So after the first two stages (read here) we go higher and deeper into the jungle...
Stage Three – 60km/2780m - Kalupahana to Nuwara Eliya (Gamini De Silva memorial stage) – takes in the stunning Horton Plains National Park at 2100m above sea level and offers the riders a chance to spot wild elephants if they’re lucky. The route takes in Sri Lanka’s highest waterfall, Bambarakanda, crosses the highest plateau, and finishes in the highest town, Nuwara Eliya; with a few other highs and lows in between.
We began with an 18km downhill group ride then straight in to an uphill rolling start. 1300m of ascent over 17km. It’s another of those infernal climbs that gets harder as you go higher (I like them, but I’m an idiot). It begins on black-top before progressively deteriorating (or improving) to concrete and finally to a great rocky trail (the top section is very similar to some of my local Peak District trails so I’m right at home on it). It’s also brutally steep in places but undulates enough to get in periods of recovery too. It’s a great climber’s climb. I spent the early part of the climb in the company of a few new riders, I think most were being cautious, but the pack soon began to split and I was left with Shanith Muhandiramge (Sri Lanka) and Pamela Zuloaga (Spain). Pamela had been unsure about tackling todays “Queen” stage so it was great to be able to give her some encouragement.
In my experience the women always prove to be tougher than the men and it’s very rare that a female racer ever drops out. Perhaps halfway up the climb Pamela’s partner Alfredo was waiting for her so that they could ride the stage together (he’s a very nice guy). The climb pops out on to a sealed road that bisects the park and to the handily positioned water station. I hung out for a while chatting with some of the LSR team (LSR do the logistics for us) until everyone went past. The water station is something of a false summit and the climbing continues sharply on the road for quite a while before it rolls a little more gently across the high plateau. Sadly the elephants were conspicuous only by their absence, fortunately the views across the open plain more than made up for it; Sri Lanka is a stunningly diverse island.