Scenery & Sights . . .
. . . and all about the Bike
Got up. Sat in chair. At lunch. Sat in chair. Drank beer. Sat in chair. Ate Dinner. Drank Wine. Sat in Chair. Went to bed.
As you can see, the day after our epic climb to watch La Vuelta was not exactly packed with activity. In fact, I did manage a short walk around the campsite to the top of the hill behind to see the view. The old legs were struggling though . . .
One of the things about the Picos, and Asturias in general, is the quantity and value for money of the food. I have already mentioned some belly-busting meals of local Asturian fare, but this also extend to the very hedgerows. Overhanging our cabin is a hazelnut tree, and the fruit clearly ripens early here compared to Britain because the nuts have been falling on our heads as we sit. I decided to avail myself of nature's bounty, and very nice they were too . . .
As another example, how about having this lemon tree outside your front door . . .
We are back at San Vicente on the return leg. At the usual coffee stop in the transport café outside Panes I noticed that Colin had devised an ingenious method of keeping his bar-bag dry. Clearly a patent is in the offing, with the only disadvantages that I can see being the lack of complete coverage (though this could be easily remedied by using a more capacious pair of grundies) and the propensity for them to blow off into one's face, thereby rendering the cyclist both blind and incapabale at the same time . . .
While at the campsite we will once more eat in the restaurant, and this is my last chance to cajole Colin into an authentic attempt at pouring the sidra Asturian style, though we are now in Cantabria it must be said.
Well, this is what we came for - to see the Tour of Spain. On Saturday the plan was to cycle down to Panes then further down the river valley and find a spot where the race passed. As it turned out there was an ideal place, on a small bridge across the river near to several restaurants and bars. Unlike the Tour de France La Vuelta is a much more relaxed affair, reflecting the Spanish character I would assume. So, although we arrived at 1 pm and the race was due to pass between 2.30 and 3 pm, there was no guarantee that this would be the case. Nevertheless we managed to get in a 3-course menu del dia. As we sat eating there was a certain amount of twitchiness that we would miss the race but as it turned out we finished in good time to seet he race . . . 'mañana, mañana' as they say in Spain.
But the main event was today, the mountain-top finish at Lago de Covadonga. We set off at 10.30, in good time to ride to the top of the mountain to see the race. We stopped at the bottom for a cafe con leche and, being caught out before on this climb, I elected to indulge in a bocadillo - bacon and cheese bap to you - becaus the next 12 km would be foodless. I can assure you that it kept me company all the way up . . . burp! The sun was out at this point; the climb to the lago (lake) is unretlentingly steep; on and on it went as I winched myself up; the sweat runnning down may face and into my eyes, down through my shorts and into my socks, oozing from every pore of my body. I daren't stop becuase I'd never get going again, even grabbing a drinks bottle was a technically challenging event . . . but I eventually gained the summit at 1120 m . . .
. . . then back down about 4 km to watch the race pass . . .
Contador and Valverde fighting it out on the steep part . . .
. . . and Froome trailing behind . . .
Bloody knackered - me, I mean.
Today the group spilt, with one party setting off for the climb to La Covadonga, and the other on a mystery tour of my design. We all set off together towards Cangas de Onis, whereupon Greg, Lou, Mike D, JJ and I peeled away in the direction of Arriondas and thence in the direction of Oviedo along the dual carriageway . . . so far not so scenic. The plan was to get to a mountain road that went up to Cazo and looped round back to Cangas - those roads with green next to them on the Michelin map that designate a scenic route. We were late starting and further delayed by a fruitless search for a bike shop and flip-flop emporium in Cangas, but eventually we made it to the start of the climb, and climb we did . . . for 18 continuous km up a mountain road with only the goats, cows and their bells, and a lone delivery man (shuttling up and down in his van dropping off bread and fags) for company.
Up we went, then up again, then up and up and up and up . . . back and forth this way and that as the road looped and climbed its inexorable way to the top of the Sierra de Faces. Eventually we reached the summit and were rewarded with spectacular views, but by this time it was 2 pm and we had brought only bits of cake and Haribo to eat, and had seen absolutely no place to buy provisions for 18 km.
Just as we were comtemplating whether to eat JJ two Spanish mountain bikers appeared from a nearby track and hailed us well met. In one of those coincidences that weave a golden thread into the rich tapestry of life one of the duo spoke perfect English and informed us that his companion had been regaling him for the past hour about Casa Ricardo, a restaurant in the nearby village which served local Asturian food in mountainous quantities for a very little money. So, thanking him profusely and thinking that it seemed like a scene out of Lord of the Rings we made haste to said casa where we spent the next two hours gorging on a casserole of flambada, goats stew and creme caramel, accompanied by vino and sidra. . . just like les dejeuners of old.
Eventually we had to leave and wobbled out, completely stuffed, in preparation for the remaining 30 km of our journey. Now, you may wonder how we managed this in our engorged state, but as fate would have it we had chosen to ride the 'right' way around the mountain, and the journey back to Cangas was through a picturesque canyon along what was essentially a false flat.
A race back to the campsite finished us off - I just manged to reel Colin in yards before the entrance . . . Ha!
Today we picked up two honorary members of SBCC, Dave and Helen, for a ride into the mountains then down towards the seaside. The weather has turned from scorching hot sun to overcast and low cloud - just as well as it turned out. The first climb of the day was really three climbs, up and down and up and down from Labra to the alto del torno at 550 m.
