Balkan Stage 6 Umag to Pula, Croatia

Sept 10, 2022

Stage 6 of 36, day 6 of 43: 122.8 km, 1192m climb, 6:02 Moving, 7:10 Total, 54.2 kph max

CountryDistanceClimbing
Slovenia352.25149
Italy29.3346
Croatia163.81464
Total545.36959

It was nice to finally not really worry about the weather. I woke up at 6am and put on bike shorts and a short-sleeved jersey and wore that until I went for a shower at the destination campground. Breakfast was the usual plus French toast with blueberries (I think because it was driver Henk’s 60th birthday). We left just before 8am, and each rider had to decide: gravel or road. We had two tracks to pick from and the gravel one was 6-8 km longer but the promise of gravel plus less traffic sold me.

Typical scenery along the route

Conditions were great as we headed out, relatively soon splitting apart and cranking up a gravel climb. We went on and on, hundreds of individual turns, each orchestrated by our Garmins. It’s so nice to just not worry about navigation. No leader required – each rider picks his/her route and follows the turns. We rode through holiday parks with “large” tourists on ebikes, we rode through little villages, along scenic dirt trails. At one point I heard a big yell and 15 of our guys were sitting at a little seaside coffee shop. Rien and I pulled in and I had a yummy berry gelato while watching the sea.

Lots of riders opted to stop here

We continued, more of the same awesomeness, and around 57 km came across a Bike Dreams truck marking the turnoff to lunch. We had a great lunch, everyone in a good mood. When you’re working hard it’s great to eat hard too!

This lunch will power you

After lunch we started with a funny climb, 2 km long. It was littered with car side mirror parts from top to bottom. The side was steep and the cars must sometimes smash their mirrors? Weird. Soon we got to turn off on more tiny dirt roads and continued on and on and on and on. The gravel option was pretty cool in that we cruised in such obscure places. I was riding with just Rien at this point and when we hit the craziest rockiest parts it was amazing to watch him navigate the rocks at speed with 28mm tires. I was very thankful for my gravel bike, shock and 42mm tires, that’s for sure. Sorry no photos.

Riding with Rien
Scenic snack spot along the way
We have to go check out this Coliseum on the rest day

Eventually we arrived in Pula, stopped at their Coliseum for some photos, then continued the last 5 km to camp. The camp is basically a peninsula fenced off. We set up tents, ate massive amounts of soup and other foods, then I took a glorious hot shower. Then Tom, Peter and I walked over to the bar out on a little pier and had awesome IPAs in the plural while having discussions of international impact.

Nice bar right by camp
These are GREAT

We headed back around 5:30 since the other guys were on kitchen duty. It was a special day, not only Henk’s 60th birthday, but also cook Ellen’s last night with us, plus our final member, Graham, finally joined the group. A cancelled flight from Vancouver, rescheduled for a week later means he missed he first week of the tour, but boy was he welcomed strongly by the group.

The dinner was epic. The tapas appetizers came with a bottle of Prosecco for each table. Then a bottle of Chilean Merlot, plus a 1 liter bottle of Slovenian Merlot. Then a bottle of limoncello per table – you get the picture. So fun and friendly and tasty. We said good-bye to Ellen and welcomed Graham and ate like you can when you’re on a crazy tour like this.

Tapas appetizers
First course

I got ready for bed with that awesome feeling that comes on the night before a rest day. I don’t have to do ANYTHING tomorrow, and my body is starting to feel good.

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