Daily Archives: September 19, 2012

Day 69: Sacedon to Madrid – 123k

5,571km down: 654km to go Up 1,400 metres

It was quiet in the campsite, I hardly heard anyone all night. The temperature has certainly dropped at night; I spent the whole night in the sleeping bag last night. It is also totally dark now when it is time to get up – thankfully I got batteries for my head light from a petrol station. This campsite has no lighting, not even inside the toilet block, and there was a steep set of stairs to get up and down to it.

At the riders meeting this morning Christiano said there would be two convoys into Madrid from the 20k out mark, the first one would leave at 1:30pm with whoever was there, and the second one would leave once everyone else reached the meeting point. I really wanted to be in the first convoy as Suzanne, the niece of a friend of mine, was coming over to spend a couple of days in Madrid with me, so I did not want to get in too late. Plus I had booked tickets to see flamenco dancing, but I had chosen the wrong city when booking the tickets online, and I had not managed to sort it out before we left the camp site.

We had to wait until 7:30am until it was light enough to ride. The first part of the ride we went down more of a track than a road, it was a really beautiful setting. Again I thought how lucky we are that we get to see parts of the country that most tourists never get to see. Soon enough however we were back on a road, and the climbing started again! One of the riders Daniel told me that in Spain only 12% of the country has a gradient of less than 5%!

The yellow speck going down the side of the dam is me. It’s just after sunrise.

I got to the top of a hill at about the 20k mark and got off my bike to take off my jacket. When I got back onto my bike it was making a terbbile rattling noise, but I checked it and nothing was visibly loose. The front hub axle on my bike needs to replacing and Brett’s view was that it was a  ball bearing rattling around. Gergo – who is the only bike mechanic now that Ciran’s left – was on the lunch truck so seeming as it was ok, although noisy, it seemed safe to ride so we set off again. Unfortunately we were so busy talking about different options and whether it would need to be fixed before Lisbon that we went past a well flagged turn! This cost us an extra 8k – 4k out and 4k back. On a positive note we did stop three other riders about 500 metres past the same turn who were about to make the same mistake!

Scott also missed this turn and did another 20k! As I said it was a well flagged turn but it was on a downhill with a tail wind. It put the pressure on though as both of us really wanted to be in the first convoy and we now had extra kilometres to catch up, and we had to allow time for Gergo to look at my bike! So just to add to the pressure we also missed another turn shortly after, but this one only added 2k! It was frustrating, especially with the added irritating constant cluck-click-clank of my bike.

Today we had some significant climbs, with tired legs from five previous days of riding with significant hills on each day, but I was pleased with how I was doing, I was certainly pushing myself as hard as I could.

About 2k before we reached the lunch truck the noise stopped. Gergo had a good look at the bike and thankfully it was pronounced safe to ride, plus it should hold together until Lisbon. When I get home I need to replace the hub axle in the front wheel.

We left the lunch stop with 1 hour and 30 minutes to do 40k, with hills, traffic lights etc. I have never pushed myself so hard. We got to the convoy meeting place at 1:34 – thankfully they had not left yet, yay! Then of course I had to do another 20k, and keep up with riders who are all stronger riders than me.

We have a convoy into the major cites so that we don’t get lost, and it is safer in traffic if you are  part of a group and being lead by someone who knows where they are going. I tucked in behind Christiano and did my best to keep up. Christiano is a great convoy leader, he gives plenty of advance hand signals, and is fearless about stopping the traffic.

We got to the Ibis hotel and I was at the check in when Suzanne arrived, so I arranged to meet her in an hour, after I had checked in and showered etc. The Ibis is in the middle of a fairly big renovation downstairs, so you can’t use the stairs and there is only one very slow lift. There is a fire exit but we can only use this in a fire.

It was good to catch up with Suzanne for a couple of hours. We then met up with Brett and we went to see the Corral De La Moreria – El  Tablao Flamenco. We had booked dinner beforehand and I must admit that I had fairly low expectations of the food. However the food was great, I had giant prawns and fish. The fish was the most tender I have ever tasted, it was Hake, followed by lemon sorbet. Included with dinner was water, and half a bottle of wine per person. It worked out well as everyone could have the wine they wanted.

