Almost September…here’s the blog from July including epic climb!

Marbella 2016 161

Well, it is almost September and here I am writing my blog for July. Above is the view from Puerto Jose Banus looking back onto the sierras (and yes, I did wonder if I could bike up it)!

I rode a mere 235km during the month of July, what with a week down in Marbella, eating, drinking, swimming and relaxing, not necessarily in that order, then back home, kids holidays and not much time to squeeze in a ride, I was left feeling below par out on the mean streets. And to top off this less than a stellar month, I managed to come down with a fever on the 28th and six days later went to the doctor and was diagnosed with pneumonia and promptly given a course of antibiotics.  

Needless to say, August was broken in very gently. My “chronic lung infection” had reduced me to a wheezing mess and couldn’t have come at a worse time, as my parents had just arrived and I was keen to hit the road with my father, who I hadn’t cycled with in almost 18 years!

Dad had bought over my old bike, at least that is what he led me to believe. He had instead bought over his seven year old TCR Giant! I’ll go into more detail in a later post…

Anyway, back to July…. I had been wanting to climb a small hill that towers over the pretty coastal town of Baiona, about 20km further down the coast from Vigo called “A Groba” It rises 619m, 11.1km of climbing at an average gradient of 6%.

I set off in perfect conditions and made my way to the starting point of the climb. It virtually starts right next to the ocean, hidden behind a row of houses. I started off with a healthy clip, which in retrospect was a poor decision, by the time I had reached the half way point, I was a spent force, I had only been cycling for 2 months and after an 18yr break had grossly underestimated this climb.

My gearing was hardly helping a 53-39 on the front and a  13-26 on the rear, I was grinding my knees to oblivion on the climb, every pedal stroke became an exaggerated effort and on the steeper sections, (some of which are greater than 16%) just keeping the bike upright was proving difficult, I felt like a clown on a unicycle and at one point I actually went off the road into the gravel and then had to use precious energy reserves to pull myself back onto the tarmac, at that point, doubt spread over me like a 2 day old soggy blanket, I couldn’t see how I could continue, breathing had become farcical, so much so I swore I was being followed by a herd of seals, my legs had become jelly like under the strain and my knees were demanding an immediate EVAC, a song had even started repeating inside my head “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you” it seemed ever so appropriate, despite all…I had to continue.

All my energy was now focused on each pedal stroke, focused on each new objective that I set for myself, to keep me moving forward, getting to that next rock or roadside litter was all that I cared about, but one thing, above all this kept me motivated, I had never gotten off a bike whilst assaulting a hill before and I wasn’t going to start here…and as that thought swept across my mind the road began to flatten out, enough for me to even take a swig of water and a look at my surroundings, I checked how far I’d come and saw there were 4km remaining but with this reprieve I was able to tackle the remaining part of the climb with relative ease, there was a final pinch but with the summit insight, I quickly nipped it in the bud. After two months of cycling I’d conquered the beast in a time of 46:57.

You can view the ride below on Strava 🙂

Strava A Groba Climb

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What becomes…

After Friday’s mountainous stage it was a welcome return to the lowlands, meandering past a brooding Atlantic, salt spray caressing the face, a welcome respite from the sweat drenched switchbacks of the local Alpe d’Huez.

On clear Sunday mornings the winding coast is awash with all manner of lycra clad cyclist, (this list is by no means exhaustive) from weekend warriors sporting the latest team kit with matching bike, mountain bikers whose domain is now sealed gravel their bikes long since domesticated from their mountain origins, solo elitists (elite soloists) on their carbon wonders who churn up the miles at ferocious pace completely oblivious to us mere mortals, there are the fast moving marauding packs which ply the coast picking up wayward cyclists absorbing them into the fold then ruthlessly spitting them out invoking images of BBC wildlife documentaries and of course, there is me.
I would have once been able to classify myself as one of the above but I have since morphed into something altogether different…

I ride a 20+ year old road bike with an ever so slightly offset rear wheel, my cycling shorts are slowly unraveling in the most delicate areas, my cycling shirt cost less than the new tyre I had to replace and seems now to be a size to small for my ample, muscular frame. I spent months hunting for a pair of cycling shoes that would lovingly embrace my disproportionately sized feet (if you do need any proof of evolution and that we did in fact come from the oceans my flippers should do more than just convince you…) size 14/49 and how could I forget the quintessential cyclist trait, a right of passage and of which no self respecting roadie should be with but be without, of course, I’m speaking of hair, leg hair, my fertile forests remain proud and erect. I can but imagine the impression I give to my fellow bikers, I’d hazard a guess though, that my appearance would seem somewhat devolved.

I hope I’m not giving the impression that I’m looking for sympathy, no, far from it. I’m more than content to be back on the bike and feeling fit again, it had been too long…which brings me back to the beginning of this yarn…The further down the coast I ventured, the fewer my two wheeled compatriots became. I stopped to take a snap of the old monastery which stoutly guards against the sea and then decided to head back the way I had come with a tailwind in tow. It wasn’t long before a marauding pack had snuck up behind me, was I going to become another statistic on their wildlife documentary? Hell no, game on!

