Bohemia Divide 2023 🥈
Day #3 How I couldn’t afford any mistakes
The alarm was ringing. The moment of truth has finally come. My sleep was light and interrupted. I had bad dreams but I can’t tell you what they were about. I wasn’t that cold in a sleeping bag and I knew that the outside world is not a comfy place. I silenced the alarm by random swiping on the screen.
There were still lights on in the house in front of me. They probably didn’t know anything about the glorious battle in my mind. How to find the strength to leave this place? The alarm went on again. Just before the race I set it to an annoying sound that I knew would drive me crazy. The passage of time was inevitable. It was time to get out.
💓 Into the known world
I packed my belongings and stuffed them into my saddle bag. It was quick because I had all my clothes already on. That is what I call bikepacking efficiency.
Even though I felt terrible, I was able to climb the hill nicely.
At the top village, I found a much more comfortable bus stop with glass windows. I regretted that I didn’t push a little more yesterday, but maybe it was for the better. It would be much harder to leave a comfortable place.
It looked like I already made it through the worst descents. I didn’t feel that cold and I was making progress. My speed was limited by saving energy on my lights as I was riding on the lowest settings possible.
And you know what? I liked Jizerské mountains. Even in the cold and dark, I felt I was at a place that was close to my heart. My crisis was no more. And then I arrived at my goal for the night.
It was like a miracle. In the deep forest, there was a light of hope. I crossed an old bridge to visit a neon cathedral that was destroying the darkness of the night sky with its brightness. I was eager to enter the glass door and leave the wasteland of infinite cold. The petrol station was the oasis I was looking for. This temple of consumerism was open 24 hours a day and it was full of unhealthy snacks. I could satisfy my strong lust for fats and carbs.
I bought some buns with ham, several Snickers bars and two litres of Kofola. I checked the tracker. It looked like Tomášes were not moving and they hadn’t reached Smrk mountain yet. Are they sleeping? On the map, it looked so close. Do I still have a chance?
🧄 Ready for a date
In a good mood, I started the biggest climb of the race. I knew this area and what to expect. It should be quick. As I was climbing my legs felt full of energy and combined with a sunrise, it was a great boost for my morale.
As I was getting close to Smrk, a heavy sleeping crisis conquered my senses. It was hard to keep the wheel straight. The easier gradient was too boring. The situation changed when I almost reached the top of the mountain. There were huge rocks on the path and I had to walk. I let out several swear words when I thought I was alone. The group of tourists I met a moment later didn’t even say ’Hi’ to me.
When I checked the tracker on the top, Tomášes were almost in Frýdlant. It was clear that I could not chase them and my priority was to hold my position. The best would be to reach the finish line in the daylight.
To the town of Hejnice, it was one big descent. But it wasn’t easy as we had to go through several singletracks in the local bike park. I felt pain in my hip and rough terrain made it worse. Not to mention that my rear tyre has higher pressure than it would be optimal for hash riding.
In Hejnice I went to a bakery. Most of the good stuff was already sold and I could say "Give me everything you have." My favourite was garlic bread.
As I’m local to this place, it was much easier for me. I didn’t ride with the burden of navigating an unknown world.
🔧 Not everything was smooth
A short stop at the bakery gave me energy and I rode fast on Viničná cesta, which is my favourite place around there. As I descended to Frýdlant my memories once again are somehow blurry. But there is one moment I remember clearly. I stopped just before crossing to Poland and found out that my bag with repair tools was missing. I must have lost it somewhere. I have done thousands of miles with it attached like this and it was never a problem.
I did take a picture of my bike on Smrk and the bag was still there. So it must have happened not long ago. One thing was for sure. I’m not going back. I just cannot afford to have any mechanical issues. This points to another interesting fact I noticed yesterday. My seat started to come apart. It was just the nose, nothing serious, but it made me laugh.
On flats, I once again felt the effects of sleep deprivation and it was hard to pedal. As I crossed the border to Poland I stopped at the first petrol station I saw. Not that I needed food. I wanted to buy a bag of chips that I could eat during the ride. And it helped so much.
I knew the cycling path on the German side to Hrádek nad Nisou as I had once gone in the opposite direction while riding to the Northern Sea. It didn’t make my job any easier. It was getting harder as the finish was getting closer and closer.
As I reached Hrádek I made the last stop at a petrol station. I should have enough rations to make it to the finish line without stopping.
🌲The last push
My parents were waiting for me as they lived close to the route. They asked if I’ll get back home today. Looking at the route it became clear I won’t make it in the daylight. It was still 100 kilometres and the elevation was big. As much as I feared hills, I also thrived in them. I was pushing through every single one of them and I don’t remember many places where I would have to walk.
I had a mixture of feelings. I liked the nature. It was warm autumn and Lužické mountains offer a very nice riding experience. I liked the hills as they kept me awake. There was no burden of the need to push hard as the results were clear. The finish was so close, but I was tired and wanted to end this ride.
I stopped at a train station near Jedlová, which was one of the checkpoints. There, for the first time in this race, I redeemed my free drink. I wanted Kofola. But the innkeeper tapped half of the glass and he had no more in his pipes. So he gave me half a glass of Kofola and a bottle of Coca-Cola. From the race perspective, I was happy.
It was not all nice as harvesters were all over the forest cutting trees and destroying roads. I have a feeling that it’s happening more and more often in this region.
That last rough section was around hill Studenec. An unclear path full of branches and grass tested my determination. It was getting dark and I knew that riders who followed me would have it much harder.
🐈 Angry on the hills
Darkness was there once again. The finish line was so close that I didn’t have to fight the sleepiness. I was determined to just go. I wasn’t eating anymore and I was pushing steep hills to just make it to the finish. As I was in the dark I didn’t know where I was. I was just going up and down, up and down and the hills were super steep. Come on! Where does it end?
I arrived at Krásná Lípa at 22.00. The checkpoint I was looking forward to for 770 kilometres was obviously closed. As I was climbing the last hill to Rumburk there was a thick fog everywhere. The perfect way to say goodbye to the race.
At 22.45 I was at the gate of a brewery in Varnsdorf. I biked 789 kilometres in 58 hours and 45 minutes. To my surprise, I was proclaimed as the second since Tomáš Novotný and Tomáš Fabián arrived together. They crossed the gate 1 hour and 51 minutes earlier. Petr Zítek arrived 1 hour and 55 minutes after me.
There is one more thing I need to mention. The accommodation at the finish was incredible. I have seen it in the pamphlet but I didn’t quite understand. You will sleep in real trains. They have sleeping cars, you will get your keys and there is everything you would expect on a normal train. The only difference is that there is no movement. Only sleeping.
Riding in autumn is not easy at all. But we had sunny days and we saw many interesting places. Definitely worth it. Am I going back? Definitely yes. And what do I say about spending half of the time in the dark? Well ... you appreciate the day only when you live through the night.