10 of April, 2016
The alarm should ring at 07:00 (EEST), but I wake up way before that. I'm too excited to stay in bed, so I get out of the room as stealthy as I can, trying not to bother Oscar, sleeping in the other bed.
I left the clothes ready the day before, in the living room, so there is where I go after preparing breakfast (coffee, milk, bread and cheese).
I take it easy, eating slowly. It is always really hard to have breakfast so early, but today I manage quite well and I eat it all up. The bike is ready already, I put my cycling clothes on and I double check again that I have everything with me (Phone, Garmin, HR Sensor, GoPro, spare tube, tools...). Then I pick up Sascha's Jake to get outside.
Today we have planned to go on a longer ride together, Sascha and me. We will do the Apollonas round (clockwise), a route that covers something like 100 kms around the island of Naxos. We will pass by beaches, villages, valleys and mountains.
And I am pretty sure we will have looots of fun
I meet Sascha at the turn to Damarionas, the little village where we are staying. We say hello and we start riding towards the south, to the beaches. This is the easiest part of the ride, almost going down all the way down to Agia Anna, where we stop for a moment. It is near 08:46 and it is already really warm, so we decide to remove some clothes. I do remove the not-so-warm long sleeve tshirt, replacing it with a more fresh short sleeve one under my jersey/maillot. I also remove the scarf and I'm tempted to remove the fingerless gloves too. In the end I decide to keep them.
Soon after restarting, we notice that they are doing a lot of work on the road there. Some of the streets/roads are blocked, so we cannot go on them. Following Sascha's idea, we take the bikes on our shoulders and we do a small detour over the beach.
For the next 10 or 15 minutes we ride on flat land towards Hora, where we stop for a moment to say hi to Giannis. I ask him if he could keep the long sleeve tshirt, as I'm quite sure I will not need it at all.
It is around 09:30, and the sun is not yet hitting us hard. I feel awesome, I have lots of energy and the whole idea of this ride gives me an extra push. The road towards Apollonas is lovely. On my left side I've the sea, which I can view from above, like a bird flying by the coast. On my right side I can see mountains, hills, valleys... sooo beautiful, mind-blowing sometimes.
This road, as almost every road I've seen in Naxos, is sneaky. It twists, like a snake trying to find his way through the island. I don't know how many 360º turns I'm taking here, but I can tell you I'm enjoying each one of them
In Apollonas we do a stop for drinks and eat something, a toast, which for them is a big ham+cheese sandwich with french fries. I also have a biiiig mug of coffee and milk. We have all this sitting by the sea, with the beach just by our feet. We talk. I don't know exactly for how long we have been friends, but I enjoy every time I can sit and talk with him for a while. We talk about work, cycling, about life.
Once we are done with the food and the drinks, we refill the bottles with fresh water and we take the road again. The hardest part of the ride is just ahead of us, waiting patiently.
It is 12:00 now. We can fully feel the sun on us. We have done a bit more than 50 kms already. I don't feel tired, but I'm wondering how I will perform in the long climb.
We are doing fine, but shortly after leaving Apollonas we do a short stop, just after the first serious climb. Sascha knows the road better and he suggest to do that stop to gather some breath (and take some pictures) before going into the real thing.
I don't feel so powerful now, but it is totally fun going up on this snake of a road. I'm enjoying every meter, every push of the pedals, every moment of suffering on the legs. We took it easy and Sascha looks perfectly ok with it.
At one point, before Skado, he is faster than me. He keeps on with that magic, hypnotic spinning rythm of his, but I know perfectly well I would burn myself too fast if I try to keep up with that rythm, so I let go.
I take my time, I do find my rythm and I keep on with it, slowly, steady.
A bit later I find him waiting for me, sitting on the shade of a house. I'm glad we stop, give some time to my legs to recover a bit, drink some water.
All the kms we have done, the climbing, the tired muscles... nothing can't compare now to the feel of the sun on me. I can't imagine how this would be in July, or August, with a full summer sun hitting you with no mercy. When things get a bit easier (~6%, that is) it is bearable. I can gain some speed and the air and wind around me helps cooling myself down a bit. When things get serious (~11%, that is), I'm cooked, boiling on my sweat. And it is middle of April, crazy.
We pass Skado, the end of the hardest part is just there.
"Just one last effort, keep it rolling, spin your legs, spin, spin spin!" - I hear myself saying.
I notice the GoPro have run out of battery already, but I have no idea when it did stop recording exactly.
Now a stronger wind joins us on our journey. Obviously it is not blowing from behind, if you know what I mean. I grab the drops, lowering my position on the bike and keep myself pushing the pedals, trying not to push too much against the wind.
Suddenly, the mountain gives us shelter. The wind is coming from the other side and the rock is stopping it. It is the last part of it - "Go for it" - I tell myself again. I put higher gears on the back and I stand on the pedals, pushing harder, dancing with the bike. I gain some speed, just before that 360º turn in front of me. Here I am, in the middle of the turn, standing, pushing hard - "Let's catch up the swiss climber!" - talking to me again, just in time to get slapped by reality. I'm not covered by the mountain anymore, I'm out of the 360 turn and without shelter the wind gives me a blow that felt like a wrestler grabbing my seat post and pulling me back.
I fight, this time I fight the wind. I don't care if I'll burn, I'm almost there, there is just a bit more and then it will be flat and all the way down back home.
I've survived. I'm in Apiranthos, back behind Sascha's wheel again. He waited for me and I catched up on the flat part before this wonderful village. Now it is time to go up, just a little bit more, before starting all the way down. I stick my front wheel behind Sascha's back wheel. He pushes, I push, he spins, I spin. It works, I get the lift I need, at least until I notice a pain in my left leg. A cramp, yeah, it has to happen. I should have known that I cannot keep up with that fast spinning.
Luckily it just go away with a short stop, just a couple of minutes and some quick stretching.
I'm home now. The way down from Apiranthos was... down. Easy, fast. In order to pass the psicological barrier of the 100km we had to go on the road to Moni for a while, then back, but it was ok. Sascha did stop at his place in Kaloxylos and I came straight to Damarionas (a bit more climbing for a good finish).
I feel awesome, tired for sure, but better than what I expected. Now I have to do this more often!