My first Sportive of 2014 (with a Rally Driver)

XXIII March Villa de Gijon0001

On Sunday I took part in my first Sportive of the year, the XXIII Marcha Cicloturista Villa de Gijon. My training this year hasn’t gone as planned due to health reasons,  so I was a little nervous about my ability to keep up but in the end I managed to avoid the Broom Wagon. That said I was told it was right behind me up the last, really tough climb but I had my head down the whole way and never looked back. As I was overtaking a few riders I guess it was too full to sweep me up.

The weather was fantastic as we set off at 9:30 from Las Mestas in Gijon. Eight of my fellow club members were riding so it was nice to know I’d have good company (photo below shows Nava2000 as the most represented club). Starting in Gijon the route (see link below) headed out in the direction of Villaviciosa, climbing Infanzon, up La Venta de Ranas and then round toward Pedroso and La Cruz de Peon. In total we would climb about 1700m and although none of the initial climbs are that long or tough, they were certainly tough and frequent enough to sap our energy by the time we reached the dreaded climb of San Martin.

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Coming toward the end of the ride the climb of San Martin is a short but brutal climb with ramps of up to 19%. As such, the organisers of the ride, CC Buenavista, give you another, easier route option which avoids having to climb it. Lots of the sensible riders took the easy option but if there is one thing I am not, it is sensible.  Although still in sight, I was already a little way behind the main peleton by the time I reached the San Martin (My calf muscle was still playing up when riding hard on the flat) and although there were plenty of riders still behind me, I knew most of them would be taking the easy route.

Seeing riders in front of me turn right for the easy route, I did, for a split second, wonder if I was doing the right thing. However, Ian, who I was riding with, never seemed to flinch and kept going full speed ahead. I was probably one of, if not the last, to start the climb.

Now I’m certainly not one who relishes the sight of other cyclists suffering but seeing some cyclists ahead really struggle and either stop or zig zag all over the place did give me some confidence. It certainly wasn’t easy but, keeping bum in seat and head down I plodded my way up the climb without any real problems. Ian looked strong and pulled away nearing the top but I just kept my slow methodical rhythm going until I finally reached the summit.

Once down the hill, I met up with all the other riders who had gathered just outside Gijon and all 300 plus riders cycled into Gijon together to the finishing line.

It was a really enjoyable event and I felt pretty good that I had completed the tough route option. Riding with us was Carlos Sianz the famous Rally driver and Carlos Berredo and Chechu Rubiera was also at the start line, all which helped to make it a memorable experience.

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Despite my niggling calf muscle problem, I probably should have pushed harder to stay with the main peleton at times but as it was an event where I knew we would stop occasionally, I never felt they were too far ahead and Ian and Rufino were kind enough to stay with me for most of the ride. There’s not much time between now and the Clasica Lagos de Covadonga which will be a much tougher ride. To be honest I’m not sure I’m up to it and I won’t have Ian and Rufino there to help me get around. However, although I may not be a good cyclist I am a stubborn one, so I will give it my best shot.

Here is a link to the route: http://www.strava.com/activities/142591784

Clasica Los Puertos Esmeralda – My first Sportive

Having watched the Vuelta a España peleton ride by last Thursday, come Sunday I was actually in a Peleton. I was taking part in my first Sportive, The Clasica Los Puertos de Esmeralda which is run by my club Nava2000. With 387 participants, it was my first experience of riding in such a large group but as we pulled away any nerves I had about doing so evaporated. You would think so many people so close together would be quite scary but it was actually fine. It might have been helped by the fact that I took the wheel of a very attractive female participant, a great way to start my first sportive.

The route would take us from Nava, through the heart of the Cider making Region of Asturias, down to the coast and then back via several steep hills. All in all the route was 117km with just under 2000 meters of climbing, further than I had ever ridden before.

Before the start I finally got to meet ‘El Ingles’ (the Englishman) Ian, who is an English member of the club but who I had never had the opportunity of meeting. We ended up riding most of the course together and I really appreciated him hanging back with me for most of the ride as I am still quite a bit slower than the other members of the club, at least up the hills. It was great to ride and actually understand what was being said to me as often it is difficult for me to have a conversation on a bike in Spanish.

Half way through the ride we all had to stop at the first feeding zone in Colunga and after about 20 minutes we all set off again. With no more forced stops and mainly hilly terrain ahead the peleton soon splintered into little groups. After a quick stop to answer the call of nature, I caught up again with Ian who had kindly hung back. We decided not to stop at the second feed station, instead choosing the rather sneaky ‘overtake the 60 riders who stopped’ option, although thanks to my slow pace up the hills I reckon 59 of them caught up and overtook us again.

The ride was great and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Ian was great company, the weather was perfect, the course, although quite tough toward the end, was manageable and very scenic. The legs were pretty wasted at the end but I was happy with my time of 4 hours 45 minutes (not including the break) considering it was my first sportive and only my 3rd time over 100km. It was lovely to see the wife and kids there cheering me at the finish line, although I’m sure the kids were dying to ask me why I was so far behind the winner. The organization was great and there was quite a spread put on after the ride for all riders and their families.

It turned out to be a really enjoyable day I think it quite likely that I will become addicted to sportive riding and can’t wait to do another one.

Here is a link to my ride stats and the route plus a pic or two. My wife did try and take a photo of me crossing the line but missed and got Ian instead. There is also a link to a Youtube video and I can be seen briefly at minute 1.31.

Youtube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv1045jYMQ8

Strava Ride stats and route: http://app.strava.com/activities/84420556

2013-09-15 09.00.14

Puertos Esmeralda – Start

Me and the kids at the finish

Me and the kids at the finish