Monday, May 18, 2015

Mission aborted!
An early start at 06:03 am.  Around eight I arrived at the junction between the C-35 and the local road leading to the small picturesque town of Santa Maria de Palautordera.  Nearly stumbled into a Police patrol with lots of traffic cones and a cohort of civilians donning orange vests that identified them as Civil Defence members.
Nobody showed any real interest in a lonely cyclist so, taking full advantage of their indifference,  threaded my way through the wall of cones and started riding up the road. Shortly after, while passing by a fellow with the orange vest, heard a voice saying : "ride carefully, this road is closed because of an Iron Man event!"   Thanks, I replied, while mentally pondering my chances of being able to attach to my planned route.  Let's see.... by now it was shortly after eight and, as far as I know, Iron Man events start by swimming before jumping onto the bikes. There is no sea here (and it seemed to me a bit early for a bath) so... may be I'd be able to pass before they arrived. With those self-encouraging thoughts I inconspicuously rode by different members of the organization till a roundabout entering Santa Maria where I was stopped cold by Local Police. They politely but firmly informed me that the road was closed and that I wouldn't be able to reach the hamlet of Montseny since the Iron Man route ran through La Costa del Montseny (another most scenic ride) cutting off my way. After some delicate negotiations they seemed to take pity on me and showed me a route around town that lead to the nearby village of Sant Esteve de Palautordera. Arriving at Sant Esteve I found the next road block manned this time by Civil Defence members that allowed me to continue on the sidewalk while cautioning me about the incoming cyclists. By now my self confidence was growing, I had been able to overcome all the obstacles thrown in my pathway but... arriving in the last blockade a police woman stood firmly in the middle of the road. I displayed all my best persuading tricks to no avail, I was mercilessly driven back (staying there for a couple of hours till the road was reopened was obviously not an option).
So now... what?  Well, I had no option but aborting the mission and finding another target. Unfortunately I had no secondary targets in mind. While riding to Sant Celoni I decided to cycle again last Sunday's course and see if I could find any difference (for the better, of course!)
Once in Sant Celoni, while trying to get to the C-35 I was stopped again: a bunch of slender guys in thighs zoomed past. Those were the culprits of my misfortune! (I would most likely avoided them should that police woman had let me through...)
By now it was past nine, I had lost a lot of time wandering and negotiating with local "authorities" so I had to sketch a plan. I had no road map but I hoped to get to Anglès straightaway from Riudarenes avoiding my previous detour through local lanes. And the fact is that it worked! Once there I started the 24 km ascent to Sant Hilari. This time my water provision had been doubled and by no means was I going to repeat my hydration mistakes. The route to Mines d'Osor and from there to Osor is really easy (took a couple of pics from the hamlet of Osor).

Exiting Osor the grade increases and the real climb starts. After some ten kilometres of huffing and puffing the grade easies considerably till one reaches Sant Hilari.

The return leg was uneventful; the main difference being that I was not bonking this time.
Got home in twelve and a half hours, same time as last week's but with two things to consider: a) I had lost nearly an hour in Sant Celoni and b) I was not feeling that bad.  On the other hand I'm still in doubt about my ability to endure a full Diagonal.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Next assignment, and this will be a tough one...  Tomorrow I will give a try to a course already ridden with some fellow-randonneurs a few years ago while training for the Barcelona-Perpinyà (that's a 600+ brevet with lots of climbing regarded as the highlight of rando-season in Catalonia).

Weather forecast is not that hot as last Sunday (in fact, temperatures are coming back to normal). Let's try not to repeat the same mistakes...

The parcourse is scenic, really scenic (I'll show some pics from the lovely hamlet of Montseny ans its breathtaking balcony over the the Natural Park with the unmistakable silhouette of the Turó de l'Home in the background) . It's some 175 km long and includes three main passes: the mighty Collformic (25 km long with some 10% ramps, nearly never under 6%), the Coll de la Pollosa and the Coll de Lligabosses (some five km each).

