A recap on the end of stage 1…
It still surprises me, that although Mark is cycling for 4 hours at a time, you’d think there was a tonne of time to get things done, but those 4 hours soon get swallowed up with his fuelling and fluid management, plus simple tasks such as washing, cleaning, playing ‘mum’ (although never will be as good as Una!). Everything seems to take an age and multi-tasking definitely goes out the window when you are both sleep deprived and have limited resources!
So I’m getting my excuses out early for not having written a blog for a wee while.
Reflecting back to the end of stage 1, it was all a bit hectic.
Once we crossed in to Mongolia I will admit that I felt a big sense of relief. Russia surprised me with some amazing vast landscapes that I hadn’t envisaged seeing, but I’m not going to miss the constant feeling of my heart in my mouth as I watched big artic lorries overtaking Mark at over 70mph in to oncoming traffic.
Also Lake Bailkal that we were looking forward to seeing, will now always be tainted with experiencing a fatal car crash and no amount of trauma training can prepare you for trying all your best to save someone that passes away infront of you.
However, Mongolia was a beautiful country to cross in to and such a contrast to be in a calming landscape with quiet roads, albeit bumpy conditions for Mark.
Once we crossed the border from Mongolia to China, the race was on for Mark. He had to ensure he covered 400miles in less than 2 days in order for us to get the planned flight at 00:15 from Beijing. If we missed that, all that gained mileage and time in stage 1 would have been wasted at the last hurdle. Due to the border not opening until 08:00 this meant he lost nearly 6 hours of riding on that day, combined with a heavy headwind to battle, so he rode until midnight. After 3hrs of sleep, he was back on it and pushing to reach the final destination of the Great Wall of China.
Approaching the finishing point, there was a lot of traffic and also check points that the vehicles got held up in and so Mark progressed through. Although Alex had checked Mark’s route and the Chinese drivers route map, as we approached the finish without Mark in sight, the drivers had passed in to a tunnel where cyclists were prohibited. Not noticing the sign meant that on the other side we had ended up in a different finish location to Mark. After such an epic first leg, to not be there to celebrate his finish was soul destroying! We eventually did regroup and whilst in the vehicle to the airport, Alex, Mark and I celebrated with a paper cup each of orange and strawberry juice!
The transition at the airport from Beijing to Perth was unbelievable! I have travelled with numerous teams through airports for the Olympics or World Championship events, where all the processes are fully supported with check in through to baggage reclaim, but never has a flight, that includes a stopover, been as slick as that. When we arrived in Beijing airport a lovely man called Alex Tan met us at an allocated desk just for us. They quickly got to work with processing our 18 bags of luggage and tagging them up, then getting them through the security scanners where a few dubious lithium batteries were flagged but thankfully small enough to travel with (nearly lost all his bike lights!!). Alex had arranged for all of us to be able to access the lounge with showers! We were so excited, but by the time we got through passport control and security, we literally had 5 mins until last call for boarding. We all legged it to the showers but unfortunately there was only 1 in each male and female bathrooms. Mark understandably got the shower ahead of the media boys and to my disappointment, there was someone in the ladies shower when I arrived – gutted!! So Mark came out looking like a new man with his beard shaved off and onward bound we were on the plane to Singapore.
Singapore we were greeted and whisked across the airport in a little buggy, good job we were as we only had 20mins until the gate closed and it was approximately 5k through the airport. There would have been no chance that Mark’s legs would have broken out in to a 5k: 20min run (nor mine to be fair after 29 days of sitting!)!
From touch down on the tarmac in Perth, through to Mark clipping in and pushing off to start his leg 2 – was 35minutes exactly! We’d got his kit prepped for on the flight, so he got changed in to it on the plane, was met by Richard from Menzies who escorted him straight through to passport control and then out to meet the stage 2 team. Meanwhile the media boys and myself got escorted through also and then headed straight to the baggage reclaim. Straight away our bags were already there and we were packing the follow vehicle within 45mins of having landed. The icing on the cake is that there were 3 showers available so we got our showers after all J.