It’s been a week since I arrived in Spain and after a full week’s training, today is recovery day. This morning I woke up sometime after 9.30 which is pretty late for me as I’ve been rising at around 6.30am, but I felt that I needed a long sleep after a pretty tough week on the bike. It’s been a good week, but the last few days have been a bit crazy… last Tuesday I met a biker who comes from Penzance after he spotted my Penzance Wheelers jersey! We were both really surprised and could not believe it. I didn’t expect to see someone who comes from the same small town as me in the far west of Cornwall, and we bumped into each other in southern Spain in November. Mad!
On that same day, I rode with Kris to check out a new training route, and it was when taking on the climbs that I realised that I had made a big mistake as I was using a 11-25 cassette up the mountain. (Note to non-cyclists: a ‘cassette’ is the bunch of cogs on the back wheel. 11-25 cassette is ok for small hills but not mountains. 11-28 cassette has a larger cog so makes it a bit easier on the legs when going up mountains). So I got that sorted yesterday at Wild Bikes Shop on Ave Cdad De Melilla in Benalmadena, Malaga, who supplied and fitted me out with the Ultegra 6700 11-28 cassette no problem, so I could fly up the mountains.
If you are cycling in the Malaga area I really recommend Wild Bikes Shop. I messaged them online on their website in the early evening and they replied within an hour, saying that they had the cassette in stock and they would fit it for no charge if I made the purchase. So I went down there the following morning and the mechanic did a good job, just like my Penzance mechanic John Morse! Which was a relief, as I’m used to John providing stellar mechanical support back home. They charged around £28 for the Shimano cassette, which is cheaper than it would have cost me in the UK, and a much better deal than an alternative Malaga cycle shop which quoted me £33 for the cassette and £10 for fitting it. So it’s Wild Bikes Shop all the way, and if you are on a cycling trip in the Malaga area, pay them a visit down in Benalmadena, they’re pretty good.
On Wednesday I set off on a training ride at 7am and it was really cold, which I didn’t expect. Luckily I wore a gillet and arm warmers, but nevertheless my legs were cold so I was quickly spinning them to warm myself up a bit. At that time I wasn’t that impressed with the general location as it’s very busy and the decent mountains are quite far away, so my plan was to go through the short cut via the dual carriageway from town, then turn off on the road to the mountains.
The town was very quiet and I was taking it steady until I got on the dual carriageway where I never imagined that it would be so busy. I’m telling you, it was like the M5 motorway! I instantly regretted it and I knew there was no turning back, so I stayed on the hard shoulder hoping I would survive. The trucks and cars were flying past like mental, and I think my rear flashing Lezyne macro drive light really saved me as it is very bright. When I eventually saw the sign to Coin, which was where I was heading, I was so relieved, and I pedaled like mad to get off the dual carriageway.
Once off the highway it quickly became quiet, so I relaxed a bit and focused on my training. I did 5 hours that day and I also got lost a few times! At that time I was still on the 11-25 cassette, and I needed the larger 28 cog quite badly. The mountains really are mountains.
On Thursday, it was a recovery day for me. Kris and I were casually cruising our bikes along the seafront, heading to the bike shop, and it was a nice morning. We had to turn left at the roundabout but I was going pretty fast and there was a wet patch on the road, so my back wheel stepped out, then bam! I hit the deck and I was on the floor blocking the cars. I quickly got up and moved to the side of the road. Some of the Spanish pedestrians were really considerate and were asking if I was okay and I was like ‘Si si si non problem’. Luckily I had my trainers on, so I had time to stop my leg getting rashed. My shoulder was pretty sore, but everywhere else… no problem, although I did mess up my jumper, but at least I wasn’t wearing cycling kit.
Friday was pretty insane as I had to do a 6 hour training ride, so I had to make sure that I stayed on the correct route and didn’t miss a turn-off, otherwise I’ll be out in the mountains all day! I managed to stay on the same route that I rode a couple of days before, but this time I took the left turn at Alozaina to El Burgo to make the route longer, and I have to say, what a climb! The best road I’ve been on. I’m not sure how long the climb was but it took a while to get to El Burgo. It wasn’t really steep, but rather a long gradual climb with beautifully smooth tarmac. Once I reached near to the top, I could see the clouds below, and the view was absolutely stunning. I could have stopped to take a photo, but I wanted to keep my momentum going as I was really enjoying it, and I needed to keep my power output constant.
