Balkan Stage 31 Karpenisi to Patras, Greece

Oct 11, 2022

Stage 31 of 36, day 37 of 43: 134.1 km, 2116m climb, 6:25 Moving, 7:12 Total,  66.7 kph max

Bosnia & Herzegovina211.01444

The weather has changed on us. The days of blue skies with hardly any clouds and no threat of rain are gone. The forecasts are pretty useless but said we’d be pretty wet by the early afternoon. We had breakfast in a very large dining room, empty except us. Quite a few people were wearing masks, even if they haven’t tested positive (me for example).

As we packed up to ride at 9am, this was the view

It was a really nice start of a long stage though, no uphill at all! We rode down the hotel driveway then turned to coast down to the top of town, then rocketed down through town – I hit over 65 and then led the next 20 km down a scenic valley.

At some points the walls were vertical rock
In one place the roadway was actually chiseled out of the rock walls
Sigi shot a nice video of Anita and I climbing and descending early today

Around 23 km, we stopped to remove extra clothes for the first climb.

First climb of the day – turned out due to bad altitude data it wasn’t quite 1305m of climbing but it was 17.7 km long

We headed up the hill, starting out quite steep. It went on and on and on, although there were a few short flat or downhill sections. Bob and I stopped to explore a little 2-storey fort.

View from the fort
Inside the fort

Back to climbing. It was steep for a long time and we had some rain sprinkles but not that much. As I got up to the summit, the road was actually dry for the first time today.

Cruising along
The sun even sort of came out a little – view from near the top

Finally there was a good descent, a bit cold so I wore two jerseys. I got to pass two giant cement mixers – the road was just barely wide enough. I think the drivers were surprised. Lunch was relatively early, at 57 km with almost 80 to still go. But we had done the big obstacle of the day and it was great to refuel. I headed off and soon we were riding by Lake Trichonida, the largest lake in Greece. After that the sun was out and it was quite hot, and flat and boring for a little while. Then a climb started and we got our plane which seems to be a daily thing now.

I left the support in this time

I picked some ripe blackberries by the road, and then we had a nice downhill to an old bridge that was loud to ride over.

The roadway is made of boards so it makes a lot of noise when you ride it. Even more when a car goes over.

By this point, we were within maybe 30 km of Patras and started to be on the lookout for water (the Gulf of Corinth) and the bridge we’d heard so much about. After another 5 km climb, we could finally see it.

First view of the Rio–Antirrio Bridge and the Gulf of Corinth

We made quick work of the few kilometers to get there and soon found ourselves under the bridge at a statue of a runner carrying the Olympic torch – the bridge was opened the day before the 2004 Olympic Games and the torch was carried across it then.

The runner, the torch and the bridge
Riding the bridge
Looking back on the bridge from the Peloponnese side

After we crossed the bridge, we had another five flights of stairs to negotiate down, then about 10 km to ride through increasingly more traffic. Finally we were in downtown Patras and pulled up at the hotel, a big stage done. Caroline had MANY snacks out and we ate massively. Then it was time for showers and cleaning up. But pretty soon, it was 6:30 and the Craft Beer Lovers team had a meeting at Beer Bar Q. This turned out to be pure gold. The first three pages of the menu were dedicated to only beer. SO many types. They “only” had about 15 on draft but tons of interesting ones in bottle too. And the place was just gorgeous.

Round one of many

We had to use Google Translate in camera mode to find something without meat on the menu – delicious “Vegetable Burgers” FTW. It was so fun. We ended up with our Craft Beer Lovers group of five plus four others. After dinner and several rounds, Tom, Bob and I walked up the street marveling at the sheer number of people out enjoying the evening on a Tuesday. It was really amazing. We had a round of excellent gelato, then walked home. What a great day!

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