There is time for rest and time for doing, and this morning our rest time was over. The bike of Karlis B. tried to disagree by puffing out air in the hotel lobby, but we bribed it with a new inner tube and off we went. Over the nightKiev got covered by a fresh coat of snow and with the first strokes of pedals the guys knew that this day will be interesting. And it truly was. The first challenge was getting out of the huge city and forcing the bikes through the thick layer of snow porridge over the floor of ice. The tires were loosing traction and the pedalers got the opportunity to sharpen their drifting skills. At one point Karlis B. front wheel went AWOL and started to draw weird signs in the snow. Afterward Karlis explained that he was trying to spell “Euro Maidan” on the street of Kiev. When we left the city limits and headed in the direction of Odes, the statue of the Olympic bear of 1980 saluted us and bid us farewell. It was nice of him to come out in this wintery morning just to make this symbolic gesture. It seamed that the Ukrainian wind had finally given up on forcing us back where we came from and during the first part of the day it even helped the riders by pushing them forward. This was a nice surprise and without having to struggle against constant headwind our cyclists managed to keep a steady pace of 30 km/h. “All of the flags fly in the direction of Odes,” Roberts noted cheerfully pushing his bike back on the road after a short pitstop. After 30 kilometers the wind took us from the side and strongly, throwing clouds of snow over the heads of the fantastic four. The further we got from Kiev, the narrower became the cleared part of the road, which disappeared completely in the embrace of forest. The wind had prepared wide snow banks along the inner side of the road, and the trucks passing by made a good use of this ammunition, creating tiny blizzards which sometimes completely hid the riders for a while. On the stretches of the road shielded from the wind which were completely covered with snow, ice and everything nice, the cyclists turned into a troupe of acrobats on bikes, trying to maintain vertical position by all means and ridiculous movements. Roberts got so excited by the fortunate weather changes and playful snowstorms, that he started to show off in front of the van to entertain the supporting crew. The performance ended with a grand finale and Robers almost checking the van’s engine from below. He’s a true entertainer. Approx. 50 kilometers from Kiev it finally started to snow, making the winter cycling experience complete. A whole package, you could say. At the 50th kilometer Roberts got blinded by the astonishing beauty of Ukrainian winter - he approached the van and asked Aigars to crack open his eyes which had got frozen almost completely shut. The next victim of the icy road was Karlis P., who lost the control of his bike and consequently went down like a log. Fortunately he got it easy, breaking only one of the mounts of the front mudflap. It’s a good thing that the witty Latvians can fix almost anything using just the plastic binding straps - Roberts worked his magic and Karlis bike was almost as good as new in no time. When asked, what went wrong, Karlis P. declared that the road is slippery. “Really?” other riders tried to get the facts straight while twisting in laughter. While Karlis P. was cleaning snow off his bike, Karlis B. and Roberts made a small vide homage for Riga merrily singing in the middle of the snow-blast. This truly is a cheerful gang. Not 10 kilometers further Kaspars decided that he’s tired of sitting and tried to get cosy on the frozen asphalt. A word of advice - if you ever get a similar idea, get off your bike first. Kaspars didn’t. This misstep resulted in upgrade to Kaspars trousers and X-bionic power-suite. Now he will be able to scratch his left knee without taking clothes off. To protect his knee from the claws of winter wind, Kaspars pulled up an extra moccasin over the knee and off he went. There’s no stopping those guys. When the crew tried to get back on the road, Karlis B. realized that he is the last man standing and immediately averted this injustice. So today every single one of the pedalers at some point made a but bump with the hospitable country of Ukraine. While waiting for the lunch soup to pre-heat, Roberts put new studded shoes on Karlis P. bike, because after his fall Karlis wasn’t feeling very comfortable on ice. After lunch we set our course to Uman 90 kilometers away, I guess it’s needless to say that again we failed to escape the darkness and the pedal pushers rode the last 30 kilometers in the light of the van’s headlights. Despite the rough road conditions and the falls at the end the guys were cheerful and full of energy because today the adventure got more challenging and thus - more interesting.
Pedal for no Medal - Day 9