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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:37 pm 
Old School Hero

Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:19 pm
Posts: 163
Location: Maastricht
Even older as the Tour de France, Paris-Brest-Paris is the main event for randonneurs (audax riders), the fans of the original distances of cycling. Following the rules of Paris-Brest-Paris many other events are organised all over the world. Nearly each year I focus my season around one of these events. For the summer of 2012 I choose the Vologda-Onega-Ladoga ride in Russia. My bike of choice is described in this topic: http://www.retrobike.co.uk/forum/viewto ... highlight=

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In recent years the St. Petersburg audax club, Baltic Star, has rapidly grown into one of the European powerhouses of audaxing. Their yellow/blue jerseys are visible during many 1200+ events throughout Europe. At home they organise a 1200 around two large Russian lakes, the Onega and Ladoga lakes. Due to the dense traffic situation in St. Petersburg the start is in the quiet provincial town of Vologda. During their first edition, in 2008, I had to pack due to a shoulder injury. So in early july I set out by train from Moscow to the starttown of Vologda. This time I opted for a quiet preparation, admiring the old Russian town of Jaroslavl situated halfway between Moscow and Vologda. I arrived in the early afternoon. The sightseeing in Vologda I had done allready two and four years ago. By now I know my way around town so directly out of the railwaystation I went to the bikeshop to get some last minute suplies. A lavish late lunch in a local eatery later I set out for the assembly point, a students hostel 14km north of town.
I leave the town throug dense traffic and easily I find the commuter village north of Vologda. Riding towards the hostel I spot a reassuring amount of supermarkets and food stores. No need to head back to town to buy the neede supplies for the first leg of the ride. In front of the hostel I meet Claus from Hamburg. He is waiting for the van which transports his bike. The Russian railways don't cause too many headaches for cyclists so I prefer taking the bike by train. In the hostel I meet many old friends from previous rides. I quickly settle in and transport my things to my room which I share with Michael from Switzerland. A dash to one of the foodstores gets me nearly everything I need. Only my batterysupply is rather low. There's no restaurant in the village but a kitchen in the hostel solves all problems.

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Together with the others I head out for the pre-ride meeting, in front of another student hostel. Last time the chief organiser Mikhail did all the registration work, assited by his daughter. Now she takes over teh job, efficiently organising the distribution of frame numbers, routesheets (in 3 languages) and brevetcards. And the much coveted VOL shirts of course. A promising young organiser (still in her teenage years). The van with the bikes only arrives after the documents are issued. Those who still have their bikes boxed scramble for them and with some assistance from others assemble their bikes. Chikara's box is a bit startling. He extracts a strange amount of tubes and assorted bike parts from it which after some work form a nice recumbent, the only one in the ride. We all wonder how he managed to pass airport security with this, disassembled it hardly looks like a bike.
Back in the hostel we all eat from our supplies. Some riders didn't manage to download the newest GPS track. Luckily I downloaded it in Jaroslavl so I can transfer it from my netbook. Some of the younger riders wonder a bit about my bike, a 1987 Koga Miyata Grantourer. Many parts are not known to the younger ones. So the old hands explain how we used to ride back in the old days. I like the comfortable front fork of it. Tyre clearance is a bit larger as on my PBP bike. That combined it forms an excellent bike for the rough roads of Northern Russia. I opted for bar-end shifters. There's no need for quick shifting on this brevet. Russian roads are rather straigh, no steep hills looming behind sharp corners here. And a bar-end shifter is repairable by a Russian village mechanic, in contrast to the more modern stuff.
Only a few riders are still fettling with their bikes when most riders go to sleep. We need every sleep we can catch now. In the morning most riders wake up far too early. There is some nervousness in the air. Breakfast is again a do it yourself affair. Probably better as being served something which you might not like before the start of a big ride.

