King stage today! I wake up excited to see blue skies again and the temperature is the best so far of the trip, which considering our elevation and late fall disposition is pretty damn good.

We take a somewhat shorter ride this morning to the trail head today. Lucas has us deposited efficiently trail-side before either of us can really wake up. We have our nature moment of the day before we even get started. We’re getting organized when a young boar and his little deer friend go chasing across the path from the bush right in front of our setup space. Those tusks grow long enough to gore a man and we’re happy it’s a little one and happier still he’s running away.

In the words of Edmund Hilary, “It’s not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves”. Indeed sir, indeed. It’s a solid 10km climb to shake out the bed bugs and we’re into double-digit pitch on this long and winding contour fire road. It’s a pleasure to crank through the pine forests overdosing on oxygen again.

I’m already dreaming about second breakfast. Thinking about food before the ride even gets underway indicates a good calorie burn over the last couple days already, so I have no shame in stuffing a handful of jelly beans as the climb progresses.

I’m not so much in sight-seeing mode today – seem to be more focused on the riding and the climbing which is definitely at a faster pace than day 1. Howard talks to me about a guy he knows who uses this stretch for hill reps – take two and call me in the morning.

We take a breather at the most dilapidated Refugio yet, I enjoy another Bob’s 2nd breakfast and poke around in the goat and sheep poop for no apparent reason. The views are breath-taking over the valley, and with the warm sun shelter spot we have found, it’s hard to dig out and crank on.

The upper section is muddier, but still decent a enough pack to roll on for the most part. It’s not so steep now, and we enjoy some good pacing as we reach the “other side” and prepare to drop into the next valley. Screaming downhill follows on the wide open track and we encounter our first other biker of the entire trip. A solo female, earphones on, riding on the “wrong” side of the path and looking very grumpy. Ahh, whatever, no friendly chitchat here, so we continue on.

When we reach the road, Howard’s local skills come to front and he dives into a virtually invisible crack in the bush which turns out to be some of the most fun single track of the adventure. It’s smooth, flowing in sections – dare I say loamy? Other chunks are rough and rocky, baby heads galore and oh yeah my favorite – deep breathing and swearing mega-pitches.

I get the full hooligan experience climbing attacking the first face, which is veering into the 30 percent region and start exploding with Cilian refugees – forcing carbon that hasn’t shifted for a month from deep down in my lungs. Ahh, cursing helps the cause but for sure I’m staggering punch drunk when Howard walks up. So, how you like the first section he casually asks! Aggh!

We both walk the next pitch, then I give a go to the third and final pitch before taking a moment at the top of the trail. I’m treated to serious gnarly rocky descending next. After schooling the pack on how to drop into rocky trails on a hardtail we discuss the merits of seat dropper posts and so on as we move onto easier parts of the descent.

The next and final section is the mother of all ridge line descents which goes on and on (will check on Strava when I get the .gpx file).

The final descent into the hotel is another thing of beauty. It’s a 10km or so ridgeline trail, literally hugging the edge of the mountain. Rough, rocky, root strewn and loose, it makes for adrenalin overdose as we fly down the trail. I’m gunning it pretty hard and after a while realize I’ve opened a big gap. I flip on the video and record Howard flying down the trail – hitting a PR on the descent. Which is always a nice bonus.

Back at the hotel it’s time to hit the infamous bar which we do just before a coach load of eco-tourists descends and starts making themselves comfy on our laps. It’s a little battle to get them on one side of the fire and us on the other without bumping cameras, but we make it all work in the end and enjoy a well-earned beer.

The good food flows again at supper, and sitting out in the town square I’m thinking six days would have been about right – three is just too damn short!