The re-birth of the blog

It has been so long since I posted a new entry I was tempted to start afresh, create a new blog and delete this one.  I decided against it.  After all, I have been told it makes for a good read.

Work has taken me to Malta, then off to Gibraltar (with plenty of side trips into Spain) and on to Montenegro.  With all that travelling my cycling (and blogging) suffered.

However since January of 2017 I have been clipped in and riding again.  It has taken a while but my creative juices are now flowing freely and I have decided to start again, sharing my experiences, injecting a bit of humour when required and posting a few photos along they way.

Consider this short post to be the ‘system re-set’ point for a new series.

It will start in Montenegro as that is where I am right now.

For the cyclist out there, I am riding a 2016 Canyon Exceed mountain bike and I am having fun exploring the routes on the outskirts of the capital, Podgorica.

I have been snapping quite a few pics of the gorgeous landscapes and will include some of these on my blog.  In short, I hope you will enjoy my posts and do stay tuned for the re-birth of my blog 🙂

I shall leave you with a taster of the countryside here in Montenegro.  It is truly breathtaking.

It feels good to be lost in the right direction 😊#hiking #montenegro #blacklake #crnojezero

A post shared by Eduardo Remedios (@eduardoinmalta) on

#moodygrams #montenegro #fieldofdreams #clouds #eduardoremedios

A post shared by Eduardo Remedios (@eduardoinmalta) on

 

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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 108: Eduardo’s Road to Fitness

The hunchback society. I imagine a scene where a group of bell ringers, gathered in a smoke filled, subterranean public house, compare their physical defects, whilst consuming vast quantities of beer, triple fermented Belgian ales no doubt. They hold, in their rough, twisted hands, large crusts of bread. Nearby on an old wooden table, stained with years of beer spillage, sits a plate of cold meat, marbled with white fat, it rests in an ever widening pool of darker, gelatinous fat. Their conversation is interrupted for the briefest of moments, whilst they swipe their bread through the darker jellied fat, and quickly place a large chunk of meat into their mouths. A gulp of ale and their banter continues…

…back to reality. I was cycling with members of the Hunchback Society. Instead of Belgian ales I had two water bottles, filled with an isotonic mixture. I carried an energy gel and several fruit bars in my jersey pocket, along with a mini pump, my wallet and my house keys. My hunchback was impressive.

I had met my companions a few days earlier whilst exploring an area near Sitges, south of Barcelona. I was at the foot of the infamous Rat Penat climb when I noticed a cyclist descending. He was dressed in exactly the same Rapha cycling kit that I had received from my team when in the Friendship Tour of Thailand. Rapha kit is as rare as rocking horse s&*t here in Barcelona. The surprise was mutual. The other rider stopped and stared when he saw me. We were mirror images of each other. Both on black bikes, both dressed head to toe in Rapha pro kit. We both laughed about it later on.

It turned out he was one of the owners of a recently opened shop, located in Hospital LLobregat. He invited me to join him for a BBQ. A group of friends were set to watch the Giro d’Italia live. It was, as they say, a ‘no brainer’. The Rat Penat would have to wait for another day.

A couple of days later I was invited by Marcel on a ride out into an area I had not explored. I was keen to join him and the rest of the hunchbacks so decided to meet them both in town.

members of the hunchback society

The route takes you through beautiful scenery, the smell of pine trees and flowers in blossom combine for a fresh outdoor smell that serve to underline the beauty of the place. It is a pleasure to cycle through an area so devoid of traffic.

Sadly my Garmin GPS was not working and I have no detailed route information for you. However, I shall leave you with some photos and will re-ride the route. It is truly beautiful and, I would have to agree, one of the nicest cycle routes that I have taken in Catalunya thus far.

To celebrate I decided to visit the Belgian ale shop in Gracia and buy a nice triple fermented beer. I shall raise my glass to my fellow hunchbacks.

 

half way through our ride

Day 106: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

‘excuse me meester’ asked the Thai guy, ‘what inside bag’?
My bicycle’, I replied.
Clearly not many people took road bikes to Koh Samui.
‘You want smoke? Hash? Pills?
‘No thanks’, I replied politely.
The guy was persistent. ‘You want DVD’? Girls?
He sold anything.
Hoping to out fox him I said “I would like a Lamborgini please.
You want lamb? I only got pad thai now’. He said.
I laughed and made my way to the taxi queue.