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Start is at 7. At 6.30 a van is announced for the dropbags. But no van in sight when we all are outside the hostel waiting for it. 7 is nearing when there's still no van. A rider's wife volunteers to stay with the bags so we can set out for the start, 2km from the hostel. We all arrive after 7. But the organisers are still handing out routesheets and brevet cards to those who arrived in the early morning. When all of us are equipped with them a group photo is made and we set out in small groups, half an hour later as scheduled. I opt for the first group, with my (lack of) speed I need every wheel I can follow during the first part of the ride. We're with 80 riders, twice as much as 4 years ago. Looking around I see many unfamiliar jerseys. A lot of new clubs around, many of them from smaller towns all over Russia. Of the classic three only Baltic Star is out in force, Caravan Moscow and Orion Volograd are outnumbered by clubs from Novosibirsk and Voronezh.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:00 am 
Lincs, East and South Yorks Deputy AEC
Lincs, East and South Yorks Deputy AEC
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Joined: Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:55 pm
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Location: GUNNESS NTH LINCS
looks and sounds ace :D

thanks for sharing 8)


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:26 am 
retrobike rider
retrobike rider

Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 3:44 pm
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Location: Leeds
Thankyou for taking the time, looking forward to the rest.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 4:10 pm 
Old School Hero

Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:19 pm
Posts: 163
Location: Maastricht
The first group settles rapidly into a reasonable pace. Even during the first rise there's not a single rider tearing off. I'm happy with this situation. For the first 10k we keep this reasonable pace. Then something uncommon happens, something I've never seen during the 5 other audax rides I've done in Russia so far. The Voronezh-club passes us in an excellent paceline, several other riders in tow. Up till now most riders I've seen during brevets overhere were riding rather individually, this is the first time I see a proper road men's paceline during a Russian audax ride. Immediately the front riders in my group increase speed and not much later the group rips just in front of me. I try to keep the gap small but hardly anyone wishes to help or is capable to do this. Most are quite happy to sit on my wheel for a long time. For a few dozen kilometers I ride with this group untill I stop for a call of nature.

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I resume the road alone, something I'm quite used to. And it doesn't bother me at all. I quickly find a steady rhytm and roll along through the usual Russian countryside of endless forests interspersed with scenic lakes. Ocassionally a sideroad veers off to a distant riverside village. In this part of Russia the villages were founded along the rivers. The rivers were the old roads. Only in the age of motoring the asfalt roads took over and were built on the high grounds. Not far before the turn-off to the Fillipovo Monastry the first control is located by the roadside. Nothing fancy, just a car, some food and water and a few controllers. Not that anyone needs more. The only thing to be desired could be more water. It's a hot day and not everyone took enough water with him. I started out with 4 liter of drinks, most of it used allready. I top off at the control. There are still riders out when I resume my ride, I've allready built a comfortable time-cushion to the closing times.

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We don't visit the Fillipovo Monastry this time so I keep on heading north. Temperatures start to rise, it should be around 30 degrees now. Normally I would enter the disaster zone here. Before I started using sports drinks my stomach would gradually shut-down above 30 degrees. After some experimenting I found some sports drinks I can still drink in the heat and which keep my stomach working. Not that I would enter rides were much higher temperatures are expected though. In fact, I choose this ride because usually temperatures are in the 20-ies here, my prefered range of temperature for long distance cycling.
Now we've passed the Fillipovo Monastry traffic gradually deminishes to a few cars per hour. One feels quite lonely here. It's my second time on this road so I know that I can expect some services at the second control. Here a road leads to the small town of Lipin Bor. We continue on the main road but not before checking in at the 2nd control. Just next to it is a service station. I stop there for a hot meal. Els is allready sitting there, enjoying some of the local pastries. I stock up with supplies. No-one knows if the next shops will be open or not, they only cater for the villager's needs. There's one halfway the next stage. I leave the route and to my surprise it's open. That's perfect, it's still hot and an icecream would be great. And stocking up on drinks again. During the first days I'm drinking about 15 litres a day so I need a regular supply of water. Last time the shop was allready closed, I had to use my emergency rations to reach the next control.

