Spoke unto the wheel


Ok, so I’m a bit behind.  But I’ve been a bit busy.  And I had a birthday.  Excuses, excuses ;)

But I have been riding, though not as much as I’d like.  Still, 600 miles for March ain’t bad, right? :D

I did a seaside loop last Wednesday, handily combining riding the bike with catching up with my fellow Cyclosport writer and friend Sean who was in Weston-super-Mare for work.  Coffee at the New Castle in Kewstoke it was then.  And a few miles and a few hills :)sand bay view

Cycling time: 1:59
Distance: 30.4 miles
Avg: 15.3 mph
ODO: 8553.7 miles

And as all birthdays should involve riding the bike, and for once the weather pretty much agreed with me, on Friday I did a coffee run with Chris.  Coffee at Sweets then.  With a few miles and virtually no hills ;)

birthday drinks bling kitty

Cycling time: 1:53
Distance: 31.3 miles
Avg: 16.6 mph
ODO: 8585 miles

Sadly however this Sunday’s ACG ride didn’t happen.  On the basis that if I’m going to lead a ride, it’s probably not all that responsible to lead one into gale force winds and rain.  It would have been not just unpleasant but also quite possibly dangerous.  As the other riders bailed one by one, it became clear that everyone else agreed, so I called it off.  Which came as quite a relief to my Dad, who was over to ride with us before our celebratory Sunday lunch at the The Oakhouse.  And I can’t say as I was too disappointed either, as I hate wind!  Sometimes you just can’t ride :)

Clif samples

In the meantime my next sportive – the Cotswold Spring Classic – is on Easter Monday.  And maybe I’ll get out this week, if the wind stops blowing a hoolie that is!  Today the postman bought me a whole heap of Clif goodies to test and review, so it looks like Monday’s ride will be well-fuelled for a change ;)  And the pain is still lurking, which is a bit of a worry, but I also have some new shiny pills that kinda work and a few days to get it under control.  Result! :)

The Lionheart 2015

OK, enough with the warm sunny riding, it’s time for a British sportive ;)  In this case, The Lionheart.  Again.  My fourth, since you can’t really count the one that got snowed out, and the forecast was for dry, chilly, and not much wind.  Good start.  And having done three rides since my training camp, which had gone pretty well, I was actually sort of looking forward to it.  To seeing how I would get on, more than the ride itself, if that makes any sense.  I wanted to know if training camps actually work.  I was all set for it.  Ready to ride 100 miles again.

Well, until Saturday night that is.  When the pain made an unwanted, though if I’d thought about it a probably predictable, return.  I was really hoping it was just the start of a flare-up, and that it wouldn’t hit full stride for a while…all I needed was 24 hours right?  *fingers crossed* ‘n all that.  Unsurprisingly I did not sleep well.  But I was up at 5:00am with the alarm, still not feeling too bad, and thinking I might get away with it.  I’d done most of my faffing the night before, so after the usual coffee and cereal, with some ibuprofen thrown in for good measure, I loaded myself and many layers into the car, and enjoyed the hour’s drive to HQ at Longleat.

Thanks to the pre-entry pack, there’s no need to register on the day for this one.  Having said that, it could have been more informative.  Although it came with a whole heap of rider number stickers, and the essential timing chip, that was pretty much it and all the actual event information was on-line as a pdf.  I’d read it.  Some hadn’t.  I knew that I was supposed to be there an hour before my entry time, and where there was.  That the 100 milers would be leaving before the 100 kmers.  And that entry times would be sent out the Tuesday before the event.  Well if they were, I didn’t get mine.  I did however remember this fact, and checked the entry list on-line, which said that my start time was 8:04am.  All of which meant I arrived at around 7:00am, and was marshalled onto the parking on the grass by the event village.

But before we carry on – back to that entry pack.  The timing chip is great.  Stick it on to the LHS of the helmet – job done.  I don’t mind a handlebar number, not that I’m likely to be buying any of the photos that that is mostly used for, and kudos for supplying little cable ties for it too.  I quite like the fact that the two distances got different colours for this – red for long, green for short.  But the rest of those stickers?  Sticker for helmet.  Sticker to go around the seat post – which never works with my saddle bag.  And a number to be pinned on your back too, though with no pins with which to do so.  Which I duly affixed to my jacket because the instructions said I “must”.  But what with all the layers, the chances were that this would probably be covered up half the time anyway, so what was the point?  I think there may have been some number overkill going on…

event village

Right, back to the paddock.  First things first, the toilets of course, before the inevitable queues grew, which they did later on.  There were no women only cubicles, unlike last year, but at this point neither this nor queues was an issue, which was good.  Then it was back to the car to find some cash, having spotted that Claud the Butler was once again present.  I don’t usually do pre-ride coffee, but I’ll make an exception for very good coffee, which is what they do.  Plus I kinda know them by now and it’s nice to see a familiar face on days like this.  Talking of which, as I was standing in the short queue for my short americano, Rob turned up.  I’d forgotten he was doing it – I frequently have a brain like a sieve – and not only was it good to see him, but this was a familiar face that then agreed to ride with me for a bit too – bonus!

start bunch start queue

Back to the car for proper faffing.  It was pretty chilly and it wasn’t due to really warm up, but there was a lot of climbing ahead, and if the sun did come out…ooh, what to wear?  I made various decisions and crossed my fingers they’d be the right ones.  Just as we were making our way to the start line, I had second thoughts about my tyre pressures and decided to actually do something about it rather than leaving it.  Just as well – they were both well down, though I’ve no idea why, and they’ve only been pumped up a week!  Rubber inflated, we set off on a little 10 minute ride through the arboretum to get to the start line.  Which was a bit weird.  Human Race have taken The Lionheart over and clearly made some changes.  The Start (and Finish) line is on the main drive now – but facing the house.  It’s a lot easier to line riders up here than wiggling them around the house, and this also means they don’t get in the way of arriving traffic or departing riders.  But the little ride is a bit of an awkward way to get them there.  Anyway, Rob and I were lucky.  As we arrived at the start, going past the queue of 100km riders on the right (maybe they hadn’t read the pdf?) we were ushered straight into the back of the next group of 100 milers to be briefed and let go, so we didn’t have to hang around in the cold getting even colder.  In fact looking at the results, we were off at 8:04am precisely!

