Today’s ride is sponsored by Oak by Design

Villargordo del Cabriel – Peñascosa 

Bastardos! That’s where we ended the ride today! And that about sums our day up.

Today was going to be a tough 100 miles after yesterday but we had to recalculate the route due to last nights original camp being closed. To start, we had to climb 3 miles out of the canyon which bit the tired legs. Once out the revised google bike route took us onto a track. We were weary but what was our option??? We ventured into the wilderness hoping it would be a short track to a road. Oh no 😱 that was not the case! We went deeper and deeper into the wilderness. We checked our google maps and no road could be found so on we went. Then the route through the forest became that bad we had to carry and walk with our bikes. Things were just going from bad to worse. At about 10 miles in the route we were supposed to be following was impassable even for walking so we had no alternative but to follow the track which was taking us back towards the camp we had left. On the route we came across a docile snake 🐍 in the middle of the track. The problem with going off road on road bikes is that we are on high pressure skinny tyres, totally not suitable for any type of gravel, never mind rough tracks as my accident a week ago shows. When going up the steep hills you have to stay sat in your seat as if you stand up the back tyre spins. Going down hill you just take yourown life in your hands and hope the front wheel doesn’t go or you are down.

Eventually 25 miles in we found a road – “yay” well those weren’t quite the words! 4 hours to do 25 miles! Another 80 to go and it was already 1:30pm. We were not going to make camp unless it was mostly down hill with the wind behind us.

We came to a small town and decided that we would need to stop for food. So it was 2:30 pm and we still had 75 miles to go. 50 hard miles (with tired legs), stop then 25 miles to finish. We reckoned about 9:00pm in pitch blackness , If things went our way.

The wind, the bloody wind! 45 degree crosswinds  meaning we were lucky to get over 12 miles an hour even with slipstreaming. This was time to work as a team and take turns at the front. Slipstreaming with a cross wind is an art in it’s self. You have to judge where the wind is coming from and the speed you are going then get at an angle of about 45 degrees from the front rider as close as possible to find the sweet spot while the rider behind does the same. This means the front rider has to get in the right part of the road for you to do this and takes a lot of discipline and concentration from all riders. Trying to do this, work out the route and actually cycle at the same time for 10 hours a day. Who says men can’t multi-task 😃

So on we peddled, the roads were long, straight and very open. We were at an altitude of about 2000 feet into the wind. As we looked ahead we couldn’t even see the end of the road it was that long and straight. The legs were pumping hard, every muscle and bone ached. Both Paul and I were taking painkillers on a regular basis. My wounds from the accident a week ago were opening up again, things were not good. Morale was now at an all time low – that we were not going to make it to camp tonight was obvious. It would have been after 10pm at the best and all of us had completely run out of energy. We decided to stop 50 miles to go have a drink and work out what we were going to do. The problem was if we got picked up and dropped off at the same place it would make the next 2 days nearly impossible as it would make day 12 about 150 miles long with 10,000 feet of climbing followed by day 13 which would be 105 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing.  To top it off Kathleen rang to say that our campsite was closed and she couldn’t get in touch with anyone there. She’d found an alternative but this meant another detour. She’d rung and they were open which was a bonus. Ok let’s go! Hang on, another phone call – the owner had rocked up to let us in. Reverse plan!

After looking at all the options and the detour we’d had to take, we were further West than anticipated. This provided an opportunity as we could book a cheap hotel for day 12 which meant we didn’t have to go into the high mountains as we could skirt round them. All we had to do was cycle another 30 miles today and get to a town called El Ballestero, get picked up and get dropped off there in the morning. What it actually means is that tomorrow we have an 85 mile day and the following day will be about 70 miles so in the end all is good. Just the 30 miles over the top into the wind to do. Easier said than done. For the first time ever cycling I got cramp in my right leg and both Paul and David’s knees were getting bad. It was a test of physical and mental determination and with only 5 days to go for the first time doubt actually came into my head. Just staying upright on the bike was difficult, it was about getting to the set destination without collapsing from exhaustion or falling asleep on the bike. Hill after hill the last 10 miles felt like 100 miles.

We made it a small town with one bar full of locals and us three fell in through the door, battered and bruised dressed in cycling gear dusty from the off road and looking exhausted. The place went quiet, everyone turned and looked. It was like a scene from a western, strangers in town. Three Amigos walk into a bar, “tres Cerveza” Paul said to the barman in a desperate state. “Grande” Dave added. “Si” replies the barman. Everyone in the room continued with their conversation obviously in Spanish and probably about us. Three beers 🍺 appeared and at last a smile was on our faces.

Then the backup senoritas came through the bar doors and for an instant the room went quiet again until they all realised they were for us.

Kathleen informed the boys that they had a cabin for the night. Paul was ecstatic as he has not had a decent nights sleep for all the trip in the tent.

The backup crew took us back to camp where as they always do feed us with delicious food which was burgers 🍔so all was good in the end.

In the end the most challenging day of all of the Arctic to Africa trip. It can’t get any worse can it? 5 days to go – we CAN do this!

– Sean