2015 – Back on the road for another tour!
Its great to be back on the road again. Following “London to Africa” in 2013 and the Santander to Gib tour of 2014, This years ride is just over 600 miles and takes in some of the nice bits of the previous two year.
Nice weather to get going, the view from the posh lounge in Heathrow. Total return in business class cost be a few air miles and £35!
..good wine and food on the way out. A good view of the West Solent, where I have done plenty of sailing. Most if the Isle of Wight is in view and sticking to the cycle theme, its a 60 mile circumnavigation which I managed to complete back in June.
Here is my very short rides today to get to the start line- a pitiful 20 miles today. Crazy to thing that the distance I flew today too 2 weeks on two wheels. Just 2h 30m by air!
Day 1 in LA…not that LA!
The weather forecast for today was thundery rain. Luckily for me a mega storm passed over after I got to the hotel !
Spent last night at the Hotel Maria Lucia in Algeciras. This place is run by cyclist and are looking after my Cycle bag. They also had a heavy duty cycle pump at hand so I was able to top up my tyres 🙂
I have not done very little long distance cycling since the London 100, so whilst the distance was just over 50 miles, the hills made it a little hard with a loaded bike and high humidity. Distance tomorrow is just over 70 miles to Seville and fairly flat after the initial hills.
Day 2 & 3
The very nice 4 star hotel in Seville has IT Police blocking most sites. I was able to upload to Strava and access Facebook, but not this blog or even google. In fact there were not many sites I could access at all. That’s enough about IT – lets talk riding.
Two really hard days of hills. Clearly I need to balance the diet as I am not getting enough salt. After mile 40 on each day I have been getting cramps when hitting the slightest if hills (hence really poor average speed.). In Seville even tucking into food was a challenge as I was getting cramp in both hands!
So here are the two maps – lots of hills and as its bleeding hot, I have been getting through 6 – 8 bottles of water a day (.75L) and a few tins of coke.
The route involved a detour which added quite a lot of miles. One of the roads I selected ended up being a dirt track. It looked far worse than I had seen on Google streets and 10 miles of gravel was not going to be good, so I opted for the 15 mile + detour.
One of the places I missed out was this place which I spotted from a distance on a different. The building looks interesting but my detour took me many miles clear. Here is a picture from Google streets – another day I guess. I am just curious what a place with such stunning design could be?
Getting into Seville was a massive challenge. The city is divided up and surround by massive motorways. The so called service roads often led to nowhere and finding a place to cross is a challenge. Adding to the frustration is a puncture from one of the service roads which is full of debris from those tin boxes used by petrol heads.
The trip out of Seville was equally frustrated by the Motorway blockade. Lesson learnt is keep away from massive cities and find a rural hotel a safe distance away. Pick a place where you can get a train into the city to explore it!
Day 3 was 10 miles less than day2, but more difficult due to hills, heat and cramps. Another detour took me back on some of the route I used last year. This time, the road was not on google streets so I only have myself to blame.
Time was taken out yesterday to explore Montemolin. One castle (view of the village from the castle below), two mini supermarkets (none sold tortilla!) and not forgetting the four bars – only one sold food.
Not to forget the great Casa Rural Hotel where a tortilla and one glass of beer appeared by the poolside (compliments of the house). Family run hotels can be either very bad or outstanding. This hotel was brilliant.
So today’s ride – hills to start with and finally no cramps! Fast end to the ride, but there were some surprises.
Ingenious community solution to TV. In the rural places, there is no need for a chain of expensive relays. Just one tower to re-transmit satellite TV. Now, If they had placed this further up the hill, they could have build a smaller and cheaper tower 🙂
The big surprise was this road. I do use google streets before anyone asks, but I randomly drop into roads to check conditions. I checked this road as well, but clearly missed the fact that many miles of it was just a dirt track. This slowed things up quite a lot. Eventually, it tuned into some very nice brand new tarmac. So new that the road gang was still on the job painting the lines.
Despite this little nasty surprise, most of my routing has been good.
The hotel this eve is on a lakeside. I have a 50 mile ride tomorrow so a very short distance. A lay in will definitely be in order.
Food is OK ish, but despite seeing plenty of bulls in the fields, menus lack beef, specifically steak! Tonight’s offer was fried black pig. More fat than meat. Bad choice on my part as I have seen better food come out to other tables. Hope for a better meal tomorrow at La Rambla.
Day 5 with a problematic wheel
There has been plenty of climbing today. During the first few days, I was suffering from cramps. I think the combination of more salt and the riding has made that problem go away.
This area is big on olives with olive trees as far as you can see. It should come as no surprise to visitors to this region that olives feature in most dishes – either as the complete olive or just olive oil.
There are so many olives that they overhang the roads in places!
Cycling is big in Spain. Along my journey I reached Cabra where there was an event taking place. I initially thought I had stumbled on La Vuelta, but the lack of helicopters and media meant it was something more local. Still professional with massive team support.
