Saturday, 31 July 2010

Another week closer...

Five weeks to go now. I didn't get out on my bike during the week, mainly because it's been busy at work, but I did manage to get out with Paul and Steve last night. The weather was a bit iffy, so we decided to go for a shorter route (20 miles) than we had originally planned (30 miles), and it was a good job we did because it poured down half way along. We put on our wet weather gear and carried on, stopping at the Quart Pot just before home, for some post-ride refreshments.

During the week I phoned three of the remaining four hostels to book rooms, and it seemed quite funny chatting away in Spanish. The fourth hostel just won't answer the phone. Fortunately this is in Ávila, which is quite a big town and there are a few other hostels, so I'll stay in one of those instead.

I'm getting a bit worried about maps. I know that if I get stuck on my ride, I have GPS and Google Maps on my phone, so I'm not too worried about getting lost, but I would like decent maps to follow as I'm cycling along. I'd prefer to get hold of a digital map of Spain, so I can plot my route and print these out, but I'm having trouble finding one. The Spanish equivalent of our Ordnance Survey maps are prohibitively expensive to buy online (about £10 each) - ideally I'd like the 1:25,000 maps but I'd need about 12 of these to cover the entire route, or I could go buy three of the 1:200,000 maps. I'll keep looking out for something on the web, but if it comes to it I'll buy the three maps.

My bike had become a bit noisy on the front mech when cycling along, but it didn't make any noise when on the stand, so I took it into Grips and Matt gave it a little tweak and it's now fine. I also bought some spare spokes to take with me... I'd hate to get stuck up a mountain with a broken spoke!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Bad boy...

I've been a bad boy this week and haven't done any cycling since Monday. What's more, I shall be going to the High Voltage rock festival tomorrow so probably won't get out at all this weekend. I'll just have to be good next week.

I went for my regular monthly back massage with Judith this week and told her about the cycling I had been doing. She asked if I wanted my legs doing and I said no, as they felt OK. But when she had a quick feel, my calves were a right mess so I changed my mind and got her to give them a good going over. Boy did that hurt!

I also ordered some bike stuff from Wiggle this week - a rack to put my panniers on, and a handlebar bag to keep my valuables in when touring, which I'm really pleased with. I put them on my bike tonight, just to make sure it all fitted.

Monday, 19 July 2010

More rides...

I went our for another ride early yesterday morning. To begin with, I was a bit saddle sore from the day before, and my thighs felt a bit tired, but after a while that all went away. Quite often, when I go out on my own, I don't have a particular route in mind. Instead I just see how I feel as I go on my way. That said I always go straight to reservoir at the top of Brock Hill, as this is the quickest way to get out to the countryside from home. I can either do a lap of the reservoir (13 miles) or loop out as far as I like and then loop back in on the far side of the reservoir. The only constraint I have is if I have to get back for a particular time.

Yesterday, I started cycling round the reservoir and looped off through Galleywood, past the Viper at Mill Green and through Mountnessing, before heading back for home, a total of 35 miles. I would have quite liked to have gone to Blackmore for a cup of coffee and a cake, but the I had to get back. My route criss-crossed with the London to Southend charity ride a few times, so there was the usual display of bad tempered driving from a lot of motorists. I find it amusing sometimes, as they remind me of little kids having a paddy because they can't get their own way, but they're not so funny when they start driving like idiots and endangering cyclists.

Tonight I got home from work at 7, bolted my dinner down and went for a quick lap of the reservoir before it got dark. I gave my legs a good workout and I didn't feel at all saddle sore, which I'm pleased about. So a total of more than 100 miles in three days - not bad! I've just got to keep on doing more of this to "get the miles in my legs", as they say.

I received an e-mail from the Spanish hotel chain Sol Melia a few days ago. We went on a family holiday to Spain a couple of years ago, and earned enough loyalty card points for a free one night stay, but the e-mail advised that these points were about to expire, so this prompted me to use them when I stay in Madrid after the final stage, the night before I fly home. I now have a premium room in a nice hotel just off the Gran Via. I think I will have deserved a premium room at the end of this tour! I have also booked hostels for the end of stages five and six, so three rooms booked, four to go.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

A ride through the countryside...

I didn't manage to get out on my bike during the week, partly because of work, but also because the weather's not been great and the Tour de France on TV has been a distraction.

However, today I went on a 55 mile ride with a mate from work. We met up at Shenfield station and cycled through the Essex countryside. We started out really well, setting a good pace on fairly level roads and with the wind behind us. We stopped off at a pub for lunch and, after taking a wrong turning, we then had to negotiate some busy roads. We dropped down into a place called Paper Mill Lock, which has a steep climb the other side, probably the biggest climb locally. I made it to the top without too much trouble, though afterwards my legs started to feel a little tired, made worse by the rest of the ride being uphill into quite a strong wind. We made it back to Shenfield OK, and it was a good day out.

