Another 200 Brevet - Polas terras Altas
Almost one year has passed since the first time I participate in a Brevet, and one week ago I did ride a 200 Brevet once more. Again the club organizing it was the CCRiazor from A Coruña (they do organize all the Brevets here in Galicia) but this time though things were a bit different for me.
For starters, last year I rode the 200 by the end of March (one month later than this time) and by then I had a lot more kms on my legs, including several rides over 100km and even one near 140km. This time the Brevet arrived after a couple of months of not much cycling (including 24 days of no cycling at all) the longer ride being a 75km ride and with the feeling that I was going to suffer way too much if I wanted to finish it.
But... I managed. I did finish it (in an acceptable amount of time) and I had lots and lots of good moments and fun. Oh, well, and a bit of suffering too of course! ;-D
The proposed route started at the usual place in A Coruña, near the sea, and then went inland on a hilly start with a long/steady climb. After that first climb the route went on a rollercoaster of ups and downs to end on a long descent back to the sea. This is the route in wikiloc:
A couple of kms less than 200, with +2400m of elevation gain (suuure, it turned out it was a bit more than that, almost +2800m).
I wasn't ready for something like that, so when my brevet-pal Álvaro asked me if I was going to participate, I quickly said "No" and I was totally convinced about it. But... exactly one week before the Brevet, another friend of mine (Xurxo) asked me the same thing - "Hey there! do you have this Brevet in your calendar for 2018?" - My answer was still "No", but not as convinced as the previous time. Xurxo told me he had been sick for some weeks and that he had been off the bike a long time - "C'mon!" - he said - "we will take it easy". The final push came from Dolo. Once I told her the proposal from Xurxo, she was in full-support mode and she encouraged me to give it a try. How could I refuse...? ;-P
After some thinking, we decided the best way to handle it was to do the same thing we did in 2017 for my first 300 Brevet. Dolo, the kids and me went to A Coruña by car, then they took a train to Vilagarcia and I did rent a room to stay in A Coruña that night. That was great, having 7-months old Emma with us did not give me much chance of getting a full night sleep in a while, and being able to sleep good before the Brevet was really nice.
I rented the room in Rialta, one of those university/college residences where students live. This one has also some rooms for rental. It was a cheap/good enough choice and it was like 7kms from the Brevet starting point, so it fit quite well for me.
After the check-in I put all my stuff in the room and went through a last-time check on everything. My plan was to leave everything ready before going to bed, to avoid some extra work in the morning. I had everything I would need for a 200 there: a couple of tubes, patches, multitool, tire levers, food, lights, etc. I went through it all and suddendly I came across the idea of checking the tires - "damn, how didn't I check them before!" - I thought. It had been a while since the last time I inspected them, looking for damage.
With the help of the front light, I started looking carefully at the front wheel first, slowly passing my fingers over it, slowly... - "what the...?!!?" - I found what looked like a deep cut on the tire. I felt a bit pissed off, as all I wanted was to have a quick dinner and go to sleep, but relieved that I did such check at that moment. The last thing I would like was to find out about that the next day, after having ridden 130km. "Ok, let's do this" - I thought while unpacking one of the 2 extra tires I had with me. I removed the front tire and, when I was about to replace it, another idea popped up in my mind - "mmm, let's take a closer look at the inside of the tire..." - and so I did. Again going over it slowly, carefully, I did inspect the whole tire, and it was perfectly fine! I thought about it for a moment, but in the end I decided to risk it and put back that tire. I was not happy with the idea of doing the Brevet with a brand-new tire.
Once everything was checked and ok I left the room and went to the cafetería in the residential complex, looking for something to have for dinner. This is students-land and so the cafetería did not have much options. I went for the students menu, which was cheap and good enough.
After dinner I went back to the room and it took almost no time to fell asleep. I didn't have the super-nice sleep I was hoping for (the bed was horrible and I woke up a couple of times with some pain on some muscles on my back) but it was nice to be able to sleep more than 2 hours in a row.
I woke up 20 minutes before the alarm clock started. I had a quick shower and got dressed with the cycling clothes already (except the jersey and the cycling shoes). I put all my stuff in the car and put the bike on the bike rack. I was sooo excited, once again, it was Brevet time!
It was quite early when I arrived at the starting point. I took the bike and finished dressing while seeing familiar faces doing the same thing around me. No trace of Xurxo, though. He appeared just before I went to pick up my Brevet card.
With everything ready and the card in my pocket, I waited for Xurxo to get ready while listening to the organization. They gave us some info about the route, and about the fact that there was going to be a lot of Guardia Civil on the road today, as there was going to be a Cars/Rallies race also near Coruña that same day.
