The first couple of days were probably the most difficult, painful in fact. Simply getting used being in the saddle all day on my own was tough going. Day three heading towards Mon Vontoux my body began to give way, my ankles had swollen up twice the normal size due to the never-ending pressure and rotation of spinning on a fully loaded bike.
Getting to the top of Mon Vontoux on day 4 was one of the biggest achievements to date, in fact of my cycling full stop. After 4 days of solid riding, covering over 1000 kilometers with very little sleep I was already feeling the strain.
Physically I was struggling but mentally I was still aiming and believing I could reach Istanbul.
After the emotion and physical high of Vontoux the ride didn’t get easier, it simply never let up… the Alps began with a 50km off road mountain pass, concentration, strength and focus was required whilst my body was tested to the max. However this moment was probably one of the most euphoric moments of the trip for me.
"I was completely isolated surrounded by stunning mountains, incredible landscapes riding in and around the clouds, as if I could almost touch them."
It may sound like I’m going on, but I never anticipated the acute pain I felt…Due to the continued pressure on my hands through my wrists I could no longer use my hands ‘easily’, I had limited strength in them which made changing the tyre an absolute nightmare. After changing the inner tube the next issue was pulling the tyre back on to the wheel rim which again was impossible. I had to eventually pull the tyre back on using my teeth which then incurd another issue, Shermers Neck , where the muscles in my neck stopped working thus making my head slowly drop forward – things were not going my way.
This meant progress was now incredibly slow, I had to stop every 10 to 20 minutes to stretch or rest. However it didn’t stop me there, I battled on hoping, at times praying I would recover and feel better as the ride went on.
The next 6 days were slow, relentless, spin, spin, spin. Hello Italy, I’d romanced about the feeling of cycling in Italy, but in fact all I saw was long, long, isolated roads which didn’t give me much hope in my hours of thinking….
My neck became such an issue that I had to honestly question just how safe I was and whether pushing on was worth the danger – was this all worth it, the pain, the feeling, and the possibility of actually damaging my neck long term… hours and hours of thinking and battling on.
I came to the resolution that I would go that little bit further and re-evaluate my time constraints / progress as well as my physical ability and make a call.
It was a worth while choice continuing on as Slovenia was absolutely breath taking.
Progress was so slow from Turin, Italy, through to Croatia. I was covering around 160KM’s a day which was wasn’t even close to my initial target of 300KM per day. So at this point, when I arrived in Croatia I knew in my head as well as my heart that I simply wasn’t going to make it to Istanbul within the time restraints and most certainly not safely.
This entire experience was filled with incredible, breathtaking highs but also extreme lows. It was without any doubt a ‘REAL’ adventure, a challenge and one I don’t regret attempting.
So where did I end up, how far did I go? I covered 2300 KM in 11 days, I passed through Belgium, France, Italy, Slovenia and finally reached Croatia, yeah OK I didn’t complete it, but hey. I’m happy, proud, I still want to ride my bike and I’m home safe.
Here’s my journey, and as far as I could reach.