yum.
I got going
I found a garage up the food for a carton of orange juice, a cold coffee and some tuc biscuits… That was all they sold
Getting out of Greece was hard – The god damn headwind I’d had for a couple of days was still here, and the roads rolled a lot.
Getting into Turkey was busy, but the border crossing was a lot easier than I feared – across a river with soldiers on both sides looking bored. Then into Turkey, and the roads got hard again
I needed more breakfast. For that I needed Turkish lira. For that I needed a bank machine.
I found a Retail Park just over the border that was supposed to have an atm, outside a supermarket
I was wondering around the supermarket hoping there was one there, ignoring the food, fruit, pastries, juice, chocolate milk, haribo, etc.
I had a credit card and debit card in my pocket.
Just goes to show how you stop thinking when tired / low on blood sugar.
The nearby town had atms (but that was a 2 k diversion) so instead I pushed on instead, getting more and more desperate for more liquid or food
I eventually hit a garage and bought icecream, coke and water with a card, but only after 130k did I get currency and hit a supermarket for fruit etc
In the mean time Turkey was horrible for cycling…. It was a nice highway (dual carriageway) but had a great shoulder. However the road really rolled, 7% gradients for a k into the wind, then down the other side and repeat. It was draining
Then the roadworks started. Down to a single lane in a contraflow…. No shoulder, just ride on the white line and hope
Some riders got a bit fried by this, (I bumped into Simon and Jon again here), especially with a 3 foot drop to the right in places, or where the road was cracking / falling away, but once a coach got by me with 3 foot to spare on my left, I was pretty happy – the lorries / buses really tried to give you room.
Later in the race, one guy had a major off here riding in the dark falling down a 12ft hole while riding on the carriageway still being built. oops
I also swapped places with #23 Mathias the friendly Dane again I first saw in France eating icecream on day 2
I hit Tekirdag, got money and a supermarket but failed to find a restaurant – in a city… idiot
I cracked on, onto the last 200k section, starting this at about 3pm, counting the 10s of ks down as I headed north east out into the constant wind.
Past the first town (scary), then the second (fine), and finally onto lovely quiet single lane road through a Forrest… Lovely
I got to my turnaround as I headed east then southeast towards Istanbul – yay. Finally a bit of a tailwind. This was where I joined the D020 road
I stopped and put my high visibility tabard on, helmet light on, the last of my chamois cream.
Ok – I was ready to go for the last 100k.
I then discovered what the people of istanbul do on hot August weekends. They go to the forest for the day, have barbeques, them leave for home once evening comes.
I stopped for more supplies in the first village I had seen in 40k. I moved into doritos. This was my last day so my usual habit of eating real food seemed to desert me and I ended up fuelling the whole day on coke, icecream and crap snack foods. Not recommended.
As I ate my doritos, darkness fell, and I watched the stream of cars heading south tailing back from the village
It took me a couple of minutes to actually get across the road when I got going again.
I got lost immediately on leaving the village. I followed my garmin line instead of the signposts, then immediately hit a 3 lane highway, with me being on the wrong side of it
I figured it out eventually.. My single lane road had changed at the end of the village becoming the highway. I crossed over, heaving the bike over the 3 ft crash barriers, then crossing to the shoulder. Yay great road, let’s go
More rolling hills, now in darkness, but I felt safe.
The traffic was now intermittent, a pulse of traffic, just the occasional lorry / tipper truck then nothing
The Final Approach
I had a decision to make
The last 30k of the D020 on my route has been destroyed by 2 massive building projects to the NE of Istanbul – a new bridge and a new airport. The shoulder had either disappeared, or was full of gravel, and the roadworks were apparently really scary. However the trucks were not on the road at 10pm on a Sunday, and the traffic was intermittent, but fast.
I had a suggested alternative route posted by a Turkish rider, although he had not ridden it.
I got to the decision point, and turned off the D020. It started as a reasonable single lane road, then hit a town that I enjoyed fighting through, then onto a very busy 3 lane highway, but again with a good shoulder.
Then I got to the turning off this onto a 10k section taking me back to the D020 and on to the final lovely forest section into Istanbul. The organisers were very proud of this last 20k, as it’s picturesque, (relatively) quiet and safe and also downhill.
However the 10k section leading to it was unlit, on minor roads through a couple of villages and bits of forest. The advice I had read about dog attacks suggested not riding at night, or if you do, stick to main roads…… oh dear
It started well.
Quiet, up and down, a fast decent into a village, up and out.. I turn the backlight of the garmin on permanently so I could see the corners coming up…
Then a flat piece of road, I head into a hairpin, and I catch sight of some eyes reflecting in the light from my helmet mounted light….. Lots of eyes
Furious barking erupts, and a dog on my left takes off and matches my pace, snapping and barking 2 ft from my front wheel. He has mates on my rear wheel. I can hear their claws on the tarmac. Holy fuck!
I ride harder, he just runs faster
I shout, yell, tell him to fuck off
He does eventually as I pull away. 200 m on, I throttle back a bit.
Round another corner, I approach another left hander, and I hear baying on the woods to my left. Its like something out of hound of the Baskevilles. I hear crashing in the undergrowth to my left. It’s sounds like a pack of wolves closing in. I am seriously shitting myself, going as fast as I can, uphill around hairpins with no idea what’s around the corner. Get me out of here!
2 k later I am spent – absolutely nothing left. A car comes the other way, giving me temporary respite, (car = no dogs). The next pack can have me…..
The garmin shows a main road 1k away…
I descend to it in silence and peace.
Onto the lit D020 then off to a town.
I love the light.
I seriously consider stopping at a cafe/ bus shelter and see the night out here 20k from home.
However, a couple of dogs come barrelling down a minor road, and encourage me on. Out of the town I go, but it’s a big single lane road, and well lit. Let’s give it a go.
The fences on either side are also encouraging as is the number of cars coming the other way, so even when the lights go I continue
However I have lost the love of the forest at night. I am waiting for dogs. I see 2 but I am straight past them and just get a growl, a yip and that’s it. I am on edge whenever the road heads up.
When I start to descend down towards istanbul, I feel relieved
I cruise the last 10k in traffic and changeable road surfaces on the Bosphorus. This is easy late Sunday night traffic at 12am so as quiet as it ever gets here.
10k, 5, 3, 1, 200m…then there’s the cafe. I stop, see a bike and go to park mine but Karen appears.
A sweaty hug. (me not her), a kiss and a hello. She takes my bike. I get a round of applause from the 20 odd gathered riders, a handshake and congratulations as my brevet card is signed
That was my ride done. a low key finish totally in keeping with the whole race, with my fellow riders then getting me a seat etc.
The food, beer, telling of tales, and congratulating more finishers. Soon it’s half past 2 and time to head to bed. The hotel is 10k away. I ride as it’s easiest. They let me into the hotel, I shower, use room service to eat more, then sleep
Breakfast lasts 2 hours