First up, a confession: I have a bit of ‘previous’ with this ride – I had to abandon half way round last year after suffering from the ongoing effects of some poor meal choices on a trip to Cairo in the preceding days. Having just come back from a potentially equally debilitating trip to some of the more remote parts of Russia this week I was hoping that there would be no repeat of the repeating. Two DNF’s on the season’s traditional curtain-faller would be a very poor show and would leave me feeling gloomy for the whole winter. With this in mind I had steered well clear of some of the less recognisable local dishes and stuck to an old-school cyclist’s diet of steak, steak and more steak. Whatever else, the extra stone in weight I’d accumulated as a result should have helped my descending.