Hot on the heels of Athens Divide, Donhou Store teamed up with locals, Vicious Cycles and Ena Bags to put on an "outdoor adventure". Not a race, this one was a group ride and we had space for 25 riders, to explore a big mountain loop on Mt Parnintha, the largest of the mountains that surround Athens. Finishing at the refuge close to the peak for some bean soup, warm and soothing Rakomelo and an overnight stay.
Winters are mild in Athens, comparable to British summers, but you still get some cold snaps and at 1200m you can really feel it. As riders gathered, winds blew and drizzle was in the air. After a quick briefing we set off and soon warmed up on the first gravel climb, which took us through the fresh burn from the wildfire that had struck in summer. Eerie but somehow still beautiful, the smell of burnt pine still hanging faintly in the air.
Reaching the top the wind was howling. As we waited for everyone to gather, we huddled together like penguins trying to keep warm, being careful not to have our gloves or jackets blown away as we adjusted layers. Soon after the rain followed and lashed us from all sides, but just as the wet had had enough time to set in, it blew over and from here on we had mostly the blue skies you can expect from this region...
Later in the day we started our second accent of the mountain, this time from the wilder back side and were dealt fast flowing gravel, tight rocky climbs, a river crossing and after a section of peanut butter mud, long enough to start asking questions of what we were doing there, we took a break for lunch in a small church yard, relaxed and soaked up some sun.
Now we called it an "off road adventure" because well, it wasn't all riding. To link up the front and back of the mountain, required a bush whack along a disused, barely recognisable trail. We strung out and carried our bikes, stepping over a bare animal spine, while thick, hard bushes and trees picked and pulled at are clothing. It tested our spirits for sure, but moods soon changed when we reached the top, the day light turning to pink and the reward of some epic views up into the Pindos mountain range.
Being Greece, everything is steep and rocky. You don't really get much rest and a 70km gravel ride doesn't normally sound that taxing, but a Greek km is different to a km most other places. By the time we made it to the refuge it was dark and freezing cold. Once inside, the warmth and shelter of the refuge, stories were shared, food was eaten and mats were pulled out onto the wooden floor for a nights sleep. All with the warmth in our legs from long days riding and the warmth in our belly from the honey and spice infused Rakomelo...
Thanks to Vicious Cycles for sharing the awesome 35mm pictures.