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Just after resuming the route I meet Vadim and Elizaveta from Moscow. It's their first big brevet and they're still equipped as proper roadies. Shiny carbon fibre bikes and neat kit. They don't speak English so my basic Russian has to do for conversation. Sometimes we ride together, sometimes alone. But still to ocassional stretches of riding together are enough to reach the 3rd control in good spirits. Last time I was struggling here and needed some sleep. I remember that this control is midge-infested so one of the first things to do is using the midge-repellant. Industrial strength is needed in this part of Russia. I eat and drink the usual mugs of tea (staple drink at Russian controls). There's a 4th rider at the control, Aleksey. He suffers from a nasty crash and has to retire. When I'm about to leave Vadim and Elizaveta also pack. Vadim has kneeproblems and Elizaveta joins him in packing. Quite a shame, she's still in good form and there are enough riders near us to ride together for the remainder of the ride. I'm back in my usual position, last man on the road.

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So I settle out alone again. The next stage is far more scenic and populated as the previous ones. Several times I'll cross the great waterway from the Volga to the White Sea. But first I have to negotiate some bad roads near the village of Depo. The main road veers to the left but I continue straight on, up ahead I see a cloud of dust in the evening sun. The asfalt disappears as I cross the small gauge railway track. This is a logging village. Last time I was here at dawn, now it's still evening. It's still scenic, the white nights are something to experience. Near Beluosovo the white nights are especially spectacular. I pass a scenic bay where several cruise ships are moored for the night. The Onega lake starts here.

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To my surprise the local shop is still open. I enter it as I make my way through the cluster of late-evening drinkers at the doorstep. Probably they think that they've drank a bottle too much as they see me in reflective jacket and helmet light. I stock up again on food and drinks. When I resume the road I head north into the sun. A strange feeling for me, the sun shouldn't be in that corner. In Vytegra I reach the first turn of the ride. I've been riding straight on for more than 300km. Still one rider manages to overshoot the turn and log some extra miles. The small town of Vytegra is asleep. Probably some riders too in the local hotel. I continue on, not far up is the control of Saminky Pogost. I reach it without problems. A lot of bikes at the control, I'm clearly not that far behind. I opt for a short kip before eating and continuing. I'm not very sleepy but I have enough time in hand to invest in some sleep. Usually that makes you faster in the next legs.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:35 pm 
retrobike rider
retrobike rider

Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 3:44 pm
Posts: 1508
Location: Leeds
Well done, It seems crazy there are not more controls or riding together. One wrong turn out there and you could be lost. GPS routed?

Great photos


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:30 am 
Old School Hero

Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:19 pm
Posts: 163
Location: Maastricht
paininthe wrote:
Well done, It seems crazy there are not more controls or riding together. One wrong turn out there and you could be lost. GPS routed?

Great photos


Not much chance to do a wrong turn. There were maybe a dozen turns on the whole route. STill there was a GPS track and most riders used a GPS.
In fact, I found the amount of controls too much. They do cost you a lot of time. 1 control/100km is ok for me. One small stop halfway between controls at a convenient location (for example a shop) works perfect for me.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 9:54 pm 
Old School Hero

Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:19 pm
Posts: 163
Location: Maastricht
Less than an hour later I wake up. But it takes some time between waking up and really being active. It takes an awfull long time before I really start going again. I sit around a bit trying not to b noticed by the midges. Wearing full raingear is the best method at this moment not to get bitten. Luckily my mind kicks in again, I take some extra clothes from my dropbag and resume my ride. I'm among the backmarkers now. We'll be seeing eachother regularilly for the next few days. Luckily no quitters this time, 4 years ago all the riders which I met at the controls were packing. These are the real riders, determined to finish, not afraid to balance on the edge of the timelimit. The rest of the backmarkers are all fairly local, lot's of them from St. Petersburg. About half of them speak English, for the others my basic Russian has to do. But it's a good feeling to see some other riders.

