What about cycling in Slovenia? A weekend ‘Among the Giants’

Thanks to the RAW Cycling Magazine I had the opportunity to be part of a cycling weekend in….Slovenia.

I never really had Slovenia high on my list to go ride a bike. But if the boys from the RAW Cycling Magazine thought it was a good idea, it must be a great idea. I was intrigued.

Only a short drive from the Austrian border our start location was in Bled. This is Bled:

Can it get any better? Located at a lake surrounded by historical features and a background full of mountains!

The mountains were stunning too. I am not sure if we just happen to ride the steepest passes or if Slovenia is full of Mortirolo-like climbs but here, the climbs were extra-tough. My favorite climb was Mangart pass. I love climbs that change the scenery constantly and have wide, open views over the countryside. All boxes checked for Mangart.

Photo credit: Brazo de Hierro

This climb is nicknamed Slovenia Mortirolo…. Steep, steep, steep!

From Kranjska Gora climbing up the Vrsic pass, every switchback has cobbles which makes it an interesting climb. At the top we were greeted by sheep. Sheep selfie was a must.

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Those signs were not unusual. 18% was the sign with the highest gradient I saw during the weekend.

A different view from the Mangart climb. There is little traffic because the road stops at the top.

Photo credit: Brazo de Hierro

And the gang. What an amazing group. Every single person has a fascinating story and a true passion for cycling. The group consisted of frame builders The Draft and Belle Cycles, (Ex) Pro Cyclists Christian Meier (former  Orica-BikeExchange Pro tour cyclist), Luis Leao, Elisa Scalambra, cycling photographers Brazo de Hierro, Marcel Batlle and Andrea Schiliro, Barcelona cycling coffee shop owner of On y Va, Pas Normal Studios ambassador Linita and the two guys and girl that made this weekend happen: Toni, Stefano and Mariona.

Routes

Below are the cycling routes of the three days. Although all three rides were fantastic, my favorite was the last day. I loved the climb up Vrsic from Kranjska Gora and the Mangart climb.


In case you are looking for accommodation suggestions:

I stayed in two budget accommodations, both very clean, single room with own bathroom.

Pension Pr Bevc, a few kilometers outside of Bled, right at the bottom of the climbs.

Hotel House Berghi, Kranjska Gora, I highly recommend it, especially because of its service. Super friendly staff!!!

 

My conclusion about this weekend in Slovenia:

  • As a mountain lover Slovenia has some great climbs to offer.
  • The roads are sometimes in rough shape.
  • It is definitely a different experience, especially the language.
  • The Slovenian people were incredibly friendly.

If you are looking to ride somewhere different, have a look at Slovenia, especially around the Triglavski National Park.


What to eat during a 16 hours cycling challenge?

In my previous post I described my strategy to complete the 330km Tour du Mont Blanc successfully (Blog post here).

But what to eat during such a long endurance challenge?

Riding for over 15 hours food choices and timing are crucial for me to keep my energy level up for such a tough event.

(Just a disclaimer: This fuel strategy works for me and does not mean it works for someone else. I am still sharing my food plan as this might be helpful for others.)

Photo credit: Tour du Mont Blanc

My “fuel strategy” starts two days before the event. The reason is that I want to give my body time to digest and store energy. If I would wait until during the event, I knew it would be too late.

Two days before

I eat still “real food” focused on carbohydrates: rice, pasta, potatoes, etc and I tend to eat more than I usually eat. This day is a “real food” carb loading.

The day before

I eat easier digestible food which most likely comes in form of my favorite foods and might not be that healthy: Strawberry cake or any kind of cake for that matter. I try to eat the majority of the day’s food before 4pm so my body has enough time to digest. The pre-race pasta dinners don’t work for me as it is too late to digest. There are two reasons I eat my favorite food: It relaxes me calming my nerves and I don’t eat all the race food the day before the event. 😊

Race day

In the morning, I have coffee and something easy digestible. Since I ate a lot the last two days, I don’t need much today – at least for the beginning of today. I found if I eat a lot over breakfast, I just get tired – not exactly a state I want to be in before riding 330km. Thus, my breakfast is quite small, bread with marmalade is something I would eat.

