It was the end of a week’s non-stop cycling today, each day on the go between eight and eleven hours (despite Strava’s claims). The fatigue was beginning to set in a little so the easier days ahead, including a rest day in Pamplona, were inviting.
Doing this makes you realize just how elite the professionals on the Tour de France and Giro de Italia are. Their average training regimes will include four to five hours cycling per day and they will top 150/200km, including climbs which is an average speed of 30/40kmh. Their fat burn rate can be up to a kilo a day, which is amazing if you’re on a crash diet but if you’re a sinewed athlete, this will be a problem as having to consume up to 10,000 calories a day either side of five hours of riding must be quite challenging for these human greyhounds.
Sam and I are burning fat at the rate of around half a kilo a day, give or take, by just poodling along at our sub 20kmh speed and you quickly learn when you’re energy depletes and what is best to eat and not eat, as I mentioned elsewhere. It’s the mid morning and mid afternoon stops that are where you need to replenish as I can go for about two to three hours before faceplanting through a sugar low. I’ve also had some special SIS gel energy shots that give a great and quick boost but really shouldn’t be tried if not exercising as take one of these and you’ll be doing the wall of death around your office and in need of a Ritalin shot to counter the effect.
The actual ride today was sublime. We left Soria feeling fatigued and the first 20km felt harder, even though it was fairly flat with gentle rolling hills as we entered the Sierra de Cebollera national park with its beautiful greenery. Then we hit the first big climb, which was actually to be the last – 1400m. Today it was more labored with every push as we paid the price for not eating properly the night before or at breakfast.
We wound our way through some of the most beautiful and lush landscape as we worked through the mountains, crested with wind turbines that were catching the strong gusts that coursed through the range. The sky would switch from blue to dark grey within minutes in yet another micro-climate that seems to make this region so varied.
We then came across what looked from a distance like ruins of a castle but cycling past saw they were what had once been an entire hamlet of a dozen houses, all razed to the ground. The buildings were old, probably 18th century but the damage recent and we suspected part of the Spanish civil conflict, which was brutal and unrelenting as General Franco elicited the help of Nazi Germany under the name Condor Legion to use its latest technologies to bomb and ruthlessly rout out all the partisan forces. We moved on to find the next villages untouched and unharmed and continued through the beautiful village of Yanguas where we lunched before heading over our last mountain, leaving Castille Y Leon as we started – on a peak – before entering the immediately arrid La Rioja region and rolling downhill to our final destination of the day in Arnedo, a small town built out of a historic community who lived in the rocks. We were now in dinosaur country.
The end of the evening was sublime. We went out for dinner at a truly authentic local bar/restaurant. After watching Monday night Bullfighting, we opted for those classics of bacon, huevos and patatas (bacon, egg and chips). The evening was topped off by a beautiful Rioja and after the Toros finished on TV, our ears were massaged by the ambient music of Now That’s What I call Christmas, with Wham’s Last Christmas topping off the evening. All in all a magnificent day.
Today we consumed more carbs; Toast for breakfast, pastry for second breakfast, lunch was pasta and dinner was egg and chips with salad – oh and Rioja and dos Cerveca por favor. We drank five litres of water. Calorie burn was 4809 according to Sam’s machine, which I choose over Strava any day.