My Year on the Bike 2014

My year in numbers: http://2014story.strava.com/video/1162556

In one sense it hasn’t been a great year. Dogged with chest infections and various other ailments at the start of the year, meant I never really hit any type of form and struggled to improve or even match my 2013 speed. Fortunately, I’ve never been too bothered about speed and the only reason I want to go faster is so that my friends and club mates don’t have to wait too long for me at the top of the hills. Realising there wasn’t too much I could do to improve my speed, I just set about enjoying my riding and it turned out to be quite a year.

There have been many memorable rides in 2014 the first being my attempt to scale the heights of the Farrapona with my good friend Mark. It seems appropriate that it was on April fool’s day as it was probably a foolish thing to do considering the weather conditions. Nevertheless, it turned out to be one of those rides you will never forget. Conditions were atrocious and finding the roads blanketed in snow higher up meant we never made it to the top, although Mark gave it a damn good try and then climbed San Lorenzo. You can see a summary of the ride and video here: https://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/an-overdue-summary-and-snow-blocked-roads/

April produced another epic ride, this time my first 200k ride with my club Nava2000. The route was a loop around the Picos de Europa, starting in Cangas de Onis and passing through Cantabria (where we had to climb the excruciatingly long San Gloria) and Leon, before heading back to Asturias and Cangas. Eight and a half hours after starting I finally made it to Cangas, just a little behind the others. https://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/an-epic-ride-my-first-200km/

Saying I would never do it again of course meant that I was back in Cangas several months later with Mark and Ian to ride it again. I’m still not sure how I managed to convince Ian to do it or how Mark convinced me to do it again, but we did and it was a great days riding: a summary of which you can see here: https://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/the-200km-maratoniana-again-with-video/

Mark looking a little fresher than me and Ian

Mark looking a little fresher
than me and Ian

In May I took part in my first sportive of the year and my first participation in The Marcha Villa de Gijon. The sportive is not that tough until you get to San Martin de Huerces, which is a back breaking climb of about 2k with persistent grades of between 12% and 17%. Carlos Sainz the rally driver took part and the Sportive was in honour of Carlos Barredo who also took part (and who will be mentioned again later). Despite my lack of form I made it up the Huecera and it was a great day out, details of which you can see here: http://wp.me/P2SWhh-lY

My next epic ride came just before my first attempt at the Classica Los Lagos de Covadonga. Once again Mark had a lot to do with the route, so once again it was another leg breaker. Mark was on his second visit to Asturias of 2014 and Geoff a friend from California (who I also met via my blog) was also over with his wife and it was great he could ride with us. We decided on a route that would take us over the Torno and then up Los Lagos de Covadonga (the last 40km being the end of stage 15 of the Vuelta a España). Geoff proved to be a strong rider and I struggled to keep up with them but hung on the best I could. It was a stunning ride but by the time I got to the bottom of Los Lagos I was exhausted. To this day I will never know how I made it to the top, but I did. Geoff struggled but also made it and despite a bad back Mark also got there. Here-s a summary of the ride: https://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/route-of-the-alto-del-torno-and-los-lagos-de-covadonga-108-kms/

Lagos 4

A week later I was back in Cangas at the start line of The Clasica Los Largos de Covadonga alongside another 3999 riders. I must admit I was feeling a little nervous and not that confident about my ability to finish it considering my form the previous week. However, I paced myself well and at the bottom of Los Lagos was feeling much better than I had the previous week, so enjoyed the climb to the top. I must admit I felt pretty chuffed finishing it and will definitely be back for more next year: Here’s the summary: https://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/clasica-los-lagos-de-covadonga-2014/

Los Lagos de Covadonga

As I’m relatively new to cycling I hadn’t ventured much further than my back door on a bike but in August I went on my first dedicated cycling trip. I got together with my good friends Ian and Roberto, stuffed my van full of bikes and camping equipment and set off on the 6 hour drive to the Pyrenees for 3 days of riding. My 2 months of meticulous route planning was soon washed away by the torrential rain and hail storms that greeted us upon our arrival. Fortunately our re-jiggled routes still incorporated the main climbs and somehow we managed to avoid all the downpours when riding. It was a brilliant trip and one which has fuelled a fire in my belly to travel more with the bike. The trip summary can be viewed here: https://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/3-days-riding-in-the-pyrenees/

