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03 February 2018

Fast, how unexpected: Brevet Nemea 2018

Yeah, sure, we will take it easy
Lots of cyclists on the first kilometers (picture from George)

Been there, done that, but maybe it's time for some repetitions. Last Sunday I was riding the "Nemea" Brevet again, which I had done 4 years ago. Another repeat: I was going to be riding with George again. And same as for my last brevet (Tatoi), I had to travel from Naxos to get to the start.

The plan was: We are going to take it easy, because George is not in shape. But then, even the best plans go to hell when fun arrives on the scene. Actually it was George having fun, since he found out after the first few kilometers that his form wasn't that bad after all. So we went fast, how unexpected.

There was some confusion about my boat trip. A few days earlier, the boats didn't run for two days, because there was too much wind. Then I neglected to check the timetables, and found out only on the Saturday morning of my departure through a helpful phonecall that there would be no Saturday morning boat. It was a good chance to turn over and get some more sleep, I'll say as much. I took the afternoon/evening boat instead. Which meant that George had to pick me up at the port at midnight and I crashed at his place. That was saving me some hours of travel in the evening and morning. I went from a possible 3.5 hours of sleep to 5.5 hours, not bad.

George on the road

Then we were arriving by car in the morning at the start point of the brevet. We lost some time assembling bikes and trying to get the mudguards on George's bike to behave. The battle ended in a stalemate, the rear mudguard stayed on, the front one was left in the car. So we were a bit late at the start and to get our cards. Most of the riders had already gone and we didn't have to wait in any lines to pick up our cards - also the card pickup and stamping thing was very well organized.

(As a sidenote, we wanted to ride with some other friends from George's club... they left 4 minutes before us, but we never got to see anything from them on the whole ride. They were a lot faster than us.)

Off we go. The route had changed this year, there is no "Meletaki" climb, which was the first "big" climb almost out of the door. As I remember it, it wasn't such a huge climb compared to Naxos, but still it got people to measure their energy. Instead we are off on the flat. Pretty fast, a little group builds, until we catch the next faster group passing us. There is obviously no problem at all to ride on anybody's wheel, no animosity or complaints whatsoever.

For some while on the undulating coast road, we ride "near" a guy on a recumbent trike. He has a very low, lying position. He's got a little flag to make him more visible. It's fun seeing him, but after a while it gets a bit tiresome. The dynamic of this thing is quite different from our "upright" bicycles. He passes us whenever the road goes down, we have to pass him back when the road points upwards again. Again and again the same dance.

Riding with a group (photo from George)

A game of catching on to various little groups then. Sometimes they stop, sometimes we stop (to remove rain jacket and gloves). At some point we are riding with a faster group. We are sitting some wheels back and some brave souls at the front do all the work. At least there is no wind to speak of. But then they are missing the road, taking a wrong turn, getting into Korinthos. Someone even shouts out to take the other direction, but it's already too late. Group dymanics prevail, we're just continuing on. Someone seems to know where we're going and how we're supposed to get out of the urban area again. Which is all nice and well, but then George's mudguard rattles itself lose and we have to stop. Since the last brevet I have learned to enable the navigation feature on my bike gps, so I turn that on now. We thread our way back to the bypass road. But where we reach it, it's elevated, we can't just turn onto the road. In the end we spot an unused service ramp, we go up and lift our bikes onto the road surface.

More jumping from group to group now. We pass the canal of Corinth, not stopping for pictures - nor the traditional souvlaki that I remember from childhood days when this road was the official "highway" and everybody stopped their cars for some souvlaki.

Some more flat road, then the "climby" part starts. I'm still hanging in there, even if my HR is already up after all the hard riding. Going up in slow increments, not really steep, I'm grinding my teeth and occasionally my gears. Normally this kind of gradient wouldn't be a problem for me at all, but I've been going too fast with too high heart rate, so I'm way low on my reserves. Still, I'm switching to the small ring only a couple of times. Also this is not one long continuous climbs, but rather a lot of up and downs, with way more up than little down parts. Each little downhill could be a chance for a breather, if we weren't riding so fast to keep onto our group!

Stopping at the first control, everybody gets water and a toast

Finally the control stop at about 100km. I'm glad to be here, and to stop and rest a bit. The last time I was here four years ago, this was the point in the brevet when the rain started - for 3 or 4 hours. But today it's warm and easy.

