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Day 2 at Norcha_ Heading East Towards the Douro

Rob Howard / 24.09.2021See All Event Posts Follow Event
The Dutchables leaving Vimioso
The Dutchables leaving Vimioso / © Rob Howard

Day two at Norcha took teams to the East, towards the border with Spain. Once the paddling at Azibo was done the next 77km ride took the teams to the town of Vimioso, and it was another hilly and hot ride.  The route crossed many steep valleys and the numerous tracks and trails through the arid hills and olive groves required constant focus on the navigation.

For Micah Mackay of the OMM Germany Nordisk team the prospect of the ride was too daunting and she opted not to continue. “I never really recovered from the heatstroke yesterday,” she said, “and have been unable to eat, so I wouldn’t have kept up and didn’t want to be slowing the team down. Sometimes you have to take a team decision.”  She got a ride to the next transition and hoped to join the team for the remaining trek and paddles stages if she could.

Temperatures were back up into the high 20’s in the heat of the day, so it may have been a wise move.  It’s a measure of the fluctuations in the weather at the race that she was pulling out because of the effects of the heat only hours after Stevie Patrick of the Highroad Adventure team withdrew with hypothermia.

Steph Gibbins from the team explained, “We think he hadn’t eaten or drank enough, but had not noticed and in the storm he was getting colder and colder. We found a chapel and gave him all our clothes, but he wasn’t right so we used the emergency button and were fetched off the course. Luckily, we were in a small village with road access.”   She managed to get a ride to TA7 to try and join one of the remaining teams, while the rest of the team withdrew from the race.

With some other withdrawals in the morning, it was a reduced number of teams and racers who rode towards Vimioso.  One of the checkpoints in a steep sided valley was an ancient arched roman bridge, which made an impressive span over a small river and is now dwarfed by a new road bridge high above it.  Teams chose some different routes to arrive there and Fritz de Grauwe of  the FAR team said, “We chose the simplest way to make the least mistakes!”  They’d ridden along one of the allowed roads, taking a longer, but easier way around.

The transition in Vimioso was set up beside the church, and from there teams made a 15km trekking loop up into the hills and back.  “It was very easy and straightforward,” was the comment from The Dutchables, before they jumped on their bikes and left.  They also said they were surprised how well they were doing as they are in the breakaway lead group of 3 and not far behind Uruguay Ultra Sports and Alpha Dental. 

They continued riding eastwards from Vimioso to the Douro river, which marks the border with Spain, now passing through more wooded countryside and seeing vineyards in the fields.  The riding has been hard on the riders, and hard on their bikes too, and all the teams have made repairs and dealt with numerous punctures.

Alpha Dental bought new inner tubes in Vimioso, but the valve fitting was too large and when they got more punctures they resorted to finding a car workshop who could drill the rim to enlarge the valve hole.  It worked but they arrived at T7 at S. Joao das Arribas with no spares again, and amazed to still be in the lead.  Maria Ehlin Kolk said, “I wonder what the other teams have been doing for us to still be in front!”

They arrived just before nightfall at one of the most beautiful locations of the race as the transition is at a small chapel where there are expansive views along the length of the Douro river canyon, which the teams paddle through.  Unfortunately, it was dark in a few minutes, so they, and most of the other teams, won’t see the view and will paddle the canyon at night.

As Alpha Dental prepared to leave Uruguay Ultra Sports arrived, and as the Uruguayans signed out, The Dutchables arrived, so there is a great race between the front 3 teams.

 Alpha Dental lost further time looking for a way down the steep canyon side to reach the kayaks, far below.  Their headtorches could be seen going to and for nearly 30 minutes before they moved away.  There really is no path down and teams will have a steep and very challenging scramble down through scrub and boulders, to reach the kayaks.


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