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It’s not every day you get to ride with an Ex World Tour Pro, so when my friend Pepe invited me to come and ride with him and Carlos Barredo I jumped at the chance. I rode with them twice, the first ride was a 140km hilly ride that certainly stretched the legs to their limit. The second ride included the climb of the Maravio. I hadn’t heard much about this climb but it proved to be a real gem. The road conditions aren’t great so I presume that’s why it’s not well known, but at the speed I was going road conditions didn’t really matter. It proved a pretty tough climb nearer the top but Pepe and Carlos waited for me. Carlos is a great guy and I really enjoyed riding with him. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop worrying that he must be getting really bored going at my speed. Here’s a summary of the climb: http://wp.me/P2SWhh-qM

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In September the Vuelta came to town and so did Mark for yet another visit to Asturias. I feel tired and cold just thinking about our ride. I met Mark at the top of La Llama and we rode to and up Los Largos de Covadonga. On the way down, to find a suitable place to watch the Vuelta come by, a sudden down pour soaked us to the bone and the temperature dropped as the sun disappeared behind the clouds. It wasn’t as cold as the Farrapona ride but we’d gone from wiping away sweat on the ascent to shivering with cold within about ten minutes. Fortunately, we stopped at a mobile cafe which had a generator behind it and made full use of the heat from the exhaust pipe. It was great watching the Vuelta come by and the atmosphere was fantastic despite the rain, which soon cleared. On the way down there were lots of professional cyclists mixed in amongst the hundreds of riders which was pretty cool. The ride back up La llama was one to forget though, I went so slowly that I had to avoid embarrassment by returning a week later to improve my time on the Strava segment :).

In September I also rode the Sportive Los Puertos de Esmeralda. I had ridden it the previous year but had struggled round. A year on, and I was far more used to riding 117km, so really enjoyed the ride, as we never really pushed the pace. The weather was perfect and the atmosphere great and it was good to get another Sportive under my belt. https://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/clasica-los-puertos-esmeralda-2014-video

The following Sunday I found myself in a supermarket car park at 7:30 in the morning waiting for Ian. Somehow, I had managed to talk him into riding the Somiedo Loop, a gruelling route which takes you up and over several HC climbs. The ride up the Puerto de Somiedo was stunning, indeed, the whole ride proved to be stunning, with amazing views virtually all the way round. However, by the time we reached the final few kilometres of the San Lorenzo climb, the last thing on our mind was the views, but more like our survival. We really struggled to the top but we made it. The ride was spectacular and a must do route if ever in Asturias but be warned, It’s damn tough. Here’s a link to the route: http://wp.me/P2SWhh-ty

I’ve been on many other great rides this year and all in all I would certainly say it was a successful year on the bike. It was a year that helped me realise that speed really isn’t that important, at least not at my age. What is important is setting goals and achieving them, being able to breathe in the fresh air and appreciate your surroundings and about enjoying and sharing great riding experiences with your friends.

Happy New Year and Happy Cycling to you all!

The Vuelta a España 2014 in Asturias

Well it’s almost time for the Vuelta 2014 and once again there will be a couple of great stages here in Asturias.

It doesn’t seem like a year ago that I watched Eddie Bosenhagen in a break away not far from where I live and had Valverde throw his water bottle at my feet.

This year there are two great stages, ones that will certainly decide who are the main GC contenders. Indeed, the final winner could well be decided on these stages. The stages in Asturias are stages 15 and 16 but first a brief look at Stage 14 which is in Cantabria/Leon.

Stage 14

I rode part of this stage just the other week, which included the 26km long climb of the San Glorio. Although tough (for me at least) I don’t think that this climb will split the peleton too much as the gradients never really reach more than 8%, although the sprinters could well start dropping back. The first 10km are pretty easy but the last 16km could well see a breakaway as the climb begins to ramp up.