Depending on how many food stations are along the route, I pack accordingly. As the Tour du Mont Blanc had plenty of food stops, I took one gel with me. I am able to ride the first few hours without any food if that is what I had to do. Maybe not recommended but it works for me. I filled my bottles with water only.

I just listen to my body when it comes to eating and drinking during the ride. I know there are several camps of thoughts out there when to eat and drink and what quantities and carb/protein ratios. I just eat when I am hungry and drink when I am thirsty. It works for me!

I got hungry 100km into the ride and I actually stopped at a gas station to buy a sandwich. I was craving bread with ham. And that’s what I got. I refilled my bottles with waters and kept going. At the bottom of the first “major” climb Grand St Bernard, I stopped at a café to get a diet coke (yes, I know it is hypocritical but I still want a diet coke instead of normal coke. Sometimes my blood sugar plays funny if I drink sugar and caffeine in combination) and a croissant. That stop took less than 5 minutes. I keep my stops as short as possible.

For me, stops are a fine line of refueling and my body deciding to get into recovery mode. The more I eat (especially when I don’t need it, even during such a tough ride) and the longer I am at the food station, the sluggisher and tired I feel. Thus, my motto is to keep it short and eat enough (Enough doesn’t mean to keep the portions super small but to listen how much my body really wants).

I stopped at every food station which were about 50km apart (most stops max 2 minutes). That doesn’t sound that far apart but if there is a 1000m climb between the two stops, the 50km could become quite long. Depending on where the food stop was located, I also chose my food. When it was at the bottom of the climb, I would tend to eat more easy digestible foods like salt sticks. If it was on top of the climbs with plenty of time to digest while descending, I ate sandwiches.

I never ate any gels as I prefer going with real food. I know it does not lead to any stomach or digestion problems for me.

Especially towards the end of the challenge when I start “smelling” the finish line and don’t focus fully on my body anymore, I keep eating a bite of something and not trying to tell myself that I don’t need anything anymore because I am almost there. I have learned this lesson the hard way once and I was completely out of energy 10 km from the finish line.

Post-ride

After Tour du Mont Blanc I wasn’t too hungry which means for me that I ate well during the ride. However, I didn’t say no to the post-race meal at the finish line. Although food is important, I focus more on rehydration. For the next two days, I had to stay close to a kitchen because I was constantly hungry.

This “fuel strategy” works for me, especially during the tough long endurance challenges. The days leading up to the challenge are the most crucial for me. I know I am not able to “make it up” during the ride if I don’t fuel properly the days prior.

I hope this post was helpful! Stay up to date to adventures, endurance challenges and tips by signing up to my newsletter (see box to the right)

This post was written on readers’ request. If you have any questions about long endurance challenges or adventure cycling feel free to comment below or send an email to: sattlermonika@gmail.com

Happy riding!

Living it Real. Ambitious. Daring. #RADlife


Day 2 of The Ride: A test of physical and mental limits: How I won it!

The Ride. Day 2

Waking up in my camp, I was tired and groggy. It was 5am. I might have slept for 5 hours. The anticipated coffee got me out of the tent.

Today’s stage was 142km long with 3150m of elevation all done in two climbs: Spluegen Pass (30km/1817m elevation gain, 6% average) and Glas Pass (11km/1145m of elevation gain, 10.4% average).

This stage tested us not only physically but it had a huge mental component. The timed segment for this stage was on Glas Pass, the last 30km. The ascent was the same as the descent with the finish line conveniently located at the bottom of the climb. Thus, it was not necessary to climb up Glas Pass to reach the finish line. However, to stay in the overall challenge, you need to complete the cruel climb, no matter how much you want to turn into the finish line before that.

So what is Glas Pass? Chances are you never have heard of it. Me neither. Since the climb does not lead anywhere it cannot be incorporated into a loop. It starts from the bottom of Thusis and climbs up an exposed grassy mountain side with an average of 10.4%. Three of the last kilometers averaging 15%. (For comparison, Alpe d’Huez is 14km with 8% average, steepest part 14%).

Because of sunny and warm weather we would be getting baked heading up this climb. For me, there was no opt-out. I needed to do this climb. I wanted to stay in the competition.

