Tuesday 30 April 2024

Operation Etape du Tour: April update

This month was about getting in bigger miles and bigger hills, notably when I returned to Barcelona and rode a few of the long climbs in Catalunya. I am feeling happier to have done some Alpine style climbs. I must also say that having a lighter bike with lower gears makes a difference to my bike riding experience, but sadly the UK weather doesn't want to play ball. The weather has been all over the place this year. It's still cold even in April, and days have been very wet and windy. So it was useful to spend some time somewhere warm.

I have two months to prepare for the Etape du Tour, which will be on July 7th. In the week before the big day I expect to be doing light rides just to keep things ticking over, rather than building on more miles. So for me, my end date is June 30th.

The road to Montserrat
I must say I am feeling more comfortable than I did at the same period a couple of years ago, when I was hoping to ride the Etape du Tour between Briançon and Alpe d'Huez. For a start I haven't had any injuries, which is always a bonus at my age. The fact that I have done a few rides in excess of 100km, and I've ridden alpine-style climbs abroad makes me feel like I'm on track with me training, and gives me more of a can-do attitude. I have also continued to go to Herne Hill Velodrome and to Regents Park to help with my speed work.

In mid-April I took myself to Barcelona for a mini training camp. It was easily done - flight from Gatwick to Barcelona, local bus from El Prat Llobregat airport into Plaza España and bus or metro to Gràcia, where my youth hostel was based.

Then it was less than a mile walk to Terra BikeTours, where I hired my road bike for the week. The place where I stayed, Casa Jam, had a terrace where I could leave the bike, and was in a secure area.

My first bike ride was around the city, which was just a pleasant early evening spin along the numerous cycle lanes. The following day, Friday, saw a late start to my cycling after I had spent the morning doing a walking tour around the city - I couldn't miss out on that given how sunny it was and how beautiful the architecture around the city is.

My afternoon train took me to Terrassa, from where I began my ride up into hills around Montserrat.  I hadn't expected to be out for a long time, but the ride was cut short due to a puncture and defective rim tape.

For Saturday the original plan had been to do a ride to Montseny and Turo de L'Home, one of the highest peaks in Catalunya outside of the Pyrenean area. But given the previous day's fail, I decided I had to return to Montserrat. 

That was a much more productive day, with a two long climbs - one from Terrassa to Coll d'Estenalles, a popular route with the locals. In fact there was a very popular café at the top. It reminded me of the National Trust café at Box Hill.

After a long descent to Manresa, I was then faced with a long demoralising climb up to Montserrat. Never have I been so happy to see a pile of rocks! They are the famous Montserrat rocks characteristic of the area. It was a tough old ride, and I stopped a couple of times for a breather and a snack. But I guess this is what I need. The boredom, the feeling of wondering when will I get there, the fatigue...these are all sentiments that I can say I know how to manage and more importantly, that I can keep in my mind that I will get there.

Glad to have made it to Montserrat

While in Barcelona I found out about a cycling group, the Barcelona Road Cycling Group that organises rides a few times a week - mid-week chain gangs of different levels and longer rides at weekends. They ride out to places that I have become familiar with, so that has been one discovery, and something which I plan to do next time I'm in Barcelona - that and to ride up Turo de L'Home.

My next mini test of where I am will be the Fred Whitton Challenge, a cyclosportive in the Lake District in early May. I like to hope that will show me too, that things are moving in the right direction fitnesswise. 

Related posts

Operation Etape du Tour: March update

Operation Etape du Tour: February update

Operation Etape du Tour: January update

Operation Etape du Tour: December update

Back to Barcelona for more cycling

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