72.92km – 10H19’
Altitude : 178m
Serge starts out by walking several hundred meters, then there is a nice gentle downhill and he arrives in Veliko Tarnovo. The Yantra River meanders through this city, which is built on 3 hills. The homes seem almost to hang in mid air because of the way they are crazily stuck on the steep side of the pre-Balkan mountain. This city is completely different from anything we have seen up to now, not only because of its rather irregular layout for a city of 90,000 inhabitants but also because it has a very rich history. Veliko Tarnovo was the capital of the 2nd Bulgarian Kingdom from the 12th to 14th century, i.e., just before the Ottoman occupation. Then in 1878, when the country gained its independence the city would have like to regain its status.
Then the scenery changes. We leave the mountains and enter a plain where there is a howling gale from the west.
A few days ago, when we crossed the border between Greece and Bulgaria, Daniel took the time to write the journal of a support team member. Here is what he has written, which gives quite a bit of information about Serge’s nourishment:
« 6:00: wake up and a quick wash, I prepare the 4 thermos bottles of hot water for the day with René and Bertrand (water for soups, coffee, pasta, dish washing)
6:30: breakfast, then all our equipment goes into the van and the camper (baggage, bags, breakfast bag, computer and video equipment, bag with thermos bottles, bag with all the different chargers…..)
7:00: I leave with Serge and René to reach our departure point 10 km from here, which is where Serge finished last night. Surprise, it’s snowing.
7:20: Serge puts on gloves, GPS watch and GPS/GPRS beacon, not forgetting his tear gas bomb. It’s the start of the day. We will cross the Bulgarian border at the end of the stage.
For the past few days we have stayed close to Serge and I stop after the first 500meters to be on the lookout. Watch out for dogs!
Serge gives hand signals which enable us to understand him from a distance: thumb in the air = OK. 2 hands pointing down = I want to sit in the van. Hands pointing up = I want to take off my wind breaker. Hands over the head =I want my hat. Hand rolling = I need toilet paper.
7:55: First incident with dogs. René and I create a screen and Serge stays behind us.
8:05: First refueling of the day: (a waffle with jam and water). It isn’t always easy to stop when there are guard rails or in the city. The GPS and the map are on the dashboard and we watch them closely because we always have to know where we are and see if a change of direction might take place near a refueling point. We keep to our route.
8:40: Laure and Bertrand join us. We fill the tanks of both vehicles with diesel fuel, and then they go on a reconnaissance of the border.
8:55: Second refueling (coffee + homemade cookies from Bertrand and Anne + water). There are few cars but lots of trucks from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Poland. Serge makes a sign to them and most move over a bit. When there is a halt between the 2nd and 3rd refueling, René prepares pasta for the next refueling. It’s still snowing.
9:40: Third refueling (pasta with finely chopped ham, mashed hardboiled egg + water). Then we wash the dishes. We head toward the fourth refueling, i.e., at km 20, the dogs are still around and so we can’t go there straight away. We stop every 500 m. The police go by and stop, look worried but then go on.
10:20: Fourth refueling (yogurt with some cake + water) I’m behind the wheel because today I’m driver. With René we change every other day. The mist rises with the snow, it’s not easy.
At km 22.7 Alert! There are 13 dogs divided in 2 packs on both sides of the road. They seem more interested in the fight between the 2 packs, so we don’t have much problem.
11:00: Fifth refueling (soup with crushed rusk)
Serge’s pace is about 7km per hour and refueling takes place about every 40 minutes.
11:42: Sixth refueling at km30 (bread and butter with deli meat + water)
11:55: Laure and Bertrand are back, the camper has a nice sticker which allows it on Bulgarian roads. René goes to the hotel with Laure (it’s either hotel or camping) and Bertrand comes with me to finish the day. We take turns in the vehicles and because we are 4 it means that 1 day in 3 we can leave the van and do something else with Laure. It stops snowing at 11:00.
12:25: Seventh refueling (pasta and crushed hard boiled eggs)
13:10: Eighth refueling at km 40.8 (it's time for rice pudding with cookies)
13:40: A new dog alert, Serge is upset because we didn’t see them.
Ninth refueling: (bread and butter and sauerkraut) we leave the last Greek city, Neo Petritsi. There are a few snowflakes, we take time to nibble our lunch and it’s not always easy to coordinate, especially when you have to stop every 500 m to protect Serge from the dogs.
14:00: New dog alert and preparation of the tenth refueling (soup with the rest of the pasta + rusks +grated cheese). At this point, we turn and head due north toward the border. We take a road that is a semblance of a highway and it’s not easy to coordinate: success, Serge is on the right track. He can run on a wide emergency lane so we are reassured.
Km 55: Eleventh refueling (vanilla, chocolate or caramel pudding, depending on the day, with cookies)
Between the Eleventh and twelfth refueling we prepare crushed fruit salad (banana + kiwi + sugar)
4:00: Twelfth refueling at km 60
4 :15 : Passport control on the Greek side and 5 minutes later on the Bulgarian side and purchase of a vehicle sticker for 13€
Thirteenth refueling: (a light soup)
It starts to hail
16:55: Serge goes on. Fourteenth and last refueling at km70. It’s self service: chocolate, energy bar, cookies.
It’s a 75.6 km stage, with a calculation error of 2 km, since Serge thought he would reach the roadside hotel at km 73. He is not very happy and we can understand why. This evening at dinner, in front of a good beer to celebrate our first day in Bulgaria, everything is back to normal. It was a good day in spite of the snow and cold and a road that has not been easy since we entered the country”.
You can see that Serge eats mostly salty food and lots of slow carbohydrates. Generally speaking, he is eating better than on previous races. Up to now he has not had an attack of hypoglycemia. Congratulations to the different support teams who are watching things! As far as drinks are concerned, at every refueling serge drinks about 40 cl (13.5 ounces) mostly water and occasionally some Coke.
Town : Byala
GPS : N 43.28380° E 025.45454°