The ride continued to delivery stunning views and of course lots of hills. Around 15 miles from the hotel, A spoke when bang – this causes the wheel to loose its shape. I managed to get to the hotel, but a lot more slower than I would have done. Bad news is that the spare spokes I had we just a few mm too short! A detour to Grenada will be required for some mechanical support!
The hotel was great – no Air con, but at 3000ft, this is not needed as the altitude chills things. Moclin is a place I would love to visit again sometime as its stunning village. Here is a view of the hotel with a castle in the background;
Today, the wind was slightly behind me (unlike the headwind I had for much of yesterday). My destination is just a fraction over 50 miles way. La Rambla was not my first choice as I would have liked to have covered more miles. My target was a town about miles further to the East, but the only hotel rooms available topped £300 a nights. All of the cheap places sold out two months ago.
The room in La Rambla is cheap and the place did not look too inspiring. However the room is really nice and the restaurant looks like it may turn out some good nosh (hope they can whistle up some steak).
This is the view from my hotel at Las Palomas. The road you see is the one I take to continue my trip. Clearly the view is not good enough for some hence the noisy contraption which at various stages I though was going to crash into the road or the place where I was sitting.
This country is so much into cycling that there are plenty of signs to remind people to give us space. Law here requires 1.5m (in the UK this is just advice!). Most signs depicting cycles have a picture of a “Sit up and beg” cycle. This road sign reflects the reality of Andalusian cycling.
Cobbles are really bad news (ask Chris Froome). A lot of villages and towns are obsessed by the things. They may look nice but they are nasty to ride on. Lucky for me, it was a dry day so no slipping.
I have reached the most East part of my trip this year. A detour via Granada to fix the bike and then its into a headwind for the ride to Archidona.
After a good night sleep in the hotel, its a steep downhill to start with. This is not easy with a wobbly wheel! The picture below is of Moclin. It looks grey, but the day quickly developed into blue skies and wind from the West.
Google maps helped me find good cycle shop in Granada. Local chap in shop (a very regular customer) helped me translate between me speaking French and Spanish . As the spoke on this wheel had broke 4 times this year, I decided on a new one. Wheels often come in pairs so I had to shell out for two wheels, but at least they came with new Schwalbe tyres. With the mechanics spending a hour (giving my bike a mini-service) I only parted with £140, so not a bad deal. (sorry for the fuzzy picture – Cat-Phone camera is not great. I will take a proper camera next year!
As you may have read on previous trips, I have an issue with the Spanish motorway system. Most o the time, the road network is great, but if you destination is near a motorway, then your getting there will face some challenges. Quite often, they will plough through mountain valleys with these massive motorways and will make no provision for non-motorway users (not limited to cyclists!). Quite often detours are needed. In this case I have 3 miles of hell (service road). Not nice for my new tyres and wheels!
As far as this trip goes, today has seen the most climbing, just 50ft or so short of the most I had ever climbed on a bike back in 2013 when I was on the London to Africa Ride.
The reward for climbing are some great views. Back in 2013 the final leg my trip from Granada to Algeciras took me along a boring urban route Staying up in the mountains is definitely the better option but this is not a route for those who are not prepared for some seriously long hills!
On departing Archidona, I had to face about 4 miles of very bumpy service road next to another bleeding motorway. The mountains started in Antiqueria which is a place I would recommend visiting. The old town is classic ramparts on a steep hill.
Deep down in the valley at El Chozo, there is a massive tourist attraction. A lake and a walkway. Place full of German tourists – cant say I blame them as this is a great place to visit.
Here at altitude there are mountain goats!
I think this might have been the highest point of the ride. The road down to Ronda is about 6 miles of very new and smooth tarmac. As you can imagine, this road is very popular with the local cyclists. (I spotted quite a few club riders taking part in an evening ride.
After such a tiring day, I am taking the day off to relax before the final leg to the coast on Thursday. At my hotel just outside of Ronda, there is a massive bird to keep an eye on us as we use the pool!
Day 9, the final bit
This leg completes the ride for this year. The route from Ronda to Algeciras is up in the hills with plenty of views.
A few days ago, my GPS miscalculated the climbs between Archidona and Ronda. The ride certainly involved a lot of climbing and I did not believe for a minute it was 6,000ft. The strava recalculation made it very close to 9,000. So it was the most climbing I had done in one day (and felt like it as well!).
The first stage of the ride was downhill for about 5 miles followed by a very welcome steep climb into Ronda. Sunrise is around 0745 and its was chilly with some mist in the hills. The climb was a good opportunity to warm up
The picture below was taken some 30 miles from Algeciras. The rock at Gib can clearly be seen by eye but sadly not captured well enough using the camera on my mobile. Again an occasion when I wish I had taken my SLR!
The total distance was over 650 miles. A smallish ride but lots of hills. Next year I plan to do the “clock to the rock” in two weeks (that’s big ben to Gib)