The Arrival – Porters and Pedals
Saturday, May 31st, 2014

At the airport bright and early armed with an assortment of boxes and bags, big and small, the riders breeze their way through the SA Airlink check-in.

The mood is festive all the way through boarding and as the riders take their seats, the captain crackles a warm welcome “Red Island Riders” over the intercom. The flight is relatively peaceful and sleepy, barring a hilarious aisle face-plant from Graham… He really knows how to take in-flight entertainment to the next level!

We settle back to earth with a cheer and a good luck from the captain and the riders set foot on the Red Island for the first time. Visas are stamped, bags and bike boxes are grabbed and the riders battle their way through some slightly too eager porters to head to the Hotel La Suc de la Ruche via bus.

The bus chugs along through the Friday traffic in Antananarivo, while the riders get excited to try the local brew – tempted by the colourful advertising zooming past their windows. Not a second too soon, the bus arrives at the charming La Suc de la Ruche and in minutes a round of THB (Three Horses Beer) welcomes the riders. (Pffft… who needs a shower!)

After a little exploration and a little more beer, the luggage arrives and the bike building begins: pedals are lost then found 5 minutes later, test rides are done back and forth through the hall and Glenn Harrison works his magic to fix and tweak a couple of dire cases.

All this bike building has made for seriously hungry riders and a 4-course meal is (and was) definitely in order! Starting off with a fresh seafood salad, moving to a gourmet seafood pastry before a main course of soft chicken, veggies and “frites” (chips) with a chocolate strawberry mousse to round it off. A full rider is a happy rider – got to keep that energy food flowing!

The tummies are rubbed, eyes droop and the riders wander either off to bed or back to the bar! The prologue tomorrow is definitely going to be a tough one, but for a very different reason…

We’ll be updating redislandride.com daily throughout the race with diaries, route information and all the latest images from Madagascar’s first-ever mountain bike stage race.

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