I think I set a new benchmark today that I hope not to reach again anytime soon.
The hardest physical activity I can ever recall doing in my life. Lugging 135 kg (297 lbs)of personal weight, bike and luggage over a combined climb of 7,574 ft on the day. Exactly 100 km in distance and 8 hours and 1 min in the saddle.
It started all so well. A lovely breakfast in possibly the best 2 Star hotel I have slept in situated in the small coastal town of Nerja. A nights accomodation for 27£ and breakfast for 4£ . Couple that with Nerja itself being just a delightful little seaside village full of Scandinavians with not a lager lout to be seen nor an Irish / English pub.
Leaving Nerja, the 25 km along the coast to Almuñécar is a series of rolling hills that get the legs and heart going. Dips down to the sea and then steep short climbs away from the coast before returning to the sea again.
Looking back towards Nerja.
You couldn’t really complain about the views despite the short steep climbs away from them .
Came across my first and definitely not last tunnel of the trip. Let’s keep count of these puppies. Me thinks once I get into far north Norway the total will be pushing close to 50.
I took this photo near Almuñécar as after 25 km of hugging the coastline I was about to head due north and away from the sea. There was me thinking this would be the last of the Mediterranean until I got to Valencia. Ha. Then hahaha some more.
Crossing under the A7 . Anyone who has ever owned a Mecano set as a child will always have that little engineer lurking in them and admiration of all things grand scale.
Let me introduce you to the A-4050. It runs 58 km from the coastline to Granada. Little did I know at this stage it was going to play big brother bully on me and knock me senselsss over the next 6 hours that it was to be my companion.
Silly me is pointing towards what I thought was the pass over the top. Ha. Little did I know. Hahahahaha and then some more. Hahahahahhaahaha. Muppet.
The ol A-4050 doesn’t waste too much time letting you know who is the boss. Switch back after switch back you climb. And climb. And climb. And climb . And climb .
Yup and there’s still views of the Mediterranean . Basically I have come from the middle valley that curves around to the right and behind a ridge line towards the sea at Alumencar.
To anyone who has ever used STRAVA you know squiggles mean only one thing. Climbing.
It would’ve been wise to check where there was eat enroute . Unfortunately I have no claims to being wise. Fortunately I have a wife who is though. Extremely so. Unfortunately she wasn’t with me. Thank goodness I was at least able to draw real water from a mountain stream .
5 hours of climbing and at the fountain I met the man of the day. Pieter from Slovakia who laughed uproariously when I told him where I was headed.
We both laughed uproariously when he tried to pick up my bike. Especially given he was riding something lighter than a butterfly’s wing.
Pieter was simply riding to the summit and then returning to the coast where he was holidaying. Just the sort of thing we all do everyday. Go on holiday and ride 40 km straight up a ridiculously steep hill and then turn around. I asked him where the nearest restaurant was as he had done this ride before.
“Oh I think 13 more km near the summit but I am not sure it will be open this early in the season “ he replied . And off he set.
An hour and a half later I met him coming back down. Here’s the conversation that followed.
Pieter - Hey Nick I have some good news and bad news.
Nick - ok hit me with the bad news
Pieter - the restaurant is indeed closed.
Nick - ok so what’s the good news
Pieter - the views are spectacular
Nick - excellent
Pieter - oh actually some more bad news it’s very cold Up top
Nick - ok so no restaurant and it’s cold
Pieter - actually also some more bad news its very very windy .
Nick - Right. So cold,windy and the restaurant is closed but the views are good
Pieter - Hahahahaha in Slovakia we would say you are stuffed! Hahahahaha
Nick - Yup where I come from there’s another expression that would sum it up too
Pieter - But please take my Slovakian energy bar because I don’t think you will eat until Granada and that’s 2-3 hours away .
To Pieter - You are a true gentleman. I hope our paths cross again one day but if they don’t may every ride you do be with a tailwind.
And so I pressed on. Fuelled now by morsels from a Slovakian energy bar that I was rationing to ensure it would last me to Granada. Up and up and up and then up some more into terrain that is hard to describe. Try and spot the road ahead of me.
At various points the road was so steep and my tiredness bordering on... “ I am going to spit the dummy soon if this doesn’t flatten out or crest “ that I found myself crossing to the high side of the camber and also criss-crossing to get up the road. There were several instances where the road was so steep that when I stopped to take a photo I had to roll the bike 10-20 feet back down the hill to get enough momentum to then head higher.
I stopped taking photos as a consequence .
Then I summited! I was hoping for something a little more elaborate than a thanks from the Andalusian road authorities for having just spent myself climbing their road . Especially as my Strava told me I still had 35 km to Granada .
At this point I was in the red zone of energy levels haven’t not eaten for 6 hours and hauled 135 kg (297lbs) up what seemed like a mountain bigger than Everest. It s a bit like driving your car with the red light flashing at you telling you that you need to refill REAL soon.
And then the unproclaimed Refugio de Piedra appeared from nowhere and it was OPEN !
I clambered (crawled like a new born child ) up the steps and into a darkened bar where a young guy behind the counter looked at me quizzically as though it was a surprise to actually see a customer this early in the season . In one corner Grandma was peeling potatoes for the restaurant, a log fire was burning, there were two caged singing birds doing what they were meant to be doing and singing. There was also an elderly gentleman dressed in camoflauge fatigues with a deer hunters cap on sipping a beer pawing the peanut bowl in front of him with hands that could crush a walnut . You couldn’t script it. Erm .. maybe you could because I was living it .
And yes. I took this photo surreptitiously. He didn’t seem the kind of guy to do a selfie with me.
In my best pidgin Sanish I asked the young gun how far to Granada . He replied 1 hour and about 15 km. The hunter lent back and laughed loudly .
´´30 km and dos horas´´ he said.
You can guess who was right .
But that’s OK because in my 15 mins in there I had scoffed two plates of peanuts and downed two small bottles of coke. A bargain for all of 4 EUR.
So I set off. And the small rolling hills just kept on coming. Coke and nuts wasn’t going to cut it if this lasted too much longer. I had always thought that once I had summited that was it done for climbing. Hahahahaha. And then some more. Hahahaha. And don’t get me started on the wind . Pieter was right. Sideways most of the time and it was bitterly cold.
The Hill that just kept on giving .
For no reason other than the coke and nuts inspired energy had run dry and I wanted to stop and it seemed like a decent photo to take.
The plains became more expansive and in the distance I could see two things but only one that mattered. The snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains and Granada (not in shot).
And then the sign I had dreamt about 675 times since setting off at its start. Still 12 km from Granada . But I HAVE CONQUERED YOU MR A-4050.
Many moons and animal years ago there was a Chinese philosopher called Tzu. You may have read his most proclaimed piece . “The Art of War” . In that he espouses many observations about doing battle.
One of his quotes I have always liked .
“In the classroom of war that which does not destroy you, only serves to make you stronger”
Well Mr Tzu. I give you one back.
“In the classroom of cycling, the mountain that does not destroy you serves only to make you stronger “
I seriously doubt I will have a harder physical day on this ride . Did you hear that Norway? Did you ?
REST day tomorrow in Granada !