It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I REALLY loved Spain… It wasn’t one thing and its not really about comparing it to another country per se, but some of the things about Spain that I think contributed to me loving the fuck out of it and labeling it as Uber Rad:
- Awesome food – If you come here and don’t ride, you will chunk out massively
- Good hotels – In the 4 and 5 star range I reckon that Spanish hotels outgun their French and Italian brothers
- Amazing scenery – Whether it be the barren rolling hills or planes, or the lushness of some of the mountains, it was all pretty stunning
- Great roads – Great surfaces, excellent variety and hardly any traffic… Excellent
- Excellent riding – A direct link the above two points really, the ingredients were in place and the riding benefits as a result. I also liked the climbs a lot more in Spain.
The interesting stat here is that I rode 230km’s less this week than the Japan trip, but did the same amount of climbing, not a flat one then. Here is the run down:
- 5 days of riding
- 15 hours and 36 minutes
- 8,173m of climbing
A few tips and tricks
Well, I guess this depends on whether or not you decide to utilize a tour group or not, again, its cleaner, but does come with some risks obviously. As such, my advice is based on using a tour group and how to maximize:
1. Tour groups
- Make sure two things: 1) your operator has accreditation for the race and 2) They have local knowledge or Spanish crew involved. Local knowledge is key, handy with the lingo as well…
- A combo of both locals and ex-pats running the tour is ideal, which is why On the Road tours was good, half the crew English and the other half Spanish, a good combo
- You’re at the mercy of the other guests a bit on these things, so my advice is to bring your own posse. I was lucky in terms of just having Dickie and after he bitched himself I was a solo unit, so like a custom tour in the end
- Make no mistake – If you come on one of these to watch a race and ride, the days are pretty rammed and there is not a lot of free time, so don’t expect to be swaning around a lot, its venga venga venga most days.
2. Following a Grand Tour
First up – The Vuelta is the most chilled Grand Tour to see. The Tour de France is feverish and rammed and the Giro is more of a real ‘riders’ GT to see, but also pretty relaxed apparently. If you want to bust your GT cherry gently, then pick the Vuelta for sure:
- They cover a lot of ground these races, not just in riding distance (Vuelta was 3400km’s), but also in transfer distances. So, be prepared to spend a lot of time in a van/bus/car if you want to watch one for a week and you will travel a long way, usually in a new hotel each night
- As per above – Accreditation is key… not only to maximize seeing the race, but also just getting around! It’s a ball ache if you don’t have it
- Think ahead – If you go to watch a mountain top finish, then chances are you could be out and about or up a mountain for 4 hours or more. The traffic on these things is epic, so make sure you always have your GO BAG on you with food, jacket, breath mints and any other such shit you need to stop a melt down/tantrum
- There can be a lot of waiting around, so be patient and have your own crew, it makes a big difference. If you want to see a finish, like the last 500m, make sure you get in early and then be prepared to wait it out!!
3. Riding Spanish styles
- I loved the Spanish riding… Sure, it coincided with awesome form (which may now go to waste with no racing until the end of October, joy), but there were other factors that contributed clearly
- The climbs here seemed to be structured in a way that I enjoyed more (Exception: Angliru), slightly shallower gradients and shorter lengths, a lot in the 5 to 10km range, which means you can pack more climbing in without feeling shredded by 20km long monsters
- Again, compact is key here for climbing – 50/34 and a 27 cassette. If you are going to ride the Angliru, then consider a 28 or 29 on the back. I wished I had a 29 to be honest, or even something in the 30’s!
- Spain in Sept can be a mix of weather and I did use the arm warmers and Gilet, so make sure you pack for all sorts of weather, including extreme cold at the top of mountains
4. All & Sundry
- They eat dinner mega late here in Spain – Be prepared. If you’re like me and need to have your Fishfingers and mash at 6.30pm then you need to make sure you prep for an afternoon snack to avoid a melt down
- Yeah… Book your train trips ahead and on-line… AND, Make sure you have plenty of contingency time between legs, I found out the hard way when it was rammed back to back and that sucks
- They love wind turbines in Spain… Just a random call out
- Spanish people are super nice and chilled and English was really good… Its quite easy to get around and in spite of the hype, no one tried to pick pocket me in Barcelona, but thanks to everyone who made me super nervous about it
So… that’s Spain done and dusted… an amazing week and time, climbing the Angliru exceeded expectations and the Vuelta was awesome. I thoroughly recommend anyone to head there and check it out, a fantastic country to visit and even better to ride in!
Next up? Something RADICALLY different… Stay tuned.