 

It’s pretty much all downhill from here until the foot of the Camperona (in Leon). I don’t know this climb but it looks pretty tough with some serious ramps and could well be where we start to see who the GC contenders are going to be. Here’s some info about the climb: http://www.altimetrias.net/aspbk/verPerfilusu.asp?id=1228

Stage 15

We now come to Asturias and stage 15 should be a great stage. I rode the last 40km or so in a recent ride I did with friends and I certainly suffered. The professionals however, probably won’t start to suffer until the climb of Los Lagos de Covadonga. The only significant climb before Los Lagos is the Alta de Torno. This is a beautiful climb, offering great scenery. It is split in two as there is a flattish section in the middle before it begins to ramp up again until the summit. The descent is quite an interesting one as there are two tough little climbs on the way down so we may well see a break away on this section. Here is some info on the climb: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/alto-del-torno-from-nueva

Torno summit

Torno summit

We then come to the famous Los Lagos de Covadonga (http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/lagos-de-covadonga). I have climbed it twice this year, once with friends as mentioned above (http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/route-of-the-alto-del-torno-and-los-lagos-de-covadonga-108-kms (with Video)) and again in the Clasica Los Lagos de Covadonga http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/clasica-los-lagos-de-covadonga-2014 . With stretches of 15% this climb will certainly start to see the GC contenders pull ahead. It is a beautiful climb but one that the sprinters dread. Indeed, Mark Cavandish was referring to the Lagos de Covadonga when he wrote that Asturias is for mountain goats not cyclists.

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Summit of Los Lagos

Los Lagos is tough virtually all the way but toward the very end there are a couple of downhill stretches so any attack will likely come before this. Attacks could well come on the stretch called the Huesera, about half way up, which is 0.9km long and 15% all the way.

Although tough, stage 15 is easy in comparison to the following days stage, which must be the Queens stage. Stage 16 is brutal almost from the very off.

Stage 16

After just 10km the riders will start climbing the Alto de Colladona. I have ridden virtually all the climbs in this area except this one, but if it’s like the others it will be a nice climb, although looking at the profile not too difficult. After passing nearby the L’Angliru (ridden last year but to the relief of many a rider not included this year) comes the El Cordal. This climb isn’t too tough. I rode it from the other, tougher side some months back and it offers stunning views: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/el-cordal-from-pola-de-lena-mi

Looking Back El Cordal

Looking Back El Cordal

Now it really starts to get hard. The next climb is the Cobertoria http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/alto-de-la-cobertoria-desde-pola-de-lena-mi . It’s one of the hardest 10km I have ever ridden (granted I did it with a head wind). This climb is pretty unforgiving until the last km. It’s often in double figures with significant ramps of 14%. Although categorised as only a Cat 1 climb I think this climb will blow the peleton apart.

Things don’t get much better at the bottom either as the next climb is the San Lorenzo. I haven’t ridden it but went up it as a support vehicle for a friend of mine Mark, who climbed it in horrendous conditions. The climb is long and steep all the way (from both sides) and the grupetto will really be suffering on this climb.

So we come to the last climb, the Farrapona http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/la-farrapona-por-somiedo-sa . After the Cobertoria and San Lorenzo this climb will seem like a summer vacation for most of the riders. Although 18km long, it’s only the last 6 or 7km’s that are punishing. There are a few steep ramps on the way but nothing that will bother the riders. When I climbed it we were prevented from reaching the top because of the weather conditions (see video in above link) but it certainly gets tough, so should be a great finish at the top and could well decide the overall winner.

Road to Farrapona

Road to Farrapona

So that’s it! I hope to get to ride up the climbs to watch it myself but I’m sure the wife will have something to say about that. If you fancy watching it I’m sure it will be great from the top of most of the tougher climbs. If you need somewhere to stay check out the Bike Barn (http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/accommodation/the-bike-barn) which is still available for booking at the time of the Vuelta and offers great access to the routes.

Clasica Los Lagos de Covadonga 2014

110 kms. well over 2000 meters of climbing and finishing atop the HC climb of Los Lagos de Covadonga. Not the ideal ride for someone who has just been told to rest up and spend 3 weeks off the bike by their physio but sometimes there are things you just have to do, no matter what.

