My first brevet

Thursday, February 16, 2006

B day minus 2 ....

Everything is set - equipment ready, medical check complete ... tonight I am going to collect the card.

I am very excited and really look forward to Saturday. I am not 100% happy with what I have done over the last two months. I really should have a 140 to 150km ride under my belt but.... I will not cry over spilt milk.

The route is mainly flat. The first section, from Elefsina to the Corinth Canal has some ascends but from what other friends have told me they are reasonable. This first part runs along the Saronic Gulf and although the area has been heavily mutilated by 'industrialisation' it is nevertheless quite beautiful and full of history.

We start from Elefsina, a holy place of the Ancient Greeks and especially the Athenians. It is the place of the Elefsinian Mysteries, a celebration to the goddess Demetra (Ceres). Now it is one of the ugliest parts of Attica as it is infested with Oil Refineries, Shipyards and other heavy industry factories.

As we will ride towards the Canal, on our left we will have the Salamis Straights, where one of the most important battles in the history of western civilisation took place in those waters. The Salamis Battle, where the Athenian Navy defeated the Persians. After their defeat (and a subsequent land defeat) the Persians withdrew for ever from Greece.

Further down the road is Kakia Skala ("Evil Ladder"). This used to be a very narrow and extremely dangerous passage on the way to Athens. The mountains dip into the sea and in the ancient times a traveller going to Athens from the Peloponnese had to cross this cliff-side passage or circumvent the mountains. Here is the place mentioned in the ancient myth of Thiseas, where a thief would throw unsuspecting travellers down the cliff where they would be eaten by a sea monster. Thiseas of course killed both of them and made the passage safe for everyone. On his way to Athens to claim his throne he killed a couple of other nasty characters making the route safer for all. We will not need Thiseas' services as the road is fine these days, but this will be the place of the steepest ascends of the whole route.

After Kakia Skala we will approach the Corinth Canal where another ascend will be waiting for us and cross over to the Peloponnese. We will go outside modern day Corinth, with the awesome ancient fortress visible in the distance. After Corinth the route is absolutely flat. We will ride along the Corinthian Gulf this time, and pass through many villages before we reach the city of Xylocastron, where we will turn around and follow the same route back to Elefsina

(Corinth Canal - Image from

I plan to take the fist 50kms easy and will discipline myself to maintain an aerobic heart rate throughout. I will follow the advice of other experienced randonneurs and will not be tempted by faster riders no matter how strong I feel. I do not want to tax my muscles on the ascends so my triple crankset will become very handy. I hope my friends will not be bored to death with that pace……

After Corinth, hopefully I will be well warmed up and as the next 100kms are flat I will increase the pace. I believe that a average speed of 23 to 25kph is feasible without killing my legs. This will be the fun part of the ride!!!

So at the 150km mark we will be back to the Canal. In the best non-roadie tradition we will have a stop grab something to eat (a couple of smallish kebabs). The last 50kms (the historical ones!!) is what I am afraid the most as the ‘easy’ ascends and descends will now look daunting after 150kms. On the other hand I am looking forward to that part of the ride in order to give myself a good challenge.

That is the ‘battle-plan’. I will try to remember to eat and drink frequently on the bike and also move around on the saddle and do some stretching while on the bike in order to delay the onset of numbness and pain.

I now see that brevet as a ‘party-ride’ and I am really looking forward to participate. I cannot wait.


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