As we were near 70 people, they asked us to leave in smaller groups of 15-20 people max., separated by 5 minutes or so. I decided to wait, as Xurxo was still getting ready (man, that reminded me of some other time...). David, Álvaro and Abel, three friends I met during the Brevets last year decided to wait also, so we could go together.
And, finally, I left Bastiagueiro with them, Xurxo, some other familiar faces from last year and some new faces, like Miguel Hortas (with whom Xurxo and me did stay for the rest of the Brevet). We started on a very easy pace (too slow, IMHO). It was cold, and it was getting colder by the moment (from -1ºC to -4ºC according to my Garmin Edge 520). I could feel the cold on my hands, but the rest of the body was ok. The upper part was even warm, probably thanks to the long sleeve jersey from Isadore Apparel that I was wearing (really comfy and warm jersey).
We did stay as a group for some time. At some moments it stretched a bit, then we got more closer again. We did ride by lakes, through woods, under small bridges and across flat roads surrounded by fields. At one point I got a bit tired of the slow pace and started to go a bit faster, passing some of the guys and getting closer to the lead of the group. Xurxo was always closer, talking a lot with Miguel, probably catching up on their businesses. I talked with this guy and that other guy, introduced myself to some other people I didn't know before. It was fun, so much fun.
We were rolling faster now and, before I was fully aware of it, we were not a bigger group anymore. It was just me, Xurxo, Miguel and 2-3 more guys from the organizing club (CCRiazor). Then the biggest climb started. The rest of the guys put some space on us - "I'll keep on my pace Xurxo, but I'm ok, go ahead if you want" - I told Xurxo, there was a long day on the saddle ahead and I did not want to burn myself on the first 50 kms. "Nooo way, this pace is just fine!" - he replied. We kept on, slowly, chatting. I've known him since high-school times, when we were like 15 years old. Since then we took quite different paths in life and he had been cycling for more than 20 years now. We laughed a lot thinking that we never would have imagined riding a Brevet together. "Quien te ha visto, y quien te ve!" - he told me several times that morning.
It was still cold, but I wasn't feeling the cold anymore. I remember that, during the climb, I was dreaming of removing the scarf I had on my neck, and a couple of times I really considered removing the winter gloves. No time for that, though, I did not want to stop in the middle of the climb.
It was the last 5 kms before the first stop, in Teixeiro, and we talked a bit about the procedure, stopping to get the stamp on our cards. Xurxo looked at me with kind of a puzzled look when I told him "Yeah, the cards will get a stamp and we will get some coffee!", I bet his idea was not exactly to do a coffee stop but, hey!, we have to keep up with the true randonneuring spirit!
We joined the other guys partly before the stop, partly at the stop. We had a quick, strong, coffee (tea for Xurxo), we got the first stamp on the cards and we left Teixeiro towards our next stop, Corredoiras. Before leaving I did remove the scarf and the light reflective vest. The sun had been shining for a couple of hours already, no need for those anymore.
As soon as we left Teixeiro, my chain got loose. I switched gears on the front, trying to get the chain back in place without having to stop... but no luck. I did stop, turned the bike upside-down and as fast as I could put the chain back in place.
"Hey, do you need help?" - a couple of other randonneurs shouted while passing by me. "Nope, I'm fine, thanks!" I replied.
It was a quick fix, but when I resumed the ride I was alone and I had to push it a bit to catch up first with Xurxo (who slowed down a bit to wait for me) and then together we pushed to catch the other guys.
The road towards Corredoiras is really nice. Twisted, secondary road. The kind of road with space for one car at a time only. Not really hilly, mostly flat and with a tarmac in very good condition. The kind of road where you push it a bit and you can go fast. That meant we arrived at the next stop (like 20-something kms after the first one) quite fast. And the stop was fast too. We did stop at a gas station, made a somehow big queue in the small shop-like box to get our stamps, refill our water bottles, and quickly get back on the bikes to keep on with the route.
We kept riding for a while on that kind of secondary roads until we arrived in Sobrado dos Monxes. There was not a scheduled stop here, but I think we should have stopped for a moment, visited the outside of the beautiful monastery there and take some pics. But we didn't. Those who did not refill the water bottles in the previous stop, did a very fast stop at a public fountain, but the rest of us kept on riding. The next bigger climb of the day was waiting for us around the corner.
I've made that climb before, coming out of Sobrado you pass by a lake, with some beautiful scenery around the road, and it starts going up, up, up. Not really a tough climb, but good to warm your legs a bit. On this climb we passed by a couple of guys that were doing some work on a field by the road. They cheered us up, like supporters on one of the big races out there. I wonder what were they thinking, seeing so many cyclists going up there. We also came upon a couple of farmers that were leading a group of cows to a pasture nearby. We weren't going any fast, but we took it even more easy as we were approaching them. A couple of cows simply stopped in the middle of the road, staring at us - "Don't worry about them, they know where to go!" - one of the farmers said. We did some zig-zagging to avoid them and waved at the farmers while standing on the bikes to regain some speed.