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Shortly after the control I pass the Karelian border. The rest of the ride will be held here, in one of the Russian autonomous republics. Not that I hear Karelian in this part of Karelia. There are more Karelians living on the shores of the Ladoga lake. There are many controls here, spaced about 60km apart. Hospitality is superb, a bit too superb in fact for those who are fighting with the time limits. Controls eat away a massive amount of time. I'd rather prefer them spaced about 100km apart Especially since the food is more or less the same at all the controls. So for variety it's needed to shop at local shops or use the few roadside restaurants available.
Mostly defined by the circumstances, a lot of the controls consist of a few tents by the side of a lake. The only solutions if habitation is nearly failing. Roadsigns informing you that the next hospital, service station ore other amenities are more than 60km further on are quite a normal sight. As are roadsigns warning for potholes. It would be cheaper to point out the roads without potholes. Pudozh is the only place of any size during daytime. Even large enough to have a mainstreet market. Police officers guard the entrance and send me via some backroads. When I'm back at the mainstreet the police officer on duty there allready knows what's happening and points out the school where the control is. Another control with dropbags so I change clothes. Opposite to it is a shop. Finlly a chance to cool down with an ice-cream. The next announced shop is 80km further on. A village shop so no certainty if it's open.

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The only company I have for the next leg are all sorts of insects. A lot of short sharp hills here, uphill I'm an easy target for them. I could do without the next control, 60km is far too short. The control is located in a holiday camp. I arrive here without any water. I could have asked one or two villages before but knowing there's a control ahead I simply press on. Several riders are still at the control when I arrive, eating in a small hut. I'm escorted to another hut where the vegetarian food is. It's very relaxed here. One could stay here for hours. But I don't have the time for that, soon it's time to continue. 20Km further on is the announced shop, not too far away from the route. It's still open so I can stock up on food and drinks.

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When I'm back on the route I see Dima, a young rider from St. Petersburg. Together with him I continue to the next control. One of the lakeside contols. We have to dismount and walk through the forest for a few minutes to reach it. The path to it is very muddy. Over a rickety bridge we reach the control. One of the controllers arrives, fishing rod in his hand. The fire is burning, water in the large kettle allready boiling. A typical Baltic Star control.

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I eat and drink tea here before resuming my ride, together with Konstantin and Katja this time. Out of the blue a good asfalt road appears. We enjoy it, it might not last long. And indeed, after passing the village of Novaja Gabalja the road deteriorates again. A sign for a café points to the village. We try to find it but it's too well hidden. Katja and Konstantin left the village a bit earlier so I'm alone again. In the next village I pass the Belomorskij-Baltiskij kanal. One of the many in this region. It's getting quite chilly so I change clothes after Povonets. I'm not that far away from Medvezhegorsk but my progress is very slow. I nearly fall asleep and need a few short kips on the handlebars. Finally I reach Medvezhegorsk where I find an open service station. I stop and drink some tea. Finally I start fo feel human again. This is the first place where I find a proper map of Karelia. I immediately buy it. In the centre of Medvezhegorsk I easily find the turn to the control, 25km further away. Immediately I see the first rider returning from the control. A few minutes later a car stops. A few controllers inside. Tanja is among them and tells me that the control opening times are changed, we have a few more hours. I had expected something like that since the control times were still calculated on the basis of the 15km/h average although I've passed the 600km mark allready. So it's quite normal to get some extra hours. The control is excellently located, 2nd night and past the 600km mark. The moment most people need some sleep. That's also my first thought when I arrive at the control. Especially since I've eaten in Medvezhegorsk so I don't need food directly. I enter a tent and fall asleep.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 8:29 pm 
Old School Hero

Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:19 pm
Posts: 163
Location: Maastricht
More than 2 hours later I awake. There's still breakfast and there are still some other riders present. So I take my time to eat and try to get my body back into working order.

