Flying into Malaga yesterday the first thing that struck me was how dry everything looked. The second thing was how quickly the terrain rises up from the coast. The third was how large and foreboding the Sierra Nevada mountains looked . The fourth was….. oh f**K .
The realisation that the many months of preparation were about to bear their fruit suddenly came into view.
Dry and hilly
I have been here before. Malaga and Granada. Three years ago as I plugged my way north from Tarifa to Nordkapp. It was day four of the ride and I had made my way from the coastal town of Nerja up into a National Park and over the top and down into Granada. I recall the heat. The never ending climb. A comment from a local who said “You’re going to Granada from here ? Be warned there are some very steep ramps along the way” . Meeting a cheerful Slovakian cyclist who kindly gave me his last energy bar . Arriving into Granada in the evening absolutely shattered and worried about my pulse which took more than 6 hours to get below 100.
It was a memorable day for many reasons. A comment from a good friend Dan.H still rings in my ears. “Well it will be good preparation for the hills in Norway as they’re sure to be worse. “ . He was partly right and partly wrong . As it turned out by rides end some 6,500 km later I would rank this day to Granada in the top 5 hardest of the entire ride. The following days ride from Granada to Jaen also ranks in that top five. He was right in the sense that the other three “hardest days” were all in Norway.
So here I am back in the same area of those two torturous days and getting ready to do something similar again. Take part in the Transiberica “Badlands” bicycle race. A 750km off road endurance event over a set route and unsupported.
Getting to the start line involved flying to the coastal town of Malaga. Then a 1.5 hour taxi ride up and over the hinterland hills into the valley in which Granada lies, just 50 minutes from the closest ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada’s.
The BA flight was full. Clearly people returning to the skies ASAP. Terminal 5 at Heathrow heaving with people. Some clearly in denial that there’s a pandemic ongoing given their lack of self awareness of space and mask wearing.
Granada is a wonderful town/city. Home to a large university population and the world famous Alhambra Palace you instantly feel you’ve arrived in a place that is quintessential Spanish. Lots of wonderfully naturally tanned people looking very relaxed and a pace of life that would be easy to drift into.
Alhambra palace …
The old town, situated at the base of the hill upon which the Alhambra sits is full of quaint cobblestoned narrow streets overflowing with tapas bars and restaurants.
There’s a certain vibrancy to it all but a very relaxed atmosphere too and sitting outside for dinner last night the street views were certainly worth the non existent admission price.
Unpacked and rebuilt ….
Post dinner it was time to unpack and put the bike together hoping that it had survived the trip. A short 10km ride this morning in the dawn light and cool air confirming that everything seemingly A-OK.
Early morning test ride
All that remains is to repack the bike bags for the 27th time, get to the registration at 6pm and then some shut eye before hitting the start line tomorrow morning at 8.00 am Spanish time.
My riding companion (Nick.W-W) and I have formulated a rough itinerary of where and when we want to be at certain times. Avoiding camping at high altitude is one priority. Another is to ensure we have enough water. Aside from those two facets of the ride the plan is to go steady, listen to our bodies and our bikes and be flexible in our approach. Otherwise just ride and ride and ride. The most common question asked is where will we sleep at night. The short answer is where we feel safe and when we feel tired enough. We both have bivvy bags so it will be camping out under the stars on air mattresses.
Being an unsupported race we will stop at villages for fuel and water and if one of those stops coincides with sleep time we may well check into a hotel for 4-6 hours.
Given the forecasted heat we may well sleep during the heat of the day and take advantage of the coolness of the evenings.
We will assess as we go.
I am pretty sure I won’t have the energy or time to update on a daily basis during the ride. I might just download a few photos of the day and let them tell the story and then provide the narrative later. Then again I may well not given we may not have reception where we are headed.
Regardless thanks to all those that have wished me well and shown an inretest. I appreciate your thoughts. A lot.
See you on the other side.
P.S. - you can follow my progress on www.dotwatcher.cc
I am cap #258
Street views from a walk about post dinner last night