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With the wind dying down overnight, the rain stopping in the wee hours of the morning and a wake up call at 6am with the promise of the day finishing in the magical city of Tbilisi, the riders didn’t need much motivation to get going early! What lay ahead was a rough, bumpy, corrugated and gravelly road under construction (they hope to have it all paved by 2010) that both riders and the trucks had to navigate safely. The EFIers, racers and others that wanted to ride the whole day were gone early, the others wanting to ride from lunch were ready to go not soon after and the whole TDA contingent were on the road by 7am. Truck speed was on average about 15-20km per hour and bike speed not much more, except when there was a downhill and there were a few “beauties” en route. Everyone who was riding a mountain bike was grinning from ear to ear and those that were not silently cursed the bumps and rubbed their sore arms. Once again, the scenery was breathtaking and today was a day for taking photos. As we neared Tbilisi, the road started to improve and on the outskirts of the small town of Mangilisi, the riders hit what they would term “paradise pavement”, new asphalt so smooth the tyres glided over it. At this point the average bike and vehicle speed picked up and on the outskirts of the city was a 10km, winding downhill that was described as both “fun” and “insane” in the same sentence. When the downhill finished the riders met and a 20km convoy into the city began. Georgian traffic is crazy and the road rules are, well, really there are no road rules! After a few tough, cold days the riders were happy to have arrived at the delightful, very art-deco Hotel Meridiani. There was some delicious Georgian wine, a few cold beers and most riders forgot about the toughness of the last few days. In Tbilisi we say goodbye to one of sectional riders, the divine and very talented, Daphne from Holland. Thanks Daphne! We would love to have you stay longer! Tbilisi also marks the end of the Turkish Delight section with Sandra Simon taking out line honours in a total of 85 hours 41minutes.
The rest day brings the normal laundry duty, some bike work, a sulphur bath (apparently it is the cleanest you will ever feel), some sightseeing, the support trucks are getting some tender loving care after the bumps of the last few days, lots of eating and drinking, some well received Georgian hospitality and preparation for the days ahead. We are really are enjoying ourselves here, just another grand day in biking heaven.
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