Tag Archives: spain

CicloCostaBlanca.com Part 1

So, sometime last Autumn a msg popped up in Facebook, telling me I’d won a 5 day cycling training camp.  Yeah right, I thought…  But after a few exchanged messages, it turns out that was not an attempt to get my bank details, or a friend winding me up…it was in fact true.  Cor blimey.  5 days for two in Spain, half board, including bike hire & guided rides.  All I’d have to cover was flights and insurance.  Well, even if I hadn’t enjoyed last year’s training camp so much, it’s not like I was going to turn it down, now was it?  Even better, I had until April 2016 to take it, whatever dates I wanted!

And to cut a long story a little shorter, that’s Chris and I were in Bristol Airport on February 17th, heading off to what would hopefully be sunny and warm, unencumbered by bike boxes.  How cool is that?  Well, as it would turn out, slightly cooler, albeit slightly cooler than hoped for literally, but pretty cool nonetheless 😉

getting the Fenix set up

This fab price came courtesy of Ciclo Costa Blanca, which is run by Terrence Kerr from HQ at Meta Bike Cafe in Albir Playa which is just down the coast/road from Benidorm.  They run cycling training camps, cycling breaks, help with bike hire, cycling holidays, in fact…cycling anything if you want to be over there, either with them, or independently.  The accommodation part of our prize came courtesy of the Marconfort Essence in Benidorm, who are working on being a cycling friendly hotel.  We were collected from the airport and taken there to check in and get settled, and Terry arrived later that afternoon in the support car, complete with the two shiny bikes that would be ours for a few days – 2 Ridley Fenixs.  Nice.  After a little while spent fitting our own saddles and pedals to them, plans were made for the next day, and Terry headed off.  we took them downstairs to the secure bike storage room, which came complete with lockers, as well as bike stands, tools and the like.  Ours weren’t the only bikes in there, which, from the clientele we’d already seen, came as a bit of a shock.  Of which more later…

Benidorm beach view

Right then. We had been thinking of going for a test ride, but it was getting late, it wouldn’t serve much purpose, and there were other things to do.  Like having a beer, checking out the hotel, and checking out the beach that could be tantalising seen from the balcony between tower blocks…  Since we were on a half-board basis and hadn’t taken advantage of that yet, we didn’t need to find food, just beer, because the best way to annoy your mates back home in a chilly wet miserable UK is to post photos of beer and tapas 😉  After a walk along the breezy bright beach, and around the older town bit to get our bearings, we found a little local corner place and ticked that box *grin*

better by the beach beer and tapas

Back at the hotel for dinner then.  Which was all very nice; a large buffet of a whole variety of everything.  The food was perfectly presentable but the whole thing was just slightly canteen, probably due to the pristine white slightly clinical decor.  However nice it was, it didn’t really make me want to do it every day…although having free wine and beer on tap didn’t suck as a concept… 😉

Onwards to the more important stuff.  After a pretty good night’s sleep, it was time to be up and faffing and fretting.  Breakfast was better, it being a meal that just works better as a self-help buffet, and as we had places to be we were amongst the first down there.  There was a whole heap of things on offer – fried stuff, cake, continental, you name it.  I was just pleased to discover muesli and soya milk (not ideal but lactose free), so even with my bizarre requirements it was reassuring to know that I was going to be able to fuel every morning.  As for the faffing, it being our first day, it was really hard to decide what to wear.  It was sunny, but chilly, and a bit windy.  Although we’d been advised that all we’d need for the trip was summer kit plus arm warmers and a gilet, at the last minute, I’d thrown my lightweight tights  and a base layer into the bag, and I decided I’d rather be too warm than too cold.  So, tights, base layer, s/s jersey, arm warmers, mitts, and gilet.  The muset bag for the support car got my waterproof, over gloves, gels and the like.  Have faffed with all that, there was then a degree of shenanigans with regards to getting the room key to open the garage door which meant that we were a little behind schedule by the time we finally hit the road.