I started with a group of guys which quickly left me behind. Now it was only me. I had to keep myself motivated. At first, thoughts crossed how much time I would lose in this challenge. I was going up in snail tempo. It was so hot. There was no single tree that would just give a second of relief from the burning sun and heat. With the exposed area comes that you also can see far ahead. It would stay steep. This is going to be a killer climb. Keeping my motivation and focus up was key!

I settled into a pace that I thought I could sustain.

A few kilometers into the climb, I found myself with a few other struggling cyclists. Looking at their faces I knew I was not alone. My thoughts about the challenge have evaporated. This climb was about completing it, that was an accomplishment by itself. Instead of focusing how I felt, I wondered what the other guys were thinking? Maybe they are struggling even more than I.

I started to thank my body for no significant injuries and for going through this struggle with me without major complaints. I told myself that I am fortunate to be out here and to do this. Just because it is tough is no reason to give up. Quite the opposite, that is the best time to excel, to show myself what I can achieve.

So instead of thinking of how many cruel kilometers are ahead, I celebrated the ones behind me. I also compared this climb to other challenges that were more difficult than that to gain perspective. Is it really that bad, Monika?

After the last brutal kilometers of 15% gradient I was approaching the finish line. Big cheering and clapping brought me across the line. There was a special atmosphere among the finishers waiting at the top. This was not just another climb. This was a true test for our physical and mental limits. And we did it!

Tomorrow will be another test – a test that required a bit more creativity to get me going.


Day 1 of The Ride: When Stelvio is only the beginning

What a beautiful start of the event it was. Sunny and warm. I looked around at the start line. You could feel the excitement but also the nervousness of everyone embarking this big ride. In 8 days we would be in the Netherlands but until we have a long trip ahead of us. And we are not taking the easiest route.

Day 1 proved the point.

We would be facing three challenging climbs: Stelvio from the Prato side (26km/1800m of elevation gain/7.7% average gradient), Foscagno (22km/1000m/3.5%) and Bernina Pass (4km/300m/7.1%).

129km was the route with over 3900m of elevation gain. This would be the shortest of all 8 stages.

Although this event is non-competitive, it has a competitive component. Each stage has a timed segment– the challenge – where you can test your legs. The accumulation of the times led to an overall challenge winner.

For stage 1 we would be timed on Stelvio Pass. As I like the idea of testing my legs, I gave everything climbing up the first climb. Exhausted at the top I had to remind myself that I just completed 30km out of 129km route. Wow! This would be a long day.

Stelvio in the direction Bormio.

And yes, it was.

But along the way, I started to get to know my ride mates. And I tended to ride with a few people for the entire route. Today I did not know yet that I would see those guys for the entire 8 days along the route. We would get to know our strengths and weaknesses very well. We would challenge each other and support one another.

But today, those guys were strangers.

The first day seemed like an epic one-day challenge. I didnt feel like that this was just the beginning of 8 tough but beautiful, memorable days.

The only thing that gave a hint of what is coming up was the camping part. Instead of packing up my stuff and go home like during a normal weekend ride, I shared a camp ground with 260 other participants.

So which one was mine?

Picking a tent was quite easy. Look for one that is free and throw your stuff inside. Now, it is yours. Then, only remember which one of the 260 blue tents was yours. This might be the difficult part.

As I am not used to camping, this would be one of the biggest challenges for me during this trip. Getting enough sleep.

But it is still early to tell what made this event so special. Tomorrow would be the first of many tests that give The Ride some touches I will never forget.

With no earplugs or eye cover I tried to sleep. Beginner mistake. It was my first night in a tent in 20 years.

I would need to learn how to camp again. I had another 7 days to figure it out.

In the next post, I will write about how I dealt with the steep, hot and long Glass Pass – a climb that left many turn around early because of its cruelty.


1300km with 17000m of elevation gain in 8 days – BIKEGEAR.CC THE RIDE –

A few months ago I googled about epic cycling events in Europe and I came across a Dutch cycling event called “Bikegear.cc The Ride”. 1300km from Stelvio (Italy) to Cauberg (Netherlands) in 8 days through 8 countries.

I was immediately hooked.

How awesome would it be to ride through Europe, especially that particular route: from the Italian Alps to the Flatlands through regions that are world famous for cycling.

