Leg 22 – Tour complete!

Its a “Wrap” tour complete for 2023. Click the black button to the right to see te full route —–>>>>

For those that have been waiting for me to arrive, donations are still open via Just Giving. I am supporting the Royal United Hospital in Bath and also Save the Children UK. Both organizations doing such amazing work at home in the UK with SCUK also supporting international aid efforts.

A quick word on sponsorship. The overall cost to do this challenge was around £3,000. I am self financing as this is something I wanted to do as I get close to 60 (in December!). Some organized charity events use some sponsorship money to subsidize the riders. I can assure everyone that this is not the case here and 100% + Gift Aid will go to SCUK and RUHX.I am covering all  my own costs. So please do give generously 🙂

Back to the ride. The final day as always is one of mix feelings. Yes its great to reach a destination and complete a challenge, but it comes with a side order of sadness for two reasons. Firstly, I am doing this ride in memory of my late father Colin Hawkins. he always followed my previous adventures and I spent a lot of time during the ride thinking of the great  times we had together.

Secondly its all over for a year. For me the fun is doing the tour, not getting to the destination. The best part is at the point when I get on the ferry to France. The whole adventure in front of me.  Where in Spain do I go next year? Yes I am coming back, but its a non-fundraising tour for 2024!

Final map below followed by pictures. Video content will be added when I get back to the UK.

Early start and up there on the hill is the hotel I have just left behind. It can be a bit expensive but managed to secure a great deal using some points via Hotels.com.

This is a view down the Valley towards Malaga. There is a little climbing but the ride is mostly downhill over 55KM.

Total distance for the ride was 1333 Miles or 2145KM  (I prefer KM as its a bigger number!)

Now, behind the castle on the hill is the town of Ahlora! It was a climb to get up to the town and a super steep drop to leave. The combination of broken cobbles and potholes meant it was safer to walk the bike down the hill than ride it.
Two picture taken by random tourist RUHX and SCUK gear 🙂  Permissions granted to both charities to share these images 🙂

A cool beer is the only way to round of a a good ride in hot climates. (Note – during most days when it was not raining, temperatures would peak at 35 degrees Celsius

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Leg 21 – Amazing views!

Today is one of the highlights of the tour. The ride out of Puente Genil is nice and from there it just gets better.

To be honest, I could have easily made it to Malaga today, but El Choro is so amazing, so an overnight stop was definitely needed!

Tomorrow is the final leg. Just a short ride down to Malaga.

After the climb out from Puente Genil, I can see more hills ahead. I did ask the locals to remove the hills to make the ride easy a few years back, but as you can see from the work in the middle, they have not really made much progress!

Started picking up signs for Malaga. A92 is the most direct route, but as you can see, there is a sign to say cyclists will not be welcomed!

Few hill later. A stunning view!

8KM from El Chorro. Views just get better.

And finally, a view from the hotel!

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Leg 20 – Lazy Sunday!

A short spin of just under 50 miles. Still plenty of climbing to be had.

Meanwhile the story in Morocco is unfolding after a major earthquake near the Atlas Mountains. I am in contact with team members at Save the Children to see what support I can provide remotely.

Back to the cycling, a further two days before I reach Malaga. Tomorrow’s run takes me to one of my favorite places “El Chorro”

Sunday morning peleton. I spotted quite a few clubs out on the road this morning. Those hills in the background were climbed a little later by me 🙂
Stopped at this hostel for coffee. Based on the sign to the right, it appears that I am on the Camio De Santiago again.

Spain has loads of these small hostels in villages. Very good value for money. 

And with this being Andalucía,  its proper olive country!

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Leg 19 – A visit to Beverly Hills

Today the “Flope” was in my favour. Still some climbing needed in places but generally a quick pace down the N Road until my route took me through a nice park area.

The north part of Cordoba where I am staying is very much like Beverly Hills in LA! Some massive mansions. Had a good deal on the hotel and given the 4 star status food and beer surprising cheap.

From here I need to take the most direct route to Malaga. Overnight I lost a bit of sleep due to pain in my back and ankle. Think this is Covid related arthritis from a few months back. Things under control now as I managed to top up on paracetamol!

So from Cordoba, two short legs to Malaga. I have three days on the beach. Ideally I wanted to take in a few extra places, like Ronda, but that can wait until a future trip!

