My back was manageable in the morning which was a huge relief. The cool thing about the courses in the Claro Brasil Ride are that they offer a lot of variety – technical dirt road riding, very limited asphalt, technical singletrack, doubletrack, insane views if you are able to stop staring at the ground cross-eyed, with your tongue hanging out!
Stage 4 had a lot to offer. Due to all the rain, there were extra water crossings ( bonus!) The first one, as I found out later, was actually a concrete bridge that had overflowed. I was walking gingerly across due to the fast current. Suddenly my left leg fell into a deep hole which was actually the side of the bridge. The concrete took to my moist skin like a cheese grater and took a deep chunk off my shin and knee. That was the worst lesion of the trip – something that I’m still dealing with and is still very painful! I was going to post the most recent picture of my hamburger knee, but I’ll save you the site. It’s cool looking though. haha I’ve been trying very hard to keep it clean, but I still can’t sleep on my side. It wasn’t a huge issue – just uncomfortable.
The next part was some singletrack that was really soft due to the sand making it really challenging. “This is hard!” I said. I liked all the rocky sections too. I think it might have been raining.
Unfortunately, about 20km or 12 miles into the 96 km stage, I heard Jeff call to me to stop. We were on a dirt road. His bottom bracket was acting weird. The crank was loose and when he pedaled, was caddywompus. It wasn’t circles anymore, it was weird shaped ovals and there was a lot of play – you could move the crank back and forth in the bike. The bottom bracket shell that is glued in the frame disconnected rendering the frame useless. We did not have extra bikes with us. We thought we were doomed to a DNF. I said, “Well, let’s just get to the finish.” The bike would barely last through the stage, let alone 2 more long days.
We couldn’t ride fast due to the crank, so it was more of a touring day and actually the only day I was able to look around during the race and enjoy the scenery because I wasn’t in the hurt locker! We were way back in 4th place. We rode through a lot of different villages, saw some gorgeous waterfalls, and Jeff did his best to keep moving forward (and did an amazing job at that!)
(of course it rained!) The end of the stage had a long asphalt climb that was actually GREEN. You can see it in the video. We were riding a long and my head was on a swivel taking in the beauty when I saw something off the road next to a blue pipe. I did a double take and couldn’t believe what I saw. A TEN FOOT LONG SNAKE that was probably around 8-9 inches in diameter. WHHAATT? You only see those in the zoo! I yelled at Jeff to turn around and go look at it. Our friend and competitor, Paul Romero also saw the same snake that day!
Rolling into the finish, we didn’t know what to think. Was that it? Did we have to call it quits from the mechanical? We never quit! Waves of disappointment flowed over us. We finished 50 minutes down from 1st, and far enough out of 2nd that it’d be nearly impossible to make up the time. We were, however, still in 3rd in the GC, but only by 3 minutes . Was it over?
The Scott Topeak distributor was at the race,and they were able to find a bike for Jeff to ride. THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!!!
The frame was one size too small for him, and it had the integrated seat mast putting the seat a little too low for Jeff. Poor guy- first, he had to ride all day with a broken bottom bracket shell, and now he had to finish the race on a bike too small for him. And you know what? He didn’t complain once. We were incredibly lucky to get that bike so we could finish the event. THANK YOU SCOTT TOPEAK! We didn’t find out we’d be riding the next day till about 8 PM the night before.
We were so anxious and tired… overcome. Adapt. After thinking all day that we had come all the way to Brasil only to fail from a bad mechanical out of our control, we felt relieved and empowered to go on, but bummed that a shot at 1st or 2nd place was gone unless something catastrophic happened to the teams ahead of us- something we wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
My body might have been bruised, cut up, and battered… and even my spirit was that way at times, but I never lost heart. I was going to continue riding the rest of the race if we had to pull out due to a broken bike. I had to finish… I was just hoping I would be there with my partner.
The show would go on.
Two days of bad luck down. Could it get worse? Yes…. why yes it could.