I got very excited. I had to do it!
1300km in 8 days is already an impressive ride. The 17000m (!!!) elevation gain would make this event a real epic ride. Throw in camping and you got a complete adventure.

Soon enough I was registered.

One day before the event start, I signed the white board in Prato alla Stelvio. I looked around. Participants from all stages of life and fitness levels made up a peloton of 260 cyclists. Now, we are strangers. But soon enough, faces become familiar, riding styles recognizable and the morning faces at 5:30am memorable.

Surrounded by snowcapped mountains it was hard to believe we would be in the flattish Netherlands in 8 days. Joining this event alone, I was excited to get to know the other participants, helping each other, suffering together and exchanging stories of our days.

Before getting into what really happened behind the scenes each day, I want to share a few details about the event itself. The organization was absolutely top notch! Although all communication was in Dutch, I knew exactly where and when to be. The camp sites were professionally set up with everything what I needed. An entire camp village moved with The Ride. All tents were set up before we arrived, a recharge station for phones and bike computers, free massages, dinner prepared by Pro Tour chefs and an event atmosphere that clearly indicated that the organizer knew a thing or two about putting on a show.

8 days later having arrived in Valkenburg, I would never have thought that I would feel as I do now. I am incredibly exhausted having ridden 50+ hours in the last 8 days. I am extremely tired from sleeping 4-5 hours a day.

But all these are minor disturbances compared to that huge feeling of accomplishment and achievement. This ride put me through extreme ups and down – physically and mentally. Events occurred I could have never foreseen: a tire explosion and close elimination from the event, severe heat exhaustion, picking the right fights, a nasty descending crash, my pursuit for supermarket pic-nics and the dedication of another cyclist becoming such an incredible teammate that showed once again to me that cycling with a team is so much more fun than a solo goal.

I will also share how I recovered after each stage, what I ate and what I think is important along the way – especially when I was mentally and physically exhausted.
But let’s start from the beginning. Day 1: From Prato alla Stelvio to Silvaplana. 129km with 3900m of elevation with Stelvio, Foscagno and Bernina Pass. For those who have been in that region know that this ride by itself would be tough enough. How I managed to make it even tougher on day 1 will be in the next post.


Cycling solo through half of Spain: Why going through this hazard? – Day 4 and the end

Last day. It was a bittersweet day. I was looking forward to the end but still wanted to keep going too.

When I woke up the next morning I knew it would be a different day than the last 3. I had 100km ahead of me, 40km of which were still unknown. But then I would be in Granada. Everything would be different from Granada onward for the last 60km. First, I knew for sure it would be all paved. But the icing of the cake was that my local group from Motril would meet me and ride the last part of the journey back to my final destination. How awesome was that!

So I was leaving my hotel in high spirits. The air was crisp and fresh. I loved it. It was shaking the tiredness out of my body. I had been riding 18.5 hours over the last 2.5 days.

Exactly for 1.6km I was breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the smooth way to Granada. And then I was facing just the same as the last two days. Gravel. But this time I was not really faced by it. I rolled (or better stumbled) with it.

It only can be for another 40km.

With an extended gravel section and a ride across a field (!!!), I finally made it to Granada.

I was so excited to meet the group. I greeted them as we havent seen each other for years (it had been barely a week). The first stop was for coffee. When I took my sunglasses off, they were not shy to tell me how exhausted I looked like. Yes, the last three days made an impact on my physical appearance.

But it didnt matter. I was on the home stretch. No matter if headwind, punctures or gravel were ahead, there was absolutely nothing that would hold me back. We took the last 60km easy. By now, I knew the route. Everything felt familiar. I truly felt like coming home again (although I only had been living here for four months).

I made it! I was sitting at the beach for another hour. Just to make sure that it was not a mirage.

Once, I saw the Salobrena hill, I had to hold some tears away – it became a bit of an emotional moment.

When I reached the beach, I was sitting there for a long time taking it all in and making sure it was not a mirage.

Why going through this hazard?

It is tough to explain why I put myself through all this hazard if there was a very convenient bus from Madrid to Motril. Why would I want to ride my bike almost 600km while having trouble finding a path, getting lost, dehydrated, hungry and fatigued, eating at the curb of the gas station and hoping to get through this journey safely?