The show was great, good music and dancing, the dancing looked extremely energetic and am sure much harder to do than it looked. Unfortunately the week of riding was catching up with me and I was fading rapidly by the end of the show. I was pleased to get back to the hotel, and yay no tenting for three nights 🙂

Flamenco dancer

Flamenco dancer

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Day 68: Molina de Aragon to Sacedon – 109k

5,448km down: 777km to go

How nice it was to wake up in a bed, even though for some reason mine had a plastic undersheet, so it crinkled every time I turned over, but I still slept well. Breakfast was amazing, fresh fruit, TOAST, homemade cake, meat platters, juice, proper coffee, plus freshly made omelettes. The lady came out and said “Anyone like an omelette?” and eight rider’s hands went up instantly. We were joking that next time the tour books in there the owner will say “Ok, 8 riders? That equals food for 18” and charge accordingly. The people running the place were really friendly and we all thought it was fantastic. We all left rested, well fed, and happy. I think it would have been a different scenario if we had stayed on a sports ground (aka piece of dirt) and had to use one shower between us, like was originally planned.

On the way out of town there was an amazing monastery, I took a photo but it doesn’t show how big it is. The fence goes for ages around a hill, and there are also buildings at the back.

Monastery on the hill

Christiano talks about how this tour is not just physically testing, but also psychological testing. Not only do you have to get along with a group of riders you have never met, staying at campsites with other noisy campers that stay up until the wee hours, barking dogs, enthusiastic roosters, heat, and bugs. But added to this, you have no idea of the day ahead, no idea how high or long the hills are, unlike when you do your usual route at home, so you are always holding a bit in reserve in case you get the killer hill. But it also adds to the fun, as like today you have fairly low expectations and end up with one of the best rides of the tour.

It was really cold this morning once we had left the hotel, it was only 7 degrees, and of course having rationalized my panniers my jacket was in my daily bag that had left in the truck already. The hotel was really warm, so the cold was unexpected. Thinking about it later though the hotel had really thick concrete walls which would hold in the heat. (I have now pulled my jacket out ready for tomorrow morning).

We rode the first 70k around the perimeter of a national park called Parque Natural Alto Tajo. It was very scenic, with trees, cliffs, and even a deer running across the road. Plus there was a very pretty river / pond area. Amazingly enough, you are allowed to take dogs on a leash and have them in the camping grounds, so long as they are tied up. Actually if I had not said already, having dogs at the camping grounds is very common (not just the owners but also the campers), plus often a number of pretty feral looking cats!

Riding through Parque Natural Alto Tajo

The orange arrow shows the place we were

I warmed up on the first hill about 6k, up but then we had a downhill that went for about 10k, under trees and in a gully. By the time we got to the bottom I was freezing and looking forward to an uphill! Pinch me but it’s true!

After going up for about one kilometre we came to a sunny bit and stopped and looked around. We were lucky enough to see 17 condors or eagles – there is a difference of opinion amongst the riders. It was fantastic, we stayed there for ages watching them soar and glide. Two came and had a closer look at us, but then soared away again.

If you look really carefully, the back dots are the eagles/condors

The ride until lunch was great, some ups but also good downs. My legs felt better than I had expected, even though they are stiff when I walk, they are ok on the bike.

After lunch we had a couple of fantastic down hills, and then we had some rolling hills.  With the wind assisting me I hit 51kph pedalling uphill. It certainly helps the more speed you can pick up, the less work it is to get up it. I have still not broken my downhill record, I have got to 56kph a number of times this trip, today included, but still have not broken through the 56kph barrier.

The road we were riding on that had the great rollers was called Paso De Ganada. Then we made a right turn and crikey, at the end of the road were two big hills with the wind now against us! My legs were tired but being only 10k from the camp gave me the needed energy to push up the hills. All the hills today were honest hills, up 1,321, but down 1,671 🙂

We are staying at a camp site called Camping Ecomillans, back to dirt again but only one night back in a tent and then three nights in Madrid. While we are in Madrid we are going to go to a restaurant called Botin which is the oldest restaurant in the world. Yes very touristy, but it has to be done, we have booked already. I also want to go and see the flamenco dancers.

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