Stage 2 – Under the Malagasy Sun
Monday, June 2nd, 2014

The riders wake up in Ambositra in the beautiful Le Artisan Hotel, with its Swiss-esque little cabins and its intricate inlayed wooden doors, carved balconies and manicured garden. After a small breakfast it’s bike check and a quick ride to the start.

They head down the winding Ambositra streets to the local taxi rank to the starting line, where a small crowd gathered and watched. The riders move off down the street, passing little stores selling freshly made Mofbalin and Mofgasse – rice dough balls that are deep-fried and a local staple and delicacy for breakfast!

Glenn Harrison (Route Designer) termed this stage the “roller-coaster stage” with its quick succession of winding hills and dips. The riders, after their 80km ride the day before, struggled at first but enjoyed the final downhill run up to the finish – with everyone ending off with a smile… Except one or two – thanks to a couple of mischievous riders who discovered a dead snake and positioned it strategically across the road so it glinted in the sun: all the better to scare the oncoming riders with!

The Sous le Soleil de Mada lodge – which directly translated means “under the Malagasy sun” – is a beautiful eco-lodge located just an hour away from Ambositra. It’s the perfect spot for the riders to end off their day with its panoramic views and comfy bungalows. Sous le Soleil runs a little shop to support the local school whic is filled with artisanal wooden crafts.

After yet another beer first/shower later moment, the riders sat down to enjoy a lunch of Zebu sosaties, chips, salad and pink rice in the sunshine. Fun fact: Pink rice is a special crop from Madagascar, where the rice is pastel pink in colour and slightly sweeter than normal rice.

While enjoying lunch, the riders had a little joking session around Glenn Harrison’s special way of explaining the routes and so they came up with a little playlist to illustrate how they feel:

The Glenn Harrison Playlist
Compiled by the Red Island Riders

Fleetwood Mac – Little Lies
Enya – River
Pink Floyd – Momentary Lapse of Reason
REM – Everybody Hurts
David Grey – Falling Down The Mountainside
REM – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

After working up quite an appetite from all the laughter, the sun goes down and riders enjoy a taste of Soul le Soleil owner Marc’s homemade rum collection: from citronella to litchi, over dinner.

Tomorrow, with a nice sleep in and a later start, it’s time for the Sous le Soleil loop: a 30km timed stage to get the competitive energy up and running before returning back to the wonderfully chilled atmosphere of the Sous le Soleil lodge.

Read Stage 1’s “The Good, the Bad and the Uphill” daily diary here and keep checking back on for even more updates and photos from Madagascar’s first-ever mountain bike stage race.

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