My first brevet
Last saturday I did ride my first Brevet, a 200km brevet organized by the CCRiazor from A Coruña. Doing something like that has been in my personal todo list since I started cycling (or, at least, since I started cycling a bit more seriously). I guess having Super Randonneur (George Tellalov) and the Randonneur of the cyclades (Sascha Welter) as friends helped a bit with that desire.
I've to say that I totally fell in love with the whole Brevet thing. The spirit, the people, the smooth ride (I was really really lucky about the weather)... everything was just perfect. For sure one of the best experiences I've had in my life.
Keep on reading if you want all the details!
The starting point was in A Coruña, then the route went all along the coast (the famous "Costa da morte", literally "The Coast of the death") up to Muxía. From there we had to come back to A Coruña, taking some small roads with a bit of climbing, separated from the coast. You can see the track in wikiloc, here:
The meeting time was 07:30, with 20 minutes for everybody to get their brevet cards and get things ready. The starting time was scheduled for 08:00.
Some days before the brevet, I did consider renting a room in a nearby hotel so I wouldn't have to wake up too early (driving from my place to the starting point would be like 45-50 minutes), but in the end I decided not to.
The day before the Brevet I packed the bike, tools, spare tires, pump and a backpack full of cycling clothes into the car. Then I had a huge dinner (pasta with chicken and broccoli) and I went to bed a bit earlier than usual, quite excited!
I woke up with time enough to have a shower, have a full breakfast and be on the road without hurries. But then, as soon as I was leaving the garage, I noticed the car had not enough gas to get to A Coruña. "Dammit!" - I thought - "and at this time all gas stations around here are closed!". Luckily there was gas enough to get to the next big resting area in the highway. I put 20 eur of gas as fast as I could and hit the road again, pushing it a bit over the speed limits, really worried I would not make it in time.
I arrived near the starting point around 7:35, but I could not find anybody around. "Fuck, where is everybody?" - I said to myself inside the car. I drove around the place for some minutes and I started to think that maybe I had gottten to the wrong place when I noticed a cyclist passing by. I hoped he was going to do the Brevet too, and I blindly followed him to the right place ("UFFFF!").
I got out of the car and quickly took the bike to the place where they were giving the brevet cards. It was almost 7:50 by then and I rushed back to the car (with the card, of course) and started to dress to get ready as fast as I could.
As I've said, I had plenty of cycling clothes in that backpack, as I wasn't sure about the weather, so I had to decide what to wear. I wanted to wear my club colors, so I put on the long pants and long sleeve jersey with a really warm long sleeve base layer. Over the jacket I put a reflective fluor vest and I did pack the rain jacket in one of the back pockets.
People started to gather near my car and suddendly somone shouted "hey, let's take the group picture!" - I did hesitate, but I did not to risk it even more so I just kept on dressing myself.
The groups started to leave and I was still getting ready. We were like 55 people, and they left the starting point in groups of 15-20. I got ready in time to leave with the last group... or so I thought. I was already on the bike when I realized I had forgotten to put on the gloves! I did open the car trunk again, got the gloves, closed the car and got on the bike... but they were already gone.
So, there I was, starting my first Brevet ever, and doing it alone. "Great, the story of my live, riding alonem even in Brevets!!!".
I had to push it a bit, but soon I did spot some riders ahead of me. I pushed a bit more and passed some of them. First a couple of women, then a couple of guys... A bit later I catched up with the last bigger group and found a place for me in the middle of it.
Once in the group, I started talking to people, say "hello!" here, "hi!" there and the ocassional "Let's see if this weather will last!" too.
When I saw it I could not resist myself and asked him - "Wow, you must be carring a big tortilla sandwich in there!". He did laugh and we started chatting. He is used to do long distance cycling, and he knew lots of people from the organizing club.
We rode all together in that group until the point where we got to a smaller road. There the group stretched a bit and as soon as it started to go up a bit seriously (on the so-called "Subida a la cantera") people started to spread around. We weren't a group anymore.
Alvaro, me and another 3 guys (one of them with a lovely Genesis Croix de Fer) rode together all the way up and a bit more, until we split again. Since then Alvaro and me rode together for something like 15 kms. We chatted a lot and enjoyed the ride and the scenery around. At one point we did spot another big group ahead. "Let's get into that group" - I told him, and we tried to catch them.
Catching them was tougher than expected. They were keeping up a good speed and the road there was kind of a rollercoaster, with lots of ups, downs and turns. We were able to see them on the next bump, but when we arrived there, we were not able to see them anymore.
We catched them at the entrance of Laracha and we found our way into the middle of the group (yeah! comfy ride again!). It was talking time again, more "hello!", "hi!" and the ocassional "how are you doing?". There were some strong guys in that group, who where pulling us. It felt indeed like going on a train ride.
While enjoying the train ride, I realized a couple of hours have passed already, so I did reach one of the back pockets and brought up a banana. It was time to eat something. Alvaro decided to eat something too, but he had all the food in the backpack, so he would have to stop. As I had 2 bananas in that pocket, I just gave him one. We made fun of that, and how much money I was going to ask for that banana!
We arrived at the first control point (Ponteceso) with that group, crowded with people from the organizing club, who know the best place for a stop and led us to a nice café that was already full of cyclists when we arrived. I did not took a picture (but I should have take it) of the outside of the building, it was really impressive, all surrounded by bikes of all types.
Inside all was noise, conversations, shoutings and laughing, loooots of laughing. People were having a good time.