I had booked a hotel in Koh Samui. It was rather appropriately called the ‘Ark’. Which meant I would not have to build one if the torrential rains continued.

I arrived, was shown to my room and decided to grab a beer to celebrate (a) having made it through the Tour of Thailand in one piece and (b) our team mate Sean Smith winning the event.

Curiously the bar was empty. I sat down and choose a chair on a porch over looking the long, gently curving white sandy beach.

‘Sorry sir we demolish bar now.’
‘Pardon?’
‘We remove bar now. We break it’
The Thai guy stood in front of me with a large claw hammer in one hand and what looked like a plastic bucket on his head, which, I think was meant to be a safety helmet
‘Sorry, you mean you are renovating?’
‘No, we remove bar’, ‘ Now you move’ he said, and smiled.
Great. I thought. I check into my hotel and they start to demolish it.
I got up walked down a couple of steps onto the beach, looked left and then right and decided to walk in the direction of some sun beds about fifty meters further down the beach. I could hear some trance music pounding away.
Upon arrival I found what looked like the aftermath of a late night party. People were sprawled out over sun beds in a state of disarray. I wasn’t really ready for this and decided to unpack my bike and go for a ride instead.

I got back to my room to discover the power was off. I stumbled around the pitch black room, located my bike bag and dragged it out onto the terrace.

Mosquitoes. They are the national bird in Thailand and they are ravenous. I built the bike up whilst swatting away at the swarms that were trying to dine on my flesh. And then it started to rain again.

I was going riding, come rain or shine.

Koh Samui is not a large island. The road around it is just over one hundred kilometers in length.

I decided, for no reason, to keep the sea on my left and ride clockwise around it.

It felt good to be cycling again but after five days of racing my legs felt like I’d stolen them from Pinocchio. After an hour or so they magically came to life.

The first climb was short but steep and covered in sand which made standing up impossible.

The descent was covered in sand, which meant a crash was possible.

I was questioning my sanity in choosing to cycle around the island when the first truck, belching out fumes so dense you could have cut them with a knife, overtook me, its tires just inches from my shoulder.

I pulled into a lay by to calm my nerves. It had been a close call. I had almost become a statistic. I decided to take a few photos and relax for a while.

It turned out that my brush with the truck of death was an isolated incident – I had no other problems with blind truck drivers on the island and can recommend circumnavigating Koh Samui by bike if you feel restless.

As I returned to my hotel I came across a white Lamborghini. I stood and stared. Having an Italian super car on the Island of Koh Samui is like being married to Angelina Jolie and declaring yourself celibate.

I found a little restaurant and ordered a Pad Thai, as plainly I wasn’t going to get a Lamborghini. It had already been sold.

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 Nine: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

Life’s simple pleasures. I was thinking about making a list of them. Riding a bike downhill would be one entry on the list but it can be enhanced. Riding downhill on a bike through the city and having every red light turn green so that you don’t have to slow down and spoil the descent. That would be pretty high up the list. You could add in, having a fantastic view of the sea, a blue expanse of water laid out before you as you drop down towards the beach, with row, upon row of perfect waves lined up in sets just waiting to be surfed. Now that, that would be even higher up the list.

Clearly my mind was wandering. For I was nowhere near the beach, and was certainly not in the city heading towards the beach in front of Poblenou, that, through some sort of magic, had transformed itself into Hanalei Bay in Kauai. No, I was at the bottom of a technical, rock strewn descent, up in the hills near Barcelona. I was waiting for a friend of mine to catch up and was happier than a sparrow with a French fry.

What else would be on my list? The first coffee of the day? That would be on there somewhere, for I am a coffee fiend. A cold beer on a hot day? My list, would contain a lot of food and beverage moments. Not unusual I suppose. A nice meal is a simple pleasure. Being hungry enhances that pleasure and, come to think of it, I was pretty hungry.

We were heading back on a wide fire-road, in the general direction of Allela, to my friends house. All I could think of was food, and, my list of simple pleasures and a song popped into my head. It stayed with me for hours, until I forced it out with another tune.

I’ll leave you with it courtesy of YouTube…