This is the profile of today's ride:

When compared with the toughest stage on my tour (same scale) then today's ride looks like a walk in the park:

I know the stage is going to be a killer for me, but I'm just going to take my time and enjoy the views at the top followed by the fast descents. I'm not going to have much choice!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

A busy week...

It's been a busy week work-wise, with a business trip to Edinburgh on Tuesday/Wednesday immediately followed by another business trip to Dublin on Thursday/Friday, so there was no chance to get on on my bike (though I did catch up on the Tour de France highlights, and it was great to see that Cav had won two stages, after making a poor start to the tour).

The weather has been really hot - in the 30s - so perfect cycling weather. Despite being knackered from a long week, I woke up quite early this morning and decided to get out for a ride.

I have two bikes - a mountain bike and a road bike. For my trip to Spain, I'm going to have to take the mountain bike for two reasons: there are no lugs on the frame of my road bike for attaching a pannier rack; and I don't expect that the roads in rural Spain will be very smooth, so I'm going to have to use my mountain bike for my solo rides between now and when I go. The mountain bike is a fair bit heavier than the road bike, and will be heavier still when it's fully loaded. Still - that's all part of the fun I guess!

So off I went this morning on a 40 mile loop through Blackmore. Blackmore's a proper country village with a village green complete with stocks. There's a tea shop right by the green, so I decided I would stop there for a break. It was already hot out when I left, and by 8:30 I could feel the heat reflecting off the tarmac. I made it to Blackmore just before 10:00, really looking forward to a nice cup of coffee and some home made cake, so was really disappointed to see that they didn't open until 11:00. As you can see, I wasn't a happy bunny!
Fortunately I did have a couple of cereal bars on me, so I was able to eat something. I stopped off at Mountnessing on the way back, where there's a windmill.
I had planned to start booking up accommodation this weekend, but with Spain being in the world cup final tomorrow, I think I had better leave it until next weekend. I heard from my contacts in Madrid that everyone went completely mental after the final whistle of the semi final, with people driving around the city with their horns blaring, or letting off fireworks until 4AM. God knows what it'll be like if they go and win the final. The omens are looking good, with Paul the psychic octopus picking Spain to win. I've been invited to watch the game at my favourite Spanish tapas bar, the Barcelona in London, so I shall be watching the game there. ¡Vaya España!

Monday, 5 July 2010

A couple of rides...

I did a couple of rides over the weekend. The first was on Friday night with the Bianchi Brothers Paul and Jel, a modest 17.5 miles around the reservoir and through Galleywood, with a couple of stop offs along the way.

The second was a solo trip early on Sunday morning - a 32.5 mile loop through Mountnessing. It's great cycling through the country lanes early on a sunny morning, when there is next to no traffic on the roads. I took it fairly easy as I'd twisted my knee a bit a week or so ago, but it came through fine.

I have a couple of business trips lined up now, so won't get the chance to go out on my bike again until the weekend, when I can hopefully get out for a 40 miler.

Friday, 2 July 2010

The route

The route is 265 miles / 425km long over seven stages. Starting from Barajas airport, the route goes through the Madrid city centre and out westwards into rural Spain, then heads north across the Gredos mountain range to the old walled town of Ávila. From Ávila, the route then goes eastwards to Segovia, famous for its Roman aqueduct, before turning southwards across the Guadarrama mountain range and back to Madrid and Barajas airport.

Stage One - Barajas Airport to Brunete
Saturday 4th September 2010
Distance: 31 miles / 51 km

In the book, the first stage goes for 45 miles / 73 km to Navas del Rey, but I'm going to have to cut this short. I don't land at Barajas until 1pm, and by the time I've got through passport control, collected my bike and bag from the luggage belts, put my bike together and checked the bike box and other stuff into left luggage, I'm not going to have much time before it starts getting dark.

Stage Two - Brunete to Piedralaves
Sunday 5th September 2010
Distance: 46 miles / 74 km

Stage Three - Piedralaves to Burgohondo
Monday 6th September 2010
Distance: 47 miles / 75 km

Stage Four - Burgohondo to Ávila
Tuesday 7th September 2010
Distance: 23 miles / 37 km

Stage Five - Ávila to Segovia
Wednesday 8th September 2010
Distance: 47 miles / 75 km

Stage Six - Segovia to Cercadilla
Thursday 9th September 2010
Distance: 27 miles / 43 km

Stage Seven - Cercadilla to Barajas
Friday 10th September 2010
Distance: 44 miles / 70 km