over drive

But we didn’t hurtle off.  The first four miles are around the estate, and mostly uphill.  This is not the nicest way in the world to warm up, and it’s a mistake to push it (not that I could) because it’s too early in the day for that.  So Rob kept me company while we slowly bimbled around, failing to see the lions, and then climbing the long hill out of the estate together, passing comment on the many examples of sartorial elegance around us.  We were cold.  It was cold.  Very cold.  Which didn’t stop many riders wearing shorts.  Or, in the case of one madman, a vest top.  Hypothermia anyone?!  Once at the top we stopped, stashed gilets, and then out into the country lanes we went.  After half an hour of company and tolerance, as I dropped back on a hill, Rob headed off to test out his legs.  Not that I was complaining, we were probably both happier doing our own thing, but it was nice to have some company for a little while :)

second food stop outside second food stop inside

I don’t remember much of the first hour or so.  There were various ups and downs, the ups weren’t bothering me too much, and downs are always good.  It was all a bit sort of unremarkable, probably because it was grey and cloudy and cold and I hadn’t really warmed up?  Life was however starting to get more painful.  Which was not great.  I was due more painkillers at 10:00am so I started counting down to that.  And wondering if 100 miles was in fact going to be doable.  No need to make decisions yet though, so keep riding.  Eat.  Try and think of other things.  Keep pedalling.  The first foodstop, at the 18 mile mark, came and went, as I didn’t stop as it was too soon for me.  We headed west towards familiar territory, and then south.  Life got more scenic, with the pretty that is Evercreech, nice climbs and nice views.  Somewhere after a climb before Bruton I stopped and took those pills, and realised I didn’t have any more with me, and although I had some of the big guns with me, I can only take those and ride when I’m already on them and accustomed.  Otherwise I zonk, and zombies do not ride well.  Hm.

distant tower King Alfred's Tower

Off again, duly mulling things over in my head, and into Bruton for the second (very well stocked) foodstop, 31 miles in, where I did stop.  It was brightening up now, if not warming up, which was nice.  I ate and drank and sat and thought.  And pondered King Alfred’s Tower which was mentally looming 4 miles away, whichever route I was going to do.  I decided I’d give the pills until 11:00, see if/how they worked, and then maybe decide what I was going to do afterwards.  Time to go and climb that hill then.  Another change for this year, and a big improvement, is that this was now a closed road timed hill climb.  Ignore the latter bit, it’s the closed road bit that’s important!  This is a 1.5 mile climb that gets steeper all the way, and is very narrow, so if a car comes the other way and you have to stop, getting going again can be seriously tricky.  Especially if it’s wet which, luckily, today it wasn’t.  So closing the road is a very good thing, but it wasn’t going to stop it being hard work!  Here we go then.  Walkers on the left, riders on the right please.  Whatever the pain was doing, I was going to do my best which, as it turns out, slowly but surely got me to the top again.  ‘Rah!  Of those going up around me, about 95% seemed to end up walking, which was gratifying ;)  It’s one of the climbs where it’s very good knowing you’ve been up it before, because you know it can be done, and you also know where it ends!  As I made it to the top, I have to say I was very pleased indeed as I really had thought that today, all things considered, I might have joined those on the left hand side…


The stretch of flat and fast afterwards was lovely, as we headed towards Stourhead.  In previous years I’m fairly sure I remember the route going through the estate itself, with all the lovely views and prettiness that entails.  Well one of the changes this year, which no doubt pleases the NT grockles but did not please me, was to cut this out and instead go around it by back roads that clearly haven’t seen any road maintenance in quite some time, before bringing us back to the forest bit of Stourhead on the other side.  Which, being forestry proper, is not a nice road.  It never is.  Potholes and dirt and gravel.  Now, if you’ve had all the pretty beforehand, this has been known to seem like a fair trade-off.  But that not being the case, it was just not nice.  OK, so once you’ve climbed out of it, the views are lovely but…

Onwards.  I kept thinking maybe I could do the 100 miles.  It was a Sunday, the sun was shining, I was feeling pretty good mostly; I could do this, right?  And then the knife in my guts would twist again and I’d wonder if I could do the next 100 metres!  Clearly the pills weren’t cutting it…and I didn’t have more.  Mind you, I figured I could probably buy some en route, so this wasn’t overly concerning me, and I wasn’t due anymore for a while anyway.  But I was heading for the route split, so decisions needed to be made.  And it hurt.  It was SO annoying.  Because I was feeling pretty strong otherwise.  I was doing the hills.  I was flying on the flat and holding my own with other riders, and enjoying feeling good on the bike when I did.  But…

third food stop route split signs

After a few miles on main roads, where just like last year (but without the hail) I led a little peloton for a while, we reached the food stop, at 49 miles, at Yapp’s in Mere again.  It’s a nice place, a real sun trap too, and it was great to sit and feel warm for a while.  There was lots on offer to eat and drink, including wine and cheese!  Many people were debating what to do whilst milling around, as this was also where the route splits.  Sadly I’d pretty much decided that it was going to have to be the 100km.  Another 15 miles sounded a lot better than another 50, and a bit of me was wondering if I’d even manage that.  I had a thought though…and headed off to see the ambulance guys, parked up outside.  I expect they’re more used to dealing with dodgy knees and sore bums than they are my kind of problem but they were ever so helpful.  Although all I’d initially asked for was ibuprofen to take a bit later, they actually gave me something stronger that I could take there and then.  I wish I could remember what it was!  Apparently it’s less strong than tramadol, so with less zombie effect, but better than ibuprofen and lasts 6-8 hours.  I may need to get my hands on some of that for future use; something to ask the Doctor about methinks.

riders in Mere ambulance

Deciding to take the shorter route means a long climb out of Mere which I remember hating last year.  It didn’t bother me this year, I even completed some of the slowest over-taking manoeuvres you’ll ever see to get past some other riders ;)  I did know the next bit was lovely and that the rest of it wasn’t going to be too much trouble either, which probably helped.  In fact I really enjoyed the last hour.  The pain receded slowly.  The sun was out and I was flying.  After a little while over-taking lots of people, I picked up another rider, and we took turns to pretty much race back.  Well that’s what it felt like anyway.  There was no need to hold anything back now, so I figured I might as well go all out and get back :)

view from Mere Hill Longleat drive

I’d dropped him, and a few others we acquired, just before the end, as we reached the final sprint down the drive.  I took photos and then decided sprinting would be more fun.  I think he tried to catch me…but I also think I won ;)  I was grinning as I collected my medal, shook his hand, and toddled off to tell the timing man I’d bailed.  He already knew, and by the time I got back to the event village I’d had a text with my official time too!

ready for medals marquee

I hung up my bike, collected my goody bag, and headed for the food tent, ostensibly in search of fizzy orange.  Which had to be 7Up because of that they had none.  But the free hotpot on offer turned out to be vegetarian bean hotpot that was also gluten and dairy free!  Whilst probably not 100% safe, I wasn’t sure what I’d be eating for dinner later, so I figured I’d risk it.  Very nice it was too :)

Whilst eating in my little corner of the marquee I inspected the contents of the goody bag, which weren’t that goody really.  Lots of free samples of things with the odd voucher and a magazine thrown in.  No souvenir tube scarf this year, which was a shame, and another change made for the worse I think.  Especially when you consider that this sportive costs £42.  Yes, £42!  That’s £6 more than last year.  With other similar, and equally well run, events coming in around the £30 mark, I really don’t know what that extra £12 buys you.  There was some email earlier in the year putting the increase down to VAT or some such, but that really doesn’t explain it.  It wasn’t cheap to start with!  Yes it’s a good event, and it’s well run, but I’m afraid I just don’t think that it’s value for money.

