by Geoff Crawley
Porto Soukhna, December 2, 2016
Due to circumstances beyond CCC’s control, our semi-annual “Ride to the Sea” was delayed a few weeks due to certain situations in Egypt that didn’t actually occur. To put a positive spin on this, it allowed me and my fellow Lycra enthusiasts to fester over the weather forecasts for the next several weeks, intricately watching the prevailing wind patterns, and sneak in an extra session on Mokattam hill repeats to prepare for the suffering that was to ensue (unless you were sitting on the beach like me the weekend of said hill repeats). Unfortunately due to the delay, our Swiss “suffer-master” Marcel, was unable to join, after representing the CCC in Dubai at the Sea to Sea ride in preparation for this epic journey.
Nevertheless, the day arrived and an eager bunch assembled at the front of CAC, clad in long sleeves and extra layers, and hoping that additional riders would greet us on the way to help keep the pace unpleasantly fast. Luis, Euan, Joe and myself began the journey together. Cold weather and pollution greeted us on our exit from Maadi, but as the small group of riders made their way onto the Tollway, the clouds broke, a pleasant morning of sunlight appeared, and the temperatures got even colder. As the Tollbooth appeared, so too did the realization that the winds might actually be in our favor on this day. A few minutes were spent at the Tollbooth preparing for the next leg and allowing all riders to regroup, and suddenly up came Fritz, a welcome addition to the team, though he and Joe were only going to do a part of the ride. At least Fritz gave us some extra horsepower for the next section. And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but David Gamal and his band of Egyptian Cairo Crit friends. Smiles spread across everyone’s faces and we were ready for the show.
I will say the problem with a larger group is the inevitable flat ties that tend to plague certain choices of rubber (Continental 4-Season 25-28mm tires are the recommended choice of the CCC). Since we were now such a large group, it did allow those of us who were executing the full distance to break away while said flat tire/half way members repaired their poor choice of tire/ego. At the Regional Ring Road, we said farewell to Joe/Fritz, and continued on to the “Corona” pit stop at 73km (though my odometer only said ~70). At this point we picked up Chris and Pascal, whom we believed would power us to the end, but yet we found napping. With a bit of heckling from those of us who started in the wee hours, Pascal and Chris finally mounted their steeds and rode off for the rest of us to catch. At this point the famous JP showed up, catching up with us and then making his way back to Cairo with a few of the Crit riders that weren’t going the full distance. Once back in the saddle, it didn’t take long for us to see Pascal and Chris on the side of the road repairing additional flat tires. Much to our surprise was that Euan had snuck out with them, and was well up the road. Time to put the hammer down!
With wind at our back and the excitement of the long downhill stretch to the 2nd Tollbooth coming up, our pace quickened. We could see Euan in the distance and each member took turns smashing the pace. A quick downhill and a last uphill section saw us climbing at 40 kph, where we said goodbye to Euan and crested the top. Pandemonium ensured as most of us realized our compact crank set up was good for climbing, but bombing downhill at 70 kph with the wind at our backs was not sustainable in a 50×11. As the road leveled out, we took a break and allowed the scattering of riders that remained to regroup.
The last section of road prior to the final km’s of fireworks is fast, flat and ferocious as the coastal road from Ain Soukhna to the Porto turnoff is narrow, can have crosswinds, and most of the team already had 110 kms under their belt. But this was not meant to be a joyride, and members again put out watts of power that mere mortals could not think of displaying. With the fresh legs of Pascal and Chris, the pace was kept high, and certain members decided it was time to hang in the back and rest prior to the final. Those of us who felt the pace was lagging moved to the front and made everyone suffer, burning matches that would not re-light once on the final climb. After 34 minutes at 37 kph, the group saw the looming Sky Mall perched high above, the pace slowed and everyone tried to get a quick drink before the final turnoff.
I’m not really sure how to describe the final 2 kms of this ride. Hell? I’ve ridden Flanders and Roubaix, but those experiences did not prepare me for this. My 34×25 gearing? Useless. My legs? Plugs of Jell-O. My heartrate? In Defibrillation. Up and Up and Up we climbed. And then some more. Around a corner and a switchback, then up some more. I watched David ride away from me as I thought I was actually moving backwards. I saw Luis suddenly muster some courage as he told his legs to shut up and begin catching up to me. Where were Euan, Pascal, Chris? The others? Another bend and a fire station appeared. Then a blockade! The final section was blocked off! What the hell?
Not to be denied, we began working our way up a golf cart path, across the fairway, and then up a final steep pitch. We were on level with the Sky Mall, but were unable to get there. Then the phone call came. Euan had made it! How you might ask? Because he was dropped somewhere along the coastal road and turned up the wrong climb, the shorter, steeper climb. In the end, I guess we were the ones who turned wrong as we never made it to the Sky Mall. Well done Euan, well done.
KOM: Euan being the only CCC member to reach the Sky Mall
Fastest Descent: Geoff at 69.5 km per hour to the 2nd Toll Booth
Most Flats: Chris (lost count at 2)
Sleeping Beauty: Pascal (because he is French)
Most Elevation Gain: Luis for doing an extra repeat in the search for the top (1180m gain)
Longest Distance: David Gamal because he rode from Heliopolis (160.1 km)