Day 112

Another beautiful day another lovely ride.

Late evening, long winter shadows and a fast smooth road. Perfect 🙂

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Day 111

A few photos for you all.

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Day 110

I decided to stop and see if my brakes were rubbing.  They were not.  This of course was something I already knew and yet, it would have been fantastic had it been the case, for my legs were dead and I was about an hour from home on what was my first long cycle ride for quite some time.

Usually, when choosing a route for a ‘day one’ ride, I tend to make up a new one.  I do this for a couple of reasons.  First of all it means I do not fall into the trap of trying to ride a familiar route at a pace that I remember from days in the past where I was much fitter – for that makes me feel shit.  To avoid this,  I choose a new route. This is a cunning plan. It serves to (a) ensure it is a memorable return to the bike, buoyed by enthusiasm and a desire to explore and (b) that the next time I ride the route, I will be happily moving along at a faster, fitter rate, well if all goes to plan that is.

My plan was a proven one and was sound.  I had however managed to ruin my plan in several ways.  All of which, could easily be described as ‘rookie’ mistakes.  I shall list them below.

  1. riding without money.
  2. riding without sufficient food.
  3. riding without sufficient liquid.
  4. not eating enough for dinner the previous night
  5. not eating enough for breakfast.
  6. not charging my Garmin GPS unit
  7. not checking the map before leaving
  8. not bringing a map
  9. deciding that ¾ bib shorts would be warm enough
  10. not reading the weather forecast.

So there I was, roughly one hour from home and this list was running though my head.  I decided there was only one solution.

Ignore it.

In order to take my mind of the my rapidly numbing feet, my hunger, my thirst and my lack of knowledge of the route, I decided to employ a tactic used to calm myself when I am freediving.

It works like this. It is all about visualization.

Imagine you are trying to hold your breath, sitting on the sofa at home. (do not do it on the metro because people will think you are a freak).

Try it now.  Hold your breath and look at your watch.

At around forty five seconds or so, you’ll start to twitch a bit.  You will be willing the seconds to move faster. If you make it past a minute, as the seconds move towards ninety seconds, you will start to stress.

Now try it this way.

Have a rest after the first test.

Now this time when you hold your breath, close your eyes. Do not look at the watch.

Imagine the house you lived in as a kid.  Try to visualize the layout. Each room. The kitchen. Your bedroom.  The little cupboard with the stickers on it. The bed with the Road Runner cartoon pattern. Your favourite toys. Whatever.

Now think about your high school teacher.  The one you had a crush on.

By this time a minute will easily have passed, without stress.  It works.

Whilst I was thinking about my art teacher and her lovely blue eyes I had missed the turn off for Barcelona and was now happily moving farther and farther away from home.  By the time I had realized my mistake, heading back, into what was now a headwind was not an option.  It meant that as a penalty for thinking about Miss Booth, I now had to climb up over the pass that separated the Valley Orientals, from El Maresme. This was a serious downer.

I began the climb.

It is not a hard climb.  But when you have zero energy it might as well have been Everest. I began to think about food. If only I had some money.

Eureka ! I remembered that I had placed an ‘emergency’ 20 euro note into my saddle bag.  Joy of joys. I was beaming.

I stopped at a  petrol station and filled up.  I started with a Coke.  Some little cakes caught my eye and then an Aquarius (think Gatorade). I finished off with some water for my bottle. Clutching my purchases to my chest I made my way to the counter.  Stopping to stare at a cabinet selling what looked like Christmas themed survival knives (WTF?) and car seat covers with patterns of football teams on them.  Strange.

I was served by an interesting looking guy that seemed to have several hair styles at once upon his head.  He was nodding to a rhythm that only he could hear.  He did not look up from the cash register. He had a tattoo on his neck that looked like a dead bird. I wondered if he had some of the Christmas themed survival knives at home.

“What number” he asked.

I looked at him and said nothing.

After a little while he looked at me and then gazed out at the forecourt. It was empty.

I watched as the realization that I was a cyclist dawned upon him.

I handed over my emergency money and left. Leaving him to listen to the music in his head.

Later that evening, whilst soaking in a hot bath I thought about my ride. It was painful but I enjoyed it.  I decided to plan my next route and made a mental note to avoid my rookie mistakes.

