Day 102: BluTack, Barcelona and Duran Duran

I used to tease my sister about her infatuation with the bass guitarist in Duran Duran. She used to practically kneel down in front of the posters attached with BluTack to her bedroom walls, and declare her undying love for him. ‘Him’, whose name I could not remember but whose bass guitar playing was doing its rounds inside my head as I climbed up towards the pass.

What was ‘his’ name? John? Jimmy? James, Jonah? I wracked my oxygen starved brain to recall his name, and when, after a few minutes of running through all male names starting with ‘J’ I still was no closer, I decided I would just ‘Google it’ upon my return home. Meanwhile ‘Rio’ was playing in my head. ‘Moving on the floor now baby, you’re a bird of paradise..’

I started to think about BluTack and how I used to visit my sister’s room whenever I wanted to put up another motorcycle poster in my own room. You see, she used far too much BluTack when she put up a poster. The trick was to use little pieces instead of just mashing a large piece at each corner of a poster, like a big piece of chewing gum. Instead it was better to use small, delicate pieces, perhaps eight of them around the circumference of the poster. She, at the tender age of about minus 13, had not yet grasped this so I used to raid her posters for BluTack. I was doing her posters a service. They looked more elegant after the big wads of BluTack had been removed.

Way back in 1970, a laboratory researcher named Alan Holloway was working for a sealant manufacturer called Ralli Bondite in England. Alan managed to produce a product that, whilst totally useless as a sealant, was great at putting up posters. It was pliable and semi-elastic. It was colored blue when it was released because someone in marketing thought kids would eat it if it was white. Alan Holloway is the BluTack guy.

After about ten minutes I stopped thinking about BluTack and wondered if tackling this climb after a month away from the bike was a great idea. It had felt like a great idea in the morning, when, tucked comfortably under the warm duvet in bed, I imagined myself climbing upwards, with wings, like Marco Pantani, high above Barcelona, the bike and I a single entity. Fast forward ninety minutes and reality was hitting me square in the face. Rain drops. Big fat cold ones. They stung my cheeks. The wind mocked my attempts to climb quickly, buffeting me and whistling as it whipped across my spokes.

I had started my ride next to the Olympic velodrome, just off the Ronda de Dalt, in Barcelona and was climbing up over the Collserola mountain range that looks down upon the city.

A sign beside the road warned of snow. I pedaled on, determined to keep to my ‘plan’ and ride up over the top of the pass, enjoy the descent, ride through the valley into Sant Cugat and then climb back up over the ridgeline of the Collserola near the Tibidabo and drop back down into Barcelona. A nice simple plan. I like simple plans.

As I left the tree cover, the last part of the climb was exposed. Not quite as open as say, Mount Ventoux, but not far off. I began to stare at the road about a metre in front of my front wheel. ‘Get into a rhythm Ed’ I thought. The rain was getting heavier. Sleet began to bounce off the road as I neared the top of the pass. It pinged off my helmet and I began to sing old Duran Duran songs.

Normally at the top of a pass, I would stop, enjoy a Kodak moment and take in the view. Not this time. I zipped up my cycling top, tightened up the strap on my helmet and began the descent.

The roads in this part of Spain are notorious for being greasy when wet. The descent was going to test the Diablo’s handling, and, more importantly the tires. The Hutchinson Atom’s had, on all my rides so far, impressed with their predictable performance.

After about five minutes of descending at about seventy kilometers per hour I began to wish I had taken my thermal jacket with me. It was sitting on my bed at home, and, was probably being enjoyed by Bella, my cheeky Labrador, who, no doubt had pushed the bedroom door open and was now stretched out in bliss upon my jacket.

I smiled at a motorist as he overtook me on a long straight section of road. He looked over at me and plainly thought I was some sort of lunatic. I tucked in behind him but quickly decided to leave a larger gap as we began to approach a sharp left hand bend. I saw him looking in his mirror and I realized he was coming into the bend with too much speed. His brake lights came on when he noticed his error. The little Seat Ibiza skipped on the road as he fought to maintain control. I moved into the empty oncoming lane, in case he wiped out and hit the barriers. I was braking gently to avoid locking up the wheels and going into a slide on the greasy roads.. This ride was getting interesting. The little Seat began to drift wide towards the edge of the road. I had stopped singing Rio in my head by now and was thinking about what was unfolding before me.

