Day two - 81km: 25km beyond Yangping to Yunmeng Mountain 81km
By Ramon Puig
Breakfast started with Chris Hallatt eating fermented tofu...even the guides said it should be spread in a small quantity and not eaten whole. Were we surprised? Chris thought that, in signing up for this event, it was an 'all you can eat Chinese buffet challenge'! As well as tofu, we had fried eggs, cheese, warm bread and a mixture of salads. Interesting.
David Ridley had hardly slept. He'd awoken with a start, his watch showing 8.20am - we were due to start at 8.30am! He jumped out of bed and quickly dressed ready for the day. David dragged his gear and suitcase downstairs to find it all quiet. In the reception light, he noticed he'd put his watch on upside down...it was only 1.50am!
Our bikes greeted us with frozen water bottles attached and frost on the saddles. It was -1°C and, for those of us who cycled in Peru last year, we reminisced longingly about that 50°C day we'd experienced then.
Everyone put on every layer they could, except Colin Mellor, who decided that one top layer, shorts and fingerless gloves would suffice. Speaking to Mark Duckworth, Colin says, "surely you remember football training sessions wearing just this?", to which Mark replies, "yes and I retired".
The first two hours consisted of cycling along the Bai River, which was a really scenic route, but some of us bombed along to get through the freezing shadows. We revelled in the warm sunshine and our frozen fingers had a short respite.
At the first break, the chill of the morning took on a completely different meaning. Andy 'The Green Chilli' Carlisle (his new nick name given because of his 'skater' green helmet) felt a little faint, so we got sweets and sugar into him. We think it was the wind chill from earlier in the day because he had been leading the front peloton.
The blue skies warmed us up and we pressed on for more beautiful country as we enjoyed the Geo National park.
We had a few long tunnels and those that followed the kit list brief donned their head torches and lights as we entered tunnels lit up like Blackpool Sea front. Thank God we packed those lights.
Not one to crave the limelight, Andy 'Green Chilli' Carlisle forgot his helmet after a quick snack stop and then got a puncture....he was not having a good day. Spotting a way to get his bike as light as possible (really, was this needed? he's probably half the weight of any other man on the team!), Andy had the mechanic remove his bike stand...now we know how he could have lead from the front all day!
Sam Sinclair has a fabulous day in the saddle, aided by her three pairs of padded shorts and motivated by chats from Ashley Brown, who talked to her all the way to the top of Yunmeng Mountain. Here, we had some of the most amazing views, looking out over China's equivalent of the Grand Canyon - a view that made the hills from before pale into insignificance.
The team was full of spirits and has really bonded after such a short period of time. They pushed through today's 81km, coping with cold, cold temperatures that turned very warm as we climbed upwards. We were rewarded at the end of the day with a superb route down to our evening accommodation...but Andy 'Green Chilli' Carlisle missed the turning so the support crew had to chase him down. Will somebody please put that bike stand back on his bike and slow him down!!!
Our Achievement Award goes to Toby Cobb, our quiet man in the team, for really enjoying the day and always being with a smile. Toby cycled every mile up that mountain, despite often thinking it would be quicker to walk, and after finding the first day very tough indeed.
Our Kung Fu Panda Award goes to Andy 'Green Chilli' Carlisle for a special day leading from the front, despite the puncture and other setbacks (let's hope that Panda slows him down tomorrow by adding drag to his bike!).
Ted was handed on to Ashley Brown for helping Sam Sinclair to conquer the mountain.