A Travellerspoint blog

August 2014

Mora de Rubielos

A 6 col day

all seasons in one day

distance: 123km
Time in the saddle: 6hrs 22
Total ascent: 2134m
Terrain: up down up down up down etc etc

Well I don't really know where to start with today as it was quite an epic one..the longest with the most climbing that I have done this side of my tour. Add in some mixed weather..cool mist to baking sun to storms, and ever changing but always stunning scenery. To experiencing some of the local entertainment.

At that dear readers is my blog for the day..toodlepip!

Ah see now that's the effect of cycling in the hot sun for too long that is. Sigh. Or the effect of the two sips of beer I have just drunk. Or both...so apologies there is more to come..

I was a bit stuck this morning as my hostal breakie was not til half 8 and there was no place in town to buy anything else, and besides the reception didn't open til half 8 for checkout. So this added a bit more challenge to reaching Mora dR before they closed the roads. But that was the way it was and there was not much I could do about it aside from get myself out the door as soon as possible after that. It was a beautiful morning with an early mist. With the weather forecast similar to yesterday I decided to start the day with my baselayer to ward off the cool. And it was lovely for the first half hour descent which was made cooler by the wet mist still in the air. But as soon as the climbing started it had to come off. It was quite a confusing ride to this point..they kept changing the road numbers and the signposts were few and far between. But I got on the right road up only to find that again it was a bumpy one. I am I have to say officially fed up with bumpy roads and I will avoid them if possible from now on..they make your teeth rattle, make you go slower, and you are forced to look only at the tarmac in front rather than be distracted by the views. Owns such distraction I did see though was the village of Mirambel..a stunning walled village pretty much smack I'm the middle of nowhere.

Thankfully a while later I reached smooth tarmac and gave a huge sigh of relief. The road winded around until turning into a valley that presented a view ahead..mountains..but on one mountain ridge was a castle and town perched on the edge - Cantavieja. Absolutely stunning, although I soon realised that was where my road was heading UP to. Ooof it was a steep old bugger. But getting to the town wasn't even the Puerto of that mountain...so up some more. Its a little bit blurry from here for a bit..it was up to one Puerto which led up to another Puerto, then a quite steep descent down into the valley and to a town where I stopped for much needed water and fanta. Then straight up again to the next Puerto and down..it was bloody hot by this stage..garmin saying 37 and boy did it feel it. I stopped again for more fanta and water, pouring half of it straight over my head.

I had to leave my nice smooth road here..turning left onto a yellow road maked on the map that it was 'in need of work'. After the roads earlier though it wasn't so bad but I was feeling the heat and the previous climbs by this stage. I had also only eaten a banana and some biscuit thingies..not having the time to have a proper stop. But in theory this was the last leg and Mora was 'just' at the end of this road..36km and two Puertos away. One plus point was that they have been working on improving the road and the start of a smooth road came sooner than the map said. After the first Puerto I came to the base of the Valdilinares ..the summit finish for today's Vuelta and the start of the most amount of people I have seen on the Spanish roads yet. plus of course all the team coaches and Vuelta official cars. Just one more steep climb to go..it was,a little surreal riding on the Vuelta route..all the km flags were up and I kinda had a reverse countdown home. I also got a few cheers from the people scattered about. I did think about going up to the finish but all day I had been riding with the devil on my shoulder..one in the form of the blackest clouds you can imagine, grumbling all the way behind me. They seemed to have settled on the mountain so the threat of that plus I was feeling the heat and the ride hugely meant that getting home was the best plan.

Coming into the last 5km I realised I was past the road closure time but as no one had said anything I carried on..the police being much more relaxed here than with the Tour. Soon after a wave of police cars and bikes came whizzing past plus some other vans. They chucked something at me and I realised that I was riding into the floats! Always up for some freebies I pulled over and picked up a Cofidis cap and some olives and waited for more..no other goodies came but there was a lot of waving and horn honking as they went past. That cheered me up some and the ride was easier after that.

The Vuelta itself was not going through Mora instead turning just before the village, it was about half 3 when I reached this point and there were already quite a number of people by the road. Time to find the hotel, have a shower and some food then head back out. I ended up being back about 20 mins before they came by which was perfect. Cofidis cap in place I found a good spot on the corner where the riders would be coming directly at me. I did have a moment of doubt about that spot for a minute..its quite a sharp corner and if a eider misjudged it...ah sod it..it's a good view! As the helicopters came closer so did the thunder and lightning. And straight after the break had gone past the heavens opened with huge wet rain. Us hardy lot held our places till all the riders had passed and then we dashed home to get out of the rain and watch the finish on telly. Quite cool watching them go where I had just been.

