Vuelta Baby!


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    posted 8 Feb 2017, 02:36 by Rowan Mc Murray

    A quick update to bring you news that I'm going to race what I think is the toughest bike race in the world! It's called the PEdAL Ed Transcontinental Race No. 5, and it starts in Belgium and ducks across to Greece, taking in a few hills and with absolutely no support. It's gonna be great, and of course there is a new blog, which you can see over here! You followed me around Spain, now follow me across the whole of Europe!

    The final post!

    posted 25 Jan 2013, 07:30 by Rowan Mc Murray

    So here it is - the last Vuelta post.  It has been a long time coming, I know.  And to be honest, I have forgotten a lot of what I was going to put in it, so it will not be too long.

    I did make it home, of course.  I managed to get my atm card working in Germany, and bought the rest of the train tickets I needed there.  I got in to work on Monday morning, fresh and eager to start.  What happened there is a completely different story of course!  But there are a few more things to say about Spain.

    Spain is a beautiful country.  I admit that some of the cities are not really the prettiest, and of course Australia has better beaches (!) but there are some fantasticly beautiful parts of Spain.

    Spanish people are wonderful.  Of course, you get idiots and nasty people everywhere, but there seemed to be a lower proportion in Spain, and most of the people I met were just wonderfully friendly and helpful.

    Spanish drivers are fantastic.  Again, there are exceptions, and the big cities can get pretty crazy, but as a rule, they are great.  These guys look at the road around them.  They look ahead and drive with anticipation.  They have patience and manners.  Basically, they are just great, and a pleasure to share the road with.

    The Vuelta is much smaller than the Tour de France.  Much.  The crowds are much smaller, the caravan is only 4 or 5 cars, hotels aren't nearly so jam packed, it is all just smaller.  This, of course, makes it much more fun to follow for three weeks.  Honestly, following the Tour de France, by about the fifth day I was absolutely sick of the promo caravan, and would have been just as happy to have them all get lost somewhere for the rest of the race...  Following the Vuelta, you can pretty much ride until 5 minutes before the race gets there, then start again 10 minutes after it is gone.  Much more pleasant, and allows for longer food stops!

    Spanish roads are... well, generally pretty good.  But there are a few negatives, like some of them do not allow bikes, so you end up riding through the path next to them, which is just deep sand.  Hard work, particularly when it is hot.

    Spanish weather is... well, I loved it.  Nice and warm (topping 40°C a few times) with the rain falling mainly on the plain (at least it never rained on me until I was riding back down to the plain where Madrid is) and generally being pleasant.

    Overall the trip was great.  I took a lot of soft options in terms of riding, and was generally performing very poorly.  I attribute this mainly to the fact that my training basically consisted of doing an Ironman two days before I started following the Vuelta, and not much else.

    So why has it taken me so long to write this last post?  Well, firstly just because I have been lazy.  A few other things have come up to keep me busy, and I just hadn't got to it.  Secondly though, it is always a bit disappointing to finish a blog.  It sort of prooves that the adventure is at an end.  Which is why it is so much more enjoyable doing it when the next adventure is coming up. 

    There are a few little things, for example I am looking now at riding the tour version of Amstel Gold.  Should be a good test day to see if I can actually get close to the distances I would need for the next big adventure.  Ah yes, the next big adventure.

    In 2010 I planned to ride the Giro, and didn't make it because life got in the way.  This year is about as good a course as you could hope for if you were going to ride the whole thing unsupported.  This year, I have enough leave to take the time of work.  This year, it is possible I will be on the same continent anyway.  Everything is telling me that I should ride the Giro this year.  And today, I submitted my leave form.  There are still a few things that could go wrong.  Aside from the obvious risk of accident or injury, I am looking at changing jobs some time soon, possibly including a change of continent, and that would make things harder.  So it is now a major goal, but unofficially.  I am hoping to have a decision on what job I will be in by the end of the month, at which time it will be sort of secure.  So I'm not promising anything yet, but I have started training for it already - I had pizza the other day.  Check back over the next week or two to see if it has become official!


    Final Vuelta post - Coming soon!

    posted 10 Jan 2013, 05:09 by Rowan Mc Murray

    Yes, there will be another post on the Vuelta, and it will be here soon - but I am focussed on the next adventure at the moment - stay tuned for details, but it shouldn't be too hard to guess!

    Multi step process

    posted 10 Sep 2012, 00:55 by Rowan Mc Murray   [ updated 10 Sep 2012, 00:55 ]

    Step 1: Ride the final stage the night before, and arrive in Madrid minutes after the closure of the train station.

    Step 2: Get up the next morning, ride back to train station to buy ticket.

    Step 3: Ascertain that today only their system is down and they are unable to sell you international tickets, so just buy ticket for train to Barcelona.

    Step 4: Ask at least 5 times if you can take your bike complete and as is on said Barcelona train.

    Step 5: Leave bike, bags and all, at station, go watch a bike race.