ready for the ride pre ride briefing

Benidorm is a shortish flat ride from Meta Bike Cafe, which ended up being longer than planned as we didn’t know where we were going and were relying on a combo of instructions, phone maps, and road signs.  Unfamiliar routes always seem to take forever…but as it turns out we got where we were supposed to be, were only marginally late, and we weren’t the last to arrive.  Training camp season meant that today’s guided ride would see us joining the U23 RP Vision Racing Team (!!!).  Just the girls today, like that’s supposed to suggest that it would be an easy ride! 😉  They were all staying at the ‘official’ hotel just down the road so once all the guides and support car were ready & loaded up (with our bag in), we headed off down there to mill around in the sunshine.  Organising a group of U23 riders takes even longer than organising me 😉  Out of the wind outside the hotel, and having been riding, I was actually feeling a bit warm, and I was tempted to sneak off and get rid of my base layer, but I was persuaded that I could always do this later if necessary, so I didn’t.

layer changing mid ride briefing

Time to ride.  And I don’t remember all the details, but thanks to Strava, I know it went something like this. Luckily the girls had various goals to achieve – warm up, practice lead outs, practice sprints, etc.  Which also involved various stops for briefing, layer changes, and the like, thus meaning it wasn’t a constant slog trying to keep up.  It took most of the ride to get the hang of the bike.  It fitted me just fine, was nice and light, and handled well, but with the brakes the wrong war around I was a bit cautious, and worried what would happen if I got it wrong in extremes…  We stuck together (mostly!) on the flats, when they weren’t doing drills, and climbing up the hills (of which there was quite a lot) were an every girl for themselves thing, which meant I could plod up them my way, enjoy the stunning views, and wish we had climbs like this back home.

views going up

On the upside, even among this lot, as I got used to the bike, I was still amongst the very fastest down hill – which assuaged the slightly depressed ego somewhat 😉  I was glad to have kept my kit as it was as it remained distinctly chilly, even in the sun, thanks to the wind.  And the top of things was even cooler than the bottom.  On the way back there was a sheltered coffee stop where I could indulge my fizzy orange habit, and the very small, very skinny, girls could descend on large slices of chocolate cake like a venue of very happy vultures!  Still, they’d more than earnt it, especially being many days into their week, and it was amusing to watch cake dematerialise before your eyes…

reservoir fizzy orange

Back to the hotel, a little too late for lunch.  Luckily both of us had carried various food stuff with us, not that I felt like eating mine.  I don’t really do eating.  We did find time for a quick pint in the hotel bar, with snack food, still in kit, watching the residents take advantage of the all-inclusive bar, playing cards, knitting, and so on.  Those that weren’t permanently installed by the pool and outside bar that is.  Which definitely engendered an interior slightly smug superior vibe …we’d been out and seen the world and exercised and been fit and healthy and everything.  Go us!  After a shower, more faffing and a nap, it was time to head out in search of a more appetising dinner, which didn’t go all that well.  Places that were empty, places that were not appealing, places that turned out not to do food at all.  It’s just possible we were too fussy…. Nice though it was wandering the streets of an out of season Benidorm, food really was a priority.  Getting a little desperate, we headed back towards the hotel and found a tapas place not far from there that seemed to have locals eating in it, which is always a good sign.

Oddly for somewhere that is flooded by tourists every year, the local places don’t speak much English at all, and I found myself using, and remembering, more of my Spanish than I thought I would/could.  I guess it’s probably because your typical British tourist a) never leaves their all-inclusive hotel and b) if/when they do, they end up at one of the more British places; pubs, bars, cafes…egg ‘n chips anyone?  Our little tapas bar was currently feeding lots of Spanish folk, off a menu that I had to guess at.  It was a bit hit and miss.  Various ham, cheese, and bread things worked out well, as did the marinaded anchovies (I love those), but the local speciality octopus dish was less successful.  All reasonable cycling fodder if you can load up on bread to go with it, less so otherwise…but since I wasn’t hungry (I rarely am), I was yet to be aware that wasn’t ideal.  Food had been required, food had been found, job done.

Reservoir Duo

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! 😀

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

One week. Six rides. 21hrs. 330miles. 8,200m of climbing 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