Day 4 began in the town of Barge, where we started with a special stage and left 2 people at a time, one minute apart. The person I was supposed to start with was still sleeping I was told, so I had to start alone... Very suspect/Italian... We started with a paved climb right out of town which was nice, because I immediately began catching people that started in front of me. The paved climb eventually turned in to a steep gravel road with some short hike-a-bike sections. We were on and off our bikes for a while, hiking up really steep rocks where we had to carry the bikes on our backs. I usually try to push my bike to save energy, but some of the trails were too narrow and too steep. Then we finally hit a long open downhill and I caught Katia who was stopped at a checkpoint. That didn't last very long, she caught right back up and we were together for a while. I was right behind Katia when the trail turned in to a hike-a-bike section. As we were hiking along I started getting a feeling we were not on the right track and asked if she had seen any blue ribbons. After a while I looked back and way down the hill I could see other riders, we were completely off track. It seemed like forever, but we probably only spent an extra 10 minutes on the wrong trail. When we finally got back to the course we had a technical downhill and I was able to drop Katia and got to the check point a few minutes ahead of her. It was a bummer to get lost, but at least we were together so we both received the same amount of penalty points. One of the Brits later told me he took a wrong turn and descended 800 meters, so I guess I shouldn't complain about a little extra hiking... We were joking that the day was only 80 km and we needed a little extra distance that day.
Eric was already at the checkpoint and we left together with Katia and a couple of other people. To get the the next special stage we had to go up this pavement that was so steep I had to be in my granny gear. I'm guessing it is about 20% grade for close to an hour. Since granny gear riding is not my specialty and I wanted to save some energy for the next stage, I lost the group and Katia had already left the checkpoint when I got there. Luckily the next climb was a much easier grade and I caught back up and passed them and we finished with a long super rocky riverbed downhill where I was able to gain some time. I was so happy to have my Magura fork for this section, it was really rough. I was also amazed that I never cut a tire or had a flat during the entire race. I rode the Kenda Karmas with a reinforced sidewall and I am highly impressed.
That night Eric and I decided we had enough of the pasta and went out for pizza in town. I was so tired and couldn't wait to go to bed when we got back. Just as I was putting toothpaste on my brush at 9 o'clock, Katia and the "california" Italians walk by and tell me that they are going in to town for the awards ceremony and ask if I want to go with them. I had no idea that there was a ceremony that night and that was the last thing I wanted to do, but I hate to be rude and miss my award so I went along. We walked and walked and finally got to a park where a bunch of locals are watching a female singer on stage. Apparently the town is having some little festival and Ironbike is presenting awards after the performances. The singer makes no sign of wanting to quit, so finally Fabritzio walks up on the stage and sort of cuts her off. I think even the staff is getting tired and ready for bed.
Finally at 10:30 I was back at the camp. I was so exhausted I didn't even get my food ready for the next day, I figured I had time in the morning since the race didn't start until 7 the next day...