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...