Madrid is a big busy place with lots of fecking traffic. We stayed a few miles out of the City Centre on Calle Jose Abascal but it was still a big bad busy roads place. I knew this from going out the night before on a trial ride on the rented bike. I selected 5 miles on Garmin’s round trip calculator and chose one at random. I got lost on the one-way system only a few hundred yards after I started when I decided that I was not going to attempt the massive roundabout that it was leading me to. I’m not sure I would even want to drive round that in a car.
Breakfast was meant to be at seven but the alarm had been reset in the early hours of the morning as I was still awake and had a well reasoned change of heart after a debate with myself about holidays and rushing and enjoying it, the little longer lie in won. Though a late night I had a good sleep and was showered, shaved and dressed for breakfast by 7,30. But even at this hour I was breakfasting alone, too early for the holidaying Cheryl. She had a shit sleep, thought I was the one who was going to suffer that. Breakfast spread was fantastic, a real Continental in a posh hotel. If this was any other holiday I would have had some of everything and more. After Cheryl saw me off she went for her morning snack. I said a snack as she ate very light as she’d arranged a Yoga class with Marta at 10 o’clock. Alas she missed this as the clock on her iPad was lying to her, it was still on BST. So yaga yaga no yoga, shame she only realised this after her rationed breaky.
Calle Jose Abascal wasn’t so busy with cars at nine in the morning as it was all evening yesterday, however the roundabout that scared me last night was at the bottom of the six lane road outside our Hotel. And it was the first obstacle on route. I spent a frustrating few hours at bedtime trying to replan my route so I could hurry out of Madrid with little hassle away from the big bad wide one-way fecking busy roads and roundabouts. But I gave up, Cheryl’s laptop has IE8 – fecking hopeless! Try redrawing a Strava route on an iPad mini and using Google Maps for reference on smart phone. One thing I did learn from the night before was which side of the road to cycle on. Obviously I know it’s the right hand side but it is all one-way streets so there is no oncoming traffic to keep you right. What I was doing was driving on the very left lane thinking I was playing it safe and keeping a slow pace. Some of these roads are five or six lanes wide so it’s surprising how long it took me to realise I was cycling in the fast lane. Anyway, I decided feck it I’ll just go the route I first planned, what’s the worst that can happen? I cycled across the pedestrian crossing as my hotel entrance looked onto the fast lane, it goes against my ethos of where cyclist should ride, better this than jumping the lights. Then I jumped the lights, I had bad positioning and was getting in the way of the pedestrians. Jumping the lights goes against my ethos of what I think cyclists should do, better this than cycling on the pavement. Ah, in the slow lane but so were countless delivery drivers – parked two wide so in the second slow lane too, Nothing for it but jump onto the pavement, the pedestrians didn’t seem to mind.
I was very careful as I cycled over the remaining pedestrian crossings; I can cycle as slow as I can walk. There were about six of them in all before I reached the safety of a two lane one-way easy riding side street, which ran parallel with the busy multi-lane mayhem. This road was good with no scary moments and easy to follow on the Garmin. It took me a while to find the cycleway. I was never going to find it following the Garmin but I tried. I stumbled across the red cycle lane when lost and Garmin was recalculating the route. The cycleway went underneath Chamartin railway station and doubled back up to a road I’d already been on, where it stopped. I decided to follow another solo cyclist down the road, he’d just come off the cycleway too. As we headed to a roundabout, Garmin told me to go all the way round and go back the way I came. The cyclist in front looked liked he was lost as it seemed like he was also circumnavigating the roundabout. Suddenly he darted down the final exit, except it wasn’t an exit in was an entrance. This wasn’t a little side street, it was a feeder road from the adjoining highway. What fool would cycle up there? After a moments hesitation I followed him. There was plenty space between the white line and the edge of the tarmac, which helped in avoiding oncoming vehicles. We passed one other cyclist on this short road and he didn’t look bemused that we were going the opposite way on a busy on-way street. I followed my involuntary guide onto a sharp left turning off the main road and onto the cycleway…. for proper this time.
This red cycleway runs alongside the the M607 for the next 20 miles at which point I, as a cyclist, can join the road proper. Though once out of town it is never as close to the Autopista as seen in the snap shown. This was truly a cycle highway, very busy with other cyclists and no other traffic and no pedestrians. It was an easy ride, with ups and downs, though mostly ups. My pace wasn’t fast by any means as I was deliberately saving energy for the real climb later that day. I stopped to adjust my saddle height just a few miles in. I thought I had got this correct last night but now seemed too low. It took me another stop further up this road to realise the seat post was slipping regardless of how tight I turned the bolt. Most of the ride along the cycleway was pleasant but uneventful. I did have a chat with another solo cyclist but as he spoke even less English than I did Spanish the conversation was short lived. I knew I was at the end of the red cycleway section when Garmin informed me I was off course, though its recalculated course made no sense along dirt tracks, farmers fields and marshes. I had just crossed over the main road that I wanted to get onto, so I simply joined it at the point where it intersected with the cycleway.
The first ten miles on the ‘real’ road was relatively flat, the climb didn’t start until about four or five miles short of Navalcerrada. No speed records broken along this road either; my mind was on the climb ahead and on the spectacular views of the well defined rugged edges of the mountain tops as they stood out against the clear blue skies.
I stopped near Navalcerrada to take off my base layer as one top was enough; to adjust my saddle height; to eat; to drink; to answer a call of nature and to check my mental state. Several cyclists went past going in the opposite direction (downhill), with great speed and huge smiles. I restarted my journey very slowly and kept this pace until I had caught a fellow cyclist; he’d past me a whole five to ten minutes before I started off from my rest place. So I slowed down. Unknowingly this guy helped me up the hill, not just because of his pace but his presence ahead of me was a focus, rather than staring at the climb as it slowly appeared and spread out uncompromisingly in front after each bend. At each kilometre from the top a marker was posted at the side of the road stating how many kilometres to go and the gradient, either average to the top or current, I’m not sure. The first one I noticed was at 7km with a gradient of 7%, which I was happy with as my Garmin reported I was at that time doing 8.3%. I looked forward to seeing these signposts but they never came fast enough. At 6km the gradient was still 7%, at 5km it was still 7%. When I approached the 4km marker I could see it was not 7%, it was 8 or 9 or 6, my eyes weren’t good enough too far off – I begged it to be 6…. It was 8. Thankfully the 3km and 2km posts were both showing 7% again. I was already celebrating in my head when I could see the 1km to go post but I was slightly deflated when the gradient was showing 10%… Arghhh – either the sign writer had a sense of humour or the road builder had!
I celebrated at the top with a Fanta and a pastry. I put my base layer back on, adjusted my saddle and flew down the mountain. I calculated that it took me about 30 seconds to complete the 26km downhill into Segovia, Strava reported it to be a little longer.
I did have one brief encounter with the traffic cops coming into Segovia but I put that down to them being knobs and went on my way. I also cycled far too much when I reached Segovia, taking a few wrong turnings on the cobbles.
Cheryl reached the hotel before me despite completing a taxi tour of the all the major bus stations in Madrid before she departed.