Why would I want to put myself in a vulnerable position, completely out of my comfort zone?

Because it brings me back to basic appreciating the things that truly matter. During that kind of trip, the problems of daily life lose its significance, fundamental values gain importance.

Such an adventure gives me also a huge sense of freedom and full responsibility. But because exactly of that it is also scary: I am responsible for every action; every decision I make is fully mine – whether I am getting lost or having decided on the wrong route.

This complete exposure of my own actions makes me truly feel alive. I learn more about myself how I deal with adversity, how to solve problems, how I adjust my expectations and motivate myself throughout the day to keep going despite the strong headwind, the forced route changes or the untimely puncture.

It teaches me life lessons in a nutshell.

It teaches me what really matters in life. And it teaches me to appreciate the little things that are easily forgotten in a world of abundance.

I cannot describe the satisfaction and the overwhelming feeling of achievement when I saw the beach, the end of almost 600km of an unknown journey. An experience the numbers cannot grasp – finding a path that does not exist, withstanding meteorological forces, defying harsh terrain while intimately exploring a raw version of a new country and discovering an unedited version of myself.

It is such an enriching experience that I am longing for more –  a new adventure, a new excuse not to take the bus.



Cycling solo through half of Spain: More gravel. Locked gates and a desperate car ride. Day 3

Breakfast and coffee should do the trick.

I woke up groggy. I felt the exhaustion from yesterday.

I was in Valdepena. 320km to my final destination – no more than 2 days and I will be back at home.

There were two options: Make today a long ride so tomorrow is easy or split the distance equally over the two days.

The first option sounded more appealing. So, here I was sitting over breakfast and my map finding an appropriate destination for today.

Granada. 250km.

That would be awesome.

If I dont get the same headwind as yesterday, it would be a possibility. I am starting 1.5 hours earlier than yesterday so I really have the entire day for those 250km.

But again, this trip had its own timeline.

This time, it did not require to get outside to make a crucial mistake.

This picture does not show it well but this was 20%. The other side just looked the same. Plus another 10 of them.

The mistake was made when choosing the right route.

Option A went through a rural part of Spain, option B led along the highway.

To avoid cars, I decided to go for the rural routes. I always could turn West to the highway route if necessary.

20km into the ride, I found myself on that rural route which became gravel.

Like yesterday, I stopped. Evaluated.

Looking at the map, there was no option to avoid this road except going all the way back to the beginning.

All the way back to the beginning? No way!

Going 20km back would be more mentally devastating than a puncture, I decided it is time to ride gravel now.

But I decided to head to route option B with the hope that the service road of the highway would be well-maintained.

How wrong I was!

The gravel action was just starting.

 

The pictures only show the smooth sections. During the pothole-mine-fields I had no time to take photos.

With a gravel bike this route would have been heaven. Instead, I was constantly worried about punctures. My enjoyment was limited. Due to the 20% gradient pitches, some hike-a-bike action was required as well. Not knowing how long this would go, my plan to finish in Granada changed to would I finish at all?

I seemed to make no progress. And this is the road I have to take all the way to Granada! Another 200km!

If I keep going with a pace of 15kmh….let’s not think about it.

After an eternity of riding-walking alternation, I came across a gas station.

A group of motorcycles looked at me wondering where I came from. That made me worried. Was there even a road out of this gas station besides the highway and the road I just came from?

My hopes to see Granada at all today were diminished.

 

Expecting the worst, I couldnt believe to find myself on a paved road through a national park, Despenaperros, with an amazing scenery over the country side. Having been through a bit of a rough time the past hours, I could enjoy this path even more. I loved the climb, the surroundings, the smooth paved road. My requirements to enjoy the ride have been drastically reduced.

The more I rode along enjoying the scenery, the more I forgot about the unpredictable changes of the road surface.

I made it to Linares and had my favorite meal during this trip: Migas – similar to spiced up bread crumbs.

It was 3pm.

I took me almost 6 hours for 100km. Wow!

While sitting comfortable at the curb in front of the supermarket, I had this whole “relaxing while looking at the map” moment. Or was I just procrastinating?

