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.