So, not a great day at the office.  My official time is 5:05, showing that I wasted 40 minutes at foodstops and various other I need to take a break stops.  Without the pain I reckon I’d have had a good one though; I certainly felt like the potential was there.  But it’s hard to focus on the riding when your body is trying to curl itself into foetal position, and you can’t concentrate on anything outside your insides.  Ho hum.  However my average speed is well up on last year’s, in fact Strava says I did most of it better than last year, so I’ll take that as a positive, remember the bits I did enjoy and that I could do, and take that on with me to the next one.  100 miles this time, right? PMA :)

Cycling time: 4:24
Distance: 61.6 miles
Avg: 14.0 mph
ODO: 8523.3 miles

hotpot etc

This road’s been putting miles on my heart

And now, the end is near, and so we face, our final hurdle.  But this time I wasn’t nervous.  Not at all.  This is what I had wanted to do all along.  To climb a mountain.  The Alto de Velefique and Tetica in this case.  So no, I wasn’t nervous, I was excited.  Proper bouncy excited.  Probably irritatingly so.  Not that anyone else seemed to be.  What is it about male cyclists?  They never seem that excited about what they’re about to do, or about what they’ve just done?  Or maybe it’s not a gender thing, it could just as easily be just me who’s daft like that ;)

Today’s challenge was not next door, and the 200km odd round trip was probably a bit beyond us, so we would be being driven there instead of riding there.   It was an earlier start too, but once more, over-sleeping wasn’t an issue, I’d left the balcony door ajar and was awoken by some sort of avian serenade rather too early!  For the first time this week morning dawned grey, chilly and misty, not blue, warm and sunny.  However this was not necessarily a bad thing if we were going to be slogging uphill for hours, especially considering how well I’d been coping with the very hot this week.  What can I say?  I’m not used to it!

Once an essential breakfast was on board, the van was loaded up with bikes and kit, and a hired MPV was loaded up with riders in many layers.  It was a fairly quiet journey as sleepy and possibly nervous riders yawned their way through the drive to the official start.  HQ was 18km from the start of the climb, at a nice café, so we would have some time to wake up and warm up before things really kicked off.  Since the aforementioned café also had facilities, and I felt guilty for using them without paying – everyone else was irrigating the landscape outside – I also grabbed a quick espresso.  Well, caffeine is a proven riding aid, and I do like good coffee :)

take the van in prickly riders

It was brightening up outside, but still pretty chilly, and everyone was donning warmers, gilets, even full gloves, and debating whether more or less was the way to go.  Since we were due to stop before the start, as it were, I figured it wasn’t really too much of an issue since we’d have the chance to rectify any errors either way.  For a change I was actually more than ready to go.  So, shall we ride then?  Please?  I want to go up a mountain!

So off we went.  18km, with the sun rising behind us, cacti growing around us, temperatures rising…  It was a bit hard work keeping up but once again James was keeping us all together, with Margriet at the back and Becky and Hannah were with us too, all four miked up so we could be controlled.  It’s probably a bit like herding sheep.  Or since one of those sheep is me, herding cats ;)  I was pretty much holding my own but it was an odd road.  There were some weird optical illusions going on, probably because of the mountains looming ahead of us.  They were getting bigger as we got closer, as they would.  The road had ups.  And bits that you would have sworn were downs, but didn’t feel like it when you were on them.  Was it hard work or was it just up?  I really must learn to check the Garmin…!  I didn’t mind though, I was going ok, and I knew what was ahead, so if I fell off the back so be it.  Energy conservation is key.  My PMA was in place.  I’ve been up mountains before, I know I can do it, and I wanted to get on with doing it.  Maybe it’s familiarity breeding contempt or something, maybe I should have been more nervous? ;)

suffering van stats to reckon with

It was already hot enough for me to know that I was going to be taking everything non-essential off, but there was just enough breeze and chill around still to mean that I wasn’t quite over-heating as we pushed on.  Besides, sunshine makes for better views, and I like to look at them while I’m pedalling for hours.  As we neared the inevitable “here’s what you’re in for” sign, the van zoomed past us, to wait for us there we presumed.  However it turns out that following cyclists up and down things is not all that good for vans.  After 5 years of impeccable service, “Terrance” as the van is apparently called, was finally having a bad day.  The fans had gone and he’d over-heated.  Here’s hoping this wasn’t an omen for the rest of us!  This did add the odd wrinkle to arrangements however.  Rather than us all head up together as planned, James headed back on his bike to get the MPV, while we were to set off ahead.  He would get the MPV, get back to the van, load it up with whatever was necessary, and then catch us up, while Graham attempted to fix things, or organise a Plan B.

rider names margriet being domestique

So off we went, instantly spreading out.  Margriet realised fluids might be an issue and went back to the van, to domestique her way back past me a while later, jersey laden with bottles of water and the like so we would be able to top up halfway up if necessary.  Which left me happily pootling my way along at the back.  Just because I knew I could (probably) do it, doesn’t mean I thought it was going to be easy.  But honestly it was easier than I thought it would be.  And, even though no-one else in our party believes me, I absolutely loved it.  Even the first 4km of 10/11%…because I knew it was going to get better and I was already doing ok.

still love hairpins rabbit chasing

And it did get better.  Even better.  A total of 14km of wiggles.  Views, breeze, cherry blossom…and just like the Puerto de la Virgen, enough variations in gradient that I could change gear from time to time, and didn’t feel like I was at my limit.  Man, it was fabulous.  And, just for once, and only because he had a cold, I actually overtook someone on the way up.  Sorry Mark!  I’d seen him struggling up ahead for a while, and there may have been a very small element of rabbit chasing ;)

view over there wiggles below

I had a brief breather and top up with Margriet at the halfway mark, whilst small not at all scary dogs from the farm there attempted to scare us away.  Quite amusing really, all bark and no bite, not that I was going to get close enough to test that theory out ;)  And then I was off again.  Happy happy hairpin me :)  In fact I was a bit surprised when, after another 7km, I reached the top.  It hadn’t taken as long as I thought it would, and suddenly there I was, and I don’t think the others had been there long.  It was, apparently, a “good effort” on my behalf ;)  I was a very proud of me bunny.  Time for the obligatory col photo then.  Oh, and there was still snow!  Which is probably because it was still bl**dy freezing up there ;)

woo hoo made it

Mark wasn’t far behind me, and James and the MPV joined us at the top very shortly.  It was too cold for hanging around though, so I put on the odd layer, and headed off ahead of everyone else again.  There was a flat 2km or so along the top before the final climb up to Tetica.  This wasn’t a harder climb, well maybe a little bit, but it definitely got scarier, as we corkscrewed our way around the peak on a narrow tarmac road with precious little between us and a lot of unpleasant down!  And the last 100m up to the hut and aerials there?  On ridged concrete at about 25%.  The sudden increase in effort suddenly left me unable to co-ordinate effort, breathing, and heart rate…and it all felt pretty weird and unpleasant.  I’ll never know if I would have made all the way up that final bit, as Dave ahead of me had lost it and was lying on the ground next to his abandoned bike, so I had to stop so as to not hit anything.  This meant walking the very last bit as I’d have never gotten back on the bike with it being that steep.  But as my heart was considering leaping out of its designated location, I have to admit it worked out quite well really! ;)

