Friday, 19 September 2014

The Road to Transylvania 2014 pt. 5 - The Ride of a Lifetime

Today's post is from our champion cyclist and fundraiser Paul Stevens who recounts his Transfagarasan cycle challenge, all in the name of raising money for Yes to Life. The total stands at over £2000 and if Paul's incredible efforts have been an inspiration to you then it is still possible to donate here. Congratulations Paul and a huge thank you from Yes to Life!

I have just arrived back from my Romanian cycle trip and I have to say it was one of the best times so far where scenery and memories were concerned, albeit the absolute worst so far in terms of cycling in pain! Coming back to find out I had exceeded my fundraising target however made it all worth while, so I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who sponsored me.

For those of you who have been following my adventure, or those taking a new interest in the inadvisable things you can attempt with a bicycle, here is a little about each day -


Day 1 – Arrive at Bucharest airport. Make up the bikes and have a decent meal in a shabby hotel run by a madman who insists on showing us how the windows work...I'm sure his Mum loves him!

Day 2 – We are ready early, so decide to use our satnavs to get us to the centre of Bucharest where we will meet the guys who are flying in today, including three riders coming all the way from Canada! We want to avoid the main road into the town centre but after 90 minutes driving up and down dirt track roads and dead ends, the main road was selected anyway and we were off with 30 miles on the clock. We found time for a quick photo op in front of Ceausescu's original palace in the heart of the city.

Day 3 – Journey from the outskirts of Bucharest to Lake Vidraru – approx 90 miles riding, pretty flat at the start but all too soon the climbing begins, taking us 10 miles further into the base of the foothills of the mountains.

Day 4 – Morning (to 2pm) - We ride to the awesome Dam of Lake Vidraru and off then into the high Carpathian mountains and the legendary Transfargarasan Pass... One of the most awe-inspiring roads on the planet. 40 miles of riding, climbing 2034m is now taking its toll on my spinning legs and my poor bum!! Andre, our Romanian support driver, asks me if I want to get in the van... How bad must I look!? Little does he know, there is not a chance. This I do on my own, even if I have spent 6 hours in the saddle already today, the mountain is mine!

Day 4 - Afternoon – the time I have been waiting for. Tired, sore and now on the other side of the mountains (and cold too, as we are now enveloped in cloud cover) the ride downhill has arrived! And what a ride... Speeds of over 40 mph downhill, overtaking cars as we go!!! Switchbacks never felt this good going uphill! We travel further downhill than we did coming up and the whole thing is over in 35 minutes. My body is built for the downhill for sure!!!

Day 5 – Ride from Fagaras, again climbing past Brasov. Up another 900m climb and down again. After yesterday, the climb could never hurt quite so much and the drop was never going to be in the same league but the view of Dracula's castle from my hotel bedroom window when we reached Bran was priceless, stunning just doesn't cover it.

Day 6 – Morning - On from Bran aiming for Targovista. Weather has been kind to us thus far but today there seems to be some dark clouds brewing. By early afternoon, we decide to stop and order lunch. An hour and a half later, with no food yet on the table, we walk out, load up with bananas and climb the hills again, starving.

Day 6 - Afternoon - The sky is looking less kind now and the heavens are about to open. Wet weather gear on for those who have them and off we go again. Torrents in the road. Being sprayed by the trucks going past in both directions and to cap it all we pass a farm where a feed dam has broken and are met by a river of cattle and
pig slurry maybe 6 to 8 inches deep. We ride on through, of course. (Note to self - Maybe don't take a drink for the next few miles until the bottles have been cleaned!)

Day 6 - Evening – We arrive at our final destination. Tired, sore, drier at least as the sun is now shining again. We averaged 21 mph for the last 25 miles, ever so slightly downhill nearly all the way. What a great ending! We scrub up and head out to eat, eleven blokes who have climbed two mountains by bike and broken through the pain barrier with memories that will last a lifetime. Quite clearly, this is why we do it. 

We can go home tomorrow, maybe with some sadness of the trip ending but for me with so much happiness at not only taking on my biggest cycle challenge yet but also raising money for such a fantastic cause. 

Thank you for sponsoring me, it's been amazing. 

Until next time,

Paul Stevens



A few statistics:

357 miles traveled, gaining 16,640 feet in height cumulatively.

Saddle time 41 hrs 15 mins for me, albeit only 28 hrs 15 minutes were actually spent cycling, the rest covers time on the road, food stops etc.

My personal max speed confirmed as 41.1mph.




Please sponsor Paul on his cycle ride for Yes to Life here.

Read Paul's training journey: part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here.

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