 

The Sportive La Clasica Cicloturista Los Lagos de Covadonga is one of the largest and best known sportives in Spain. With over 4000 participants it’s a pretty big affair and the little town of Cangas de Onis becomes somewhat overrun with cyclists for 24 hours.

Lagos intro

The week before the sportive I had ridden a similar route and had suffered all the way, before even reaching the base of Los Lagos. Suffering from a total lack of form and worn out muscles meant  I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence. However, the one thing the previous week’s ride had taught me, was that I can get up almost anything no matter how lousy I am feeling.

To my surprise the first turn of the pedals indicated the legs were not too bad, and as I rode into Cangas de Onis that feeling was confirmed. I’m not talking great, but at least they felt OK and not as stiff as boards.

The atmosphere was great as I approached the start. 4000 riders crammed into a small town road, nervously counting down the minutes. Somehow I managed to find the other members of my club Nava 2000, so it was nice to be starting with them, even though I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them for long.

As we set off Mario warned me to be careful as the first 40k are quite crazy and there are likely to be several crashes. I learnt that he was bought down last year and was pretty badly injured. Lots of people, like myself, only aim to get round, while others take it seriously and act as if it is a race. This means it’s all a bit gung-ho at the start. I did end up witnessing several crashes, one of which was nasty, but I managed to avoid any trouble.

Lagos2

The pace was pretty swift once out of Cangas but with so many riders it was easy to find groups that suited your speed. After being passed by most of the Nava2000 guys, I caught up with my friend Omar from another club. He was riding with some other club members who were at about the same level as myself so they planned on taking it quite easy, which was perfect for me.

Unfortunately there was a crash behind me and I think Omar stopped to see if his club mates were OK. I later found out that Omar had got caught up in another crash later and had to abandon. I’m pleased to say he’s back on the bike and no serious damage done.

I rode the rest of the way group hoping and taking it steady up the climbs. I was feeling pretty good but decided not to push at all, but to just enjoy the ride. I bumped into several friends on the way but most were just passing. The weather was great and although sunny it wasn’t too hot but the sun did mean people needed to stop at the feed stations and fill up the bottles. On the climb of Alto Robellada we actually ground to a halt in a bike traffic jam as everyone was feeding ready for Los Lagos.

On the way to Los Lagos I stopped for a call of nature and when I set off again I found myself completely alone. To my amazement I rode for almost 10k alone. It must have been the only gap between the 4000 riders and trust me to be the one to find it. It was very peaceful though and by the time I approached Covadonga other riders had appeared. As I passed the final feed station lots of other riders pulled out, so there were plenty of wheels to grab on to.

It was a great atmosphere at Covadonga, with plenty of people cheering encouragement at the side of the road. As I started to climb, I thought back to the previous week and realised I felt much better than I had then, so if I made it up last week I would have no problems today. Los Lagos is never an easy mountain to climb but at the reasonably gentle pace I decided to go up, I didn’t suffer at all. Unfortunately I can’t say that about some other riders. With the sun beating down, the mountain took advantage, downing its prey on the hardest parts of the climb. Many were reduced to walking and quite a few had to just stop and rest. Credit to all of them because the participants came in all shapes and sizes and people did great to get up, no matter how long it took. The slowest time up Los Lagos was 2 hours and 30 minutes, kudos to the person that stuck it out that long.

Huesera

As for myself I did it in a particularly unimpressive 1 hour 25 minutes but I was happy to have completed the ride. My Garmin clocked a time of 5 hours and 7 minutes for the whole ride and my official time with stops was 5 hours 16 minutes, which I was happy with. The first Nava2000 guys Mario and Moro had completed the course in 4 hours, which was damned impressive.

As if going up Los Lagos isn’t hard enough, you are faced with all the other riders who have finished coming down the other way. That and the odd roaming cow can make the ascent a little trickier than normal. One good thing about it though is that you get to see all your friends as they come down (highlighted on the video) and it’s quite a boost to hear them shouting words of encouragement. In general the support of the crowds on the roadside was fantastic and helped spur many a suffering rider on.

