Day 56. Saturday, September 23. Osmancik to forest bush camp. 128.7km of riding, with 2,117m of climbing.
We’ve had longer, hilly days. But today was still a challenge. The morning was cruisey. But so much climbing after lunch with on-the road temperatures peaking in the mid-30sC made it a tough afternoon. Our previous evening’s rider briefing had forewarned us.
We set off from camp around 7am and spent much of the morning pedalling down a major but quiet highway with a wide shoulder for us. Which was fine except for the endless, deep rumble strip between us and the vehicles.
A few days back, Erro, our Finnish rider, had mis-judged the strip and tipped over his handlebars, badly spraining his wrist and munting his derailleur. I was very sympathetic but also secretly relieved I was no longer the lone rider who’d needed patching up on this tour.
Mid-morning, our route took us off down a quiet country road far from the highway. This region is famous for its rice and the harvest was in full swing as we rode down the valley.
Along such a quiet byway with few houses, we were delighted to come across a splendid tea place.
The locals on the front deck were particularly interested in how old we cyclists are. One of them signalled his age 10 digits at a time plus three to make 63. Then Søren beat him with 66 and I trumped him with 72. A third of us riders are 70+; more than a third 60+; and well less than a third younger than 60. Forty something was by far our youngest rider, who had joined us for the first leg of the tour.
A few times on our tour local people have expressed concern about people of our age riding bikes. Earlier in the week a driver pulled over at our lunch stop to berate Sinan, our Turkish tour guide, for having too few seats in the support van so we were forced to ride.
Inside our tea stop, we were warmly welcomed by our host. On the wall was a photo of Atatürk, father of the nation, surrounded by photos of some young men, taken perhaps in the past few decades, who are likely memorialised for giving their lives in service of the nation. In October, Türkiye celebrates its 100th anniversary of its founding as an independent state.
Later, back on the highway, I got a slow leak in my rear tyre. We were less than 10km from lunch so I pumped it to get there. The culprit was yet another tiny bit of wire from a disintegrating truck tyre. Malcolm, our deputy leader, very kindly fixed the flat while I ate.
But as soon as I and the rest of the Dane Train got back on the road, Malcolm spotted my rear tyre was going flat again. He’d missed a second bit of wire so he fixed that. Meanwhile, my fellow Trainers had kept riding, thinking I had hung back to chat to Malcolm who was riding as the afternoon sweep.
That meant I was on my own on the climb, and the last rider on the road apart from the sweep. We’d done some of the climb before lunch. But the 17km after lunch took me the best part of two hours, including a brief stop halfway at our support van to refill my bottles.
Eventually, I summited with little left in the tank, as the slightly blank look on my face suggests.
Worse, I was robbed of a swoop down the other side. The very coarse tar seal shook the bike and checked my speed all the way down. Finally, at the bottom I was reunited with the Dane Trainers who were just finishing their afternoon tea (the last green cross on the graphic above marks the spot).
I gulped some tea, inhaled an ice cream then we set off for one last but mercifully short climb up to our bucolic forest camp site.