Tetica top wrapped up warm

If it had been cold before, it was proper cold now, even if you used the concrete shack building to shelter from the wind.  Every layer went back on, and then some, which gratifyingly meant that I had now worn every item of cycling kit that I brought on the trip with me.  Small things, small minds ;)  We all chilled out (ha ha!) for a while at the top, because the views were just amazing and hey, how often do you get to be at 2080m up in March without being on skis?!  And I don’t ski.  It was totally awesome.  And we rode up there!  There was some daft wordplay later.  Along the lines of it having been climbatic.  The peak of our achievements this week.  The high point of the week.  Etc ;)

marker plate mark and dave

‘Totally awesome’ are two words that also apply to the descent back down the way we came, after a brief stop near the top to take “that” photo.  The one that shows all the wiggles and the bends and the valley, and how far you came up and how well you did all things considered.  Somewhat pride inspiring.  And good for bragging rights too ;)  There’s nothing like putting that on Facebook while all your mates are at work.  I nearly got disowned by several friends…*grin*.  Due to the chill, one of us had headed down already, but I led the way down ahead of the rest, which mean that I didn’t have an audience if I over-cooked a corner, and could relax into it.  The roads were sooooo quiet – I think we literally saw two cars all day – but you could never be 100% there isn’t something coming the other way…and a couple of times it was just as well there wasn’t.  I did have fun though.  Oh yes.  But then you knew that, right?  No surprises there by now :)

got to get that photo proper wiggly

One by one we rejoined the stricken van, and stuffed our by now superfluous layers away.  Once we were all together again, basking in the sunshine, there was quite some debate as to what to do next.  The plan was for us to ride back to the café, and for James to follow us down.  We would then wait at the café and he would then go back and get Graham or Graham and the van if it could be persuaded to start.  We left them deliberating the finer points of this plan, to have an 18km peloton blast all the way back down the valley.  Because it turns out that it had been up on the way out, so now it was most definitely down.  ‘Rah!  Even better Becky and Hannah led the way, set the pace, and fought any wind since, let’s face it, they need the training more than us, right? ;)  Fast and fun and fabulous :)

Which brings us back to the café.  Where we did indeed wait.  Margriet opted to ride back, as room in whatever transport we might end up in might be at a premium, what with Plan B involving either hire cars or lots of shuttling.  The girls might have had to ride back too, but needed to eat before they did so if they had to.  But, after the rest of the party had had random food, which is what happens when the staff don’t speak English and my Spanish only goes so far, and a lot of us had had very nice cold beer, James turned up…with Graham and a functioning van!  Which meant a very relieved two girls did not also have to ride home, and we could all go back just the way we arrived.  Their faces were a very happy picture.  Result :)  We “met” Margriet on the way back too and drafted her for a while, which as there was a headwind, went down pretty well.  Mind you, I couldn’t go that fast even if lurking behind a van – chapeau!

It was relatively late by the time we got back to the villa.  The van with all the bikes in was a little way behind us, taking it easy, but it turned up just in time for me.  I wanted to get the bike back in the box before I had a shower and got presentable, not after, and it worked perfectly.  Graham took the pedals off for me, not that I couldn’t have done so, and I don’t think the bike has ever gone away so quickly or so easily.  I may be getting the hang of that :)   And now I could take a beer upstairs, pack things away, have that shower, get dressed, and sort of glow happily as I did so.  Woohoo – I made it up another mountain! :D

Cycling time: 3:25
Distance: 42.5 miles
Avg: 12.4 mph
ODO: 8386.7 miles

Dinner was as good as ever, and we were hungry.  Even me!  Well it was the last time we’d have a good excuse for eating like this, so we were making the most of it!  Our last supper, as it were.  Soup, salad, chilli con carne with rice and sweet potato wedges, meringue and fruit and cream cake and if you fancied it, caramel vodka to drizzle over things.  Or just drink of course.  Yum.  I think I may have discovered a new vice ;)  Hey, I’d earned it right?  In fact we’d all earned a few drinks in the evening too, but with early starts to get to various airports the following day, it was a fairly low key affair, and a fairly early night.  All good things must come to an end, and there was some saying of farewells, a small gift for chef extraordinaire Julia, and we were all presented with a poster of the Alto de Velefique and Tetica to commemorate our achievement.  You only get one if you make it up, and we all did :)  Wheels in Wheels training camp – done!

i love this

I’m a big big girl in a big big world

Right, so we’re all rested and recovered.  It must be time to ride those bikes again, otherwise people will start thinking we were on holiday or something! ;)  Which brings us to Day 6.  A sort of intermediate day, billed as slightly longer but considerable flatter than the previous ride.  Which wouldn’t be difficult.  Note, I am not using the word flat, but flatter…

mechanical off we go again

It all started off well.  Well, unless you were Dave, who fell off negotiating the gravel drive on the way out of the villa, bashed himself and his front brake, and cycled the first few miles without realising there was an actual mechanical reason for it feeling like such hard work ;)  Having your brake permanently on will do that *grin*.  So we stopped, discovered that, and James and him fixed it in a jiffy.  Apparently life was much easier afterwards.  Well, for him anyway ;)

We headed out toward the same way we did for the Bedar climb many days before, but luckily that wasn’t on the agenda today.  It did mean the roads were that bit more familiar, which was nice, I like to know what I’m doing.  Or pretend I know what I’m doing ;)  And it was fairly flat.  Mind you, that was the end of the “flat” though.  After that came the ups.  Whole heaps of undefinable ups, so there was a whole heap of me not entirely keeping up too.  There were various draggy bits, that sort of blurred into one, and then came the first real climb I guess.  Well, by the looks of it on Strava the road goes up for about 5 miles, so that’s a climb, right?  We seemed to have timed our climb of this to coincide with every quarry lorry in the area desperately needing to be somewhere ahead of us, and thundering past to get there.  Considering how much they weigh, you’d think they’d be a cautious bunch, but they were taking no prisoners either up hill or down, however wiggly it was.  Brave or foolish, your call…  While I suppose this could have bothered me, it actually just reminded me of Shipham Hill :)  I resolved myself to plodding along in my normal style at the back, but as the girls were off doing other things today, and I was actually off the back, I was a bit more on my own than usual.  Still, I had yet to get grumpy about it.  And yes, I did use the word yet.  Ooh, the suspense ;)

up I go love wiggles

About 20 odd miles in we took a left turn and headed into the hills.  This is apparently one of James’ favourite patches, and I think it’s a nature reserve of some sort.  Not that I saw any nature really, but it was prettier than some of the other terrain we’d been through.  Now that we were away from the main road, and there were climbs to be done, albeit of a shorter variety, we were allowed to split up and head for the hills our own way.  Fab :)  Now that I did enjoy.  No, honest, I did!  Hairpins, wiggles, a lovely down in the middle before another up.  Fun.  Mind you the motorcyclist who went past me and around the next hairpin with his knee <this> far off the ground may just possibly have been having even more fun than me *grin*.  Not only was I in relatively happy mode having not had to keep up for a while, the views from the top were well worth all the effort.  You could see the Puerto de la Virgen that we’d done the other day and beyond that and considerably higher, the big hill we would be climbing the next day.  Scary!

