Stage 3 Stronie Slaskie to Bardo, 67 kilometres
The race left Stronie Slaskie in beautiful weather and after a ‘neutral’ lap of this beautiful town, headed up, and up, and up, on a 13 km gravel climb, and into border country. The race then turned technical, inching through muddy singletrack made of roots and rocks, involving many hike-a-bike sections for most, endlessly criss-crossing the Czech-Polish border. At times the border is as wide as a road, others, riders scooted up onto the top of an ancient rock wall to ride the line between two nations. After 40 very slow kilometres of some of Sudety MTB Challenge’s most technical terrain, including extremely steep rock drop-offs and descents so rooty and rutted that it was like riding a staircase for kilometres. Eventually the terrain eased up, and riders crossed one final mountain pass, now at an easy gradient on a fast gravel road, before one more punishing pinch and the super technical descent down to Bardo.
There was magnificent scenery, but barely a moment to appreciate it, so relentlessly technical was the terrain. The final steep descent is a pilgrim’s route, often climbed on foot by Catholics and fitness enthusiasts alike. There were several large shrines on the way down, and many, many lines over now familiar roots and rocks.
Sonke Wegner won, and Bartosz Janowski had a mechanical problem that lost him a lot of time, finishing over an hour down. Laura Turpijn had a brilliant ride, enjoying the technical trails to win the stage and maintain her lead. Full results are online.
Bardo itself is a gorgeous old town nestled in the mountains with a chapel dating to the 10th Century and a 15th Century stone bridge. It was entirely run by the Cistercian order for centuries, and its religious significance is everywhere, from the dozens of church spires on the horizon, to the nuns strolling up the main street.
Team Subaru-MarathonMTB went out hard on the first climb to try and reach the technical trails before our nearest rivals, team Rovet, who were just two minutes in front of us on GC. We had a good day and managed to come third and move into third overall with a gap of 20 minutes to Rovet, who have moved into fourth.
Finishing this stage, getting clean, and a 40 zloty massage were other high points!
This stage was brutal, one of the hardest marathon stages I have ever done. It took us nearly 4 hours and 50 minutes to ride under 70 kilometres, and sometimes the going was so slow we wondered if we’d ever finish. As usual, the camaraderie on course got us through. This stage was rated 5 on a scale of 1–6 for difficulty, so I can hardly imagine what a 6 is like!
This has also been one of the longest days. We didn’t reach our hotel until nearly 7pm, after presentations were in a thunderstorm, but now we’re showered and our clothes washed, we’re gearing up to do it again tomorrow.
The internet says
“Bardo was founded in the 10th century as a defensive gord on a medieval trade route from Prague across the Sudetes via Kłodzko to Wrocław and Gniezno. The town is a widely known place of pilgrimage and adoration of the Virgin Mary… Bardo had gained the status of a town in the early 14th century, but this was lost as the result of the destruction caused by World War II. It became the seat of a gmina in 1954, and was granted town status again in 1969.”
On a personal note
I had my own highs and lows today. The highs came when I managed to clean some really gnarly trails that even the big fast men were walking, and especially when I think of all the hard work I’ve done and how it seems to have paid off.
The low today was a very low one. Coming out of the second feed zone I emptied my jersey of gel wrappers (I find it quickest to stuff them up my jersey rather than try to pocket them, but they can be very irritating after a while). It’s a pretty accepted norm here in Europe that you can litter in feed zones, and it seems a sensible arrangement. But a then another racer gave me a good talking to.
I’ve always tried so hard to do the right thing, even if it means losing time, keeping the tabs from my gel sachets, every little piece of wrapper. We were on the limits of the feed zone, about 200m from the tents, but then there were still plenty of other rubbish there and spectators about. I felt so confused, then wretched, then ashamed that I looked like one of those racers, littering this beautiful countryside, that Mike had a tough job just keeping me going, and I’ve been upset ever since. I’ll be keeping all my wrappers on me until the finish from now on, and I’ll pick a few up on course, too.
A shorter day tomorrow, just 44km, but it’s mostly uphill and should take us about three hours. We’ll be riding between Bardo and Walim on forest trails and up and along mountain ridges.