Posted by: nextbigadventure | February 13, 2010

And on the seventh day they created the Mando Day.

The past week has taken us from Khartoum down into Ethiopia, with the stretch of seven riding days being one of the longest without rest the Tour has to offer.

On the first day they created the traffic. Leaving Khartoum, we headed south along a very busy and narrow road – 160km of dodging oncoming busses.

On second day they created hills. Day two saw the beginnings of what would eventually become the mountains of Ethiopia. Although just a few small bumps on a relatively flat 160km paved day, we were given a brief reminder of what a climbing was all about.

On third day, they created dirt! After 50km of paved road, the tour headed into dust, rocks and corrugations for the remaining 90km of day three. The carnage began. The roadies started falling, the EFI club got a bit smaller and bodies took a beating.

On forth day they created Dinder National Park. This is the first year that the tour has taken the route through Sudan’s Dinder National Park. 138km of hardcore mountain biking; sand, rocks, corrugations, thorns, heat and desert. This was an EFI massacre. Riders were herded onto the support trucks like camels on the way the butcher. I was on the bike for over 11 hours and came in 4th, narrowly missing the sunset cut-off.

On the fifth day they created the technical mountain biking. Dried out desert with large cracks that swallowed even 2 inch MTB tyres that were on the wrong line, technical climbs that the support vehicles struggled to summit, more sand and bucket loads of heat. Another 140km to challenge not only the small group of EFI’ers, but anyone that was brave enough to leave camp that morning on two wheels (there weren’t many.) After more than 7 hours of Gauntlet terrain, I arrived in 3rd place. This day took us to the Ethiopian border and our first shower since Khartoum!

On sixth day they created they eye of the Storm. 98km of paved road after crossing the Ethiopian border sounded like a good recovery day ahead of what promised to be the perfect storm the next day. It was not the case. Everyone was shattered and every one of the 98km’s was a challenge. There were no large peletons or groups riding in lines. Eveyone was in survival mode, head down, coasting the downhills and stopping at every coke stop along the route. Probably one of the slowest 98km on paved roads of the tour so far.

On seventh day they created the Mando Day. And it was good! There are 8 Mando (short for mandatory) days during the tour. Racers are allowed 3 grace days when their overall times are calculated (to allow for mechanical failure and sickness). Mando days are chosen as the toughest days of the tour and cannot be used as grace days for racers. This Mando Day dragged us up over 2500m of altitude into the heavens of Ethiopia. The carnage continued. Only about half the riders set out from camp that morning, with switchbacks hugging the distance peaks to remind everyone that it would be another grueling stage. With all the suffering in the field, I though today would be a great day to push hard and try getting a stage win. I came in 2nd place and had an awesome day climbing away from (almost) everyone in the mountains! The stage ended with an awesome climb out of Gondar to Goha Hotel, where we have had 2 rest days.

The mountains have just begun and the road surface is only going to get worse. Watch this space.

Thanks for all the comments and feedback, I really appreciate it!

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Responses

  1. is it worse than actuarial exams? I get exhausted just reading about it. All you family behind you from what I read and some others as well. you go Jethro , I am very sure that this is also some more character building of the extreme kind !!!!

  2. We enjoy following your tour. Seems you and Gauntlet are not too sympathetic with roadies and non EFI’ers.
    Irene’s comment re it being a character building trip is quite right. Besides building character, it certainly also shows character – qoute: “With all the suffering in the field, I though today would be a great day to push hard…” Thats how we know you, Jethro!! Taking on a challenge and succeeding – every time.
    Keep going – we’re watching!

  3. Hey Jethro. Good job boet! Keep going at that EFI and when you think you have had enough, think of sitting behind your desk here in Amsterdam in minus 4 – you will smile and keep going. Willem

  4. Well done with your stage win…….I’m the proudest mom in the whole wide world 🙂

    • Well done on your stage win, Jethro…….we’re the proudest aunt and uncle in the whole world!


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