Day Nine: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

How much juice is left in the tank?

On Friday afternoon I set off on a two-hour road ride wondering how my legs would feel after the three and a half hour session I had done the day before.  The short answer is they felt pretty bad.  At the start of the first twenty minute climb I thought I would leave it in my lightest gear, spinning away and then drop it down a couple of gears nearer the top when I had warmed up.  In fact I ended up wishing I had another easier gear.  I was ‘pedalling squares’ as they say, just creeping along the road, looking up at the top of the pass and willing it to appear quickly so that I could enjoy the cool breeze on the descent.

The ride through the valley was similar, in that I found I was forced to ride one gear lighter than I would have expected to maintain a sensible cadence.  On the last climb back over the ridge I was really starting to suffer.  Each tight switch back had me out of the saddle, not because I felt like a change but out of necessity, to keep the gear going.  The music on my iPod has long since been turned off, as every track that played was annoying.  My glasses were annoying me so I took them off.  The label on the back of my jersey was annoying me.  I was in what cyclists call a ‘world of pain’.  I was riding as fast as I could up a climb into a headwind, doing about 10 kilometres per hour. Not a great feeling.

I never heard the other cyclist come up behind me until he came past, about 500m from the top of the climb.  He looked lemon fresh on his Time VXR.  He was dressed in a sassy red triathlon suit and smiled as he swept past me.  I dropped two gears, stood up, accelerated and latched onto his wheel and stayed glued to it, eyes fixed on his rear cassette.  He was riding 39×19, I was now using a 39×21. I was wondering if I would explode before the top of the climb just as the pass came into view. Somehow I managed to make it to the white line drawn across the road indicating the top of the climb, my heart rate bouncing off the rev limiter.

So where the hell did the extra speed come from? For the past fifteen minutes I had been struggling up the climb. Then all of a sudden ‘Lemon Fresh Triathlon Boy’ appears and I am suddenly doing 18 kilometres an hour glued to his wheel like a GC contender under attack.

It makes me think that no matter how bad you are feeling, there is usually a little more juice left in the tank.  That there is ‘one more match that you can strike and light up’ before it goes dark for good…

I cast my mind back, to a time when I lived in Hong Kong.  I was struggling home after a tough four-hour bike ride.  I had long since checked into the ‘pain hotel’ and was eyeing up the remains of food left on the benches next to the public BBQ sites that dot the country park.  I was praying that by some miracle of God the climb to my house had vanished and that the road was now flat, that a sixty knot tailwind would appear and blow me to my front door.

My day dreams were shattered by the sound of a large pack of wild dogs, tearing across one of the BBQ sites that I was passing, eyes fixed on me.  The resulting sprint that I put in would have seen off Mark Cavendish or Chris Hoy. I remember looking down at my Avocet computer and was amazed to see that I was doing over sixty kilometres per hour.  The dogs gave up and loped back to the BBQ site to wait for easier prey, a lame Gazelle or Springbok perhaps.

So yes, I think there is (usually) always more juice in the tank.  Think about that the next time you are racing and someone puts in what looks like the move of the day and your legs are wasted.  Those dogs are behind you, lips curled back, foaming at the mouth, intent on tearing large chunks out of you.

Which brings me to the Chicken restaurant.

A friend of ours who was celebrating his 50th birthday had invited us.  A strong cyclist, in charge of cycling in Catalunya, he knew of a restaurant run by an ex-cyclist that is known for  its spit roasted chicken.  As one can imagine, being run by an ex-cyclist the portions were massive.

The entrace to the restaurant

Situated in the small seaside town of Calella, about 56KM from Barcelona, the restaurant is tucked away (like all gems) on a small side street.  As we approached I saw a huge crowd outside.  I thought Jose was taking us to a club to dance rather than to a restaurant.  It was truly buzzing.

The doorway was tiny.  It was dark inside the packed restaurant, the majority of light coming from the roaring fire, where row upon row of chickens were roasting on a spit.  Rather fittingly, a bicycle chain drove the device that rotated them.

In front of the entrance was a long wooden bar where diners sat drinking, waiting for their take away chickens to arrive.  To the right were a few tables, hugging the wall.  The walls were covered in graffiti; indeed you were encouraged to write on the walls and were given crayons. This pleased my daughters no end.

We moved deeper into the bowels of the restaurant, which seemed to go on forever.  We passed through a narrow alcove into an area that opened out to reveal a shrine to cycling.  There were hundreds of photos on the wall, some signed by famous riders.  Cycling memorabilia dotted the place. I spotted a large ,framed and signed photo of Miguel Indurain on the wall and imagined him tearing into a plate of chicken.

Chicken for dinner

The owner and his wife came out to meet us.  A jolly chap that looked like he enjoyed life to the full, he stood in front of the shrine, shook Jose’s hand and offered him his birthday wishes.

We sat down at a large rustic wooden table, all chips, grooves and battle scared. We all squeezed together and waited for the food to arrive.  There were no menus.  Coffee and desert is not served. There appeared to be a set meal arriving on all the tables. A large jug of Sangria arrived, followed by two huge bowls of fresh mussels.  The waiter then put a large plate of ‘Pan con Tomate’ in front of us and dashed off.  The speed that things were happening was incredible.

The waiters were fast, it was hectic inside.

The whole place was rushing about.  Waiters were weaving in and out of the tables, plates balanced precariously on their arms.  I was trying to figure out what was going on.  It was like trying to work out who was leading a Madison track race part way through the event. My youngest daughter began drawing on the wall, whilst we tucked into the meal.  Next to arrive was a massive plate of mixed salad.  I popped a slice of tomatoe into my mouth and reeled at the intensity of its flavour.  We do not get tomatoes like those in the U.K.  The olives were delicious, even the onion had a sweet taste to it.

Served in succession were two halves of a spit roasted, flame grilled chicken.  The first half arrived and I began to tear great chunks out of it.  When I was almost done with the first half, the waiter gave me the second half.  There is no point in letting some of your chicken get cold whilst you eat it. Far better to split up the two halves and serve them five minutes apart. Clever stuff.

The shrine to cycling

With a complete chicken consumed last night I am pretty sure my tank is full again.

Wild dogs and triathletes? Bring them on!

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