It's a good test to assess my present form (... sighs)

Friday, May 15, 2015

I know I'm giving away the plot but... the unvarnished truth is that I failed again! It took me nearly twelve and a half hours to finish the "tour". A ride that started well and ended miserably...
To be sincere it did not start that well; I slept poorly that night due to the inconsiderate social behaviour of my immature (and not fully educated) neighbours. So it was a quarter to six on Sunday when a slightly red-eyed randonneur (that's me) silently slipped into the town's deserted streets. It was pleasantly cool, just cool enough to don arm warmers; a heat wave was announced, something rather unusual for this time of the year so I dressed up as lightly as possible.
Threaded my way to the (already familiar) road to La Roca through lonely streets taking full advantage of the situation while ignoring red traffic lights and one-direction lanes. I was the master of the world! In fact, it took nearly an hour to meet the first car.
When day broke (see photo below) the sky was clear, alarmingly clear...

By now I was making good progress, found next to no cyclists, so I was on  my own (unable to hang onto any other's wheel...). Arrived in Hostalrich (this time, I also made the climb in my granny's) and had a snack on the same spot than in the previous ride (that's the view from there)

... and after dodging some "expansive" youngsters playing football among the parked cars I resumed my way towards Les Mallorquines. By now I was riding just the same route with one minor difference... my arm warmers were already bothering me (so early into the ride? Mmmh...)

Turned left on the C-63 heading for Santa Coloma de Farners. Arriving in Riudarenes (a nice small town with picturesque coloured buildings) I made three unsuccessful attempts to find a tiny lane that parallels the main road. I know I lost some time there, but I'm a sort of a romantic ciclotourist...

Arrived at Santa Coloma and turned north towards Vilobí d'Onyar and, on even tinier lanes, to Sant Dalmai. By now I was already some eighty kilometers into the ride and to my left a dark silhouette was menacingly looming: Les Guilleries

By now it was hot and I was running short of water. I was carrying just one bottle (some 750cc) but was fully confident on finding refilling stations. Thinking back now, it was here, in mid-route, where things started to go wrong. So early in the season my body was not already used to high temperatures and, by now, I was not aware of my present state of dehydration.  Leaving Anglès found the foreseen refilling spot (a gas station) closed. Don't worry -I thought- you are entering a forested area and the climb to Mines d'Osor is not that long. I knew a small restaurant there (the only one, in fact) from a brevet some years ago, so things were not going serious, or so I thought...
Entering the Massís de les Guilleries is like riding into fairy land. Thick forests with lots of brooks and springs. The murmur of running water pervades the air through most of the twenty five kilometer long climb to Sant Hilari.

By now I was feeling strangely tired and was not enjoying the ride anymore. Arriving in Mines d'Osor I found the restaurant closed! What now? Ride on to Osor boy!  My memories of this climb from the aforementioned brevet were fairly good but now it was boiling hot and I was clearly bogging down.
By the time I arrived in Osor (see picture below) my brain was not working properly, I found no store open in the main street and instead of stopping and meandering the streets for water I foolishly pressed on (just the thing an experience randonneur is not expected to do!)

Climbed the remaining fifteen kilometres in agony, stopping here and there to rest (and to take the last pic). To make things worse I needed to face the dirty job of removing the rear wheel to fix a persistent and irritating noise (something was half-stuck between tire and fender)

Arriving in Sant Hilari I was clearly behind schedule but felt too tired and too frustrated to take the trouble of working out the exact amount of lost time.
I was still obsessed with finding a gas station to refill my bottle (and body) so I stopped at a bar and asked some guys (that looked like regulars) if the gas station exiting the town was open. One of them approached me with a tipsy gait, stared at me and my bike and said pointing ma petite reine "It burns petrol?"  I was not in the mood for a joke so I replied sternly "No. It's for me"   "Do you drink petrol?"  This was becoming too much and I was getting exasperated  "No" I replied. "I want to get something to drink there!".  "And why don't you have it here in the bar?" he reasoned.  This time my brain picked up, yes... a bar, a place where people go to drink, yes...
After refueling at the bar and eating a sandwich I started the descend towards Arbúcies and Hostalrich. Something was not going well, I was still feeling clumsy, not braking in time before the curves, my seat was aching, I was in a bad mood... I had all the unequivocal signs and symptoms of a bonk!
Despite this I refused the easy ride all downhill to Hostalrich and arriving at Sant Feliu de Buixalleu turned right to climb the short Coll de N'orri just on the feet of Montsoriu castle. Why? Well, it's a personal homage to somebody (no comments, sorry)
The return leg was... dull. I have no real memories of it. Managed to cycle home in zombie-mode. Stopped once more at a gas-station in La Roca to refill again and crawled home while seriously considering my ability to endure a "Diagonal" in a couple of months or so...  Two hundred and nine kilometres, lots of climbing and even more lots of ... sweating in a boiling hot day to forget.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Next Mission