Half-motivated I got back on my bike knowing that at least I have to make it to Jaen – that is the 160km mark which would make tomorrow’s day the same distance.

Slowly but surely I got back into the rhythm and found myself on a main road with headwind. But this time, I almost appreciated the headwind. I knew it could have been a lot worse.

By having gone faster than the 15kmh earlier in the day, I decided to finally cover some ground.

My strategy was to ride for another hour and then to decide what to do next.

Once I left Jaen heading South it became rural again. I was following the paved service road of the highway but there was nothing else around.

After an hour I stopped at the gas station.

I was sitting at the curb eating two greasy sandwiches with unidentifiable ingredients.

I was alternating between being deeply engaged with my cell phone and observing the truck drivers who were curiously passing by. They probably wonder why a woman in cycling clothes is sitting by herself at a curb of a gas station in remote Spain.

If they knew what I was up to.

Monika, focus! Back to the cell phone. Will you keep going or find a hotel here?

I looked at the map. I had two options. Either a hotel here or 50km up the road.

It is 5pm, plenty of daylight left. Shall I risk it going for the one 50km ahead?

Ok! Why not!

But I should have known better. It is day 3 and I know what will be ahead.

I booked the hotel online that forced me to keep going. I paid now, so now I have to get there.

I immediately regretted my decision.

The food made me tired. Really tired. I could have fallen asleep immediately.

Monika, only 50 more kilometers. It cant be that bad!

Yes, it can!

My energy evaporated 15km down the road.

I was looking at a farm track. 35km of farm track? Would I even make it to the hotel in daylight? Slowly I kept going, the battery of my garmin, my phone and myself nearing their end. Maybe the next town has a hotel despite not advertising online?

Hope was what kept me going. Monika, only to the next village!

The village had one road which I was pacing nervously up and down.

No hotel. No accommodation. No option but to keep going.

At my last attempt I asked two persons on the road. Is there a hotel in this village?

Nope, sorry!

They asked me where I came from and where I am heading to. I told them.

They started talking fast. Too fast for me to understand.

I looked down gazing at the road trying not to fade away.  I was visibly tired and exhausted.

A minute passed. One of them looked at me.

“I can drive you to your hotel!”

I looked up. Puzzled. I couldnt believe it.

Normally, I would politely decline. But this time, considering my condition, I happily accepted.

We loaded the bike and drove to the hotel 30km on the highway.

I looked at the path next to the highway -the path I would have had to take. I would have arrived in the night.

The sun was setting.

I entered the hotel in disbelief. I made it!

I closed the door of my hotel room. Exhausted. Tired. Happy. If someone had told me this morning that I had to ride 70km of gravel out of 206 very long kilometers, that I would have found myself at locked gates that forced me to turn around, that I had to walk my bike for an extended period and that I had to take a car ride to the hotel, I would have not believed it.

What extreme up and downs this day brought. What motivation and patience today required. What a true adventure that is riding through this country!

Today was done.

Tomorrow will be a new day.


Cycling solo through half of Spain: Remoteness. Headwind. And what about gravel? -Day 2

Today will be a big day, I told myself – a long day, a lot of kilometers. This would be the first “real” day of my adventure. Today, I was completely by myself. No one to join me. I was away from any major town. I had no idea about this part of Spain and even less of an idea how the route might look like.

Having only been 70km out of Madrid it felt so rural already. I got a feeling that I would be riding through a very remote area in Spain.

No trees and flat enough to have a consistent headwind.

And at least with this expectation, I was right.

Over breakfast I studied the map. I considered Tomelloso, a town 130km from here, as my intermediate stop point. There, I would re-evaluate how far I still want to ride. Ideally the same distance again.

But this trip had its own timeline.

And it made its point not even 5km into the ride.

Today would be just as mentally as it would be physically demanding.

I was facing headwind for the next 100km. It not only slowed me drastically down, it was the constant noise in my ears that drained my energy.

No relief in sight. This part of Spain is flat. No trees.

I settled into a pace, a rhythm that forced me to reconsider early on today’s destination.
How far would I get today?
After 80 km on the main road I looked at the map for an alternative route.

