During the month of August I planned a visit to my Spanish home as well as visit different parts of Spain. This country is made up of many old medieval kingdoms / fiefdoms / taifas, and I believe that has contributed to the variety of cuisine, cultures and languages across Spain. Add to that the huge variety of landscapes and it makes for great biking country.
I fully intended to get on my bike and have a serious look round, to do my own Vuelta a Espana. Along the way, I road every category climb, explored areas that looked like the set of a Spaghetti Western and hurtled through the rolling green hills of Galicia, with my wife Sarah. Oh, I also got knocked off my bike, but that didn’t stop me riding 130k the next day.
The start of this Vuelta was exploring the roads around the area, Diezma, near Granada where Sarah and myself have a house. This area, close to the amazing mountains of the Sierra Nevada was my biking playground for the first week when I cycled 300kms skirting around the 2,100m high ski station, knowing that I would be climbing it at some point.
The day before I rode up the Sierra Nevada, I started with a really hot 85k ride and then met a friend for a lunch in Granada. He took me to a swanky bar / restaurant where we eat and drank our way through the finest Spain had to offer.
Next morning as I set off I realised it hadn’t been ideal preparation. My first climb was a warm up to Blancaries, 1,300m where Cavendish had retired the 2011 Vuelta. I didn’t feel good but keep telling myself get some km’s in my legs, to grab a coffee and then I would be ok. I stopped at the base of the Sierra Nevada climb 800m at Penos Genil, where I finally got my coffee fix, but I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy day.
The first decision to be made was should I start the climb via the hard route or the really hard one?! I decided against going via Guajar Sierra, where the Vuelta 2013 finished a stage up 20 to 30% roads. Instead I took the gentler slops of the main road to the ski station. The road does have 20% ramps but mainly it’s a 1,300m climb up an average 7% gradient, so I chucked it on my granny ring and rode it a slow 1h 40minutes to the ski station. The views were outstanding as I rode higher and higher until I saw the last 1km to go and the ski station. That’s when I started to feel the altitude… or possibly the after effects of my cheeky ANÍS/liquer at the end of yesterday’s meal.
I am sure I could cycle this route quicker than I did but I still needed enough in my legs for the 20k cat 2 climb on the way home. Made it back then assumed the horizontal sofa position for the rest of the day.