Downhill start to the valley below. I was further up than usual. It basically mimicked my favourite Nose Hill Park descent but was fifty times longer. Apparently people haven't been practicing no brakes grass double track descending since they were 13.
Lead group of 25 formed then it was like a road race with crosswind and climbs that whittled the pack down and started breaking things up. I was burning matches left and right to keep with accelerations for a good half hour period before I got to thinking this could be suicide on a long distance windy day. Oh we'll, I felt good and decided I didn't care. We turned left with the wind and started flying. Thomas was a group up, there was one straggler, then me. Forward was the plan. Caught that Mongolian and worked together for 10 minutes but he already had blown, about was me chasing group Thomas which was 5 people. I ended up doing that for an hour, always thinking it was foolish if we turned into the wind and I was cooked, but we never did. I closed most of the gap on the big climb before aid 2, when surprisingly Joao passed me - he had missed the start. He motivated me to the top, and I caught the group on the big descent by this no brake technique that most people don't appear to favor. Turns out we were only one kilometers from the aid station in this vast expanse of a valley that had no exits but up and over. All routes looked long, gradual until the end, and beautiful. I grabbed two bottles that I found right away and rode off. Long gentle climb up a valley, and I was surprised people weren't trying to come around me. Realized one of my bottles was off so spit out that sip. Eventually Joao went off about half way up, and put in a big gap by the top. Only one who tried to chase was Thomas. Felt good considering 4 of the 5 I chased for the prior hour who had group advantage were fried. I plugged away and tried to minimize the gap over the top, and got to within a few seconds of Thomas by next climb; Joao had powered away with his big engine. Never caught Thomas again but tried to keep the gap small. Did 3 more climbs with Thomas in sight then a long fast descent to aid 3. I poured out my off bottle, refilled one, then went for broke in TT mode for last 30k. Passed a 5km to go sign and figured that must be wrong. Kept the cadence up, until I saw a 1km to go sign, looked right and saw camp. Amazing. A 97km day instead of 120km. Went through a rocky field, followed the descent sign which took me down a hill with 4 cows with big hors staring at me at the bottom, figured to go around them, then turned into a headwind for the finish line. Great day!
Camp is higher on morale. Food was ready soon, bags came in shortly thereafter. Everyone was dry. Tailwind for entire day other than last 100m.
My bike has been flawless and well suited to purpose. Legs worked well. Food was great. It's early in the day and warmer. Thomas won his age group category again and it turns out I won my age grouping. More interesting, 4 days in and I was ahead of the top woman, which seems to indicate my usual warmup curve is still in tact. Funny.
The guys were struggling to get the showers set up in the wind, so I used the hose that pumps into the pool reservoir and just went buck in the wind... mainly as I had a massage with my crusher guy soon. People have quite given up on modesty in favour of function here, it's kind of interesting what ends up taking priority.