My next ride would take me onto the roads that Juan Antonia Flecha trains on.  I wondered if he ever make rookie mistakes like mine.

Probably not.  But you never know.

Still you do have to get lost if you want to find yourself right?

 

 

Day 103: Escape from Barcelona

I may have found a way out of here.  Tuesday, we go” – Clint Eastwood – Escape from Alcatraz.

Luckily for me I did not need to dig my way through a prison wall with a spoon to escape from Barcelona.  I had my bike, my GPS and Google Maps to help me find a suitable escape route.

Barcelona is hemmed in by the sea and by a range of mountains.  They are not alpine in height – most climbs last no more than twenty to thirty minutes.  Crossing over them opens up a vast area to explore.  The other options are to cycle either up (towards France) the coast or down the coast (towards Valencia).  Crossing Barcelona can be easy if you know the best escape routes.  Take the wrong route and you will end up fighting for space on the road with trucks driven by swivel-eyed lunatics, seemingly intent on making you a statistic.

For me, perched up on a steep hillside to the NE of central Barcelona the easiest escape is to climb up over the Collserola and to drop down the other side near Sant Cugat de Valles.  This takes about thirty minutes. This is fine if I feel like stepping out of my door and immediately having to climb.  My apartment sits in the middle of an 18% climb. Thankfully it is short or I would consider moving.

The other escape option for me involves descending to the River Besos. This is a cunning plan. Doing so connects me with a series of cycle paths.  This of course means I avoid the lunatics in trucks and the constant stream of scooters driven by Moto GP wannabees.

At the end of the River Besos, just before it empties into the sea, you arrive next to what is one of the largest  landmarks in Barcelona, or to be more accurate, in the area that borders Sant Adria de Besos with Badalona.  It is a large power station with three tall towers.

From this point you can join a cycle path that runs from the seafront in town, at the Bottom of La Ramblas, near the Passeig de Colon, all the way through Barceloneta, past Port Forum and up the coast towards Mataro.  This is one of my favorite escape routes. For me, it is like being hidden in the back of the prison laundry van and being driven to a private jet loaded with a million unmarked notes, destination  unknown.

Barcelona has almost two hundred kilometers of bike paths.  A link here will take you to a download of a PDF map that shows the entire cycle network.

Link to Map of Barcelona Cycle Paths

My route out of Barcelona took me along the coast for a while, before turning off at Vilassar de Mar in the direction of Argentona. There is nothing particularly compelling about Argentona, unless you have an overwhelming desire to cast your eyes upon a few late gothic churches, one of which was restored by the Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch.

This was however part of my escape route and served to take me to a pretty climb that take you up and over into the valley of La Roca.

After the fast descent into La Roca, my route took me past lush green fields, towards Montorn de Valles. The place where David Millar launched an attack on his breakaway companions in the 2009 Tour de France.  He rode solo towards the uphill finish on the Montjuic and, despite carnage behind, with many riders crashing on the wet roads, he was caught in sight of the finish.  An epic stage.

My ride was slightly less epic than David’s however, my escape from Barcelona was proving to be a successful one.

As I cycled past the climb where David launched his attack I noticed an old man dragging a sad looking Christmas tree towards a large bin.  It was hard to believe that Christmas had come and gone so quickly.  The sun was shining and the air tasted sweet as I drew in a deep breath.   I concentrated on  settling into a nice rhythm on the bike as I pedaled back home for lunch.

I had been thinking about what to eat and decided to make some grilled fish.  A dish of  Dorado, garlic, coriander, some diced onions, a squeeze of lemon and some fresh parsley. Simple, tasty and a fine reward for my ride. It sure beat Clint Eastwood’s prison food.

Link to my Escape Route :
http://ridewithgps.com/routes/259182/embed

link to Escape from Alcatraz.

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

http://ridewithgps.com/trips/153420/embed

Day 101: The Diablo and the Jester

“Hey what is the new bike like?”

“Ed, what is the new bike like?”

It took a nudge in the ribs to snap me out of my trance like state. I was staring at the front forks, thinking ‘those are pretty sturdy looking forks’.

“Huh?” – it was all I managed to say.

“I said, what is the new bike like? You can’t take your eyes of it.” He had a rough, yet soft voice, that sounded like the rustle of dry leaves.