    Step 6: Cheer madly for Simon Clarke winning climber's jersey, a bit for Contador for winning overall but who you are still not sure of having failed to find really good steak on your whole trip through Spain (lucky everything else tasted so good), a bit for Valverde winning sprinter's jersey and combination jersey but who you are still not sure of because while he may not have been a client of the doping doctor Fuente his dog definitely was, and feel bad for Rodriguez who rode such a good race and had all of the jerseys so recently but ended up empty handed, again!

    Step 7: Return to station, pick up bike and all, walk confidently with time in hand towards platform.

    Step 8: Realise that because you are catching a fast train in Spain, you need to put your stuff through an X-ray machine. Swear quietly to self.

    Step 9: Remove all bags from bike, and put them through machine. Wheel bike around it anyway. Repack bike, because it is so much easier to move everything that way. Be glad you left race quickly, and still have 3 minutes.

    Step 10: Note expression of train staff as you approach with bicycle. Get bad feeling. Curse guy who sold you the ticket under your breath. Understand approximately that your bike is not allowed on the train like that.

    Step 11: Produce bag triumphantly, while realising that you have no idea where in your bags your multitool is, and that you are down to about a minute before the train leaves.

    Step 12: Madly start pulling luggage off bike as seconds tick away on clock above your head.

    Step 13: Appreciate the wonderfully positive attitude so typical in Spain as head conductor starts grabbing your luggage and stacking it in the crew work area of the train, then tells you to just finish the bike in there.

    Step 14: Arrive in Barcelona, use the last of your cash buying tickets for next journey legs because here the credit card facilities don't work, be disappointed that the atm also doesn't work and so you are going to have a hungry night, meet very nice French guys on next platform and admire their bikes nicely loaded for touring, and sigh as they ask why yours is in a bag when they are so much harder to move that way.

    But anyway, now I am on the train and Frankfurt bound, with most of my tickets. I'm hoping the French guys got their bikes onto their connection (a TGV, as opposed to the regional train we met on) ok, and I am getting mentally prepared for work on Monday morning.

    I will add a few more things over the next couple of days, but basically here is where things come to a wrap!

    Thanks for reading,

    Last days

    posted 8 Sep 2012, 10:35 by Rowan Mc Murray   [ updated 8 Sep 2012, 10:35 ]

    Well, I'm at the bottom of the final climb of the Vuelta. There are about a million people coming down it, so I am waiting until they all clear out, so I can go up it. It promises to be challenging, but happily I am in the midst of consuming enough custard filled goodness to get me up pretty much anything, so it should all work out. It's been a pretty good day, actually. Mainly because, just for a change, I wasn't riding slower than I expected, but was actually going about what I thought was the right speed. Still slow, mind you, but finally I wasn't the slowest guy climbing the hill, and I wasn't about to collapse at the top.

    Mind you, I still didn't travel as far as I wanted (hence climbing the hill after the race, rather than before), but that was because I stopped for a long lunch. Well, it was raining. Hard. With thunder and lightning. Look, I don't care, I am glad I stopped!

    Meanwhile, the professionals kept racing. Well, they do get paid for it. And it was a good race, with Simon Clarke getting away in another break to secure the climber's jersey, Richie Porte just missing out on the stage win, and Rodriguez attacking on the last climb. He didn't get enough time to regain the lead, but it was a good attack anyway.

    But now the sun is out, I am well fed and rested, and it is time to climb the last hill then head for Madrid. It is all downhill to Madrid, so I will do it tonight and count on finding somewhere to stay when I get there. Hopefully it will work out.


    A pleasant day

    posted 7 Sep 2012, 13:20 by Rowan Mc Murray   [ updated 7 Sep 2012, 13:20 ]

    It's been quite a good day, really. After setting off late yesterday to ride today's course I ended up taking big detours because of road closures, and staying the night in a farmhouse that I rented all of in a really tiny town.

    That was great because it gave me space to clean and cook and generally relax. It also meant I started late though. And of course, I was still on my detour, which turned out to be substantially dirt, or even sand. Sand is really bad to ride through, especially with full panniers and narrow tires. So progress was very slow, and some slight mechanical issues didn't help, but I got there in the end. The finish turned out to be much more exciting than I had expected, with a long uphill drag giving space for a few quick attacks before Gilbert won superbly.

    Straight away, I set off for tomorrow's stage. Problem is that the finish was actually very late, so I didn't get very far through at all. I have found a great and possibly even legal camp spot though, so now I am off for a good night of sleep before a LOT of hills tomorrow.


    Bad Decisions and Bushfires

    posted 6 Sep 2012, 13:20 by Rowan Mc Murray   [ updated 6 Sep 2012, 13:20 ]

    I made a bad decision on Monday afternoon. I had just watched a spectacular finish to the stage, and knew that the next day was a rest day. My options were to ride an extra 240km on Tuesday so that I could ride the 184km of Wednesday's stage, followed by 304km to get to today's finish, or just to skip Wednesday's stage and take a slightly different route to today's finish.

