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by SS at 3:03 pm on Sunday 11th April

Yesterday afternoon, after 122km of cycling (only 80km of which was a race), we entered the country of Zambia. The ride until lunch was the race - Simon, Jacob and I rode fairly together. The shorter race stages are quite tense because everyone is so close together, any slip in effort and you're overtaken quickly. We slowed the pace slightly towards the end and Jethro came past in a hurry, less than three kilometres from the end of the race at lunch.

Entering Zambia was pretty straightforward (for everyone apart from Adam, who forgot his passport!) and the change of government has reduced the visa price for British citizens from $150 (last year) to the more reasonable $50. After crossing the border we rode another 20km to the town of Chipata where we exchanged money and I hunted for headphones to replace the broken pair I borrowed from Rick. It took a while but I hunted down some cheap Chinese headphones in the local market, plasticky and they sound like good headphones with the addition of someone scratching your eardrum with a pencil. For the 8,000 Kwacha price though ($1.76), I have no right to complain.

At camp, watching the rider board being written, it seemed like some kind of latent April Fool's prank when Tour Director Paul wrote the next day's distance of 197km up. Incredulous, it was confirmed at rider meeting that they had extended the stage so that we'd reach a village where some number of riders would get the chance to live in homestays with genuine Zambian families, sleeping and eating dinner with them.

Fearful of the unknown and with the song 'Fear of the Dark' by Iron Maiden stuck in my head, I went to bed contemplating the feasibility of cycling the furthest single distance of my life. Waking up this morning I was surprised to feel excited, perhaps having reawakened the adventurer within. Taking my time to leave, I left late and went hard for the first 15km, overtaking quite a few riders. Realising that this pace was unsustainable for the day, I slowed down quite considerably. A couple of groups passed by - Jethro, Frans and Tony (who was making extra effort for his 50th birthday, today) and Simon drafting Tim. Unwilling to catch them, I spun on and was eventually caught by Paul.

We reached lunch via a Coke (or Fanta) stop, paused for sandwiches and continued on. Lunch was at 85km today, less than halfway - an overbearing fact which probably helped make the day seem more intense. I chose to interpret the distance remaining (112km) as a separate stage, which worked well apart from the preexisting 3h 30m worth of riding fatigue in my legs. The next 65 kilometres were fairly unremarkable aside from a blue coloured butterfly flying into my jersey via the zip. Itmanaged to fly out apparently unharmed, shocking me in the process.

The children here are unrelentless and constantly ask 'How are you?'. At first we replied but it quickly became clear that most kids will continue to parrot out the question regardless. Even if they stop, one of the dozens of surrounding children will continue to ask. According to a woman who works for the Peace Corps here, this is a cultural artifact - when greeting here, it is natural to greet every single person in a group individually - hence replying to one child is not enough, you need to reply to every child. Later on in the ride, we simply started replying 'tired' to the question and apparently riders who came past later were asked if they were tired.

At about 130km, my legs started getting tired, probably from a lack of energy. We were supposed to have a refresh stop (more water and energy bars) at 150km but we accidentally cycled past it - the 4x4 that we were expecting wasn't there and we missed the staff member sitting in the bushes. Stopping at 155km, Paul and I had a couple of warm cokes and continued on. The last 10 kilometres into camp were the most painful, and our speed dropped from about 27kmph to 22kmph. The finish flag was standing, waiting on the road, at 197km as promised and turning off the road, we were home for the night. The second hardest day of riding so far to our day through Dinder and it was wonderful. I haven't felt this exhausted for quite some time and it feels good.

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"Our thoughts define our reality." - Anon.