Hotel in the middle of nowhere! It is run by a very friendly wife/husband team. Bar, restaurant and a pool. Great value for money. Hope to call in again on a future tour!
About 8 KM into the ride – another castle!  The village had a pharmacy so I was able to get pain under control again!

There are time when you need to ignore the tech. As you can see, I am on a nice smooth road. Mr Gamin is telling me to leave the road and use the gravel track to the right. This is despite the fact I am set up for road cycling and not mountain biking!
An old rail track was parallel to my route. Possibly used to carry coal to Cordoba and the main lines? Maybe an opportunity to create a new cycle track here?

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Leg 18 – Into Adulucia

A shorter ride today as I have just over 200 miles to run and over a week left to do it in. Tomorrow is a rest day and have booked two nights in a rural place with a pool, bar and restaurant.

Regarding places to stay, I will post some links soon listing all the places I stayed at.

The ride passed through some interesting places along the way.

So here we are – Andalucia, my final region. As with over borders, the road surface went from brand new to very poor (but not as bad as the track yesterday).

Over the past 10 years I have cycled through many parts of Spain and this is the first pit I have seen. Like most countries, Spain is moving from fossil fuels and you are more likely to see a wind farm than one of these. There were a number of pits all now disused.

Just down the road from the pit is this disused factory. I am sure there is some interesting history to learn here.

On the map towards the end of my trip for the day, there is a lake (in blue). This is the reality. Its dry and have been dry for some time. As I crossed the viaduct, I could see a cafe/bar/play park which must have closed when the lake dried out.

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Leg 17 – Fighting the Flope!

This is one of those difficult days with a long “Flope” at the end. A “Flope” is a road that gives the impression of being flat but in fact is a slight slope. In todays case, it was 46KM of flopeyness at the end of the ride. The fact there was a head wind just made matters worse.

The ride was bookended by two nice village hotels. Both places were Bar/Restaurants with nice rooms for 30 Euros a night. Both places did good food. And today, the most important thing at the end of a long ride was the cold beer in a frozen glass.

On previous tours I have traveled on a route slightly west of today’s route. Miajadas was one of my favorite spots in wat is considered to be the tomato capital of the EU! A few days ago, I was looking up the Hotel La Toure and could not see it on any of the platforms. Maybe its stopped trading. The impact here is that in Miajadas, hotel rooms went from 21 Euros to over 70 Euros – possibly down to the lack of competition.

Starting out on the first leg. Weather much nicer than it was over the past weekend!  Sunblock on.

Not sure what this is or what it is meant to do. Its in a farming areas and made by somebody who has loads of scrap metals and a welding machine. It was possible to miss this structure due to other things I had to focus on (see below).

From time to time, you hit a rough patch, which is why you need to pay attention when using Komoot as a planning tool. A lot of focus needed here so no damage is caused by potholes. Nearest cycle shop 30KM away if needed.

Its tomato season in this area. Many of these find there way onto roads as they fall off the trucks during transport. Last year I tried playing “Squash the tomato”  with my front wheel as I went along the road. One tomato exploded and got all over the front of my bike. So the new game is “Miss the Tomato”

For many years, I have seen these massive nests. Finally I get to see what lives in the nest!

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Leg 16 – Turning South

Weather nice and warm at these lower altitudes. The Komoot app set a route which was straight into a 12% hill for 8KM.  The route would have taken me off the N110 and if you zoom into the map, you will see that I had started to climb the hill.

For start of the climb was really unpleasant. Loads of aggressive flies which made the start of the climb very unpleasant. After about 5 mins of climbing I was faced by a road block to had to turn back and take the slightly longer  path via Plascencia. Given the way the Flies where misbehaving, I think it would have not been so long before I tuned round in any case.

A very convenient and welcome roadblock.

Seen from the Plascencia N110 bypass (South). Radio Ham house set between two large power lines. Wondering what sort of impact the power lines have on the radio quality!

As I head South, this is a view of the mountains that form the South side of the Jerte Valley

Monfrague National Park with a lake. Water levelsseem to be up from last year.

This is a Cafe I stopped at on the 2014 tour. Shame to see it no longer open as it is in the idea location for a pit stop. During the ride, I have seen a few closed places, and this place looks like it been closed for some time. On this road, I was seeing a car about every 10 – 20 mins, so I think its lack of customers rather than Covid 19 that lead to demise of this place.

