84 km | 2.384 vertical meters | Hors Categorie
From Anogia via Nida plateau to Lendas: From Anogia at 800m, you climb up into the Oros Idi Mountains, the centralmassif of Crete with Mount Psiloritis (2.456m). The road leads past the outcrops of Permian limestone, the overlying crystalline limestones, and the intercalated crystalline schist-clay deposits of the most recent mountain uplift. The higher you go, the softer the outlines become and increasingly shaped by the Karst.
The road is steep with just a few green leaves and green spots by the roadside. The vegetation is so dry that the few shrubs and cypress trees around are withering away. It is hard work to reach the pass at 1500m in the summertime, but once you get there the mountain ridge boasts splendid views of the Nida plateau, and the green meadows of mountain grass form a bright contrast to the grey surrounding rock.
Mount Skinakas: The destination we are trying to reach is a fantastic lunar landscape, the Karst desert of Mount Skinakas at 1750m. There is an observatory owned by the Greek University and the Max Plank Society at the top.
If the sky is clear, you can enjoy perfect views of the Nida plateau and the twin peaks of Mount Psiloritis. In a southeasterly direction with the Rouvas forest, we overlook the wide plain of the Messara up to the next destination at the horizon, the Asterousia Mountains. The location truly makes you feel close to God.
Two and a half kilometers short of the observatory, a 11km washed-out dirt road and another ten kilometers on asphalt lead to the village of Gergeri and then further to the south coast.
If you travel on a racing bike it’s advisable to equip them with cross tires. Off-road biking techniques are definitely required here.
The Broken Spoke: Nevertheless, while riding through a scree field on the way to Gergeri, still on the asphalted section below Mount Skinakas, a stone hit the rim so unfortunately that a spoke of the front tire broke.
Stuck alongside my air pump were my spare spokes – never used before – and one of them was now to be mounted. With the last Mavic wheelset I used, you didn’t even have to dismantle the inner tube and tire. The spoke was simply hooked into the nave and the spoke nipple was turned into the rim from the outside.
Now, could there possibly be a more fascinating pastime than to figure out how the new Campagnolo wheelset is supposed to work while you are on a road to nowhere in the solitude of the mountains, surrounded by inquisitive sheep and with fog rising up from the valley?
The spoke was broken just below the spoke nipple, so the old nipple had to come out first. This was easier than expected as it simply slid backwards and disappeared into the closed hollow section rim – and from there, the only exit is the hole of the valve holder.
During the disassembly of tire and inner tube you will already have a sense of foreboding, because the new nipple has to return to its position in the same way. In order to manage this, there is a specific magnetic screw, and its sole purpose it to be screwed into the nipple, so that you can push it to its position inside the rim with a magnet from the outside.
At a children’s birthday party, this kind of mechanical puzzle where they have to balance mice into a mousetrap, balls into a soccer goal or even land rockets on the moon may be a highlight. But in my case it was not just a waste of time but a waste of waste – so I had better get to work!
A quick geological mineral prospection in the surrounding area did not reveal the faintest presence of magnetite. So the counter bearing of the future spoke was cheerfully jingling back and forth inside the rim, sometimes completely silencing, as if it wanted to hide from me, then again stubbornly denying his whereabouts with a distorted voice.
In the spirit of modern, minimally invasive microsurgery, I tried to get hold of it with a thin screwdriver which I inserted through the small opening of the nipple holder. We live in the 20th century, we can overcome the gravity field of our planet, and even small children can explain quantum mechanics to their stupid parents. So after a lot of turning, fiddling and cursing I eventually managed to move the nipple to its place. I have to confess that, to do so, I took the inside of the rim into my mouth and sucked! (For the zoologically interested reader: walruses do the same.)
Never before has a small piece of metal been held so intimately, been cared for so much or been beseeched with such kind words as on this foggy day below Mount Skinakas. The rest is child’s play, because once nipple and spoke have found each other, you only have to open the cover of the nave which is held by two screws, hook in the new spoke, and – voilá! – mount the inner tube and tire.
Out of humility, my bike and I walked the next 10 kilometers until the condition of the track improved. Fortunately, I soon had asphalt under my tires again.
Asterousia Mountains – Descent to Lendas: Crossing the Messara plain at Gortyn, you’ll soon reach the foot of the Asterousia Mountains. There are 400 vertical meters to climb on twisting roads up to the mountain ridge.
The track down to the sea is one of the finest on this route. In long sweeping bends, your body hunched over the handlebars, you will rush down into the depths and dive headlong into the Big Blue.
There is nothing but the dark ribbon of the road, no indication of any houses, a village or people below these steep slopes.
The last downturn, close to the dunes, finally reveals the village of Lendas. Go for the adventure!