On Saturday I intend to go for another 200 (metric, of course).
This time the route will be much hillier. I want to ride through the most scenic massif "de les Guilleries", between thickly forested mountains brimming with springs and brooks that time ago gave shelter to some of the bloodiest and most notorious bandits the world has ever seen (at least according to local lore...)

"Transport stage" through the already familiar road to La Roca, then to Hostalric and Massanes and north towards Sta Coloma and Anglès. Fun starts there with a 20 kilometre climb to the thermal town of St Hilari (pk 100, see elevation profile)

The mission's goal: make it in less than eleven hours (mind the parcours is hillier and some ten kilometres longer)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Keeping up with my anarchic training schedule I cycled towards St Celoni to pay a visit to my parents (with Mother's Day looming and a thigh agenda I had to find some compromise,,,) Obviously I took the road to la Roca del Vallès and, in the return leg, stopped here and there to take some illustrative pics for those non familiar with the  roads in this part of Europe.

Farmland near Vilanova del Vallès

Nearing La Roca

Unknown guy on a bicycle. I passed him by shortly after

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mission failed.

Mission failed:  it took me eleven long hours! (one hour behind schedule). On my discharge I can say that the return leg was a bit too "urban" to make steady progress (dozens of stops, roundabouts and traffic lights purposely intended to slow me down).

On the other hand the first half of the trip was much more interesting, I pedaled out into the dark at six o'clock sharp. When dawn came  a grey overcast sky threatening with rain showed up while I stealthily slipped through slept towns across the deserted road to La Roca del Vallès. I particularly like this road that climbs gently following the contours of the Litoral Range. Arriving in Montornès I felt strange bowel movements that increased alarmingly till I had to find a makeshift toilet in a secluded spot. Feeling "alleviated" while mentally blessing the inventor of baby-wipeouts jumped onto the bike with a firm resolution to make up for the lost time.
After a couple of hours of solo-riding I managed to drop into a line of cyclist from Granollers so the pace became remarkably high. The guy leading the group took a look at my bike and asked: "you go to Paris-Brest, don't you?" I understood he was just figuring out that I am a randonneur so I simply replied "yes". While group riding I made acquaintance with and old gentleman whose main concern was keeping his heart-rate into the limits since he had suffered a heart attack and had to be very careful not to overheat his "engine" ("see, I don't wear a speedometer but a heart-rate monitor"-he said) My medical reflexes instinctively kicked in and managed not to make any comment while displaying my best poker-face (one never knows what this health topics may end up with - most likely a second opinion after a most detailed and unsolicited exposition of his long and complex medical records-).
 I left them nearing Hostalric in  quite an abrupt manner: instead of skirting the town they took the "old route" by the ancient city walls which starts as a steep climb; for no apparent  reason all cyclist simultaneously clicked in their granny gears brazing themselves for a slow painful ascent, I, on my part, sensibly did my best to keep my momentum and surged ahead in the big ring followed by an unanimous roar of disapproval. I would have gladly apologized for my unpremeditated show of force but, the thing is that never caught a glimpse of them again (they most likely stopped for breakfast somewhere). Took a pic of the entrance to the walled town with the mighty fortress in the background.

Leaving Hostalric I took the tiny road to Massanes, a lovely though "undulating" route amidst timberland (see photo below) that lead me to the busy Highway leading North to the French border.

