Hours in the saddle: 6hrs 10min
Days like today make me wonder how much of masocist I am. Cycling as a sport is that way inclined generally ..it might not be a necessity to do it but it certainly helps. Anyway..after quite a hefty climbing day yesterday..one might think that an easier day might be in order...but no. I stuck with the original plan, which was devised by me finding the hugest mountain around and heading for it. In fact not just one big mountain but three. Puerto de las Pilas (1334), Alto de Valdelavia (1448) and Puerto de Navacerrada (1860). To be fair the first two rolled into each other so perhaps we can count that as one, but still...you get the idea.
Coming out of Avila I overtook an proper tourer who was walking his laden bike up the hill. It was a bit of a mean hill to have so early on in the day but at 6% it wasn't the toughest around by far. It made me wonder if he was walking already how would he deal with the other proper climbs as they were difficult to avoid, and how far would he even manage to get in a day. It was a whole different style of bike touring, and one that I couldn't imagine doing myself.
Further along up the first climb it felt very much like the moors back home.. Heather and gorse and granite outcrops, and of course cold cold cold. But the first two Puerto's came and went pretty quickly. One big undulation and I was nearing my designated pitstop. First I had to go through a place called San Lorenzo de El Escoral. Now I had been looking at this place all day, and not with a glad eye. It looked big, and big means chaotic roads in towns, and I really wanted to avoid that. But to avoid it would mean additional kms on the detour. As it was when I came over that last large undulation, there was an amazing view across the upcoming valley..in the distance I saw a snow capped mountain, which I figured was my mountain, but before that I could see a town or rather see what looked like a huge fortress before a town. It turned out that San Lorenzo is home to the most massive monestry. In terms of size it put Guadalupe to shame, though it lacked the grace and beauty. I am not exaggerating that it looked like a fort or castle...it was beefy and chunky and it was a place that looked like you really didn't want to mess with it. But it was enough to peek my interest so off I went. And it was just as impressive up close. Still as daunting looking bit mellowed by beautifully manicured gardens, and a fantastic view. Plus crowds of people there queuing to go inside.
Oh and god the cars...it was chocker traffic out of town, but finally managed to get out, drafting a bus as it sped up on the freer road. In the process of that I overtook a local cyclist. Who then jumped on my tail. I ignored him for a bit, but then he overtook to tale his turn at leading, which was a bit of a relief. We had a bit of chat about where we both were going, and the look on his face was priceless when I said that I was heading for the big mountain. He suggested the main road that went around it. Now I have been good competitively but his disbelief fueled the fire of my hill climbing and made me more adamant to climb this mountain. There was snow up there dammit! I wanted to see that! Plus I already checked the gradient and the length and in comparison to what I have done before with my panniers...it was a pussycat. (I hadn't checked the elevation, but the other two figures were all that mattered).
So he went home and I went up up up! The first section was not the main route up the climb but it was still about av 6% or so..and it gave me a change to eye up the snow clad mountain and the ski resort, which was the highest the road went. It didn't look to bad. When I reached Navacerrada town, I missed the turning and headed down again..luckily i realised and turned round..what's a hundred or so extra metres climbing eh?! So up the proper climb..now you know it is a 'proper' climb as there were cyclist specific signs all the way up..with the km to the top and the average gradient for that km. From Nava., it was about 7km, and the average gradient went something like 7, 7, 9, 8, 10, 7, 10 . Not sure I entirely agree with those as there seemed to be a lot of sneaky 11% parts and not very many lower values. But to be honest the gradient didn't matter, as long as my legs kept moving. And they did with no real problem (I am in awe of my legs at the moment..they keep taking what I throw at them with no problem and hopefully I haven't just jinxed it). Fantastic views from the top, though disappointingly the sign was a bit pathetic, just the name of the Puerto and no elevation. So no stereotypic cyclist photo for me nor any proof. Oh well.
Then all there was was down to Segovia. God it was cold and again I was shaking like mad even with all my layers. But the scenery was really interesting, not at all like what I have seen before. It was woodland of silvery trees, that looked skeleton like near the top, as the leaves had yet to come, then slowly they turned green as I got lower down the mountain. There was even log cabins and randomly a museum on the sea ..but perhaps the real meaning was lost in translation.
So Segovia! Another city that snuck up on me. It was somewhere I was quite excited to see, and from what I read I was really surprised I didn't see it coming. But I guess it depends on which direction you head in and I came in the wrong way. So when I finally did make it to the centre of town and came face to face with the aqueduct.. Wow, just wow. It was huge and mightly impressive. Its a two story arched aqueduct from Roman times. Not sure how far it stretch but it seemed to go on and on. I read later that the Romans built it purely from stone, there is no mortar or anything like that holding it altogether. Which had the effect of making it all the more impressive..plus a little scary! Then came the cathedral, which is a mass of Gothic spires, and then the other side of town the alcazar. And this is what I was excited about..it is the castle that Disney's is based on. It's perched on a ledge on the edge of town with numerous spired turrets pointing up. You can see where Disney got his inspiration from, that's for sure, although it is the view from outside town looking back in that you can truely appreciate that. I am heading out that direction tomorrow so that will be a morning photo stop for me for sure. The inside is just as amazing as the outside too.
So it was a tough day, a lot of climbing and a lot of sun, and I can feel it. Tomorrow is another long day, though it should have a more downward aspect so hopefully it will be fine. Time to stock up the energy stores now then.