I got my card stamped and I ordered a coffee and something to eat. And then I realized that, with all the rush to leave the starting point, I had forgotten my money in the car!. I had my credit card with me, but paying a coffee and a muffin with a credit card... no good. Luckily Alvaro offered to pay for my coffee (and then it was his turn to make fun of how was he going to pay for the banana!).
We left Ponteceso with some other people, which a bit later gathered again into a group, then it did split again into smaller groups. We managed to build a small group, 5 riders, whom did stay together all the way to the next control point in Muxía.
From Ponteceso to Muxía the route was lovely. Ups and downs and more turns, nothing really painfully steep, and loooots of nice views of the sea, the cliffs... Some of those views got sticked to my head, I can still recall them vividly while writing these lines.
Somewhere along the way, at that part of the route, we started talking about the weather. The forecast had been horrible during the whole week before the Brevet. They said it was going to rain, hard, specially after 12:00. So far the weather was really nice, cloudy and fresh but without strong winds and no rain at all.
I remember that the day before the Brevet I was hesitating if going for it or not, because of the weather. It turned out we had no rain during the whole day and the weather was simply fantastic. I'm glad I did not follow the weather forecast advices.
The weather was so nice that we had to do a short stop to remove some clothes (all of us). I did remove the scarf there and the vest, that helped cooling me down a bit.
We arrived in Muxía and we looked for a place to eat something and stamp our cards. We found a small bar and, at first, we were tempted by the daily menu, which was full of nice dishes (fresh fish, octopus, soups and other seafood-based stuff). We quickly decided not to take that though, it would have taken too long and then we would have to go on the last hilly part with our bellies too stuffed.
We had some nice sandwiches (see pic) with cokes and beers, and we got our cards stamped again (Fran did it for me this time). It was a quick lunch, but we had some time for chatting and getting to know each other.
We put back on vests and jackets (temps had dropped a bit while we were having lunch) and then we left Muxía with the spirits high and with power enough to start the climbing. Daniel, who had more experience than the rest of us, suggested to take it easy, specially on the first part. We still had +100km ahead of us, mostly going up, up, up. Fran pushed from the start and left the 4 of us behind really fast (we didn't find him again on the road, he was waiting at the last control point - end of the brevet - when we arrived).
We kept on, chatting, taking it easy, enjoing the road and the ride.
On one of the uphills, a phone started ringing. It was Alvaro's and it was a work call (he had one before, while we were having lunch). There were some trouble at his office and they need him. He was kind enough to try to give them support while riding... crazy guy. We were going up on a steeper part, nobody talking to preserve some energy and there he was, like if he was riding on a total flat surface, giving instructions so people could fix the problem.
We made loooots of jokes of that moment for the rest of the ride.
Conversations slowed down a bit, some times we just kept on, pedaling and pedaling. We passed other brevet riders, we gather some people into our smaller group and then we lost them again. Nobody passed though.
When we were around 10km from the next control point in Santa Comba, keeping up with the guys started to be harder and harder. I decided not to keep pushing, I was afraid I could get burnt in the process, and so I was dropped and left behind. I did stick at my own pace, watching them getting further and further away. I did not loose contact though, keeping them on sight until I joined them at the control point in Santa Comba, in a small gas station at the entrance of town.
I felt relieved when I stop there. I needed it. I went inside to get my card stamped for the third time and I bought a bottle of coke, a big bottle of water and some chocolate. I packed the chocolate in one of the back pockets, drank the coke right away and refilled my water bottle.
We stop for some minutes there, chatting. That resting time was priceless, I did recover myself and was able to go up to the end of the Brevet without much trouble. While we were resting, we saw several small groups like ours passing by the gas station. Only another rider did stop at the gas station (I shared half of my big bottle of water with him, so he could refill his bottles too).
After Santa Comba we still had some uphill ahead, but not really much. We passed another small group of 4 riders, who pushed it a bit and joined us. We started then taking turns on the lead, going by pairs.
Slowly, the road was becoming more and more wet. It did not rain on us, but it seemed like if it had been raining just before we got there. The closer we were getting to A Coruña, the wetter it was. Later, after the brevet, I heard that the faster people got totally soaked with strong rain, while people that were slower than us found some rain also on the last part. We were really really lucky, just perfect timing!.
We kept on a good pace until we start the descents towards A Coruña and then things got really fast. We had a couple of long descents and I grabbed the drops, literally laying on the bike and almost not pushing the pedals at all.
The last part of the ride was definetely fast. We entered A Coruña from O Burgo, then turned at O Temple, joining a bigger road full of traffic. We had to make a row, I was riding third and Alvaro was fourth. Suddendly I heard him shouting, there was lots of noise from the cars and I tried to see what had happened, but I only was able to spot him dragging his bike onto the sidewalk. I shouted at the other two guys and we did stop as soon as we were able to. We turned back, just to see it was simply a flat tire.
A few minutes later we were climbing the last small ramp before the beautiful downhill by the beach that ended in what was, 9 hours before, our starting point.
I was really really happy when I stop in front of the door of the room where the small suitcase where we had to put our stamped cards were. I felt incredibly good, I felt accomplished.
We met Fran again there, and we greet everybody else that was around or arrived a bit after we did. We then took turns to put the arrival date on our Brevet cards and put the cards into a small suitcase decorated with drawings of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. We also took a picture of the 5 of us together, it made sense considering we did almost the whole thing together.
In the end I did 212.8 km with a total elevation gain of 3,226m in 9 hours, 6 minutes and 31 seconds, and I had one of the best experiences I've had in my life so far.