 It had been recently reworked into a multi lane high speed road keeping the old pavement as a "service lane" suitable for bicycles and displaying next to no motorised traffic (God bless the progress!). Anyway, I felt a bit baffled since the old road ran parallel to the left side of the new and I knew I needed to turn right into another tiny local road in a couple of kilometres or so. Came across an oncoming cyclist that simply yelled "yes" to my passing inquire. The answer came in the form of a sunken lane crossing under the main road that took me to it's right side  into another sort of service lane where I met another baffled cyclist who, in a broken Spanish, said something about being lost while complaining about the "Interrrnet maps being wrrrong". I would gladly had lent him a hand or something but he apologized abruptly and surged forward just to stop again some hundred meters ahead scraping his helmet. Me, on my part, spotted a roundabout that turned into an access to the local road I was seeking for and continued my route trying not to loose valuable time (had to meet my ten hour goal, remember?) After an uneventful stretch I arrived  into Caldes de Malavella a typical and fancy spa resort  full of imposing facilities dating from the XIX century intended to "take the waters" (for those wealthy enough to pay for the treatment, obviously). Took a picture of the main entrance to one of the most renowned spas and moved away.

From there cycled to Llagostera through peaceful lanes amidst dense "fields of green" occasionalky spotted in yellow or red, I was feeling a bit of an Irish man in his homeland when I had to turn east and head for the massif of  "Les Cadiretes" (funny name, isn't it?) quite an easy and scenic pass to deal with but for its first gruelling opening kilometers (by now the sun was showing up for the first and nearly only time combined with a nasty head wind making things tougher than needed). Cresting was followed by a steep and "cooling" descent into the lovely village of Tossa with its fascinating old-quarters (crowded with multilingual visitors) After passing a couple of police controls billing imprudent motorcyclist i found a sign pointing to the return leg. By now I had already ridden the first one-hundred kilometres thus downing half of the ride. So far so good...

Getting out of Tossa to the south implies climbing the "corniche" a scenic cliff road to Lloret known either by locals and foreigners for its magnificent views of a broken pine-scattered sea shore  over the shining Mediterranean sea. I would like to make two remarks: one, the first three kilometers or so are uphill, quite uphill in fact.., second: once atop I was rewarded with a fascinating view of... nothing but the fog (sighs...) By now I had already been humiliated by a young couple that passed me by effortlessly   while chatting (more sighs...). From there onward the ride was totally uneventful, from Lloret to Blanes then to the main coastal highway, riding on the shoulder, sharing the space with heavy traffic till Mataró. No rain but occasional fine drizzle. From then on, and due to lunch time, the traffic thinned a lot. The sun shone again, no wind, familiar roads... Counting down kilometres while ansiously watching my watch. At last it was clear that I was not going to meet my time target. Got home at five o'clock in the afternoon, just eleven hours from departure and one hour too late...

Resuming activity / "Tomorrow I ride"

So things went like this: after a full one and a half year  "in waiting" (in most patient blogger inactivity) longing to submit to my selected audience the rare sight of a fully restored (and by now extensively though anonymously ridden) Contini... It's time to retake this blog

"Tomorrow I ride", (note: just paying homage to Jean Bobet) means I will face a 200 km unofficial brevet purposely designed (by me) to pre-test my ability to endure the almost scheduled stages of my forthcoming "Iberian Diagonal"
For those non-educated among my followers let me tell you that the Iberian Diagonals (official name "Les Diagonals Ibèriques") are modeled after  "Les Diagonales de France" and officially maintained by the Randonneurs Catalunya organization ( the governing body of brevets in Spain (the Basque Country excluded)

My Diagonal (in fact it looks more like an "horizontal") will take me from the Atlantic (A Coruña) to the Mediterranean (Barcelona) in a nearly 1200 km long route that must be ridden at a minimum speed of 12 km/hour. In fact it resembles a lot the Paris-Brest but for the fact that northern Spain orography makes it a bit more "hilly" , mainly in it`s opening and closing stretches.

This is my first 1000+ ride, never in my life have I intended such a thing . It's a daring enterprise hindered by some facts: unlike PBP it will be totally unsupported, also unlike PBP it will be a solo ride from the begining to the end and third... I'm not fully confident in my habilities  (both mental and physical) to endure this test.
Anyway I've been secretly and inefficiently training during the winter by night riding after work and inconsistently increasing ride distances in the weekends (while partially injuring a knee...)
Tomorrow I will ride hoping to down the full parcourse in ten hours. That's is my (slightly optimistic) goal.