Lou had the first puncture of the tour on day 1 . . . and she now has the 2nd and 3rd. On the final descent her rear tyre blew off the wheel again - a brown trouser moment in anyones language - only for it to happen once more as soon as fixed and inflated. Greg has now swapped wheels in true gentlemanly fashion so if it blows off again he will be the one to hurtle over the edge of the precipice into the valley below - I'm sure he knows this. On the bottom part of the mountain workmen were tarting up the verges in preparation for La Vuelta, which will traverse the same route, but managed to dislodge lots of sharp rocks in the process. As a result, Dave suffrered a tyre cut which required patches and superglue to repair - the tour tool kit is coming in handy this trip.
Eventually we arrive at our destination, a beachfront cafe, for lunch . . . only to find that the kitchen is fermo. The girl did make us some nice smoked salmon and cheese sandwiches, but only one each! As regular readers will know I have fallen into the habit of 3-course déjeuner with wine while on tour, so a single bap will simply not suffice . . . I had to supplement with a bag of crisps and a piece of cake from the back pocket.
The sun came out by the time we reached the sea but I had forgotten my bucket and spade . . . so we cleared the kids out of the boat for a group photo . . .
The return was an equally long climb back up to the campsite where I have already tucked in to bread and jam, and a crisp sandwich before dinner - the training programme is in full swing.
Well, sort of . . . after the excesses of the previous day . . . . . . and evening . . .
. . . we decided to have a relatively sedate day around the campsite. Several of the most althletically elite members of the SBCC elected to spend the day 'recovering' . . .
. . . but not before seeking out provisions from the the local shop which is located 1 mile down the road. Surprisingly well provisioned - like a Spar on amphetimines.
Mike and I, eschewing the chance for a day of tapering before tomorrow's mountainous attempt, decided to go adventuring down the hill towards Cangas de Onis, ideally on flat bits but I'm not convinced that this is possible. . . .
. . . later, we found several things of interest:
Cangas de Onis is not far, there are many hills that lead to absolutley nowhere and the beer is good. Also, there is some sort of 'cow thing' going on there which may or may not merit further investigation . . .
. . . and I don't make a very attractive Dutch girl . . .
Despite all these obstacles, Mike and I made it back up the hill to the campsite.
This evening I volunteered to cook so treated 'Cabin No. 2' to one of my signiature dishes . . . yes, you guessed it folks, the Evans Lentil Chilli! As you can see, eveyone has the rictus smile of buttock clenching enjoyment that is one of the consequences of this repaste. . . .
Today we went 'West of the Picos' . . . as Lee van Cleef would say. Well, not exactly because we are actually in the Picos, at Camping Picos de Europa to be exact. After some pre-ride fettling - JJ lashing his saddlebag with bailing twine and Greg had fixing Colin's gear changer to allow him to get on the big front ring (why this would be necessary I have no idea since Colin hardly ever uses it) we left Playa del Oyambre in glorius sunshine.
After stopping for the tortilla at the usual SBCC cafe stop, the route took us through some wonderful scenery, chamois clinging to the high peaks and vultures circling above . . . probably waiting for one of us. The temperatue hit the 30s, the water bottles ran low, and JJ lost his shorts somewhere between there and here . . . Luckily we had no mechanicals today other the fettling before the off, which was just as well because the BIG HILL was yet to come!
We stopped for lunch just before the BIG HILL. It took longer to order than to eat what with eight people with none, and one with some, Spanish trying to navigate the menu. I managed easily by resorting to picking random items from the menu del dia - Colin said 'dos', Greg said 'tres' and Mike said 'whatever four is in Spanish' . . . you get the idea.
And so, we come to the BIG HILL. At the bottom a chap went past us wearing longs. . . the temperature was in the 30s by this point and the sun was roasting us as we cycled beside the rock face of the mountain, the sweat was pouring down into my shorts, the helmet was off and I was dousing my cap in water. . . maybe he felt the cold? As you can see from the look of Colin at the top of the hill, neither longs nor his big ring were necessary . . .
So we arrive at the campsite and straight into the shop for ice cold cerveza. Thinking they were unoccupied, Greg has liberated the clothes pegs from all of the adjoining cabins, only for their occupants to return from days out at the beach . . . We have said nothing.
The SBCC set off for the Tour of Spain with sun shining on us at the Ferryport. This time, we have bowed to the inevitabilities of age, not to mention insomnia, and booked cabins for the crossing. Hence, I am hoping for a restful night's sleep; in contrast to the last time when we slept in the restaraunt, where the lights never go out and the cleaners start vacuuming at 6 am. Of course, since four of us are sharing a cabin a good night's sleep might not happen in any case . . .
Infortunately S was not best pleased because she couldn't come with us . . .
So, we repaired to the bar for pre-dinner drinks . . . already I managed a contretemps with a bloke jumping the queue . . . never happens in Wetherspoons I think. The crossing was calm and our cabin small, but that didn't matter becuase JJ has a hard head and survived the frequent encounters with the edge of the metal bunk. So, we hove in to Santander and set off for San Vicente by a route which JJ had reconnoitred in the spring . . . well he said he had, and we found it after only two wrong turns.
It was hot, high 20s centrigrade, but there was a cooling wind to mitigate the worst effects - unfortunately it was a headwind. Lou has the distinction of the first puncture of the tour, a spectacular affair which blew the tyre off the wheel and split the inner tube . . . and her spare had a hole in it. What can a girl do but call on not one, not two . . . but three OGs to fix the wheel . . .
That's one down. A mile or two down the road and Marks rack starts to fall apart. Luckily, always alert to potential problems with mudguards, gear hangars and the like, I am prepared with various nuts, bolts and washers, so an instant repair was effected.
We arrived at Playa del Ombre none the worse for wear and I am contemplating the first cold one as I write. . .
. . . I can't say that the sidra is as good as the cidre but the rosada de la casa was just fine.