After that it was time to crash out and eat all the stash of food I had with me. Switching channels I found some what can only be described as bull dancing..I saw there had been bull fighting on the other day..but this was say the non murdering kind of that. The guys (there was actually one girl too) had no cape or spears but they did the movements similar to a matador. I think they were marked on their movements with the bull and how close he came to gorging them. So for example a simple move would be to entice the bull by arms up feet together, sing to the bull then wiggle your hips. When he came charging you would turn and arch back over the him some even touching the bulls back. You can add things to it say by spinning on the spot as the bull charges. Or kneel and evade him from that position. Some guys were even diving over the bull...somersaulting even! I am not sure how they treat the bulls in these things but I couldn't help be impressed. They all seem to have respect for the bull kneeling before it at the end of each session, clapping it and even blowing it kisses. The bulls themselves were huge and mean buggers! Although some got confused when more than one man came out poor things.

Just going back the the terrain here or along the way its interesting to see that since Peniscola there has been a marked increase in dryness. Before while some grass was browning there was still more green and on the whole it was greener. But since each valley gets dryer, browner and barer. Its odd as actually I have seen more rain here. From watching the Vuelta in the south it is going to get dryer still..

Posted by louisebenn 12:31 Archived in Spain Comments (0)



distance: 100.46km
Time in the saddle: 5hrs 15
Total ascent: 1693m
Terrain: up up and more up

Lovely relaxing day in Peniscola yesterday aka doing sod all but boy do I need days like that especially after 6 days on the bike. Perhaps not the most exciting for my hosts so thank you to them for being so patient with a somewhat broken and pathetic me. Also for all the stories on the perks and, probably more, pitfulls on living in Spain and the shenanigans that the Spaniards get up to. Best of all last night I actually slept more than a couple of hours!! Woohooooooo! That's the first time in months. Bliss.

And I would need that sleep as today's route was just up and up continually. Ok there was a wee warmup along the flat coast but as soon as I turned inland it was pretty much all up for 80km or so. Ooof. Anyway I get ahead of myself..the start was great..a potter along the beach promenade back up to Benicarlo which is a very civilised way to start the day. Surprisingly busy for first thing on a Saturday but it wasn't too bad. Then the hideous N340 to Vinaros and then quickly turning off and heading towards the mountains. The first part was just a gradual up through field on field of orange and olive trees. Then past La Senia the terrain changed as the road started to follow the river back up through an impressive gorge (and some impressive gradients too) up to the Panto de Ulldecona ..a reservoir, though only half full was still impressive with the Muntanyes de Benifassà in the background and the gorge the otherside. Odd to see it looking so empty thought they still had paddle boats on it at the ready. The source river was completely dry too.

The restaurant there seemed to be the hive of the area..and also for cycling club runs too. But after leaving that behind..I also seemed to leave everything else behind too, there were no cyclists and very few cars on the road ahead. Probably with good reason being a long old slog on what was for the most part a really bad road...damn side roads. The weather was quite strange too..I was expecting it to be cooler as it always is going up into the mountains but it was humid so I was sweating but I was cold.. goosebump cold ..in 25°heat..madness! I think though that the strong gusty wind in these mountains is a cold one. Maybe base layer and arm warmers tomorrow.

Home for tonight is Morella...a beautiful town perched on a rise with a big old castle at the top and the castle wall encompassing the town and it's maze of streets. Obviously it is a fiesta day today, not really sure what for..there is lots of drumming and also random people wandering around in faux animal skins, feather headdresses, face paints with spear/sword things that would make a Klingon jealous. I made the mistake of walking near to one guy dressed up and I was nearly taken out by all his 'accessories' whenever he stopped or turned or anything. But I didn't y anything as he looked quite scary. Its all quite bizarre but it makes a change from the usual mediaeval fare.

My room has a fab view over the city wall out to the mountains. It also has the smallest telly known to man. Not that I usually notice the telly but the Vuelta was on so I was forced to squint away to see what was going on..though it was easy to see the echelons! I love echelons! Not sure why.. I guess it's nature way of getting involved in the race and breaking up the peloton. Well nature and sneaky tactics by the lead teams. Echelons is just a cool word too.