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During the first kilomters to Medvezhegorsk I feel that I'm not asleep but not awake either. It takes ages for my body to get going. Still I have to make some tactical choices in Medvezhegorsk. I don't know if the next control will stay open longer and if, for how long. But I do know that after leaving Medvezhegorsk there are hardly any services untill the turn-off to the next control, over 60kms with only one truckstop mentioned on the map. And I do remember this stretch from last time. The map indicates a service station on the outskirts of Medvezhegorsk. But no information if it sells food. So I cycle back to the centre of Medvezhegorsk. The big supermarket is not open yet, they only start at 10am. But a small shop opposite to it is allready open for business. I stock up for the next 100km, at least with food. No batteries here and I need to restock somewhere today. It's the first big brevet I ride on battery lights with an old bottom bracket generator as back-up. So I don't really know how much bateries I need. And my GPS is slowly giving in, every few kilometers it shuts off. Battery consumption is rather high, probably due to the constant restarting of the unit.
When I exit Medvezhegorsk I see that the service station has a small shop. And indeed, they stock batteries. Of unknown quality. I buy a set of 4 and continue. This stretch was one of my worst last time. And it is this time. Only the first bit is interesting. The rest is simply mind-numbing. A long line of straight asfalt is visible ahead. Next to it some wasteland and 30-40m later the forest starts. Endless forest with no human habitation in sight. But there's enough traffic to form a nuisance. On the busy sections I have to ride on the 70-80cm wide stretch of asfalt to the right of the actual road. The only distractions are a logging truck entering the road in the first section and a river crossing later on.

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The truckstop is a welcome sight. I stop and order the food I have been missing at the controls, scrambled eggs. 2 years ago there were no services during the White Nights 1200 but enough truckstops serving hot food. Overhere even the truckstops are lacking for large sections of the route. While waiting for my food I check the map. The route this time returns to the M18 after the Girvas control. Last time we took the old road via the villages. That road looks a lot better to me. I even wonder if the more northern road from Medvezhegorsk to Girvas would be better. A simple relocation of the control south of Medvezhegorsk to a lake along the northern road would solve all control problems. That supposing that the northern road has a half-decent surface. The first bit after the truckstop I manage to ride at reasonable pace. Later on I'm back at plodding. Shortly before the final turn-off to Vladimir calls me. He asks me where I am. Still 15km to go to the control I report him. That's ok for him, now he can plan the closing of the control. At the turn-off a service station looks very appealing. The routesheet even mentions that it has showers. But I have no time for that luxury, I stop rapidly to restock on cola. When I'm back on the road I first see Nikolai and Katja entering the café behind the service station. Not much later I see the other Katja returning to the M18. So I'm not that awfully far behind the others. Nothing I couldn't solve with budgetting on sleep. I reach Girvas without much problems. One of the controllers waits at the roadside to point me to the school where the control is located. I'm quickly served with hot food and tea.

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With Vladimir I discuss my mental problems with the M18 and my idea of taking the old road. It should be about as long as retracing to the M18 and following that road to the next control. But I don't know if Mikhail had a special reason to skip replace the old road. So Vladimir calls Mikhail. Mikhail sees no problems with following the old road. Releaved I check the contents of my dropbag and hit the road again.

