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Day 5......Almeria to the finish...

Almeria seemed like a pleasant town when we rode into it last night (early this morning). A certain civic pride with clearly a fair bit of money spent on beautifying the beachfront and surrounding areas. We had booked into a cheap hotel that was right on our course and showered, slept for 5 hours, had a breakfast then pushed off at the relatively late hour of 9 am.

We knew we had a climb immediately out of the city but what we didn't know was its severity. 14 km straight up a steep hill along a very rocky and technical piece of track. Along the way we were almost side swiped by a mountain biker coming the other way who was concentrating so hard on staying alive he hadn't seen us until the last possible moment. Another odd encounter was a track runner who but for a pair of skimpy shorts and pair of trainers wore nothing else. His skin was of such a colour that Nick W-W christened him '' mahogany man''

View from La Perla hotel room no.332

The ride out of Almeria was relentless and steep and relentless and steep. Oh and rocky.

Looking back down to Almeria and eastward along the coast line that we had travelled the previous evening. Did I mention the steepness and relentless nature of that climb first thing in the morning?

14km of this will keep any cyclist honest.

Even the smooth tarmac sections didn't provide any relief given the baking sun was now radiating heat off the surface at about 400 degrees.

The race route at this stage was taking us directly away from the coastline and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The climbing was ridiculous. By mid afternoon we had ''only'' covered 60km of the remaining 180km.

We passed through numerous villages where it wasn't just cyclists who availed themselves of fresh mountain water from the roadside fountains. That's 25 bottles in there. I hope he has a decent set of suspension springs / pistons on his car.

The road just travelled. Despite being steep and rocky we at least were able to escape the sun on occasion by the coverage of trees that we passed by. That white town in the distant is where we have come from.

Before descending into the town of Bujar we came across a view that took the breath away (if the hills hadn't already done that numerous times). Another city of plastic. This one about 45 times larger in expanse than that we had seen yesterday outside of Nijar. The enormity of it was staggering to the point that I stopped on nearly every hairpin turn to take another photo. Yes, that is all white plastic covered greenhouses. It is why you can eat strawberries in the UK in December (middle of winter). I am not a great measurer of distance but from one vista point I'd guess that this area of greenhouses stretched 50-75 km along the coastline and probably 10-15 km inland too. Just enormous.

One mountain village after another was ticked off as we pedalled further inland. We had been cycling since 9 am and as dusk fell at 7.30 pm we pressed on into the evening. By 1 am and somewhat fatigued having now been on the move for 16 hours I found myself falling asleep on my bike (albeit for 2-3 seconds) and knew it was only a matter of time before there was severe consequences to follow if I didn't get some sleep. With 60 km to go to the finish line the decision was made at 1.30am to get off the bikes and sleep for 90 minutes. This was no time for bivy bags. I simply pulled out my air mattress, inflated it, and fell asleep atop it fully clothed with my cycle shoes and gloves still on. I did at least have the presence of mind to take off my cycling helmet. Nick W-W said later that I fell asleep so quickly I was snoring before he had even unpacked his own air mattress.

Ticking off the towns became a mantra.

After 1.5 hours of sleep we got back on the bikes at 3 am and pedalled onwards. Now within 50km of the finish our next objective was to see the sun rise knowing that in doing so we'd get an extra lift. That time period between 3 am and 7.30 am when the sun rose was simply brutal. Fatigue levels were high, the terrain unforgiving, the coolness of the pre dawn air exacerbated by our tiredness so you felt chilled whenever you rode downhill at speed. But you couldn't put on a jacket because you knew within moments of finishing a downhill section you'd be peeling off layers as you struggled uphill. All in all it was a hard battle.

Finally we found ourselves in Trevelez. The Jamon production capital of the area. It wasn't quite 8 am so whilst waiting for the local cafe to open we lay down in a bus shelter and slept for 30 mins until we could avail ourselves of some breakfast and coffee. Then some more coffee. And a whole lot of sugar.

The early sun rays were a godsend after cycling 12 hours over night through dark and cold.

With 22 km to go there was final spanner thrown at us by the organisers. A very technical ''hike n bike'' section. It was so ridiculous you had to laugh And laugh we did. 723 km into a 745 km race and we were faced with gingerly walking our bikes down into a ravine and then up the other side.

The first sighting of our finishing town, Capileira, was a joyous one. Least of all because it was below us which meant the last 3-4 km was a freewheel down a hill. Somewhat ironic given all we had seemingly done for the press 122 hours was climb.

As we cycled down into the town the emotions started to well over as it dawned on us what we had done. Never mind riding the previous 27 hours in one hit with only 1.5 hours of sleep. It was everything else the ride had thrown at us over the previous 745km and 122 hours.

There was however one small final twist. Finding the finish line. Somewhat bizarrely the organisers had decided that doing something simple like perhaps writing ''finito' in chalk on the road or raising a banner to signify the finish was beyond their capabilities. We actually rode straight through the town and out the other side whereupon Nick W-W who had done the bulk of the navigating turned to me and said ''there's no more route navigation, it simply says ''end of route''.

So u-turn we did and rode back into the the village where a local directed us to a small office situated in a side lane.

No dancers, no hoopla, nothing. All a little anti-climatic.

Caps #258 & #259 at the finish. 5 days, 2 hours and 50 mins and 745 km after leaving Granada.

A beaming cap#258

I will write up my post race thoughts in time because there's a few observations we both made. Some facts too about the ride which are worth sharing with you all. If for no other reason than a record for me for the future on what we went through and achieved and how we did it.


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