An hour before the planned wake-up call someone was knocking on our door disturbing the peace and snoring. Behind the door, there was the smiling face of some Estonian guy with a photo camera in his hand. After only three and a half hours of sleep I was really happy to see him, and the reason for the early wake-up was even more pleasing - the Estonian wanted to take a picture with the team. How thoughtful of him. When I explained him, that everybody else is still sleeping, he insisted on at least taking a picture with me. So now some Estonian has a picture with him and me in my undies. Nice. When I was closing the door, he shouted, “Give my best to Estonians.” “What Estonians?” I wanted to ask, but quickly dropped this idea to escape further conversation. I guess the Estonian meant well, because he left a letter and a chocolate bar for us in the kitchen, but c’mon - one chocolate bar is not a fair price for an hour of sleep. This morning we got our facts straight at last - it turned out that our van can’t get to our destination without some kind of a paper, which could now be obtained only by close friends of Vladimir. This information disturbed our plans a bit, but no worries, we will figure out a way to get in without the van. While driving 55 kilometers back to the start line, we realized, that the day will be beautiful. The sun was warming up the clean asphalt, there were no clouds in sight and we had the Black Sea on one side and the mountains on the other. The winter had abandoned the world giving place to a warm spring, so the studded tires came off allowing the guys to gain more speed. Today’s ride started at 12:30 with a backwind blowing into our sails. Despite the steep ups and downs the four samurais managed to keep an average speed of approx. 27 km/h, so the spirits were high in the sky. At a stretch where the speed reached 40 km/h, Kaspars approached the van and with a wide smile asked, “Aren’t we riding too fast for you guys?” It was obvious, that the nice weather and the good speed had brought joy to our cycling team. During the first part of the day we observed an odd thing about Russians - most of them didn’t violate the traffic rules like the rule against crossing the uninterrupted line to get past our slow procession. Of course there’s nothing wrong with following the rules, but I guess sometimes you could break one if the situation demands it. Or maybe in Russia you can’t. After 95 kilometers we entered the mountains with a song of the ancient Latvian band Zodiaks playing on the radio. It’s safe to say that nice music and nice surroundings are a great match. On the first uphill stretch Kaspars had fallen behind the group, so he cheated a little and hitched a truck driving to catch up with the gang using the whirlwind created by the truck. No one knows if it was karma punishing him for the sneaky move or just a coincidence, but after no more than 10 kilometers Kaspars got a “flat.” The guys had pedaled for 118 kilometers, when we reached the enormous urban machinery of Novorossiysk with its traffic jams, smoky stalks, huge reloading facilities and immense cement plant. It’s safe to say, that none of us would like to live in this city not only because of the air pollution and the rough face of the city, but also because it’s totally bicycle unfriendly. There were no bike paths and for the most part the side of the road was just a mud pool. After getting through the industrial giant, we made lunch at a beautiful spot with a view of the Black Sea filled with cargo ships and tankers. The sun was swiftly rolling down the blue sky, and when we got back on the road, it lighted our path with the last rays of rosy light. In this romantic atmosphere the riders started the more challenging leg of today’s route, that took them along the serpentine roads at the coastline of the Black Sea. And a black ride it was. Without any road illumination whatsoever the only light guiding the four fireflies through the absolute darkness was the small bicycle lights and the headlights of the van following them. The winding downhill rides in pitch black were full of surprises and excelled emotions. Something like sliding down a dark pipeline with a flash-light between your teeth. But as we know every burned crust has bread inside - thanks to the late hour the the cyclists had to deal only with some light traffic, which mad the slalom a lot easier.
The observation of the day: “Kaspars has bloomed like a blossom.” (Aigars)