Some of us were restless and others got the time wrong, so our camp started to bustle an hour earlier than planned. When we woke up the last sleeping beauty Karlis B. and offered him the morning porridge, Karlis didn’t look very happy about loosing an hour of sleep. Others tried to cheer him up by telling that early start means early finish. This assurance worked, but only till the moment we realized, that getting up earlier doesn’t guarantee an earlier start. Despite the one hour handicap we left the hotel according to the plan at 10 o’clock. This morning Roberts found something peculiar on his body - the first blister had formed on his foot. While he was admiring this new part of his anatomy, Kaspars made a guess about the cause of the blister. “It’s because of the short distances,” he announced with a bantering smile on his frost bitten lips. Ok, yesterday’s route was “only” 150 kilometers, but it was the 11th day of a trip with almost 190 kilometers average daily distance. Anywho - from today the daily stretches will get longer again. For today’s menu we had special offering - a cold dish made of 143 kilometers of pure joy. When we got back on the road, it turned out, that the dish wasn’t as cold as we expected. The sun had warmed the vastness of Ukraine to -10 degrees Celsius and continued the good work all day making the temperature rise to -4 degrees for a while. During the first pitstop some of the guys were complaining, that it’s almost too warm and the heat forces them to drink more. Kaspars even went as far as declaring, that it feels like summer. “Maybe summer in Siberia” I thought to myself, but Roberts reasoned, that it’s so warm, that he can’t feel his toes. But without joking at last we can feel the South coming our way. You could even visually observe the temperature rise in the faces of our bike-messengers - for once the icicles hanging from their face-masks didn’t make them look like walruses. The first part of the day indulged the riders with a perfectly clean road, but nevertheless they had to struggle against headwind and almost constant ascent of the road. This effort took a lot of energy, so the guys frequently visited the van to get an energy bar or two, but even those were not enough to fully renew their strength. The decision of our cycling team was unanimous - there was no going further without a chunk of meat. Accordingly the usual lunch soul was declared no-good, and we agreed to search for a roadside diner. After 55 kilometers the riders finally caught a break. The wind turned and we found a cover behind a thin line of trees, which allowed an increase of speed to 30 km/h, at least for 10 kilometers. At the 60th kilometer the asphalt became rough and bumpy. It looked like a couple of caterpillar tractors had a drag-race on the road, but in our situation any kind of asphalt is better than none, so nobody complained about the grater-like surface. After approx. 70 kilometers we stopped at a small roadside tavern to get anything that has meat in it. The chance to have lunch at the table was a nice change for the cyclists, who usually eat in the tightness of our van, and especially for the support crew, whose normal lunch accommodations are outdoors in the lee-side of the van. The hospitable hostess warned us that because of the snow banks there is no passage to Crimea and because of the Olympic games all roads to Sochi are closed. Though both of these news could impact our trip, for now they were irrelevant, because there was nothing we could do to improve the chances of reaching our destination except stubbornly moving forward. When the hostess realized, that four of us are traveling by bikes, she was a bit shocked and announced that the four cyclist don’t love themselves. Obviously it was a false assumption, because there’s a big difference between torturing yourself and pushing yourself to the limit. After a rich lunch we got back on the track, which kept getting more and more interesting. The route twisted in the wrong direction forcing us against the wind again. The pedalers formed a single file and faced the hostile opponent head-on. At the 100th kilometer the road became snowy again, but after a while we started to long for the snow, because the surface of the road turned into an ice-rink shinny as a mirror - the favorite surface of Karlis P. He immediately took a defensive approach reducing his speed and playing it safe. Other acrobats just kept on pedaling like they didn’t care about the reflecting surface beneath. After some time we realized, that darkness was covering the wast Ukrainian steppe - the perfect runway for the freezing wind. It was frickin cool in any meaning of this word. Despite the warnings of the tavern lady the “Pedal for no Medal” figure-skating team almost safely glided into the autonomous community of Crimea. The friendly looking guys with machine-guns on the community border had only one question - “Aren’t you cold?” and let us pass without a hustle. After the 40 kilometers of ice covered with ice and then with a little bit more ice all of the guys except Kaspars have couple of drop points in their accounts, but who’s counting. After 8h and 36min of pedaling we are another 143km closer to to our destination.
The aphorism of the day: “This has nothing to do with sport.” (Roberts)