Day Total: 151km
Total Time: 4:17
Avg. Speed: km/h
Avg. Heart Rate: 114bpm
Total Climbing: 491m
Song of the Day: Maxwell – Get to Know Ya
The previous two days, long as they were, proved enjoyable. The steady pace, cooperative riding partners (primarily Steve and Luke), and clear roads made the 100 mile per day average manageable. Thus, with one day to go and the shortest of the three riding days from Lusaka to the town of Livingstone, home of Victoria Falls, I felt pretty good and was ready to ride with the “race” group to ensure a fast passage into our two rest days. The course featured a net descent and local knowledge had made us aware that the pavement would be immaculate.
The plan for the day was to ride on behalf of Australian rider Terry in an effort to net him a stage win. At 55+, he is remarkably fit, experienced, and very determined. A stage win would net his charitable effort – raising funds to purchase tandem bicycles for blind cyclists –
and that was all the motivation I required to sign up as a work horse for his mission. The race group was meant to ride moderately hard to lunch and then take it easy into camp. A certain arrangement had also been made between Terry and the race leaders such that if he did his work and stayed with the group, he would earn the stage win.
The group set out, bloated to a size we had not seen since the early stages in Egypt. As the kilometers rolled by we picked up additional riders and by 25km we had a group of 16 that was working cooperatively and moving swiftly. I encouraged Terry to stay behind me to maximize the benefit of drafting and as the morning passed, he seemed to be in good condition. As we approached lunch, Luke suggested that we consider skipping lunch, the rationale being that with a group this large it would be inevitable that the egos of the race leaders would take over and a hectic pace would ensue to reduce the size of the group by the finish line; such a maneuver could result in Terry getting dropped and the bid for a stage win decimated. So it was that Terry, Luke, Horst, and myself agreed to bypass lunch. Normally this would not be advisable on a stage so long. However, the current pace ensured that the stage would not last too much longer and for the sake of the win we could take the chance.
As the riders at the front of the bunch pulled over for lunch, we rolled steadily past the lunch truck and resumed our previous pace. After 3km we elevated the pace to take Terry to his limits to ensure there were no issues or surprises down the stretch. Horst, Luke, and myself alternated time on the front of the bunch with Terry always sitting on my wheel. It was very liberating to be punishing myself for the benefit of another, particularly Terry who was giving all he had to hang on for the win.
With 15km remaining we looked behind us, and as Luke and I had feared, the pathetic egos of a few had prevailed and riding in excess of 50km at their limits, they had chosen to close the gap to us. I will not hold this against them. However, instead of sitting up and joining the back of our bunch, as was agreed prior to the start of the ride, they accelerated past to open a gap of roughly 500 meters. This left me at the front to close it down and Terry almost falling away from the group. In truth, I found this to be an extremely classless act and was quite disgusted that the alleged “leader” of the race with whom the agreement had been reached opted not to call of the chase out of respect to Terry. Today’s stage win attempt by Terry was never meant to be a challenge to anyone’s ability or position within the race – Terry could not be less concerned about such things – but fragile egos can be irrational.
We managed to close the gap and put Terry on the front of the group to roll to the stage win. It was a proud moment for him and even more so for his charity. I was proud to be a part of the effort, and ever gracious, Terry was quick to buy beers for his “horses” in appreciation of their contributions.
Camp is at a hotel/campground area called “The Waterfront”. In a nutshell, it is beautiful. Hot – not just warm – showers are available, two swimming pools, and ample riverside seating with the mists of Victoria Falls rising in the distance. With a cheeseburger already in my belly and a third beer on its way I am feeling very relaxed. Two days off of the bike means plenty of time to relax, recover, laugh, and be on vacation. I cannot wait!