“Oh…well..it is very good” I was trying to tear my gaze away from it, I turned my head but my eyes were stuck to the spot. I could hear the wind blowing in the tall trees that lined the valley. Eventually I blinked and looked up.

The man that was standing there was old. Perhaps seventy. He had been in the bike shop whilst my NeilPryde Diablo was having a different set of handlebars and stem fitted. In his hand he held a glass of Cava. Sunlight was catching the bubbles as they raced towards the surface in his glass. It was ten thirty in the morning but then this is Spain.

I stood up, turned and faced him to shake his hand. He was wearing an old professional cycling team jersey, stretched and faded, I could make out the logo on the front it read ‘Banesto’. His Giro Hammerhead helmet must have been from the same era, the red had faded in the sun like an old discoloured life ring that you might find attached to the railings of a pier – one of those life rings that would probably sink like a stone rather than actually save your life. I wondered if his old helmet would save him, it looked rather worse for wear. He chugged his Cava, wobbled a little bit on his feet and steadied himself by putting his hand on my shoulder.

He slowly bent down, his arthritic hips made him grunt as he did so, and then he ran his hand along the carbon forks. “They are big no?” he had seen me looking at them. They certainly looked impressive – large matt black, carbon fork legs, that tapered elegantly from top to bottom. His old steel forks on his ancient Zeuss looked positively spindly next to those on my bike.

We were standing upon the terrace of a restaurant, one that is popular with weekend cyclists. It is located in the small town of Canyamars, at the very end of an out and back route. It is a watering hole for mountain bikers and road riders that like to drink Cava mid-ride.

I looked around the terrace at the jumble of bikes leant up against the wall. There was quite a range with all manner of bike represented. I took a look at the only other matt black carbon road bike that I could see amongst the crowd. It was hideous. Whereas mine was designed by a team at BMW’s design house, full of flowing, functional lines, the other matt black bike could have been nailed to the side of a building to ward off evil spirits. I decided not to take a photo of it for fear of recrimination.

My bike admirer returned to his table, his empty glass in hand. His cycling buddies had alerted him to the fact that food had arrived. A large plate was placed upon the shiny metal table. Upon asking I was told that it was a plate of cold duck livers in a thick sauce made from sautéed apples, and served with bread. They refilled his glass as he sat down.

I decided it was time for an energy gel and some water and thought I would take a look around a medieval fair that was in town before setting off on the return leg.

Spain seems to have a fascination with medieval fairs. They tend to pop up fairly often. I like them. Walking through them is a bit like looking at one of those ‘Where is Wally Pictures’ – you can’t help looking at all the little details.

As I was about to leave, I was accosted by a man in a jesters outfit who proclaimed himself to be a cyclist and friend of the duck liver munching, Cava swilling chap. He wanted to have a look at my bike as well. It turned out that he was in charge of a sweet stall and offered his entire stock in exchange for my bike. Clearly he was a swivel eyed lunatic. I laughed, took his photo and promised to email him a copy. It was time to get back on the bike.

I had decided to add a climb and a fast technical descent to the route to test out the sturdy looking forks. I had a suspicion that they were going to contribute towards an excellent descent on the Diablo.

The road out (and into) Canyamars is well paved, with nice smooth blacktop and fast sweeping bends that flow from one to the next. As you enter the marginally larger town of Dos Rios you come across a small junction, I took the road that climbs out of town, specifically so that I could test the handling of the new bike on the fast, technical descent into Llinars de Valles.

I was wondering what sort of effect drinking half a bottle of Cava and then eating a plate of duck livers would have had on my ability to tackle the climb at any decent pace and I smiled. It is guys like him that make cycling such an interesting pursuit for me. I enjoy talking to the young racing whippets with aero hairstyles and power-meters on their carbon machines almost as much as the old guys in faded jerseys on steel-framed museum pieces, with a glass of Cava in one hand.

The start of the descent snapped me out of my daydream. It took just one fast bend to confirm my suspicion that the bike handled with precision. It felt ‘connected’, the front end inspired me with the confidence to take each bend at progressively faster speeds. This bike was a surgeon’s scalpel compared to the white plastic throw-away knife that you get in a cheap take-away.