When we were about to reach the top of the hill, I felt some pain on my left shoulder. That kind of pain you feel when one of your muscles suffers a contracture. Moving the left arm was painful, but I managed to arrive at the top and there I removed my hands from the handlebar and sat straight on the bike, still pedaling. I did some rotation moves on the arm by the shoulder. Luckily the pain went away easily. Meanwhile, the guys had put some space on me again, so I had to push a bit to catch up with them. This time it was easier though, the long 10-12 kms descent and the new wheels on the Jake helped a lot there!
We went all the way down to our next stop, Friol, where we did a second coffee stop and got another stamp on our Brevet cards. When we where about to resume our ride, I realized my bottle was almost empty, I had forgotten to refill it in the café. Luckily, there was a fountain in the big square in the middle of town, so I did a short stop to refill there and off we went again.
We left Friol alone, just Xurxo, Miguel and me. I knew very well the road ahead of us, Friol-Parga-Baamonde, I've ridden there several times, as part of one of my usual routes. The weather was wonderful at that time, sunny, fresh but not cold at all. We turned on our inner engines and quickly moved into an allegro pace. Less chat, more pedaling. At one point we were doing clock rotations, taking turns pulling our little trío by farms and pastures. Only one thing slowed us down a bit, a shepperd was crossing the road with a flock of sheep, we were careful not to scare them. We waved as we passed by the farmer.
And so we arrived quite fast in Parga. There was no stop scheduled there and we didn't stop. While passing through the village, Xurxo and me were wondering about which exit the track was going to point us to. There are two roads you can take to leave Parga towards the bigger N-VI we had to take to get to Baamonde. One goes a bit more northwest, passing by A Moscosa, and it is an interesting climb to do, while the other one goes northeast and is way easier. The track went on the easier one and so did we.
Once on the main N-VI, we had a long way down before arriving in the next stop, Baamonde (which is a couple of kms from the house where my mother was born, btw). We rolled fast. The idea was to do the lunch stop in Baamonde, and I guess we were hungry enough already. Miguel was on the lead, I was right behind him with Xurxo close to my wheel. On one of the turns, both Miguel and me were riding closer to the middle of the lane, while Xurxo was riding outside the lane. Then I heard a big BLAFH! noise behind me. I looked back and shouted -"Are you ok? that didn't sound good!" - Xurxo was ok but he replied he could feel something was not right. He rode over a pool of small glasses (probably from a car crash) and he was afraid of getting a flat tire. We rolled a bit more and I let him pass to take a look from behind. There it was, the rear tire was loosing air by the second and soon the tube was completely empty.
Time for a pit-stop to fix that flat tire. Both of them have way more experience than me, and it took them no time to replace the tube and check the tire for glasses that may be sticked to it. Miguel and me were lucky to be riding more towards the middle of the lane, that saved us, but we did a check on our tires too, just in case. I took turns with Xurxo to pump a bit of air into the new tube, just enough to be able to get to the gas station a couple of kilometers ahead, at the entrance of Baamonde.
Before leaving I packed my gloves into one of the pockets on the back of my jersey. It wasn't that cold and we were going to stop in a few kilometers anyway. Without the gloves, I did dare taking a couple of action shots with the phone, while riding behind both of them (not that the quality is that good, though!).
Miguel had one of those adapters you can use to pump tubes with presta valves in gas stations, something quite handy to carry with you in a Brevet (already added it to my checklist for the next one), so we did a short stop at the entrance of Baamonde to pump some more air into Xurxo's back tire.
After that stop, we did just a few meters until we stop at a cafe again for lunch (+ get another stamp on our cards).
We really made a bad choice there. The service was not really good, it was these kind of service that leaves you with the sensation that you are annoying them just by ordering some sandwiches and drinks. A lot more riders had the same idea and stopped there, so the small cafe got really crowded quite fast. We ordered a couple of bocatas de tortilla and some drinks, but when the time came to pick up our bocatas there was only one there (Miguel and Xurxo were going to share it). We assumed mine was still in the kitchen and we waited a bit for it. After a while I asked the waitress about it, and she replied (surprised) that she had left the bocata on the counter already. Someone had taken my bocata and they couldn't prepare another one because they ran out of bread. This thing already had taken us a lot of time, but leaving without lunch was not an option. In the end they said they could prepare me a burger, so that's what I had for lunch.