I had to spend more time than usual planning tomorrow..not only is it a long day on the road (and more up too) but it also crosses over the Vuelta route who are heading the otherway. So lots of time finding the road closure times and all that...luckily the Spanish aren't like the french with the 4 hour closure. Here it's only a couple of hours. So I have plenty of time to get to my hostal dump my stuff then head back up the road as far as I can to catch the parade and the race. Phew. Downside being is that they are closing Valdilinares all day so I can't ride it before they do. Maybe something for the day after ;)

Posted by louisebenn 11:36 Archived in Spain Comments (0)



So sleep and lay in obviously failed but the slow morning did at least work. Helped by the fact that it was beautifully cloudy and cool(er). I took a slow breakie and indulged in two coffees and then got my stuff together and headed out.

Thoughts for the route were to head back the C12 to Amposta and then along the coast. But again this nigging feeling made me think oh let's just go randomly go with the garmin..not checking where the garmin would actually take me...aside from up a 10%er when I turned off the main road to follow it. When I did find some common sense to check where it was going..to say I swore a little was any understatement as it seemed to want to take me the whole way round a sierra rather than nicely under it. Thank god for the Michelin map which told me just to follow the road I was on and all would be hunky dory. To be fair though it was a more interesting ride than along the coast which I had done mostly yesterday. And my road joined back to the coast a little further down anyway in Vinaros.

Unfortunately being on the coast meant being on the main road...a horrible road with lorry after lorry. But I wasn't on it for long turning off and finishing the ride on the beach promenade. And boy what a beach! About 8 kms worth of beautiful yellow sand and blue sees. Being so long while it was busy it didn't feel horrendously so.

And so I arrived along the beach to Peniscola and to my surprise its impressive castle. Which as my friendie later informed me is none other than the castle from the el cid movie! Funniest thing about it is that on closer inspection of the castle you see holes and wear on the walls..but apparently only some was authentic, the rest being actually from the filming of the movie. So there you go!

Posted by louisebenn 13:13 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Delta de l'Ebre


distance: 88km
Total ascent: 143m
Time in the saddle: 3hrs 41min
Terrain: flat as a pancake. Biggest 'climb' was over a bridge across the Ebro... And I did that twice as I missed climbing.

I am beginning to think that the powers that be are against me setting off early...it just doesn't seem to happen! If I got sleep and a lay in perhaps it wouldn't be so bad..actually that would be kinda great as my sleeping is pretty minimal at the most. But no..I get up early, eat breakie..and then something happens and leaving early is scrapped...today is was discoving one of the chain links on the bike was loose. So time lost fixing that..quite a random problem but hey ho sorted now. So finally set off towards the delta de l'ebre. As it was kinda a haywire day already I stuck with that and followed a random cycle path which seemed to be heading in the right direction. Turned out to be one of the many Via Verde routes that they have in the area. Started out well..nice small country lanes then moving to follow alongside one of the many canals..little bit rough in place but no biggie. Ha! Then the signpost got scarcer and the 'roads' got rougher until actually they were less than a gravel track. I felt very cyclecross at this point as I jumped off the bike and hooked it over my shoulder carrying it until the worst was over. All the two in and fro ing on the little lanes made me lose my sense of direction too..which is normally pretty good. So I thought sod it..find a big road and go on that..and luckily a big ole roundabout appeared. Several loops of said roundabout later and I headed off in the right direction.

Until that is another random urge told me to go off my nice road that would take me exactly where I wanted to go..and take a smaller road into the park. Sigh. So having no real idea where I was going aside from a rough direction, I carried on. Basically I was wanting to do the delta in a clockwise circle and the theory was to head to the northern coast first. In theory easy right? Just head to the sea..sure! Except the land was so flat you couldn't see the sea. Mr garmin had been playing silly buggers all morning, and though it was working now it couldn't distinguish between small paved roads and dirt track..so not helpful! I did find myself on a cool road that followed a canal heading in the right direction ..straight flat..no cars..nice! Its a bit surreal..it really is so flat, you can see the horizon only when a car goes along, then there are the many canals, a few random houses, in the centre there were sweetcorn fields, and then nearing the sea it turned into paddy fields (apparently the delta supplies the majority of the rice used in Catalonia), and birds. Now my twitching skills are not great (tho I did recognise a hooper bird in Mallorca) but there were herons and egrets and other sorts. Its not really the season for birds here..either at the start or end of season is best but there was enough to get an interest.

