Tom from London,United Kingdom.
A 30 hour trip to get there but the sun is shining and it’s nice and warm so all is good. Had an evening and a lovely Italian meal in Hong Kong on the way.
We set off on the time trial – just 8km. A beautiful rounding of a lake followed by about a mile climb at the end. I start off quickly, too quickly – over take a couple of riders then hit the hill. I make it up but slowly – my heart is about to explode. I’m now overtaken. 17 minutes of full gas. We finish at a temple at the top of a hill and enjoy views of the surrounding countryside. Back into town to shower, deposit the bikes and enjoy a mass meal at the prizegiving in the town square.
Day 2 – stage 1: 105km from Mangshi to the Myanmar border at Ruili.Border Ride
Never done this before. The start is mad – we’re doing 50km/hr at the start. Lots of jostling for position and wheels. Where’s Stef? Just stay on the wheel otherwise you’ll be spat out the back. The first 5km takes 8 minutes, the first 60 takes 90. Never ridden in such a fast peloton for so long. Didn’t mean to – there’s a lot of stages ahead but I couldn’t help myself, it was such fun. Hit a hill after 60kms so slowed down but completed the 105km in 3 hrs. Felt cooked, but satisfied.
Day 3 – stage 2: 145km Rock & Ruili Ride
2 big climbs then a long bumpy section to the finish back at the border gate in Ruili. Not as mad as yesterday but still left the start at full tempo. The hills break the peloton up so we ride in smaller groups and manage to enjoy the scenery a bit more and stop to take a few pictures. The route is lined with villagers who have been shouting encouragement for hours already, even before we get there but they are still going strong. Lifts the spirits. Stef has a dance with them at the drinks station. A much more relaxed day and more beautiful weather.
Day 4 – rest day, transfer to Tengchong
Convoy of coaches and trucks with the bikes. We’re the only traffic on the deserted motorways
Day 5 – stage 3: The Queen Stage - Along Gaoligong
185kms and not much of it flat. Weather forecast is for rain so we set off fully togged up. Turns out not so bad but Stef feeling ill so turns back. I carry on alone and the sun comes out. I’m now wearing too much. Concern at the start is about whether I can get to the half way point before the cut off time but end up managing it with ease. Take some photos with the locals – they all seem to want their photo with me. But I’m not a celebrity! A long flat stretch on a high plateau surrounded by mountains followed by a big climb to 2000m then downhill all the way back into Tengchong. Feeling fitter already.
Day 6 – rest day, transfer to Dali
Another convoy of coaches and recovery from the hard stage yesterday
Day 7 – stage 4: The Lake Ride
A flat 115km flat stage around Dali lake, set up for the non climbers. Lots of anxiety beforehand about getting in the right group, staying with them and managing a 40km/hr + average speed. Another full octane start and a bit edgy. Lots more jostling for position and no-one wants to get left in the slow group. 15km in and we’re in a group that’s catching the one in front. It’s a big group and I’m surrounded with riders. We’re doing 45km/hr. All of a sudden I find my wheels in a 2 inch gully between the 2 halves of a concrete road. I hit the deck and skid to a halt. Fortunately no one hits me but both wheels are now punctured and rims damaged. Good job I don’t need brakes on this stage. Fix the punctures but all the fast groups have gone, as has my fast time. Now the pressure is off we take some photos of the lake and get the best one of the trip. Stef guides me the 100kms back to the finish in Dali.
Need to lick my wounds, sample the famed Dali fish soup (v good) and buy some sandpaper to smooth off the rims so that I can use my brakes on the final mountain stage tomorrow. Transfer to Lijiang.
Day 8 – stage 5: The Sky Ride
100km mountain stage with an early 400m climb to 2800m, a 30km descent down to the valley floor at 1700m and then a 30km climb to 3250m. A stunning day all the way, glorious sunshine all day but the air is thin so on the downhills in the shade a little chilly. The final 30km took 3hrs of 6-7% pretty much all the way. Towards the end we were rewarded with views of snowy mountain tops which made it all worthwhile. A small downhill to the finish and to be greeted with a beer at the finish line was a sweet ending.
Buses back down the mountain to Lijiang. Everyone a bit relieved to have finished and celebrated with a big party and more familiar western food. Then a couple of beers and pack to go home
Day 9 – Homeward bound
Early start to get to the airport, stop over in Shanghai for another amazing Italian meal and arrive back in LHR 6am Monday morning to a lovely autumn day.
What better way to end?
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Tom from the Netherlands/Beijing
“The Yunnan Gran Fondo is a great cycling event where over 7-day of riding you will build new friendships, experience beautiful and varied routes, diverse cultures and great food. All while cycling on 100% closed roads!”