Together with getting our cards stamped, we are offered a free toast and water. This is really nice service by the organizers! Keep in mind this is a brevet, for which we pay all of 5 Euros. We're not blowing out 100 Euros for a sportive with feed stations, so it's very nice of the organizers. I'm getting a good rest, but when checking the gps track now, it was actually not even 15 minutes that we were stopped. But I'm eating my toast and some sesame-honey bars and start to feel better.

After the first control, suddenly things stretch out. So far, there were always riders around us, groups passing us, we passing other groups and riders alone or in twos. Now we ride alone, then with another guy for a long time. Finally we catch another passing group. We ride with them, then at some point a really fast group passes us. George points and shouts and we push to latch on to them. We make it. But this group is almost too much for me. My heart rate is going up to the edge of my aerobic capabilities, even in 3rd or 4th position.

George and me riding on the front of a larger group

The riders at the front pass over to let others pull, and then we are in line to take our own pull. George is wisely restraining me from going too hard and I am having a constant eye on my heart rate numbers. So I manage. I don't know if the group notices that the overall speed is getting lower with us in the front, but I didn't hear any complaints. But now I don't want to burn out pulling for no glory, so I take the initiative for a switch pretty fast. At the back the strain is marginally lower. In the end I'm saved by the second control.

At the 2nd control

The fast group disappears up the road. My body demands taking a mini-rest. Checking now, we were stopped for 8 minutes, but it felt like we stopped for lunch and a nap. I wolf down some more food - we get a free chocolate bar from the volunteers at the control. Thank you very much, volunteers! Then another group passes by and as they get ready to leave, George suggests we stick to them. Good choice, they have a very nice, steady rhythm, and good speed - (but likely not as high as the other one). They don't break apart when the road points up, neither do they lose much formation rolling downhill. The aren't really so well organized, their double rows not as well dressed, people changing positions much more elastic. Doesn't matter to me, I like this group and we are making good progress.

George giving me a status report near "Kakia Skala"

We already see ourselves finish in a crazy "good" time. Where has all the "let's take it easy" gone? But then at some point this nice group stops. Apparently they actually all belonged together and did the brevet as a team. We continue on our own, the two of us, joined by what I think is the same guy who stuck with us after the first control. George and me trade pulls, so as not to lose too much momentum. There is a "secret" control somewhere along the way, so we get an extra stamp on our cards. We pass two touring cyclists from France, with bikes loaded up with luggage, with a trailer with a dog in it, and with a french flag. I greet them and we exchange some smiles.

The french touring cyclists (picture from George)

Then we go past most of the "kakia skala" again, the steeper parts of the coast road. We even stop for a minute or two. Energy levels are a bit low for me, but still I manage to get up the road. Then finally we get passed by a small, fast group of cyclists. We latch onto them and let them bring us the last stretch into Elefsina. At some point I had finished my water, but since there were only 10, 15 kilometers left, I plodded on - no way I'd lose this nice, fast group to stop for water. Finally in town, we lose them at a red light and make the last few kilometers on our own. We get our cards stamped. I'm looking for a kiosk to get a sugary drink. I get my picture taken by a fellow randonneur.

All done... (picture by random dude who offered to take my picture)

We're back much earlier than anticipated, we make our way back to George's place and start filling up on calories. Exhaustion level? George is feeling his best ever after a brevet he says. I'm a bit shot, but not as bad as 4 years ago. So that's a reasonable result.

Distance: 201.9km (200.8km brevet, a few hundred meters to/from car)
Elevation gain: 1544 meters
Moving time: 7h 15m
Average speed moving: 28 km/h
Elapsed time: 7h 40min
Average speed over elapsed time: 26.2 km/h
Calories burned: 4000
Average temperature: 10°C (ranging from 5 - 16°C)
Mostly sunny, no wind to speak of

(Most of the pictures are from George.)

Packing up the bikes

Posted by betabug at 18:27 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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Re: Fast, how unexpected: Brevet Nemea 2018

Nice report Sascha, it seems you two had a great time on this one (again).

The part about the recumbent bike... it sounds sooo familiar ;-)

Looking forward now to the report of the next one!

Posted by: Wu at February 03,2018 21:25
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