Finally my canal road ended and a few zigzags later I reached the northern delta...and to be honest it was a bit of a 'oh' moment as it was a bit.. well not worth the effort - I feel a bit bad about saying that but it really wasn't anything special at all. Deciding perhaps it was lack of water inhibiting my appreciation faculties I headed back towards the centre to Deltebre for refreshments. When I stopped I decided that all this meandering around with no plan really wasn't working especially not with all the bumpy roads which should be avoided on a roadie. So plan concocted I headed south across the Ebro and towards the SE of the delta on slightly bigger roads. Ah that was more like it. Wind was behind me too. Even the landscape change and was more like what I was expecting..reeds, lakes, wetlands..much more rustic than the farmed land the other side.

Then I hit a town and the road back to Amposta and onto Tortosa. Slightly bored of the flat by now I set the virtual partner and raced him back along the C12 home.

Afternoon crashed out in the cool watching the Vuelta go to Teba and Ronda..one of my favourite places :).

Tomorrow I am going to take the hint and not even bother to try and set off early. Here's hoping for some sleep!

Posted by louisebenn 11:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)


sunny 42 °C

distance: 97.3km
Total ascent: 1133m
Time in the saddle: 4hrs 22min
Terrain: I'm gonna go with undulating

After the meting session that was yesterday afternoon, I was a little bit concerned about today's ride as the forecast was for even hotter. Ideally an early start would be needed but my hostal didn't open until 8 so I would not be able to get to my bike before then. So that foiled that plan..I would just have to leave as early as I could.

After what seems like weeks of riding into the headwind my legs again took some time to warm up, not aided by the fact that yes again I was into the wind even first thing. (Wind goes to the sea first thing and then usually it comes from the south, or on from the sea near the coast) To take my mind off it I ditched the map so to speak and headed well where ever it took me..and that was following the signs for castles and embalses. Dilemma time when these two were off in different directions but as always water won. Lovely road that ran along side the lake shore in the cover of the pine trees. And then up up the valley toward the main road. Again an almost empty road, save for lots of cyclists, and never ending trees. I think this was a bit of a local hotspot and training climb as there were even some guys with a support vehicle going up any down (way faster than me obviously).

Onto the main road which climbed further and then descended down fast. I should say that since crash number 2 on Mallorca my descending skills have vanished and descendaphobia has taken over again to some extent...frustratingly...it should just be a matter of time to get it back but when descending on roads like today when you are buffeted by strong gusty winds ..oof. It doesn't help. Anyway after that I was feeling pretty exposed on the main road though literally it became a less so the lower I got. I was glad then when I reached Mora d'Ebre where I turned off.

Best of all here was that I rejoined my old friend the Rio Ebro. This is the third time I have crossed its path and it was just as impressive as before. After the last few days of crossing many dried out riverbeds, the Ebro was quite a sight..its wide and fast flowing water a complete contrast.

If I had thought that it was downhill following the river to the coast from here I was sorely mistaken. Insult to injury was that the temperature rocketed..my garmin reading about 42°! However there were two blessings, one was that the humidity dropped massively, and the second was that the wind from the sea was mainly a cool one (even if it was a headwind). It was still hard work. But again most of the route seemed to be cyclist friendly and I was even overtaken by the Russian UCI team Lokosphinx in their Russian and Ukraine colours, and their support car (I seriously need it get one of those..I still sometimes find myself tapping my helmet in a hope that a support van will come by and stop).

Finally made it to Tortosa, finding myself standing at reception a sweating melting mess. I made the mistake of asking questions about WiFi and breakfast then..a mistake as it went in one ear and straight out the other as there was nothing working in between. Anyway I finally got myself sorted and cleaned up and headed out to find a supermarket. Yup it was still absolutely scorchio and the streets were deserted. So taking the hint I dove into the Spar across the street and then went back into hiding in my air con room to eat and watch the Vuelta. Its really interesting watching the race as_its going by places and routes that I went on all those months ago. seems ages away but familiar all the same.

I did make it out for a wander about town later on when the temperature dropped to 30. The town has a nice feel to it but it is a bit chaotic and illogical. With other town..yes they have a maze of streets but after a wander they do make sense and you get the hang of them quite quickly. Not so here. Perhaps it is my heat befuddled mind but I couldn't get it. That's not necessarily a bad thing mind! Just makes things more difficult to find and all that. Tomorrow I will find the castle and explore more....

Posted by louisebenn 11:13 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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