Route details: http://www.strava.com/activities/153455647

All in all a fantastic day, a fantastic event and a fantastic experience. If you love cycling, it’s a must do sportive and you can find out more about it at www.ccnavastur.es

The climb of the Lagos de Covadonga will be the summit finish of Stage 15 of this years Vuelta a Espana.

Route of the Alto del Torno and Los Lagos de Covadonga (108 kms)

Despite my friend Mark having a bad back and me still having leg problems, at 10:00am on 6th June we met up in Cangas de Onis to ride the Alto de Torno and Los Lagos de Covadonga. Also joining us was Geoff from San Francisco (who I met via my blog) who was visiting Asturias with his wife, so it was great he could ride with us.

I’d planned the route taking two main things into consideration; firstly the location was good for Geoff who was staying near-by and at the same time it wasn’t too far for Mark to get to. Secondly, it was good preparation for the Sportive Los Lagos de Covadonga that I would be riding the following weekend.

With a few well-chosen alterations by Mark – incorporating the final 50 kms of stage 15 of the 2014 Vuelta a España into the route  – we planned to climb the Alto del Torno and of course Los Lagos de Covadonga. A 108km route with 2500 metres of climbing.

Now I haven’t been riding well lately but on that particular Friday I knew I was in trouble from the very first turn of the pedal. I just had nothing in the legs and even the slightest rise in the road would see me struggling. Probably not the best sensation to have when you’re about to climb an HC mountain at the end of a ride. Still, I’m a believer in starting what you finish so I would try my best to get round.

My main concern wasn’t for me but rather that I would hold the other two up, which I certainly did. Geoff turned out to be a good cyclist and it was great to see Mark riding so well after his back problems, but it did mean they would set an impossible pace given my lack of form. Although I just said my main concern was about holding the guys up, which is true, I must admit by the time I started climbing Los Lagos, my concerns had become somewhat more selfish.

It proved to be a great route, with a great combination of very challenging climbs, really fun descents, great coastal flat sections and some stunning scenery. The weather was perfect. It was hot but bearable and for the most part sunny. Although there was a one minute rain shower atop Los Lagos which only proved to be somewhat of a relief from the sun.

tornogeoffLagos 5

The weather up Del Torno was perfect and the scenery spectacular. It’s a nice climb with a nice flat section in the middle before getting pretty tough to the top. The descent is also quite tough as there are three small climbs on the way down which will sap any energy you may have left after climbing el Torno.

Torno summit

After these three small climbs it’s all easy riding to Covadonga and the start of Los Lagos climb. After filling up the water bottles at a road side spring, I said my goodbye’s at the bottom, knowing that I would be dropped within a few pedal strokes. My legs felt terrible when I started the ride but now after 75kms of riding, they felt totally wasted. As I started the climb I began thinking of the best point to stop and turn round and wondered if Mark would check his phone if I sent him a message. I also wondered how often the buses went to the top as I could go back down and catch one of them. With all this thinking, I kind of forgot my legs and suddenly realised I had passed the Huesera, which is the toughest part of the climb (1km long and 15% all the way). It kind of seemed pointless turning round now so I just kept turning the pedals as slowly as I could. Over 1 hour and 30 minutes from the start, I reached the second lake of Los Lagos.

Mark had taken it easy due to his bad back and did great to get up there. Geoff did great, he had found the climb really tough and had suffered at several points on the way up but dug in and still made it ahead of me. It was a great feeling having made it to the top and seeing the other guys, and after a well deserved drink it was nice to head down hill for the ride back to the van.

Lagos 4

All in all a great route, a great ride and great company. I would certainly recommend it to anyone but it is a toughy. I have also  learnt a couple of things from the ride; men with bad backs can still ride damn fast; no matter how bad my legs feel, it seems I can still get up most things and finally I’ve learnt how Nibali felt always seeing the back of an American, because Geoff was quick.

Route Map and Stats: http://www.strava.com/activities/150194367

Los Lagos Stats: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/lagos-de-covadonga

Alto del Torno Stats: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/alto-del-torno-from-nueva

P.S. I completed the Sportive the Clasica Los Lagos the following week. I didn’t exactly fly round but I felt much better than I did on this ride…… Post and Video of the sportive to follow shortly.