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I immediately feel refreshed when I am at the old road. The scenery is a lot better, starting with leaving Girvas via a small rivercanyon. The road winds its way trough forests, lakes and lot's of small villages. Finally I don't have to stop at each available shop becaue the next one is hours away but I can simply stop and buy whenever I need something. In the following hours I see more people as during the first half of the ride. I'm enjoying my ride again. The last bit of the old roads leads me through a series of scenic lakes. Lot's of people here, it looks like half of Petrozavdosk has a summerhouse here. It's Sundayafternoon so there's a bit more traffic as expected. But still within acceptable limits. Shortly before Petrozavodsk I'm back on the M18. It's just a short bit to the control. But it's still an interesting feeling to ride under and over motorwaybridges.
When I reach the control I see a few known bikes. So I'm back among the other backmarkers. Claus is sleeping but awakens when I'm eating. We talk a bit, he was also nerved by riding on the M18. I tell him that when we leave the M18 in the village of Prjazha there are some amenities here including a small 24h restaurant. Last time I covered this stretch in darkness, crossing over 20km of roadworks. So now I expect a very well kept road. Well kept it indeed is. There's hardly a section of bad road untill the Kroznozero control. Although this road is mostly at 2 lane motorway standard it has a different feeling as the previous part of the M18. Here it's the old road refurbished to higher standards, a road grown naturally, a road following the lines of the terrain. Not a road designed in a far-away office. Several villages after the control I see a sign for a watersource. When signposted like this it has to be good water. Several cars are parked here and people carry jerrycans full of water to their car. I only refresh myself. Downstream of the source I hold my feet in the cold water, a welcome treat after another hot day. Without any incidents I reach the village of Prjazha. Is top here to eat. That might be the last café food before I reach the shores of Lake Ladoga. When I leave Prjazha it's dark enough to use my lights. Also this road is recently refurbished and feels very good in the semi-darkness. When I reach the Kroznozero control. There's another control 56km further on, but with tents. Here it's a school. I decide to sleep here and not to press on. I still remember the problems I had during the first part of the previous night.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:35 pm 
Old School Hero

Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:19 pm
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Location: Maastricht
When I awake the control should be closed for hours allready. But over the next stretch we get another batch of bonus time, 5 hours are available for 56km. That should be fairly doable, including some sleep. When I'm back on the road I see that I made the wise choice to sleep here. The road is wet, there has been a serious rainshower during the past 2 hours. Later on I see video footage from the rain, it was indeed quite serious. Sometimes you need a bit of luck. The next control is with tents again so not the best place to arrive wet. Within a few kilometers I'm on the refurbished road. Again very wide and superb asfalt. A complete contrast to the shores of Lake Onega. But again it's a road designed in a far away office. It completely bypasses all villages. The roadsigns sometimes have Russian names of villages, sometimes typical Karelian names. Which could mean that Karelians and Russians don't live together in the same villages but are separated. Only the morning sun and light fog create a decent scenery.

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Somewhere halfway to the Mandera control I see a controller's car passing with a bike on the roof. I can't recognise it that rapidly. Later on I hear that it's Nikolai's bike, he packed due to a broken rear mech hanger. Shortly before I reach the control the road turns more natural again. A short stretch of unpaved road and I enter the tent village of Mandera control. Still some bikes around and riders sleeping in an old box shaped trailer cabin. The sort used by roadworkers. Within minutes I'm sipping hot tea and enjoying the stop.

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But I don't stay long. A bit further on is a guesthouse where we can have a shower. I return to the mainroad and 10km further on stop at the guesthouse. But it's closed, Monday is it's usual closing day. Bad luck. I check my GPS for possible places further on the road for a 2nd breakfast. A café is mentioned in the next village. And indeed, at the crossroads is a busstop and café just opening for business. I enjoy the great Russian rolls here. Allways very tasty and filling.
The first bit of the next stretch is via an interesting road. But the whole middle section is again one of these modern roads, wide, unappealing and without a single bit of shadow. The sun is out again and the temperature rises rapidly. For dozens of kilometers I plod on. There's hardly anything to see, my speed really suffers because of this. Only towards the end of this stretch a sight merits a short stop. A monument to honour a few Soviet soldiers who died here, probably fighting the Finnish army during WW2. A fact which isn't widely known in the west, the Finnish army supporting Nazi-Germany. Various visitors left food, drinks and sigarettes for the souls of the fallen soldiers. Old pagan rituals don't die here.

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But I can't pause for long here, I have to continue. A while further on I reach the only service station of this stretch. No fuel to be had here but the café is open, an ice cream is all I need at this moment.
After the servicestation I turn left, a dogleg to Salmi. I arrive at the shores of Lake Ladoga. Immediately the scenery changes. There's much to see and a lot of villages. And I directly gain speed. I need the scenery to keep on going. My supplies are low when I reach Pitkyaranta. A small shop has all I need for now. The last bit to Salmi is my favourite stretch for this ride. I've passed here a few times during previous Baltic Star brevets. A nice winding road with constantly changing scenery. And well sheltered against the wind.