arid view ghost railway

This was not the time to worry about that though.  This was time to take photos, eat and drink, and then enjoy some down time ;)  There was a really lovely stretch afterwards on empty main roads through a valley, past the equally empty high speed railway line.  Well it would be empty; when Spain went bust they couldn’t afford to finish it so there it sits, long, straight, all high tech, all laid out, all tarmac-ed…but minus electricity and tracks.  Man, now that would make an awesome cycle path!

out of the saddle up not the strawberry line

Talking of which, that’s what we were on to next.  The cycle path we joined had apparently been converted from an old railway line which means it’s wide, there’s tarmac, and it’s not too lumpy…apart from where you drop down to the riverbed for a bit and then have to climb a 25% kick to get back up to it again!  That hurt!  Even so, it still kinda put the Strawberry Line to shame.  But it sho’ was hot.  Sheltered, inland, baking sun, again with the over 30ºC…  What with that, the cacti, the arid scenery, and being in the middle of rural nowhere, it felt like I imagine cycling in Arizona must feel like.

riverbed clifs

It was kinda pretty and novel for a while.  But it got hotter.  And the halfway mark came and went and it was still apparently still a way to go to the foodstop.  Oh dear.  And somehow, even though I hadn’t properly registered it, we were going up and up and up.  Well I know that now, at the time it just felt like hard work, and I was proper suffering.  I was slipping behind again and when that path turned into a gravel path I ended up even further behind.  I was hot, bothered, and fed up.  Oh and I hate gravel, even if it’s compacted and not deep.  Dave was actually, and cautiously, behind me, having had his share of gravel today.  At some point along here, for comedic effect, he asked the world if we were nearly there yet.  I believe I said that we f*cking well better be!  Very uncouth of me I know ;)  Sorry!  The others were so far ahead that I nearly lost them altogether when we finally arrived at Lucainena de las Torres, 45 miles in and 10 miles further than I wished it had been, as the roads wiggled through the town to where our lunch stop turned out to be.

MDCC gravel path

It’s a good thing no-one talked to me for a bit, mind you that’s probably because I was radiating seriously grumpy again.  The van, which had arrived before us, what with cycle paths not being designed for vans, was parked up next to the café, and I sat down on a cool marble tree surround next to it and took five to get it together.  Man I was hot.  Cooked.  Over-cooked.  I’d been drinking all day but the speed at which I dispatched today’s can of Fanta implied that I’d not done enough of that.  So I ordered another one, which lasted marginally longer.  I could probably have managed three!

expensive lunch stop

We tried to order some sandwiches for the group but due to some serious language barriers, a shortage of the right kind of bread, and the fact that they saw us coming, we ended up with artisan ham, artisan cheese, large slices of melon, chunks of the wrong kind of bread and also, bizarrely, two roasted poussin on a bed of vegetables, to be shared between all of us.  Well, at least I can eat ham and melon :)  And there wasn’t much left when we’d finished.  But…did you note that word artisan?  I am presuming it must have been, in order to justify the cost!  It worked out at around 20€ each…but hey, it tasted good, we probably ended up taking a much longer break than we would have done otherwise which I more than likely needed, and it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry right?  They may have fleeced the eejots in lycra once, but I doubt they’ll be getting many visits from future camps, so maybe we will all have lived and learned ;)


Somewhere in the midst of all this consumption, I was relieved to learn that we were at the highest point of the ride now though, like I said, I hadn’t realised how much up we’d been doing so it also came as a bit of a surprise.  Still it did imply that the overall trend for the remaining 30 miles would be downwards, and that was encouraging.  Of course there was some more climbing, that was inevitable, and I don’t really remember it in detail, I just remember getting dropped again and being permanently about what felt like half a mile behind everyone else, which was a bit of a lonely place to be.  Sure, Margriet was driving the van behind me, so I was never going to get truly lost or left behind but…  I think (probably wrongly) James had gotten a bit fed up of having to put up with the slowcoach at the rear, so there wasn’t much bringing us all together again either.  By the time they finally stopped and let me catch up, and I mentioned that it might be nice if I didn’t get left out all the time (yes, I had a fairly polite toys out of cot moment), it was a bit late for my PMA.  Still, apparently that was it really for climbing so it wasn’t going to be a problem anymore.  Hm.  I’ve heard that before…  However by now we were back on the road that we came out on so, when told that, I could actually believe it too ;)  For the last 25k we all stuck together, worked a bit more as a team, and by comparison to how I’d been feeling, we almost flew in.  It’s amazing how much difference it makes being in, and being part of, a group.  I did take a stretch with James at the front too, and I don’t think I was holding us back.  Anger is an energy ;)  It was really nice to get back to the villa that way, barring Antas Hill of course, but although I’d perked up a bit, my PMA was still feeling pretty depressed.  But it was over, and better still it was over in plenty of time for us to enjoy the rest of the afternoon :)

us out

Cycling time: 4:46
Distance: 75 miles
Avg: 15.7 mph
ODO: 8344.2 miles

The villa’s landlord was holding his 60th birthday party out by the pool with live music and everything.  We had been told we were more than welcome to join in, but I needed a breather first.  I spent some time with a cold beer and a flapjack on my balcony again, watching the ex-pats’ antics, listening and singing along to the music, before having a shower and putting a frock and sandals on.  It may sound daft, but I felt like I needed to remind myself that I am actually a girl, not just a decidedly average lycra-clad cyclist, and it worked a treat.  I stood in the (very chilly) pool for a while, chatting to the others, which my legs loved.  And then I took them off to the dance floor because, just for me, the band played “Walking in Memphis” again, so I danced and sang my little heart out in the sunshine to that and others, which put my woes and worries well and truly behind me :)

smiley blue me

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

Ah, the joys of a rest day.  Well earned, well deserved, and seriously needed.  Beach, Mojácar Pueblo, market, souvenirs, beer, tapas, time by the pool…and not a pedal or wheel in sight.  It felt almost like a holiday ;)  Oh, and then I had a fab massage by Margriet to round it all off – she’s qualified and multi-talented :)

Still good at the beach coastal views vino in barrels

tapping the barrel market view right to sea

view left to inland beer view very cold pool

sunny afternoon tropical cacti

sangria contador not at all scarey dog

It being Julia’s night off, we had dinner at a restaurant up the road; an interesting walk in the dark away, past barking dogs and very noisy frogs.  The food though good enough, was a bit expensive for me, and I was tired enough that I’d have cheerfully stayed at the villa, and would have preferred to do so, but that would have meant not eating…and I didn’t want to get told off again!  Well, there would be more miles to come, and more hills to climb, right?  Rest and recovery :)

It’s a little bit funny

Having been given two options for today’s route, we’d all opted for the longest, hilliest route.  And yes, that does include me.  That’s what we were there for, after all, no?  I wonder at myself sometimes.  So this morning I was nervous *sigh*.  Which is pretty daft really.  I mean what was there to dread really?  Here am I, on a holiday I’ve chosen to do.  There’s no-one to beat, no cut-offs to avoid.  The worst that could happen is that I wouldn’t make it up something and would opt for a ride in the broom wagon which, let’s face it, considering my stubborn streak and my recent performance, was seriously unlikely.  But still…

Time to make sure I ate breakfast then.  My requested rice cakes had arrived so I ate some of them with various preserves, including Nutella obviously, as well as half a Clif bar and a banana, all washed down by lots of coffee.  It was slightly a case of having to force it down, as I don’t really eat breakfast, but I knew I had to.  Well, how else does a girl do an advertised 70 miles and 2,400m of climbing?

