The late days of August are happy days for the recreational bicycle rider. The hard training days of spring and the hot days of summer are past, and the wetter weather, annual off-season fitness loss and weight gain have not yet intruded on the consciousness, so one can either just coast along or enjoy crushing the shorter, easier rides de jour.
It was supposed to be a vacation; from work, from home, and from my less-than-stellar cycling season. But, one can take the cyclist out of the country, but one can’t take the country out of the cyclist (I’m not quite sure what that means…), so a week into the trip I found myself once again astride a bicycle, ready for another challenge.
Etapa Uno: Plaça St. Jaume – Plaça de la Seu
Since I have a limitations both in time and desire for training, I approach rides analytically; I study the route, the elevation map, try to find out what the weather will be like, and then I can figure out where the hard parts will be, where the easy parts will be, and then ration my efforts accordingly.
That’s going to be problematic this time, because:
- I’m on a rented bicycle that I have only ridden from the rental location to the start of the ride, a distance in excess of 30 meters.
- I lack my usual electronics to measure heart rate and cadence. In fact, my mount lacks a cyclometer of any kind.
- My only information about the fitness and skill of the other participants is from a quick study of them before the start. My guess is that I’m okay, but having been passed uphill by a 70-year-old guy on a Schwinn older than I am, I know that appearances can be deceiving.
- I don’t have my usual food, hydration drink, or supplements; all I have is one small bottle of water.
- I have no map, nor do I know the elevation profile or even how many climbs there will be.
- The remnants of high-school Spanish have not been terribly useful so far, and anyway many of the locals prefer to speak Catalan.
But, I’m a big proponent of turning the challenge dial to “stupid” (that’s what I tell people – in reality I only ever really turn it to “a bit on the far side of comfortable”), so I’m up for it.
Given that this ride is in Europe, it seems fitting that it follows in the spirit of the randonneur rides that I have done; there is mechanical support available if needed but participants are expected to be self-sufficient otherwise.
We start off without much fanfare. I latch onto the back and struggle to follow; the speed of the group is a bit shocking and there are spectators clogging the route. As I swerve to avoid the more boisterous ones I am reminded of the crowds usually found on slopes of the Col du Galibier. The pavement is variable; smooth through one section, pavé the next – when they built these roads “make them smooth for cycling” was not at the top of the list, but the list did have “¿Esos ciclistas, qué cuido si consiguen daño?”
I discover that I can keep up with the group; while the fit of the bike isn’t what I’m used to, I have plenty of power in my legs. I think about trying to work my way forward in the group but decide that it’s probably not worth it.
It seems like only a few minutes have past before we pull into the first control point. On the randoneeur ride that I did a few years ago, you might have to answer a question to prove that you were there, but on this ride you learn something at each stop, and presumably you will later be asked to recall specific information to prove that you were there.
Etapa Dos: Plaça de la Seu – La Sagrada Familia
After just a few minutes I head out on the road again. I learned at the last stop that the big climb for the ride is coming up on this segment. The pavement has gotten better and the number of spectators has dwindled. I have some attention to spare to look at the sights and even to take a picture or two:
Then we come to the climb. I’ve only been on one ride in the last two weeks and haven’t touched a bike at all for the last week, so I’m wondering what sort of legs I’ll have. It turns out that they feel great, and the hardest climb of the ride is quickly dispatched and I roll into the next stop soon after. Time to learn what I’ll need to know at the end, and think about food. I settle for the water on my bike; the other riders who are with us have different ideas of on-ride nutrition, and I see everything from sunflower seeds to ice cream being consumed.
The crowds have returned, but they are better behaved than the early ones and we can easily move around.
Etapa Tres: La Sagrada Familia – Plata St. Sebastià
Since we climbed up to the last stop, it’s no surprise that we will now descend for a bit. Along the way we pass some nice sights:
After a technical section bordering a wild animal preserve, our route takes us through the Ciutadella-Vila Olimpica. It is an honor to be travelling streets that were travelled by the sporting elite in 1992, and the group responds by organizing a tight double paceline:
A fast smooth section, and we’re at the next stop.
This stop reminds me of the RAMROD deli stop; the majority of the ride has been dispatched, and the riders take a few minutes to relax knowing that all the hard work is done, and to have some food and drink.
Etapa 4: Plata St. Sebastià – Plaça St. Jaume
After sitting perhaps for a bit too long, I head out on the final leg, a winding technical section that brings me back to the starting point, and the Tour de Barcelona is done. And it’s time to head off for a bite to eat and some well-earned refreshment.
Overall, this was a nice ride to do. The vibe was a little less hardcore than the rides that I’ve been doing the last few years, and the route selection was nice. The food stops were what you would expect on a rando ride; if you wanted food you could find it. There were of course no Dan Henrys and the course directions were pretty much nonexistent, but in reality following the people who knew where they were going was trivial, so this didn’t cause any problem.
Distance: 9 km?
Riding time: 58:35
Total time: 3:45
Elevation gain: 33 m ?