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I see lot's of riders allready riding northwards to the finish. I had expected many of them to be further on the road. Either they took it easy or the brevet is harder as expected. I nearly reached Salmi when a rider stops to give me the exact location of it. His English is worse as my Russian so we switch to Russian. I reach the control where Vladimir and his crew are allready catering the few riders still present.
By now I know that I can finish this ride. But I don't know if it will be an official finish or an out of time finish.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:08 pm 
Old School Hero

Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:19 pm
Posts: 163
Location: Maastricht
Vladimir tells me the new location of the next control. Again a lakeside tent. The original spot was allready taken by other campers. The new spot is 4km further on. The GPS coordinates give me the exact location. My batterysupplies are very low again. The next shop which might stock batteries is down in the village. Pitkyaranta should be a better option. So I set out again trying to reach Pitkyaranta before the electronics shop closes. Luckily my legs are good again so I can push it a bit. Halfway to Pitkyaranta I have to stop to change the GPS batteries. No new ones so I'll have to rob my frontlight from half it's batteries. Vladimir passes me when I'm changing the batteries. As does Katja. I pass her again later on, she's having a bad moment.

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In the outskirts of Pitkyaranta a car overtakes me and the driver stops me. He tells me that there's a cyclist in trouble somewhere behind me. Vladimir shouldn't be too far away so I call him so he can have a look. Not much later he calls back, he phoned with Katja and she's tyred but still ok. I resume my ride to the electronics shop. Before I reach it I see a supermarket. And this one doesn't only stock food and drinks but also decent quality batteries. I buy two sets and am relieved. I put the light batteries back in it's place and finally know that I have fitting batteries again. An elderly man approaches me while I do this. He has seen a few riders passing with framenumbers and studies mine. He is impressed and invites me for coffee at his place. I politely decline, no time for this. I still don't know if I can finish in time or not.
I continue at a brisk pace and leave Pitkyaranta. But not much later I must admit that I can't keep on like this. It's very hot again and I'm overheating. My legs can support the speed, the rest of my system not. I stop at the last service station before I reach an empty stretch of road. An ice cream and a long rest in the shadow have to restore my temperature balance. I gambled and it went wrong. When I continue I have to ride slower so my body can cope with the temperatures. I'm in plodding mode again. Luckily the road is quite old and scenic so at least I have some distraction in the form of old villages and nice views on Lake Ladoga. I don't stop in Lyaskelya to admire the small waterfall. I have seen this a few times before.

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When I reach the control they are allready packing. I'm short on time but they still insist on serving me a meal and brewing tea. I've allready decided not to bother about time anymore, I just ride as fast as feasible. The next town I reach just before 'darkness'. This was the finish town last time. But now we have to continue, the new finish is 40km further on in Lahdenopolya. I've done this stretch only once, 8 years ago during the Ladoga 800. In Sortavala I have to make a detour, the bridge in the central part of town is under repair. The deviation is well signposted. For the last time I switch on my lights. I hope to be at the finish within a reasonable time.
But I must have forgot that the stretch between Sortavala and Lahdenopolya is a beast. It's a complete rollercoaster, mostly between 20 and 100m altitude. But sometimes hitting 200m. The sort of stretch where you only need two gears. Luckily the temperatures are ok now and my legs are good. So I don't loose an enormous lot of time. But still too much. About halfway I have to change from trying to gain time to trying to finish. I don't barrel downhill anymore with 60+km/h, don't sprint uphill (ok, sort of sprinting). Even in Lahdenopolya I have to climb, the finish is in a high part of town. It takes a few minutes before I found the right building. I'm not sure if I am on time, all depends on the exact calculations of the organisers. The exact time of departure (about half an hour too late) and the possible time extension for overdistance. Even at the moment of writing I don't know if I'll be pardonned or if it will be an out of time finish.


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