Breakfast done, I distracted myself by reading on the balcony, faffing, making sure I had food and gels on me, and drinking yet more coffee until our inevitable departure.  We were off pretty much on schedule, and I had arm warmers on as it was a bit chilly and we had 10 “flat” miles to do before we got to the first climb of the day.  Having come down from Bedar before, I knew exactly what I was about to go up, so I wasn’t pushing it.  Luckily the group wasn’t hurtling this morning either, as James & Margriet wanted to keep us all together initially, while Graham brought up the rear with the van.

starting the Bedar climb stretching wiggles dusty views

As the climb started, steeper at the bottom, it was agreed that it was now ok to split up, which is always better for me.  I hate holding folk back, and I was never going to be able to keep up with them up this.  I was already getting a bit hot and was about to drop back and stash my arm warmers in the van, but James sorted that for me – again with the Pro experience ;)  As the group pulled away from me, even the van and the girls went ahead for a while, leaving me toute seule and happier for it.  Lots of hairpins to admire both behind and ahead as I plodded up in the sun.  Oddly I like hairpins ;)  Of course the girls overtook me, after a stop in the village, and went past me like I was standing still ;)  Graham eventually arrived behind me, but kept the van further back as I’d asked, so that I could hear the world, not just the engine ;)  And you know what?  It really wasn’t too bad, which was great, because if I could do this one, then I can do the other ones.  Very reassuring :)  I was also being a good girl and eating and drinking, so when I finally joined the others at the top, and James told me to, I just had, and could say so with a clear conscience :)

food stop cut through see the Virgen

Next on the ride horizon, and probably the real thing, was the Puerto de La Virgen.  There was plenty of climbing in between as it turns out, but apparently that didn’t count ;)  It sure felt like up to me!  Luckily the girls kept me company for while.  They chatted away, I concentrated on breathing ;)  Well it was around 30°C!  Once the ups were done, and as we got nearer, Graham pulled alongside and gave me a timely warning, so I got a gel down me.  Every little helps right?  The world became wide and flat, open and like a big agricultural dust bowl as we got closer.  The climb ahead could be seen snaking around the hill, by the looks of it relatively gradually.  Certainly not as steep as what we’d already been doing anyway, right?  I knew it was a six mile climb though, so however it was it was going to take a while!  We had a pitstop at the bottom, where I’d really liked to have had a comfort break but there was nowhere to hide.  Everyone seemed happy to stand around and eat and drink, but I just wanted to get going.  So with the road only going one way, and there being thus no way to get lost, James okayed me setting off on my own.  Well it’s not like they weren’t going to catch me right?

village long distance views

And I loved it.  Really.  I had it all to myself.  Views that went on forever but just wouldn’t photograph well.  Sun, cacti, occasional birds.  Still no tortoises though ;)  It was indeed a gradual climb.  My kind.  One where you actually change gears from time to time rather than just grinding up the whole thing in bottom gear.  There was also enough of a breeze to cool you down when the wiggles were in the right direction.  At some point James and the girls went past like a steam train having decided to race for the top (madness!).  And behind me around the wiggles, the others slowly approached…which maybe pushed me a long a little bit faster ;)  In and out of the contour lines, getting higher and higher, before eventually going around, back on ourselves and up on the other side of the ridge.  It certainly went on for a while as predicted, but it wasn’t bothering me.  In fact I think I can have been said to be enjoying myself.  And although a couple of riders caught, and passed, me, not all of them did.  Which is a very cool thing indeed :)  Go crawler gear!

smiley climbing waiting for me

We took some time at the top, re-grouping, taking the obvious photos, and then putting on layers for the descent.  I was in a pretty good mood, and just a little bit pleased with myself :)  I’d earnt a down, and what a lovely down it was.  Apart from my Garmin guttering out on the way down.  I swear it said 100% the night before or I’d have charged it!  *grrr*.  No time to worry it about it though, as there were technical hairpins to concentrate on.  Not to mention trying not to look at a monumental marble mountain, slowly being broken away by chunks, that loomed over us.  Very impressive, and probably logistically complicated from a quarrying point of view.  Apparently they just blow chunks of it off and collect them at the bottom!  I’d have taken photos, but I believe I mentioned I was concentrating ;)  The Garmin finally failed, the glorious down came to an end and, since I was near the front of the descending hordes, we were met one by one by James at the bottom and guided to the lunch stop just up the road.  Not literally up I hasten to add ;)

I made it and so did my bike

I was feeling a bit hot and bothered sat in the sun, annoyed by the Garmin failure, and annoyed at my insides because I couldn’t have a sandwich like everyone else when I knew I should be eating.  I’d been doing so well up until then, and without the Garmin it’s really hard to work out when to eat, and to keep track of the route – how far to go, how long – especially when I there was more climbing to go and I’m always the one a bit behind so I’d have no-one to ask.  Yes, I was fretting.  Sometimes bad moods just pop up.  And this was a doozy.  Mind you, watching a local arrive on his donkeys, debate forcefully with some leaving clientele, presumably grab a coffee inside, and then ride off into the sun once again was distracting.  Very Don Quixote or something.  It’s very rural out there, and that wasn’t the only donkey being used traditionally; I saw them pulling things, carrying things.  Yes, I look around a lot when going up hills ;)  They looked pretty well cared for – but then I guess when something is your tractor/car/4*4 you’re nice to it!

Don Quixote

Lunch was followed by a several mile up on a really nasty gravelly road, in the very hot, followed by an equally unpleasant gravelly descent.  I understand that to avoid it would involve a 40km detour though, so it makes sense, but I really wasn’t in the mood for it.  I was always a chunk of metres behind everyone, I was fed up of being behind, I didn’t know where I was, how long I’d been out, how far there was to go, and I sure as h*ll wasn’t following an eating strategy.  I think I was running on empty, that always puts me in a foul mood, and I always forget that.  I think I may actually have been sulking ;)  At the top of another climb, or up, or whatever it was, when I pulled up to join everyone, I must have been looking a bit past it as Becky asked me if I was tired.  I said I was ok, which I was really, but that I was just getting a bit lonely stuck at the back.  From there on in she kept me company, towed me, chatted to me, and generally stopped me from being such a grouch.  She even forgive me for nearly knocking us both off when I got distracted and bumped into her back wheel – sorry Becky, and thank you! :)

gravel climb

After a final 2km climb, and as promised, the final ten miles or so were a flying peloton race to the finish.  Or the Finca ;)  Even a puncture didn’t stop us.  We rolled on, the wheel was swopped, and the afflicted rider was drafted back to the pack by the van.  It was definitely fun, but it was still a relief to roll slowly, carefully as ever, down the gravel drive back to the villa, and to call the ride quits.

