We were arriving into Northern Spain's bull fighting country now as we approached Pamplona. As we passed villages and towns Plaza de Toros (bullrings) were suddenly appearing, the centre of a town or village, like modern day coliseum's and as popular as football stadiums. Agree with it or not, it is a very real part of the culture of Spain and south west France. Its history is Roman but was developed by the invading Moors into the roots of the spectacle still watched today. Bulls are raised trained in France and never get to see a human other than on horseback. You can see the reference to and reverence of the toro, iconic throughout the region.
So to our day. In geek cycling terms, today was a perfect day after all. We had started the day a little fatigued, still cold and putting on damp gear after the bags had gotten wet from the storm and the shoes sodden. The sky was grey and the forecast was highly changeable but we were, however, blessed with a 20kmh tail wind that helped us the whole day. I’ve spoken before about the effect on your day and mood with a head wind or tail wind – making up to 20% difference – so we took advantage of this gift.
In the morning we rode the Soria plateau, at 1,000m above sea level and through the spectacular national park. The road was straight, largely flat, empty and with a beautiful tarmac, which sounds all very dull but is extremely influential in how your day pans out. The conditions were so good that we had travelled 50km in two hours, which may not sound very fast but when you’re carrying 15kg of your life on the bike as well is good going. At times we were hitting speeds of 60kmh+ on good downhills.
By lunchtime, we had passed the daily target we set ourselves so refueled and set off for a more varied second half of the day. We were off the main road and through some beautiful and very random villages and parts of the forest. There was one stretch of road, outside Boos that for 10km was the most pristine road, looking as though it had been constructed just days ago after cleaving its way through the beautiful forest. The only things on the whole road the whole time were us, a couple of pine cones and the footprints of indigenous wildlife.
We ploughed on, trying to ride the tailwind as much as possible, half expecting at any turn for the weather to change and set us back. Another huge hailstorm hit us followed by sunshine and more tailwind until we made Soria, our unexpected night’s stop. We had not only caught up on lost mileage but passed our target so re-calibrated day five for another big day – 90km and a 1800m mountain – that would make the next couple of days easier on us. We had now ridden 350km and would be in Pamplona earlier than expected.
Soria, is one of Spain’s oldest towns, built in pre-Roman times. Their churches are striking and there are a lot of them, from medieval to 12th and 16th century structures. During the Roman invasion, the town was besieged and instead of surrendering the entire population committed collective suicide. Following the Arab conquest of Spain, the town became strategically important for the Moors.
Today we lived on carbohydrates. Toast and croissants, followed by lunch of tuna salad and pan con tomate and dinner was pizza. Drank five litres of water. Sam’s computer said we burned nearly 5200 calories, which puts us over 2.5 kilos burnt in four days.
It’s interesting to note the difference in calorie burn, mileages, power output and how the rides from the two previous days varied so much. Day three was all climb and descent and day four on the flat, which meant a doubling of the average kmh from 11.8 to 22.8. This was largely because of the walking done on day 3 on the too steep parts. The descents are usually the same speed – 50kmh+ but on day four a top speed of 65kmh was hit – just 5km short of the speed limit on that road. Strangely, on day four there was still 900m of climbing done (compared to 2100m on day three) but because of the lower levels of incline, a higher speed was achieved and almost double the distance. The same power was used on both days (this is calculated from heart rate and energy burn) but the overall mileage so different.
Quote of the Day
The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails - W.Ward