Andalusian Summer Cycling and pre-Bulgaria, Greece and onwards…
Since I last blogged I have been quite preoccupied with the minor necessity of work. Over the summer I have been working for two schools in Granada conducting a variety of exam preparation classes, 1-1 classes and summer intensive courses across a range of levels and abilities. Although work is invariably enjoyable the last couple of months have been quite tough with some heavy teaching and preparation hours that I was not necessarily prepared for. It’s reassuring that I will have a more structured contract at just one school when the next academic year begins in September, for the moment I have just about had enough of the classroom, my brain needs to rest a little and absorb what it has been learning and working on since my arrival in Spain at the beginning of March. Although I embrace the philosophy of adventure, surprise and unpredictability I am quite sure that I prefer the opposite in my work life.
Talking of adventure, surprise and unpredictability I now have a month of vacation to enjoy before I return to the language school that I will be employed from mid-September. I didn’t have much time to think of any grand plans so, for the beginning at least, I will be winging it this summer in Europe. I have a flight to Sofia, Bulgaria tomorrow evening and from there I will be heading to Athens, Greece; beyond this I have no idea where I will be going. Eastern Europe is not necessarily on my dream list of travel destinations, but neither is it somewhere that I have never imagined myself. It’s most definitely an unknown entity, I’ve done little research and less preparation, I’m blogging rather than packing at the moment…
The summer in Granada has been more work focussed than anything but I have had a little time to enjoy myself when the searing heat has allowed. It rained for the first time in what I would suspect would be three months of eternal sunshine and temperatures hitting the early (and sometimes late) forties (celsius) on a daily basis. Pleasure has come from some early morning bike rides and a couple of swimming pool visits at a local private club in the country courtesy of Sam’s girlfriend’s membership privileges as well as an early summer trip home to England to visit the family.
My time in England has been quite limited in recent years but living in Spain gives me ample opportunity to fly home for long weekends at much greater convenience and I took this opportunity in early June. After spending a few hours in a Malagan (?) hostel I took the most inconveniently early flight possible to Bournemouth where I had to spend a few hours drifting around town and along a sunny but chilly beach front before taking a National Express coach that took over three hours to travel a mere 90 miles through every town between Bournemouth and Exeter.
After the tedium of the bus journey I was treated to a good English carvery by my Dad and a couple of English beers to ensure all the food was digested properly. The weekend was spent at a leisurely pace at the farm, as well as a good Devonshire day out in Exmouth for some tea and cakes and a walk along the beach in a biting coastal wind. I was introduced to Dart’s Farm which is any expats food paradise. I do wonder if they would consider moving it to Granada… Over too quickly I caught a flight back from Bristol on a Sunday evening, Elizabeth ensuring that I boarded the flight with a full belly of roast chicken.
After adding a few pounds of weight in four days I returned to Granada and had a good look at my single-spped road bike and took the quick decision to order a proper race bike so I could enjoy the mountainous regions surrounding Granada and beyond. A few days later it arrived in the post, a little construction work, some oiling and tweaking and I was ready to attack the mountains that dominantly impose themselves on the Granada skyline. What follows are some brief accounts and Strava files of said summer excursions with a few pictures of the stunning scenery that envelops these rides. If you have no interest in cycling you might want to end your interest here!
Granada- Alhama de Granada- Granada 133km
This was pre-race bike arrival and I did this on my single speed ride. Although it was before the insane temperatures of late June onwards, it was still pretty hot from midday as I was heading back to Granada. The highlights of this ride was cruising across the dam at Embalse de los Bermejales and seeing the semi-submerged tower in the middle of the reservoir and the climb that followed out over the mountain to Alhama de Granada of which you can see in the pictures below.
Granada- Iznalloz- Granada 84km
Iznalloz is to the east of Granada, tucked in behind the mountain ridges of Sierra de Huetor. For the most part this is quite a flat ride as it follows some low lying farmland but it creeps up severely as you hit Iznalloz. So much so (and I was still on my single speed at this time) that I got mocked by some builders for having to get off and push. That being said this is a pretty ride and the scenery is immense throughout. It would also make a good loop if you carried on out to Darro and came back through La Peza and Quentar.
Granada- Pico Veleta- Granada 96km
This is the big one, the highest paved road in Europe, topping out at 3,394m. A week before I took on this ride I went to Guejar Sierra and introduced myself to the insanely steep climb from the river valley to Alto Hazallanos where the gradients hit insane numbers of between 20 and 30 percent for extensive sections. They have had this particular climb on the Vuelta Espana and you can see the pros struggling on it. Mental stuff. You can see from exactly the one hour mark of this video the stage leader hitting the bottom of the 7.5km climb https://www.youtube.com/wach?t=4255&v=EMUKxpSJHq0 Anyway, if you go on to climb Pico Veleta from this route you have another 30km to go, all be it at moderately more manageable gradients.
With this in mind I took on the 40km climb from the village of Cenes de la Vega along the more gradual A-395. From the ski village at Prado Llano (28km into the ride) the climb changes through tight village switchbacks up to a military barrier where the military road starts. The road is accessible by ducking under the barrier (closed only to vehicles) and from that point on you are exposed to gusty, moon like mountain top with an ever-deteriorating surface to the point where, a few 100m from the summit, it becomes impassable on a narrow-tyred road bike. The climb is pretty brutal and the descent best-ridden with extreme caution. However, the sense of achievement and the incredible vistas and the journey back down at 60km/h are worth it.
Granada- Quentar- La Peza- Granada 98km
I haven’t done this ride justice with my poor camera phone photos but this is the most scenic ride so far. At the crack of dawn I set off to avoid the daily summer sizzle. I think this will become my regular training ride as it has wonderful twisting roads, lined with wilting trees, trickling rivers, turquoise lakes and a lack of vehicles. On this particular day I bumped into a family of deer atop the final climb into La Peza and stopped to admire their early morning musings as the kept me within one eyes eyesight.
Granada- El Fargue- Viznar- Granada 26km
This is my new go to weekday evening ride, up a mountain that lies behind the famous Albaycin district of Granada. Not only a quick physical test, with some lung bursting gradients near the summit, it also has the best views across Granada. An impressive sunset ride.
Granada- Alcala La Real- Granada Loop 120km
This is not my favourite ride as it hits some seriously long, straight and tedious climbs on some very fast main roads but the initial ride out to Colomera is one of the best. Also it has to be said that Alcala La Real is quite a pretty Spanish town with a great hilltop fort.