    In part because it was my birthday on Tuesday I decided with the later option. This worked out badly for a couple of reasons: firstly, although the road I took to get to today's finish was meant to be more interesting than the actual route, it was still one of the dullest stretches of road I have ever ridden. I have included the picture of it just because this was one of the most interesting stretches - there was a clump of trees in the distance! Secondly, it worked out as not very much riding, which was half the point of being here. Thirdly, yesterday's stage turned out to be a fantastically exciting one, that I really regret missing. Happily I was getting updates as I rode (thank you!), but still I would have liked to see it live!

    As it was, the most exciting bit of my ride was coming across a bushfire in the making where someone had just thrown a cigarette butt from their car. With a strong wind and high temperatures this would have taken off very quickly, but happily it landed in the one section that was next to a field that had just been harvested. Still, it was heading rapidly towards someone's crop, so I stopped and put it out. Don't throw cigarette bits from cars, people. In fact, if you must have cigarette butts at all, first make sure they are out, then put them in a bin. Really.

    In the end though I reached Valladolid, which turned out to be not only quite beautiful, but also to have the biggest party I have ever seen in progress. I asked someone why, and he told me it is fiesta week. So my understanding is that they were having this huge party because it was party week. I was impressed. More so when I realised that party week happens twice a year. Wow.

    Anyway, spent today in this town doing some essential repairs, will watch the finish this afternoon and then head for tomorrow's stage. Should be good.


    Lazy day

    posted 4 Sep 2012, 14:05 by Rowan Mc Murray   [ updated 4 Sep 2012, 14:05 ]

    So today was a rest day for the race, that happened to coincide with my birthday. I had a couple of options of what to do, but I chose the most relaxing one!

    Yesterday at the race was a great stage, and I had a great ride to get there, but it was awfully hard work. Tomorrow's stage is back up north again, and I had the choice of either riding all the way back up there and then having a very hard week coming back down to Madrid, or of taking today off myself and using tomorrow and Thursday to head over for Thursday's stage. I decided on the later option, and headed into Leoń last night.

    I checked into a hostel and then went to get a dinner of tapas. I got talking (mainly in sign language, his English was a bit rusty and my Spanish is non-existant) to a guy in a bar, and we went to several more bars. When he found out that it was my birthday though we got a bit carried away, partying late into the night.

    Very entertaining, but I was pleased that I didn't have a hard day planned for today!

    The day has instead consisted of basically continual eating while moving from place to place, some sightseeing, a fruitless search for a replacement band for my watch and some time lying on the grass by the river while I worked on something I am writing. All in all a very pleasant day!

    As I said my ride yesterday was great. A large portion of it turned out to be up a very steep hill on a dirt road, but I was very glad that I persevered rather than finding a different route, because the scenery was spectacular. The road climbed up into a mountain range, getting up into alpine pastures well above the snow-line. Happily there was no snow at the time, but it was pretty chilly! I will attach a few pictures to give you the idea.

    This was actually the same mountain range of the last climb of the day's stage, just a different part of it. So I got to go down, then up it again somewhere else! And that somewhere else was very steep, I will tell you now!

    At the actual finish it was very quiet. It is amazing the difference between this race and the Tour de France. Here you can often stand right at the finish line, and where I was I had the chance to chat with several of the riders immediately after they finished. They all agreed, it was a tough hill!

    Right, sleep time now so I can get a good ride in tomorrow.


    Back to the mountains

    posted 1 Sep 2012, 08:00 by Rowan Mc Murray   [ updated 1 Sep 2012, 08:00 ]

    It is another beautiful day here. It is a mountain stage today, and although I am still near the start it is already bumpy. I expect it to get a lot harder though.

    The country is drying out again too, proving that old adage "the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain". That or we are leaving the coast...

    At the race itself Simon Clarke from Orica-Green Edge is having another great day. After working all day yesterday in a break I just saw him working hard to get in another one today. Good effort.

    I'm not actually going to follow the course the whole way - as I get near the end I will peel off and head towards tomorrow's start. Still makes for a long day.

    There is actually a fair chance I will miss the start tomorrow. Oh well, nice ride through the Spanish hills anyway!


    A Bumpy Day

    posted 31 Aug 2012, 14:35 by Rowan Mc Murray   [ updated 31 Aug 2012, 14:35 ]

    It was another good day for the Aussies here at the Vuelta, with Cam Meyer and Simon Clarke getting away in the break. I saw them early  in the day, and was delighted to hear that they stayed away. Just missed out at the end, taking 2nd and 4th respectively, but so close. Great result.

    Meanwhile I left today's course to head over to tomorrow's. Didn't have too far to go but it turned out to be very lumpy, with a couple of climbs over 20%. Happily they were all short except for the one on loose gravel, which took me about an hour to mostly walk up.

    Great country though, very much farming land, quite lush and green still, with flowers still out and also some huge stands of eucalyptus, which made me feel at home.

    Tomorrow will be a super tough day, so it is off to bed for me now!

    Oh, before I go though, I have a Spanish phone number for the moment, should anyone feel the need to call me! It is tel:+34648727305.


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