After 71.1 miles and 2298m of climbing, according to another Garmin, I should have been feeling pretty proud of myself for surviving, but it was clearly going to take a while for me to get my sangfroid back.  It was later than usual so we’d all cooled down on the final stretch, but my blood was still up ;)  It was definitely time for another cold beer, which I’ll have you know tasted absobl**dylutely fabulous.  Even better, Julia had made a fantastic batch of flapjacks for us, but especially for me, so that I would have my usual fodder to ride on for the rest of the week.  Did I mention Julia is awesome? :D

I took my beer up to my room and had a bath.  Both restorative.  I’m fairly sure I wasn’t being great company downstairs!  However after another lovely dinner – salads, BBQ ribs with veg & rice, and fruit salad, by the time I got to bed I was feeling a lot better.  I did do ok you know.  Yes, I was still feeling like the weakest link but I did like some of the ups, I loved the Puerto de la Virgen and that at least I did well.  And hey, with all that slow climbing sunshine, my tan lines were growing and I had the sunburnt nose to prove it.  Time to get some sleep and look forward to our rest day :)

Cycling time: 5:08
Distance: 71.1 miles
Avg: 13.8 mph
ODO: 8269.2 miles

quiet hairpins

The dreams you have to chase

You’d think with all the riding, and the post-riding beer, I’d sleep like a log wouldn’t you?  No.  No idea why really.  Sleeping in a single bed is not something I’m used to.  And something liked to wake me up around 6:00am every morning, quite probably a cockerel, which you’d have thought I’d be used to, considering the number of them there are around here.  Still, at least getting up for the 8:00am alarm call was never an issue.  I was usually a little early down for breakfast, making a beeline straight for the coffee machine!  Having been made to realise that boiled eggs were a bad idea yesterday, today I decided to have a Clif bar for breakfast instead, and asked if maybe we could get some rice cakes for following days.  Those at least I can eat.  And cover in Nutella ;)

Day 3’s ride was due to be considerably flatter, but longer – 80 miles this time.  Once again the weather was lovely, and we set out at about 10:45, this time with mein host Wheels in Wheels MD Graham Temple driving the support van.  You’d have thought flatter would be better wouldn’t you?  Oddly……no.  The rest of the guests were just that bit too fast for me on the flat, and I was constantly slogging to keep up, without any respite from downhills.  I was finding it pretty hard work and my PMA took a bit of a nosedive to be honest.  However, it being the ‘Ride Like A Pro’ experience, and with all the ride leaders miked up, they did their best to communicate this to each other so as to rein things in a bit when necessary.  Oh, and I also accidentally dropped a Clif bar at some point, and Margriet retrieved it, raced back to us, and returned it to me.  Even more Pro ;)

flatter and faster citrus groves

There was a long stretch through citrus groves in the sunshine where I just gradually dropped backwards, however hard I tried,…my PMA doing the same…until we got to the top and I was informed that we’d actually been doing the climb of the day, at which point I felt much better!  In fact we’d been going up, albeit gradually and not very high, for about 15 miles.  That explains it then.  Maybe I should check the gradient on my Garmin from time to time?

going to go down swoopy

I cheered up even further after our break at the top and the fab descent afterwards which was not at all technical, and therefore large amounts of fun.  The downward trend also continued for quite some time which was far more me than up is! ;)  I didn’t do so well on the coast road afterwards though.  I think the word James used for it is “undulating”…  It was very scenic, in fact stunning in places, but most definitely rolling, with a nasty coast head wind to boot.  Never enough down to get me up the next up, and never enough up for me to get into my crawling rhythm.  I sat at the back of the group and did my best, occasionally sheltered by Margriet, and tried to let those views and the sunshine distract me.  Hey, I might not have being doing that well, but it was a Monday and I was riding my bike in the sun by the beach, which is more than could be said for anyone else I know ;)


We had a coffee stop about halfway ’round, somewhere facing away from the beach, which mean we were sat in the shade, and restorative though it was, I was just getting colder and colder.  I could have used half an hour sat in the sun, listening to the waves, and doing nothing.  But then that’s always true :)  Becky and Hannah didn’t stop, and headed off to do their own thing, presumably because we were too fast for them ;)  Still, having been told off by James the night before for not eating enough when riding I was doing my best to eat more today, and coffee and Fanta count too right?  And yes, I know, my not eating enough is not news to anyone ;)

coffee stop margriet kloppenburg

It was really good to get back underway and warmed up again, though the coast road didn’t get any flatter and the wind seemed to get worse.  Fighting a non-stop headwind is hard work, and I’m glad I wasn’t on the front!  Everyone went a bit quiet after a while and, taking his queue from that, James made an executive decision to cut the route a little short, turning 80 miles into 70, but no-one was complaining.  As we came back down the rural lanes, past the golf course, the wind was a little more in our favour, which was nice, and also a lot quieter!  Again with the not flat though.  There’s an annoying climb there through a leisure resort which seems oddly pointless as it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, followed by what was starting to feel like our bête noire – the 8% main road climb at Antas, which had to be negotiated before we could get back to the villa.  I’m sure it’s not a big deal really, but it always felt like it at the end of a ride!

more coast

Cycling time: 4:05
Distance: 69.0 miles
Avg: 16.9 mph
ODO: 8198.1 miles

I was definitely flagging towards the end, and sneezing a lot for some reason.  Flat for Andalucia is not the same as flat for Somerset for sure!  And if James ever tells you the route is flat, find yourself a very large pinch of salt to take that with, it’s just a comparative term ;)  Still, another ride was under the belt, and there was plenty of time leftover for some R&R in the sun, as well as for me to both wash my kit and get it dry.  Even more fabulously the beer was still cold ;)

To further emphasise how wonderful chef Julia is, tonight the main course at dinner, after vegetable soup and salads, was lasagne.  Which is not me-friendly.  So she made me my own version, with no cheese sauce, and replaced the pasta with layers of grilled aubergine.  Aw.  How cool is that?  And it was delicious too.  As were the local strawberries, some even coated in chocolate, that were the alternative to tiramisu.  See, I was doing my best to eat, honest!  Well, it wasn’t really optional, Day 4 was ahead, which threatened to make this one look like a walk in the park ;)

me again

In the sun

Apparently Day 2 is usually Day 1, and thus an easy ride to assess everyone’s abilities before planning the rest of the week accordingly.  However our Day 1 was actually Day 1, so James Spragg, our main ride leader, decided that wasn’t necessary.  Instead our rider briefing the night before set the ground rules, warned us to watch out for snakes and tortoises (yes really!) and informed us that Day 2’s ride would be around 50 miles, with three climbs in the first 20 miles and then the rest being “flat” and around to the beach and back.  Just to introduce you to the group a bit – there were 5 guests, James’ parents, the other ride leader Margriet Kloppenburg, and “chalet girls” Becky Womersley & GB’s Hannah Payton who would also ride with us.  Nearly out-numbered by pros, definitely out-classed! ;)

