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..