I was extremely happy – this new bike was well balanced, with a delicate feel. It was smooth, refined and yet bubbly at the same time. Not unlike a good Cava.

When I returned home, I decided to look up a recipe for cold duck livers and thought I would share one with you.

Unless you are a professional chef, you might not know what ‘curd’ or isinglass is. I certainly will not pretend either of those ingredients are in my kitchen.

Curd is apparently quite easy to get hold of. You just have to ask for it in a large supermarket.

I really had no idea what on earth ‘isinglass’ was. Apparently it is made by cleaning and drying the air-bladders of the Sturgeon, Cod, or Hake. Finding this one might be a little more challenging.

Right then, so this is what you will need:

Ingredients (for 6 persons)
600 gr Foie-gras.
15g fine salt.
1g black pepper.
50ml Armagnac.
400 g Apples.
Olive oil
102 g sugar
Water
250 g Curd.
180g lightly whipped cream.
2.50g isinglass.
1 slice bread.
Maldon Salt.

Preparation
First remove the veins from the duck liver, then season it with salt, pepper and sugar and fry at 60ºC ( this is a pretty low heat) until it begins to release fat and juice. Wrap it in cling-film and place it in a mould with a weight on top to give it shape, and leave it to cool for 12 hours (this is not fast food).

Calculate 100g of cooked liver per person.

Peel and cut each apple into 6 segments then sauté in oil, add the sugar and allow it to caramelize.

For the curd mousse, heat a little of the curd and dissolve the isinglass in it, then add the remainder of the curd together with the sugar, and mix. Place in the fridge and when the mixture is cold carefully add the lightly whipped cream.

To serve, first divide the liver into three portions per person with a hot knife and place on the plate. Put the three segments of apple beside it and garnish with Armagnac.

The toast and butter goes on a separate plate.

Serve with a nice cold bottle of Cava, and enjoy it, preferably on a warm terrace in the sun, definitely post ride, not mid-ride, unless you are friends with a medieval jester, in which case, do as you please.

Day Ninety Eight: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

The man with the tuba was trying to help two lost tourists with their map. It was an unusual scene, one that I would have taken a photo of, had my iPhone not been tucked into a pocket that was buried beneath several layers of clothing. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that Tuba Man was wearing nothing more than a vest, whilst I was wrapped up like Ray Mears on one of his forays into the frozen wastelands of Siberia. Tuba playing and portage must work up a sweat I thought.

I was on my mountain bike. But was far from the mountains. I was in central Barcelona. Why? Well to be honest I’m not sure. I suppose I wanted to do something different, to escape for a while and at the same time see something new.

It was working. My legs were tired when I had started, the result of a tough off-road run the day before. My plan was to do a nice relaxed spin on the bike up the coast away from the city but, like many of my planned rides, it changed as soon as I stepped outside. Now almost an hour later my legs had loosened up and I was feeling good.

I had decided to ride straight downtown. There was to be no messing about, no taking quiet side streets, no rat runs. Just onto a main arterial route, headed smack bang for ground zero. Plaza Catalunya.

The weak winter sunshine made for a high contrast view of the tall trees that lined the wide avenues. I was riding along the cycle lane, sharing it with the many Bici Bikes, roller bladders, long boarders and other urban bikers that cruised through town. I was in city mode, alert, watching for acts of random motoring madness but I was happy.

Tuba Man also looked happy as the tourists wandered off staring at their map. He looked up at me and nodded, aware that I was watching his good deed for the day. He shifted the broad leather straps on his tuba and began to walk towards the beach front in La Barceloneta.

La Barceloneta is a funky part of town, a neighbourhood in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona. Triangular in shape, it is an area popular with those that enjoy sun, coffee, music and food. It seems to be a magnet for the wild and the wacky, and is no doubt a highly photographed part of Barcelona. There are plenty of Kodak moments to be had, from the iconic Peix d’Or sculpture that Frank Gehry rustled up during a creative burst of fish inspired activity, to the wide sandy beach with its long boardwalk.

I turned up the iPhone as La Roux’s track ‘Bullet Proof’ began to play and set off home, pleased with what had turned out to be a great ride through the city.

I leave you with a track, BulletProof by La Roux, its been on my playlist for a while now..