Breakfast was at 8:30am every day, with the ride start being at 10:30am to allow the chill of the morning to wear off and all the food that everyone (else) was eating to go down presumably.  It beats me how people can eat so much and then ride!  Muesli/yoghurt/fruit, followed by porridge, followed by bread, croissants…the list goes on!  I’d have to go back to bed for a few hours if I ate all that, even supposing I could eat all of that without consequences.  So I ate some ham, and the odd boiled egg (bad idea) and drank a lot of coffee.  Life’s too short for bad coffee, and it turns out that that made by the two Dolce Gusto machines available to us was pretty good, which was a relief ;)

legs lightened steed

Having time to kill, and having had a pre-trip shoe saga, yesterday I was riding with my summer shoes which turned out to have cleats with more float in them than I liked.  Possibly not good for my knees.  Having brought new fixed cleats for the shoes that I wasn’t wearing, cleats which I had brought with me just in case, I took some time after breakfast to sit down in the sun and swop them over.  Well since I was already in summer kit (hello legs!),and I didn’t need to load the bike up with anything as the support vehicle takes care of all that, some sort of faffing was essential, right?  By the way, my bike looks very different without its saddle bag on it – oddly naked somehow!

I didn’t really know what to expect from the ride, but it was more anticipation than apprehension.  I was feeling pretty good on our first ride so I was a little more positive about the thought of climbing than sometimes.  And as it turns out, they were my kind of climbs.  Long, gradual, wiggly.  My way was still slower than everyone else’s, but when it came to climbs, we were left to get on with it so I could just plod up, slightly distracted by the sound of the broom wagon behind me.  Margriet was driving and James’ folks had already taken refuge inside, so all three of them got to watch me dawdle.  No pressure ;)  I did overtake a couple of Spanish cyclists on the first ascent though, which made me feel less bad about being the weakest link ;)  And of course what goes up gets to go down, and there were some lovely descents.  The one down through Bedar was long enough that we had to put on gilets and arm warmers at the top so as to not get too cold!  I could sometimes have gone faster but that’s hard when you’re in a peloton and trying to be careful and considerate and things.  I do love down :)

setting out Becky & Hannah up in the hills wiggles

Official climbs done, we had our coffee stop at Mojácar Playa which, thanks to the sea wind (too strong to be a breeze!), was a tad chilly.  However coffee and fizzy orange were both restorative and traditional,  and the carrot cake consumed by others was huge.  Like four tiers tall huge, and generously portioned with it!  I passed, unsurprisingly ;)

expensive bunch tradition

The “flat” return leg turned out to be more rolling and less enjoyable than the hills as a result.  Fall off the back, catch up, fall off the back again… ;)  Where the main roads and hills tended to have nice smooth (rarely used you see) road surfaces, the back lanes (rat runs) were a lot like those I’m used to here, but dry!  So dust, gravel, potholes, speed bumps, with the odd tractor thrown in to emphasis the agricultural nature of the area.  Doable but not always enjoyable.  It’s very arid, but there’s no shortage of water so they just irrigate everything.  Anything you find in your supermarket that says “grown in Spain” on it is grown here, either outside, or in massive expanses of plastic greenhouses.  Not massively attractive but very productive!

Cycling time: 3:34
Distance: 53.0 miles
Avg: 13.9 mph
ODO: 8129.1 miles

Thanks to the honesty fridge, the first thing I did when we got in was have a long cold beer.  Also traditional ;)  The others followed suit a little later, once they’d been more sensible and drunk recovery drink and eaten cake.  All the ride bars, food, gels, drinks, etc for the week were supplied by Clif, and their marketing manager Dave was one of us riders.  As it turns out, it’s all pretty much suitable for me too, which was a bonus!  While I’m here, the other three with us were Mark, Anthony, and David, all from MDCC who run the Dartmoor Classic.  Small world ;)

Thus refreshed it was time to have a shower, enjoy the sunshine by the pool or on my balcony, and drink more beer until our 7:30pm dinner time rolled around.  Very relaxing :)  It was Sunday, something which had already passed me by, as time did that weird elastic thing it does when on the bike, and what with it being a holiday and the day of the week having no meaning.  So we were treated to one of the camp chef Julia’s specialities, slow roasted pork, aka “The Pig”, as fêted by Team Raleigh a couple of weeks before.  Man it was huge!  But we made a pretty good dent in it, no?

menu the pig

julia remnants

Having been warned of my dietary requirements, Julia always made sure that I had food to eat, and let me know if there was anything I needed to skip, something I was very grateful for.  I’d be even more grateful later in the week, but that can wait…

So.  Day 2 done, rounded off with a beautiful sunset, and beers in the lounge in front of the wood-burning fire as things turned chilly.  Not bad ;)  I enjoyed the ride overall, and I was pretty pleased with my performance.  I was definitely looking forward to more :)


And so it begins…

Well, I’m here! And apparently I can blog from here too – you lucky, lucky people ;)

finca lucia left finca lucia right

my room balcony view

 But you know what?  I’m not going to.  Not every day.  I may pop by.  But I’ll write it up properly when I get home.  I’m making notes and taking photos and everything.  But this is supposed to be a holiday as well as work, and I need one of those so…you’ll have to forgive me if I spend some time out appreciating that element of it too ;)

But just so as you know, today we did an easy flat spin out ride to the beach.  In short sleeves and shorts with pasty skin exposed to the unfamiliar sun. The novelty was joyous :)  It was maybe a little too easy going for me – we’re a mixed bunch still finding our level(s) – but that’s probably no bad thing.  Always good to feel like you could do better, rather than knowing you can’t.  Mind you,  I’m still hankering after mountains…and yes, that’s still weird ;)

Cycling time: 1:24
Distance: 19.5 miles
Avg: 13.9 mph
ODO: 8076.1 miles

lifes a beach


The rain in Spain

But I’m not going to be on the plain, I’m going to be climbing things that make the Mendips look like molehills, and that may even qualify as mountains.  So it’s not going to rain, y’hear?

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 17.28.33

I thought I’d be more nervous than I am, but actually I’m looking forward to it.  Even the hills.  And it will be mostly hills.  Apparently I like them more than I think I do as, bizarrely, when Alan and I broke with tradition on Wednesday and cycled around the Levels instead of climbing the Mendips, I actually missed them.  Who’d a thought it? ;)

Cycling time: 2:37
Distance: 42.6 miles
Avg: 16.3 mph
ODO: 8056.6 miles

It looks like I’m pretty much ready to go, though I’ve got the rest of this evening for inevitable faffing and last minute panicking about what I’ve forgotten.  Or I could just skip that and paint my nails instead *grin*.  Spain here I come.  I’ll think of you all while I’m out there riding my bike in the sunshine.  Honest ;)

ready to go