Uninvited…

It was supposed to be a nice easy ride this morning…I had been meaning for a while to head out onto a wee peninsula along the coast road which has a wee climb up a wee hill with marvelous views from the top.

It all started well, my breathing so relaxed it wouldn’t have woken a tribe of slumbering dormice, the air was calm and the trees tall with a hint of a zephyr in their upper branches now been kissed by the rays of the rising sun. Beneath me, the sound of rubber caressing the warming bitumen was rather soothing.

After climbing for about 100m I couldn’t understand why it was becoming increasingly difficult to turn the peddles. I flicked the gear lever in a vain hope I had another gear left, to no avail. The dormice had now long since cleared off as my breathing was soon the only thing I heard, while my legs were lamenting every revolution, I began lamenting my decision and contemplated making a hasty retreat back to a better time and place.

Push on and out of the saddle now pushing hard on the cranks, sweat is coming and not just a trickle, with no wind to cool it, rivers are bursting their banks. I sit back in the seat and pull hard on handlebars doing whatever I can to keep forward momentum and in doing so I see I’m lifting the front wheel off the ground. I pull a little harder and it lifts a good couple of inches. I laugh as you would at a bad joke.

Still no sign of the summit, the easy ride is a distant memory but just as the sweat that had been gathering above my sunglasses breaks free and gushes forth like a scene from the Dam Busters, temporarily blinding my vision, I see the road flattening out, I fumble for my water bottle and try to gather strength to extricate my shoes from their clips. And it’s all over…a miserly 2km 10%avg with 19% max.

He Rides…

Well, here it begins…

And his life was without wheels, and frame; and darkness was upon the face of the road. And the Spirit of ciclismo (again) moved upon the face of his chain.

There are many ways in which I could begin and the most strikingly obvious is to begin at the the beginning…

Small town New Zealand was where it all started for me. I don’t remember the year exactly but if memory serves, I would have been around eight years old and on a rather sunny summer Christmas day way back back in  1981 and with all of the attached excitement that pre-Xmas present opening can bring, I was led outside into the garden and there, draped in a bed sheet no less, was  to be my first foray into a wonderful new world, but before I reveal what lay beneath that decadent 70’s bed sheet, I need to fill in the back story…

Something truly revolutionary had happened but a few short years prior. Along with the dawning of what was to be the personal computer craze another cataclysmic event was underway. The arrival of the BMX. It was a truly must have desirable object and to have been without it was tantamount to having a limb removed (but I’m getting ahead of myself).   The BMX exploded onto the scene with such fury, that the light of ten thousand supernovas would have paled in comparison (8yr old hyperbole).

It was obvious what lay under that bed sheet, surely, the object of my desires, the epitome of cool…so without further adieu, I drew back the bed sheet to reveal he hidden gem that lay beneath. What lay beneath was not what my 8yr old heart had been set on and much like any other child, disappointment is not easily feigned.

My new possession was a bright spanking orange New Zealand built Raleigh 20 bicycle (unfortunately I have no photos of the original with me but am sure there are some back home waiting to see the light)

r20

My original shock and disappointment eventually subsided and begrudgingly I came to like it a little. Things greatly improved once I had learned that I was not the only one who had one and slowly but surely I grew to like it more. One of its surprising characteristics was its 3 (in the tree) speed shifter. This, I later found, was what set it apart from the all conquering BMX. On the flat and with enough road in front, you could easily find yourself outsprinting the gearless BMX.

The Raleigh 20 was essentially a utilitarian bicycle and I ended up using it as such but  it was the freedom it gave that I enjoyed and remember most vividly. Riding to far away places only dreamed of before, it opened up a whole new world to explore and explore we did, with no adults to tell us what to do, we enjoyed endless summers in the countryside and down by the river, getting caught  in a deluge and seeking shelter under the trees, it was great to be alive we were free. I have fond memories of those times and along with some painful ones as well (bicycles do not always remain upright)!

Our primary school had bicycle “sheds” and being driven to school was almost unheard of. Dozens upon dozens of bikes took refuge under those sheds and children as young as six and seven would happily pedal to school on them. I am not sure when the decline started but it began not long after I left, fewer and fewer kids started cycling to school until after a few short years there were virtually none, which is a topic for another post.

It was only two years ago that my Raleigh 20 finally left my life after being around for 33 of them. Its last decade or so was spent forgotten, languishing outside under the eave of the garage roof, its days of carrying the carefree innocence of giddily happy child, long since gone and now exposed to the elements, its orange paint had become dull and faded, rust had taken hold where once proud chrome had gleamed, cables and gears long since seized, the only part of the bike which had remained relatively untouched were the solid white tyres, having stood up remarkably well to the rigours of time.

That’ll do bike, that’ll do…