A little spin up the road to the next city.
Hours in the saddle: 2hrs 52min
Terrain: rolling with a couple of decent climbs.
This morning I woke up strangely uber hyper. It had been another bad nights sleep but I was super excited for the day for some reason and couldn't wait to get going. And this was before my morning coffee! Can you imagine what I was like after caffeine and sugar??
It was another beautiful morning, sun shining, blue sky. Cold cold cold (below ) again though but that wasn't enough to dent my enthusiasm. Everything looked fresh and new, and the low sun and dew gave everything a silver sheen. Riding out of Merida was easy..there were so few cars and actual signposts too! The bike too was having a good day..if bikes could, I am sure she would have been purring like a cat or a Ferrari.. Not sure what the guy in the shop did to her but she was going smoother than she had since the start.
I hadn't checked but I figured today would be a relatively rolling road between the cities. So with this in mind and the fact I get bored easily on flats, I set up my Garmin virtual partner and set off with an aim to keep his set pace of 25kph. Today was however the first time I got overtaken by a cyclist since that fateful first day. I looked over and saw some guy on a flash Pinarello..a Dogma 2 at that. It was like a red rag to a bull. Flash bstd, I thought as he went past..he should try adding 10kg of baggage onto that lovely carbon frame of his and then let's see how he does! (That would probably take the Dogma up to just the weight of my dear ole alloy bike itself let along the weight of panniers!). So I set off after him. Now I had two training partners! He had me on the hills (much like my garmin partner) but on the downs and flats I was able to narrow the gap to a few hundred metres. At that point I suddenly realised that if I did catch him (optimistic huh) what would I do then?? I wasn't really in the mood to chat, his role was purely to get me going and not sleep on the bike, so really I couldn't try to hard right? I needn't have worried. A bit further on we came upon a long hill, and he opened the gap further. On the plus side we both overtook another rider. But catching him was getting more and more unlikey. Didn't stop me trying though!
A little while later I realised a couple of things...one was that I had been 'pacing' aka racing him for gone 30kms..and am not sure that is what you are meant to be doing when you are touring (I can't tell you what the scenery was like at all during that tiime). The other was that I had seen his Dogma 2 colours before in Mallorca...they were Team GB colours. Not that that necessarily made him a GB guy but tied in with the first realisation, I had to consider the sanity of my current plight. As it was, once we reached the 'peak' of the road..he pulled off and returned back to Merida. Have to say he had the right idea that was is a great training road, absolutely perfect.
So back to just me and my Garmin partner. I pottered along at a decent but more relaxed pace. I overtook another guy who jumped on my back wheel and I dragged him all the way back to his town about 10km away. Strangely someone on your back wheel is as motivating as chasing someone in front of you. Its like the devils on your shoulder.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful and the ride into Caceres was lovely..again not too many cars, and enough signposts to get me to Plaza Mayor. I had told the hostal I would be there at 1-2, but because of my eagerness to start, I left early, plus the racing, meant that I got here about half 11. So instead of going straight there I went to the main plaza in town for 2nd breakfast/1st lunch as I had heard this was the place to be.
What I hadn't counted on was that there was some event going on..for people of the older persuasion. The whole area was chocker block with meandering people. I could just feel my stress levels go up the further into the pedestrianised area I got. I had already dismounted and was walking along. However my bike with the panniers is not the most manouverable, and faced with randomly swerving people it just set my nerves on edge. Typically they were all heading towards the same plaza I was. But thankfully the blue hankied brigade were all mostly congregating at one end. I went to the other. I am not really sure what it was about but I think it was about getting older folk into the arts..films, music..etc. Unfortunately that meant cheesey songs like 'achey break heart' being played on loud speaker while I was having my coffee and cake. I couldn't stomach it all for very long so I headed out to find my hostal and escape.
Caceres is quite unique..the main area of interest is the cuidad monumental, a walled in area of town that is mostly unchanged since its 16th century heyday. You enter through a gate from the Plaza Mayor and once you are through the walls its like stepping back in time..lots of small passage ways leading you through the maze to huge mansions, churches and towers. And storks..lots and lots of storks and nests. That's my third surprise about Spain..there are zillions of storks! Not in Ronda and before then but since. I don't think I have ever seen a stork before, but now I can't look anywhere without them flying or nesting or something. Anyway it's nice in the old city..far less people than in the plazas.
Actually I forgot, one slight possible maybe event in the last part of my ride..I started hearing a tick..tick..tick. So I know what gear and chain problems sound like and it wasn't that. Very regular though, not just bike rattle. I pulled over and had a look..nothing hitting the wheels, moved a few things away to be sure. It still kept coming though. Full on inspection revealed a wire stuck in my tyre. Now here's one of those Schrödinger cat situations...has it punctured or not? At that moment the tyre was fine, but what's to say if I remove the wire that it won't give me a puncture? So what to do? In the end I figured that of I bent it it wasn't going further in, and so in theory punctured or no it would be OK. And actually tyre seems fine now so fingers crossed, but will see in the morning.
Random aside: Something I realised today is that I have seen no Spanish women cycling. There have been the uber fit pro looking guys, and the old men who probably used to look like that, but no women cyclists. There have been a couple (and only about 2 or 3) of tourers but they were foreign. Perhaps I am looking on the wrong day at the wrong time but it seems strange.
Note to self: more layers tomorrow.. it's cold!!