sábado, 1 de junio de 2024

Pico Veleta via Cenes de la Vega


As soon as the climb started GC Denis opened a gap. 

His pace was a bit too hard for me. I bet everything on my plan. A magnificent plan.

Keep my heart rate around 150-155 bpm. Ignore power. At o’clock and at half past, eat a gel and drink water. At quarter past and quarter, drink energy drink. In the last 10km increase the intensity so your heart rate goes up to 165-170 bpm. Catch GC Denis. Catch The Pope, if at all possible. Make sure you celebrate at the top. 

Needless to say the plan didn’t quite work out. With 10km to go the idea of increasing my pace sounded like a bad joke. GC Denis and The Pope didn’t slow down either. In fact I started to lose sight of them more and more often. 

I didn’t capitulate. I kept riding at a decent pace but still saved something in the legs. 10km after 33km of climbing can feel very, very long.

With 3km to the top I found the road covered with snow. A road cyclist that was stopped there told me that was it. It was not possible to carry on. But that didn’t feel right. The road was covered by snow, yes, but you could see the tarmac not that far away. I told him I had two “friends” ahead of me so I climbed off the bike and walked on the snow. Got to the other side, jumped on the bike and kept riding. 

Not for long though. About 5 minutes later another section of the road was covered with snow. This one was longer. In fact, you couldn’t see where it finished. No sign of GC Denis or The Pope so jumped off the bike and started to walk on the snow, bike on my shoulder. For about 10 minutes.

When I finally got to a section of tarmac three things happened at the same time. The tarmac got worse and worse, the sections of snow got more frequent and my cleats accumulated so much compressed snow that I couldn’t clip in anymore. I just kept going thinking I was winning time walking on the snow (I was making quite an effort) although I was also thinking I was losing time whenever I was riding. The surface was now so bad that I don’t think it was suitable even for a mountain bike.

With, say, 800m to go I saw two persons walking down on the snow. Before I started to walk up I asked them if they had seen two road cyclists. No was their answer. But they said no with a tone that, suddenly, made me realize that of course GC Denis and The Pope were not ahead of me. But I was so close to the top that I just carried on. No sign of any path, just climbing towards the top with my bike on my shoulder (at least it was my climbing bike, the proper bike for it).

At the top I met three people. That meant the top was overcrowded. They were taking pictures. I took a picture of them as a group. They took a picture of me with my bike. It was hard to move around wearing cycling shoes, with the bicycle around, making sure we don’t fall.

Before I started to go down they, very nicely, asked me if I needed anything. Water? Gels? I told them not to worry. I had everything I needed. I added that I knew what I was doing. They didn’t look very convinced. Less so when I took the liberty of telling them to take it easy on the way down. It is descending when most accidents happen. 

Anyway, I started to descend and that was the moment I realized I was stupid. What on earth was I doing walking down a mountain with my road bike on my shoulder? 

It wasn’t better when I got to sections where I could ride my bike. I was riding 25mm tyres among rocks the size of my fist. I was better off just walking down. 

In any case it was a matter of time I got to the last section of snow. I jumped on the bike and started the descent. 

When I got to the first sign of civilization I stopped, checked my phone. Didn’t see any message from my riding mates (bastards) so I continued descending.

Half way through the descent someone shouted my name. Stopped. Climbed back and there they were. Sitting in the sun. Drinking refreshments. Ready to eat. Believing I was dead up in the mountain and trying to decide if it was appropriate to ride tomorrow or not (the weather forecast is pretty good so I’d be having the same doubts myself). 

They pretended to be happy to see me and after we exchanged stories it was clear what had happened.

The Pope (guilty) led GC Denis in the wrong direction at a particular point of the road. At that moment I passed them without me or them noticing it. I carried all the way to the top thinking they were ahead of me. They looked at the snow and thought there is no way Javier has carried on. They messaged me, they called me but my phone had no signal. That’s the moment they saw tomorrow’s ride in danger.

At least the story has a happy ending. We all will be riding tomorrow. An easy(ish) ride is on the menu. On Monday we all will tackle Pico Veleta again and I can feel in the atmosphere the desire of all of them to go all the way to the top. Stay tuned.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/11547536084/

Take care of yourself

Javier Arias González

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