Over the years, huge investment has gone into new motorways which as had some negative on some businesses likethis.

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Leg 15 – To the Jerte Valley

The massive deluge over night in Spain reached the BBC news headlines in the UK. In the morning, the weather was just about to clear up with some drizzle at the beginning.

The ride today continued down the N110. For the past few days, its been a high altitude ride at around 4,000ft. A steep drop at the end of the ride reduced the latitude to a little over 1,000 ft. The Jerte Valley is between two mountain ranges in Spain and one of my favorite spots.

With the weather improving, I am increasing the miles today. The hotel at the end of the ride was very medieval and had been around for some time. A great place to stay.

Departing Avilla – A nice city with a medieval wall. Good restaurants and a cheap hotel owned by a very friendly couple.  From here, the ride was hard work from the first 40KM as it was a gentle up hill slope and a strong headwind. The first major peak was a bit easier as it was sheltered from the wind.

Looking back East – this is the nasty weather I am running from!  It improves.

This is just about the highest point of the ride. The mountains in the middle of Spain are high enough to support skiing during the winter months.

Fresh spring water- Had my first free water top-up here in 2014. This is my 4th refill – Will be back!

And here is te top of the Jerte Valley

Coming Soon (subject to internet connection) – video of the decent!

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Leg 14 – just over 900 miles complete

Some very heavy downpours taking place as I write up the trip blog for the day. I was aiming for more miles, but looking at the forecast, I had a short window to get as far as Avilla before things got very bad. So I managed get cover 55KM with a small sprinkle drizzle.

The usual map is below and in the pictures I will tell you about the bike I am using.

Ride itself was fine with plenty of climbing.

Tomorrow, I head for the Jerte Valley. May take a day off from riding if weather is suitable…

Shortly after leaving the hotel, I took a look back. Plenty of weather around to avoid.

So this is the flight deck. The larger Garmin is 1030 series which can be purchased for £300 (August 2023). This replaced the old Garmin Colorado which I used up to last year. The 1030 has a great battery life and links for my Komoot app. At the end of the day, I still have 60 to 70% battery left.

The large screen is great for navigating  as its easy to switch from map to other screens using the touch function. I would definitely recommend the  1030 whilst you can still get one. The ridiculously cheap price is because there is a new model on the market.

The smaller GPS is just a back up. On these long tours I don’t want to loose any tracking data. On last year’s tour, having a second GPS was useful as the Garmin 820 died on me.

About the bike:

I am using the Specialized Allez Elite which I purchased in 2016. So on this rig, its my fifth tour. Its a good solid bike with standard Shimano Tiagra parts. Generally if something breaks, I can normally source what I need in the nearest Decathlon.

New wheels were purchased for this trip as I had major issues last year with spokes breaking. Metal fatigue should never be under estimated, especially when roads are made of pebbledash!

At home I have bikes which are lighter. The S-Works SL6 would definitely be my preferred choice to ride but parts are more complex an not easily sourced in a local bike store. I did use my SL6 for the first leg from Bath to Portsmouth Harbour.

I previously mentioned that there is an ample supply of petrol stations on the N Roads where its easy to source water and food. On this leg, this was not the case. A new motorway now runs parallel to the N Road and this is one of two stations now gone to ruin. At least it was a place to shelter for a while as a shower passed by.

Not long after I arrived, the heavy rains stated. Hoping all is dry for tomorrow as I have a 80 mile route planned.

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Day 13 – Short ride. Got soaked!

Weather forecast lived up to its promise. So reduced miles planned. The first 20 was hard going with frequent stops for shelter.

Breakfast was amazing and one of the best I had on this trip.

Different strategy for tomorrow. Route  planned but no room booked. Weather still unstable so I want to make distance if I can but with the option of stopping if I need to. Normally I book a day ahead at a time for hotels, but I need more flexibility than normal. Good news is that there are plenty of hotels to choose from.

This is what I set off in. Zero motivation….even for just 31 miles!

This picture gives a flavor of the ride. Here things are starting to clear up. Could have done more miles, but hotel booking is committed.

This is Segovia. Lovely place and I would have stayed longer for some tourist picture taking. I was soaked, so needed to press on to the hotel.

What is the obsessional fad with cobbles in old places? They are a nightmare to cycle on.

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