The car recovered traction and suddenly began to veer across to the other side of the road. The Seat driver had over corrected and was now in front of me again. The road was straightening out after the bend but there was a lot of standing water on the road. I could hear the water bouncing off the carbon down-tube on my bike as it was flicked off the front tyre. The wide carbon tube was preventing the spray hitting me. Now all I had to do was prevent the out of control car from doing the same.

The Camino de las Yungas road leading from La Paz to Coroico, 56 KM northeast of La Paz in the Yungas region of Bolivia is supposed to be the most dangerous road in the world, however right then, I would have gladly hit a ‘magic transport me’ button and swapped it for the descent to Sant Cugat. Mr. Seat Driver had now tried putting the car in what sounded like first gear. The engine roared and his front wheels locked up. I braked as hard as I dared as I was still exiting a wet corner

Thankfully the car did not crash. It managed to come to a stop at an awkward angle straddling half the road. The driver stalled the engine as I passed slowly in front of him, his car rolled slowly backwards towards the muddy verge. He had the wide-eyed look of a man that had seen his life flash before him. I noticed his right indicator was flashing as I took one last look at him. Another Duran Duran song popped back into my head and I continued my ride.

The descent of the BV-1415 takes you into Cerdanyola de Valles.  I was then taking the BP-1413 to Sant Cugat de Valles. A rather chic little town, full of coffee shops, trendy kids with low slung jeans and parking bays full of large white Audi Q7’s. On the outskirts of the town I came across a small road that led to the Castell de Sant Marçal. Built in the first half of the twelfth century, it looked rather imposing sat on top of a small hill. I decided to investigate.

It was located at the end of a long sliver of a road. Tall trees lined the road, their roots had lifted up sections of the tarmac making it rather bumpy to cycle along. The smell of damp earth and rotting leaves was being carried by a strong wind that roared across the opens fields. I tucked my chin into the collar of my cycling top and continued to cycle up the road.

After about five minutes I came across a man with what looked like a Falcon perched upon his arm. It had some sort of furry animal in its beak and looked intent on devouring it right there and then. I stopped and chatted for a while to Miguel. He told me his bird of prey was three years old and had just caught its first rabbit. Miguel showed me how his hands, his camo jeans, boots and fleece jacket were all stained with blood. I took a quick photo of his bird before heading towards the town.

After avoiding the temptation of a warm coffee shop in Sant Cugat, I turned onto the BP-1417, a climb that leads out of Sant Cugat and heads back up over a pass towards Barcelona.

It was so quiet. The only sound was that of my tires upon the road and my breathing. As I climbed higher my warm breath condensed producing steam that fogged up my glasses. I made a mental note to save up and get some vented Oakleys and did my best to banish yet another 80’s tune from playing on repeat in my head.

The Tibidabo is the highest mountain in the Collserola range, at 512 metres, the climb makes for a good work out on a bike. The name is derived from a passage in the Vulgata version of the Bible, which apparently, is a revised Latin edition that was produced a way back in the 4th Century.

The view alone is worth the effort of cycling up to the summit. From the top, one can take in a lovely panoramic view of Barcelona and the coast line.

The wind was hitting me square in the face when I reached the top but it had brightened up and the sun was warming my back. Below me lay Barcelona and ten minutes of fast descending.

I set off on the descent thinking about food. By the time I had reached the bottom of the climb I had decided upon visiting a local Basque restaurant. I was hungry and was looking forward to a nice meal. The name ‘John Taylor’ popped into my head as Duran Duran launched into Hungry Like A Wolf.  I smiled to myself.  Another great ride and one that I would certainly repeat in the future.

Not much left on my plate after my bike ride.

Eduardo Remedios


1 Comment

  1. Nice write up, sounds like a fantastic ride.


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