I had been on the same road since I left the hotel. I needed a change.
I found an option and took the turn.
Gravel.
I stopped. Shall I take a gravel road?

I considered.

I am by myself and I am on a road bike. My options to fix my bike beyond a puncture were limited. Usually I would ride it with joy but now, considering the circumstances? I hesitated.

I decided to seek an alternate route. No gravel for me.
The alternate route was the main road from the last 80km.
So I rode the same road for another 50km against the headwind.

130km of headwind on the same road.

I cant describe how happy I was to finally see the town sign of Tomelloso – that “intermediate” stop where I was hoping to double the distance from there.

That thought I had over breakfast. But there is a route on the map. And there is the route in reality. A big discrepancy today.

I decided to have lunch.

It was 3pm.

I stopped at the next pub – a typical place to find lunch in Spain, even at siesta time which it was right now.

I ordered a Bocadillo (a sandwich) and a Coke zero. The waiter asked me where I came from and where I am heading to. I told him. He looked at me as I have mispronounced the town names and I meant actually different ones.

That happened a lot during this trip.

I settled in looking at my map.

I love looking at maps. It is relaxing.

Where have I been? Where am I now? Where do I want to go? Sometimes, I start daydreaming and dont even know what I am looking at. When that happens, I usually get lost afterwards.

I wanted to ride at least for another 2 hours. 5pm would be a good time to call it a day.

I declared Valdepena as my final destination for today!

Mentally recharged, I was ready to get going again.

But my bike was not. My rear wheel had a slow leak.

Darn! Here goes my mental recharge!

I changed the tube and off was for those final 50km.

I was determined to get to Valdepena. No matter, how fatigued I was right now, my ride would not finish until I got there. My motivation and determination came back.

I found a bike store, or better a garage that had a cycling theme in a tiny alley undiscoverable if you dont know about it.

This time luck was even on my side when I came by chance across a bike store in the next town. The mechanic could not understand how someone could be so happy to use their stand pump. I bought an extra tube for 3 Euro and headed to my final destination.

197km done of which were 150km substantial headwind. Despite how exhausted I was, I had to go through the post-ride motions of shower, washing the cycling kit and getting food somewhere.

And I am glad I did.
Because today was not even a tough day.

I would learn tomorrow.


Cycling solo through half of Spain: 580km of unpredictability -Day 1

I am sitting at the curb in front of a gas station in remote Spain eating two greasy sandwiches with unidentifiable ingredients.

I don’t recall the name of the town, maybe it has none? It does not matter, this is just a very deserted area.

I am alternating between being deeply engaged with my cell phone and observing the truck drivers who are curiously passing by. They probably wonder why a woman in cycling clothes is sitting by herself at a curb of a gas station in remote Spain.

If they knew what I am up to.

Monika, focus! Back to the cell phone. Will you keep going or find a hotel here?

It is 5pm, plenty of daylight left. Shall I risk it?

Ok! Why not!

But I should have known better. It is day 3 and I know what will be ahead.

The beginning of a 580km cycling adventure through Spain.

I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.

I recently moved from Australia to Spain. I love Spain and found a great cycling community here. But my inquisitive nature wanted to know what is beyond the daily cycling routes. Spain is huge so there is so much to explore. I decided a cycling trip from the capital Madrid back home would satisfy my curiosity – at least for a while. I packed a tiny bag with the bare essentials and off I was leaving Madrid heading South. I let myself guided by an online map. 530km so it said.

The first 60km I was accompanied by two newly made friends, Alvaro and Slahde. The first day was short due to a late start. After 70km I called it a day. I was disappointed but I knew I shouldnt keep going. I promised myself to make day 2 epic though!

I got into a rural hotel in Chinchon, bought food from the supermarket, washed my cycling kit since I only had one and looked at a map for the first time of the trip.

Besides of a rough estimate of the total distance I had no idea about the route. I decided to take a closer look and planned a destination for the following day. Since day 1 was such a short day of 70km, I wanted to make day 2 long. If everything is going well, I could ride 250km I told myself.

But soon I would learn, this trip had its own timeline, not the one I set.

I was dreaming of an epic day.

And surely, tomorrow would not disappoint.

In different ways than I thought though. But that is for the next post.