We woke up early to get some breakfast in and get to the registration before the crowds got there. We had specifically rented the AirBnb closer so that we don’t lose much time moving back-forward and can get easier to the start the day after.
Luckily we were there before it was even open. Nevertheless, the queues were starting to form. Soon, I was to find out how good of a decision it was to come earlier. In a matter of half an hour, the queue was hundreds of bikes long. The sun was high and the heat increasing.
Registration checked our name on the list, insurance, medical certificate and we were good to go. We received the tracker and the brevet card. Next you had to go through a technical check up in a different tent to make sure breaks, sufficient number lights and reflective strips were in place, and that everything else was good to go.
Finally, on to a different queue where all the caps were laid on the ground. Once your turn came up, you’d receive the cap and get a photo.
Post registration it was all about waiting until the briefing was ready to begin. But first, everyone had to finish registering and that was going to take some time.
The sun was now burning and people left their bikes in the queue while hiding in the shade. I went around looking at everyone’s setups. It was literally like being a kid in a candy shop. My eyes were going to fall out. I was in what I can only describe as dream land. I was soaking up every detail, and talking to people about some of the decisions and thoughts behind certain choices.
Pavel finished registering as well and we decided to go for lunch in a nearby traditional Bulgarian tavern / restaurant.
It was such a hyped up atmosphere, I was disoriented by the whole vibe that was like static electricity in the air, full of anticipation.
As we went back to the registration tents, the volunteers picked up on us being Bulgarians and started asking us about the race as they actually had found out only recently that it was a thing.
While speaking to them, a reporter overheard us (and clearly being part of the race) couldn’t be happier to find someone to interview. Pavel was circled and with fluent charisma gave them the basics of the race.
Before we knew it, it was time for the briefing. Everyone laid their bikes in one area and we all sat down humbling embracing the message Ana (the organiser) had for us.
It was about Mike Hall – Ana’s partner who created the the whole event and had passed in a car accident while cycling in another race. It was about “the spirit of the race“, or what we were supposed to do and what we were expected not to. The rules.
I was walking around, eyes wide-open. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many cyclists in one place, ever before. I’ve only ever cycled on my own or with one other person. Maybe a group ride, the All Points North earlier in the year being my first ever cycling race. This was all new to me and it was overwhelming.
I had lived in my head, imagining every minute. Every time I got on the bike I’d train and imagine myself in the race. It was a complete focus and dedication for hours, days, for the whole of the year. And it was now happening, I was in the midst of it and I couldn’t comprehend it.
While walking around I saw many people that I’ve only known from Instagram or Facebook. It was surreal. I met with some of them and we chatted. Then cycling around we found another group of racers who invited us for some drinks and food and we headed back to the same tavern.
That was it, there was nothing else to do now. In the morning we would be heading off and the only thing that would be ahead would be revolution after revolution, and a focus on moving forward. It was happening.