Once I arrived at El Burgo, I realised that the climb doesn’t stop until Ronda, which is still a long way to go during daylight, so I had to turn off as I didn’t have enough time.
Already I fell in love with El Burgo. It’s a proper small Spanish village with no British tourists or tourist attractions, unlike the town where my apartment is. The village seemed like a happy place, small like St Buryan where I live, but with happy people! Locals were very friendly and were enthusiastically giving me directions.
As I was riding through the small back road heading to Casarabonela, I didn’t see a single car and the road was really fabulous, especially riding along the cliff edge. After enjoying riding through the peaceful countryside surrounded with mountains, I eventually got lost, so I stopped and took a look around. It was very quiet up there, very still and silent with no traffic, and I was the only person on that road. That got me thinking ‘what if I came off the bike and no one would know where I am’ It was a pretty scary thought! I took my phone out hoping that the map would be working… and it was! Full signal! what a miracle! Anyway, I soon realised I was way off the route, a long way off, so I turned around and eventually re-joined the route where I was supposed to be.
The climb to Casarabonela was insane. It was extremely long and really exposed in the open, so the sun was shining on my face full-on. I suffered quite a lot and I was starting to go crazy as soon as I could see that the road goes all the way to the top, miles away – and knowing that it would take a very long time reach. So I pedalled, pedalled, and pedalled. After a long tiring climb I eventually saw a descent and I was very relieved, but not just that, the view was like heaven. I felt like it was a reward after riding on the rough tarmac then to descend on really smooth tarmac. I went flying down the descent through the trees like a bird. It was a very long descent but I loved it, I was grinning all the way.
When I reached to the bottom, I knew I had a long way to go back to the apartment. At one time I needed a drink. The bottles were empty, so I had no food or drink, and the garage that I am familiar with was miles away, so I had no choice but to keep going. When I got nearer to the location of the garage, I was getting dehydrated, my energy was very low and my mouth was dry. I kept wondering how far to go to that damn garage, until I saw an old castle on the hilltop and I knew I was very close, as the garage is on the roundabout where the castle is. When I arrived, I quickly went into the shop, staggering all over the place like a crazed mad man, and bought a can of coke, a bottle of water and 2 mars bars! I was downing the can of coke, and boy it tasted so good!
After getting my energy back, I didn’t have long to go, just one more big climb to Mijas then I descend rapidly to my apartment. And that was my 6 hour ride done. With getting lost and taking the wrong turn, it took me a total of 7 hours and 15 minutes, longest ride yet, crazy. My big advice to anyone riding out in Spain for the first time, when you go out, even for an hour or 2, take at least 5 euros with you no matter what. Then, whatever happens, at least you can feed!
When I got back to the apartment, me and Kris had to walk to the supermarket, uphill, which took us about 30 minutes, then we spent an hour or so buying good foods, mainly pasta. I also brought my suitcase with me so that we didn’t have to carry a lot of carrier bags on the way back. After packing our bags and cases full of food, we saw a taxi parked up and we quickly decided to go for it, as we could not be bothered to walk all the way, it was well worth it for 6.50 euros.
I also discovered after that long ride that I had lost my prized vintage Jolly shades. I was totally gutted as they were very rare, original 1980s, and they had been with me through thick and thin. I had taken my first win in those shades and they were like a prized mascot. It looks like they fell out of my jersey pocket, as it was already stuffed with food after the crazy dehydration episode. But never mind, it looks like a new pair of shades is on the list. Anyway, I went into town and bought a pair of Ferrari shades to be going on with, not exactly vintage Jolly’s but pretty pleased with them for the price.
Yesterday I did a 5 hour ride and this time I didn’t get lost, I stayed on the planned route throughout the ride without any problem. But the wind has definitely increased, whereas the past week there were no winds.
So the first week has been good so far. Today will be luxury but tomorrow is back to training so I will need plenty of sleep tonight, Zzzz. Catch you later