We refilled our bottles and we took the road again, leaving the N-VI and taking the smaller road towards Villalba, then turning left on an even smaller road. Once more the route took us on a beautiful country road, this time going a bit up, up, up all the time. It took us up to a small hill full of pine trees and windmills. The last part of the climb was quite steep (I think I did spot some 13-14% showing up on the screen of the Garmin) and it took me a huge effort to make it to the top. By the time I got there I was alone. The guys were riding faster than me there, but it was ok.
I should have stopped there at the top to take some pics. The view was awesome, specially on a day like that, all sunny and cloudless. But I didn't want to loose them so I went right away for the downhill which was... well, interesting. Really steep downhill on a totally broken road, full of deep potholes, loose stones, some gravel... super-fun. At one point the rattling noises on the bike were so strong and the front fender was moving so much, that I thought it was going to just fly away from the bike.
At the bottom of the descent I got a glimpse of them. They were a few meters ahead. I left that broken road, turned right and into a much better, bigger road. I kept on with my own pace, no need to push it, the last stamp-stop was just a few kms ahead of us, and there we got together again.
That stop was quick. Just got the stamp on our cards (and the second coke of the day - suuugggaaaarrr!!) and off we went again. We rode for a while and we passed by Guitiriz before taking the N-VI again, but this time on the other direction, towards our final destination, A Coruña. After Guitiriz we rode on a mostly flat road, just going a bit up and down from time to time. Miguel, Xurxo and me were still together and we rode with some other people for while, passing some riders and being passed by some others.
Some people did an additional stop in Monte Salgueiro. It seems there is a place there were cyclists from the CCRiazor use to stop. We discussed about it, but we decided not to stop again, specially because we had just stopped a few moments ago to get that last stamp.
We were back to chatting mode. I've this recurrent topic that happens to me on every group ride with new people -"oh, is this a gravel bike?" - someone asked me - "hey, isn't that a ciclocross bike? are you doing ciclocross usually?" - somebody else asked me. We also have plenty of chat about bikes (obviously) and there was even some talk about the big races for 2018, with the Giro starting relatively soon (not that I could say much there, as I'm not really a follower of those events). We also talked about the next Brevets we should do in 2018 and about some ultra-endurance races like the transcontinental race or the transatlantic race.
And so, chatting, we arrived near kilometer 160 or so and then it was pay day time!!. The long descent from the so-called terras altas towards sea level started. This was the kind of long fast descent that was just perfect to realize how good the new wheels on the Jake are, compared with its stock ones. Without any pedaling, I just laid down on the bike and enjoyed the descent, going fast and passing other riders like crazy. Then Miguel passed me, then I passed him again... that long descent was so much fun.
After the first part of the descent there was a short uphill, then some more descent. After that it started going slightly up again, and I noticed that I was tired. They were riding just like they were fresh (or so it seemed to me) but for me even the smaller bumps on the road needed quite the effort. I ate a bit more, my last banana and another cereals bar. I told them I was tired, that I was going to just kept on an easy pace and that it was ok if they want to go on a bit faster. They kept themselves at close range, always ahead but always on sight.
We arrived near Betanzos, where the last climb started. The road goes around town, up, up, up, not steep but constantly up. I used to drive on this road a lot some years ago, and the road hadn't changed that much since then, so I started going mentally through it, trying to remember how it was and what was ahead of me. There was just one climb left, Guisamo. The guys were a bit further already, and I went up that climb really really slow. I could tell we were getting closer and closer to the big city, there was much more traffic. The whole thing reminded me of the arrival during the 300 last year, only this time I was really lucky it wasn't night time. A couple of cars passed me too close, I got a bit anxious and temptation of stopping for a moment started to grow on me. But I managed to get to the end of the climb without setting my feet on the ground.
Miguel and Xurxo were there, waiting for me - "Here you are! From here is all the way down, my friend!" - Miguel told me, and indeed it was. After the exhaustion I felt on that last climb, I was quite good again. It was really nice to be with them again, specially because Miguel knows those roads (and this whole route) by heart, so I didn't have to look into the garmin navigation after getting into the city. I just had to follow him.
We arrived quite happy in Bastiagueiro. To get to the ending point there is a short, steep ramp you have to take to the parking lot where the cars are parked. As I did last year in the 300, I was behind them and I did a super-effort to pass them, shouting - "Wooohooo!! I'll arrive first!!!" - Miguel just laughed, Xurxo did stand on his Bianchi and pushed, so we both arrived together, standing and pushing like in an end-of-race sprint, big smiles across our faces, sooo damn happy!
We put the arrival times into our cards and we put the cards into the famous suitcase. It felt so good to be there again, after finished the Brevet!
We also took a moment to take a couple of pics outside, just before packing up everything into our cards, change clothes, and go for a beer together. Perfect ending for a perfect long day of cycling.