Well, time definitely flies. I’m travelling back home to the UK on Thursday, so this week is an active recovery week after more than 5 weeks of training here in Malaga, but I’m still feeling like I just arrived a couple of days ago!
I have really enjoyed my time and training, and I’ve developed a lot, as well as having a few unexpected ‘adventures’ thrown into the mix… Dan drove us out to Ronda where we split up and headed out on our separate rides. I had a 5 hour route planned, which was cut short when I had a double puncture out on a climb in the middle of nowhere. I had to walk to the nearest village, Zahara, a place that I soon fell in love with, but there was nothing there, hardly any people, and luckily a café was open, and even more lucky, it had wifi! so I eventually managed to contact Dan… but not so lucky… Dan was also out in the middle of nowhere on his ride, and he was a long way from the car back in Ronda.
So to cut a long story short, I had to wait for about 6 hours in Zahara village for Dan to pick me up. I became pretty popular whilst waiting in the same spot in the village, and I managed to speak with some local people, nice fellas. By the time Dan picked me up it was dark, and I was literally starving, so we found a food place in Zahara, and my Spanish omelette was the best food I have ever tasted. I think after waiting in that village for so long, anything would have tasted good. From Zahara it was a drive back down to Ronda, and then a 90 mile drive back to the apartment in Benalmadina, so it was midnight when we got back. A really knackering day.
I was also chased by a dog… after I discovered an abandoned road that hadn’t been completed, which I found very interesting, so I decided to follow it until I saw an old camper van with a very large unfriendly dog. Man, I’ve never been so scared in my life, and I was sprinting back to the main road at full tilt!
I can speak very basic Spanish after doing some studying in my spare time here, but I still need to learn much more, especially asking for directions and when trying to find stuff when shopping. Where I’m staying in Benalmadena there are quite lot of people who can speak English, which makes it easier, but I would much prefer living in a place where they don’t speak English at all, which would force me to speak Spanish without cheating.
But unlike Malaga, everyone in Zahara village speaks their own language, and I love their culture, it’s real Spanish, and a beautiful area around Zahara Lake, which is about 120 km away from my apartment in Benalmadena. It is definitely my favourite training ground, and I really would have liked to have rented an apartment around that area instead of in a really busy town, where I had to deal with the car fumes and the constant stop-go in traffic for more than 20 minutes – just to to get out of town. So next time, if I’m flying to Malaga airport, I will definitely go to Zahara Lake or Ronda, and of course, I recommend you to go there too.
I really love the warm dry Spanish weather, especially when hearing of the relentless wind and rain back home in Cornwall, but I have to be honest, I kind of miss the rain, especially after it not raining since I arrived here. Last week it was baking hot and my face was very red after a long ride, the hottest December I have ever experienced. So when I get back to Cornwall I’ll have to be very much aware of the wet or icy roads, which is a different kind of riding. Actually, here in Spain I had ‘a moment’ while on a 6 mile descent from the top of Grazalema down to Zahara. It was absolutely great fun. I was flat out at high speed when I spotted an approaching bend which was in the shade, and I could see a patch of water, possibly ice, it was a bit of a hairy moment when I was going at top speed and had to brake really hard to take it slow around the the wet patch on the bend. But luckily I managed to control the bike.
Before that same descent, the climb was awesome, pretty steep, but a nice consistent climb. At one area where I was climbing by the edge of a cliff, I could see a huge drop, and I thought “Don’t look down, don’t look down” But the view was absolutely stunning, just awesome. I swear I would do anything to be able to buy a house around the Zahara region and just enjoy riding around.
I could write forever about my training experience here, and I could have taken hundreds of photos if I had stopped every minute during my rides, as the views were incredible wherever I went. But I was here to train, so stopping was not really a luxury that I could afford. But I will say that I’ve done a good quality block of training over the past few weeks, and coming here to Andalucia has been worth every penny spent. There comes a time when you’ve just got to go out there and experience it, rather than saving the money and just training locally. I’m really looking forward to the 2016 race season and seeing how much I will progress.
It was also good sharing my training camp with my housemates Kris Jasper and Dan Ledger. Dan has been really helpful, driving me to supermarkets, and he took me out to Ronda to enable me to train in a better area. He also taught me to speak a little Spanish, the correct pronunciation. Dan is planning to promote his future cycling camp holiday in Spain and I wish him the best. Kris is as enthusiastic and as motivated as I am, and we always talked about races and the future, and how it would be awesome if we we’re in the same pro team – so it was nice having someone like that around. Kris moved on to another apartment further along the coast last week, and I will be seeing him again in the 2016 racing season.
Now I’m looking forward to going home to Cornwall to spend some time with my family on Christmas Day and eat a top roast dinner! I wish you a good Christmas and a happy new year. Saludos!