Friday, February 25, 2011

Mo' Training, Barcelona day 5

Another boring day in Barcelona.  Sunny, warm (70+F), no wind - simply beautiful.  Perfect for a three hour ride.

Today I used a training route <--- see the route there, slightly modified by me, given to me by a local who is part of the Neil Pryde Bikes epic rider program.  He called it the "Allela Training loop" and it, in fact, does go through a small town of said name but also meanders along the Mediterranean for about 10 miles before heading north in to the small mountains that speckle the view no matter which direction you look away from the Sea.  I slightly changed his route by adding in an additional climb, a great one I might add, and I also did a few repeats on the sole climb of the original route.  The length of the first climb was perfect for my 4' v02 max intervals prescribed for today.

I hit the beach, and thoroughly enjoyed the view while pedaling along at an endurance pace.  Looking to the left I saw the grand, very old majestic buildings of Barcelona overlooking the sea, and then straight ahead palm trees lined the route as far as the eye could see, and a slight turn to the right there's the golden, sandy beach with the shimmering sea stretching to infinity.

I had a bit of time to play before the workout started.

a beach shot taken while riding featuring the town of Badalona, Spain in the background.

Shortly after this picture I had to start working, but did take a few more photos when munching on a bar before turning around to slam out another interval.  Here's one.  I guess I just liked the trees:)

After my very satisfying ride, my wife greeted me with a wonderful egg sandwich with eggs that come from a different planet as far as I can tell.  Richer in color and more flavor than even or fancy farmer's market eggs we get in the city, these things are what all eggs should aspire to, and they are only 1 euro a dozen at the boqueria across the street from our apartment.  Add some fresh chives, shaved 4 year aged manchego, and sliced heirloom tomatoes on a wonderful fresh baked roll and she's the greatest person in the world as far as I'm concerned!

We then went for a walk to check out the still under construction until 2056 Sagrada Familia and Guell Park.  Gaudi's church just barely surpasses my 'not another catholic church' status and is worth seeing with your own two eyes, and the park is really interesting as well and is sort of like a mild acid trip/ginger bread house contest.  The details are stunning and I took about 30 photos to try and capture most the figures, but will provide one of the larger coverage photos here.

Getting to Guell Park was a long 2.6km hike up a hill that gradually got steeper and steeper as we progressed.  After a hard workout, it was not ideal and I was dragging a bit but so was my wife who ran quite a bit today so it was all good!

Nice views aplenty from Guell Park

Impressive stonework throughout the park...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Fast bike & Fast cars, Barcelona day 4

Stats from todays ride:  34 miles, 4,250ft elevation gain, 2:57 minutes.

Back to training even when on vacation, and that means intervals, and thus far on my rides around Barcelona I've yet to find a road that is safe and uninterrupted for 30 minute threshold intervals (threshold means all out effort sustainable for an hour) besides the mountain climbs I've done already.  So, since I needed to do two 30' intervals and another two hours of endurance pace I headed north to the hills.  Getting there is a bit of a chore and requires lots of stops and starts, and couple that with my unfamiliarity of the roads a 5 mile ride to the start of the climb means over 30 minutes of really slow riding.

Barcelona seems to be perpetually hazy in the late morning, but after my two intervals I decided to go check out the Sagrat Cor perched atop Tibidabo Mtn.  The route there offers amazing panoramic views of the city, and I tried again to capture the beauty of the urban sprawl of Barcelona.  You can see kind of make out Sagrada Familia by Gaudi in the center of the photo sprouting forth from the ground competing against other high rise glass structures I'm unfamiliar with both to the right and left.  Tomorrow we are going to go by foot to check out Gaudi's Guell Park and Sagrada Familia so I'll provide some better pics later!

I continued on and went through a small, beautiful village called Vallvidrera that overlooks Barcelona, simply stunning - I'd love to live there! - and stopped again along side the road when I was a few hundred feet higher in elevation to soak in the view.  Two German tourists were there as well and offered to take my picture.

There was still more climbing to do before I got to the top of Tibidabo, so I clipped back in and continued on for another mile or so to the top of the mountain where Sagrat Cor is located along with a very swanky hotel.

The hotel was located slightly below the church, and had an equally impressive view and judging by the cars parked in the small vestibule, it costs a lot to stay there.  Three cars were parked outside, and they were probably worth nearly 1 million dollars combined.  One was boring and just a giant custom luxury car, but the other two were worthy of the Alize's company.  I could tell the doorman was a bit nervous initially when he saw me near the cars, but he decided I was harmless and left me alone.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tour de Barcelona, day 3

Today's route is not noteworthy so I'll not link to it.  Yesterday really did a number on me physically, and it completely erased that itch to do an epic ride that's generally nagging me so it's time for recovery!  I was unable to consume enough calories last night before passing out, and was feeling it when I awoke this morning looking emaciated and generally wasted.

So, I decided to pedal slowly around Barcelona for a few hours soaking in the rays, enjoying the views, and checking out parts of the city difficult to reach by foot.  I'm fairly smitten with this city.  Compared to NYC, it's a fairy tale.  The streets are free of litter, the vibe is relaxed and seems more focused on enjoying life instead of being a slave to a job, and cars almost never honk their horns even when the car in front of them is not accelerating 2 nanoseconds after the light changes to green.  Since we are staying on La Rambla, the main pedestrian thoroughfare, we get some street noise especially at night when the partying crowd emerges, but for the most part it's a peaceful place to be.

I first headed south down La Rambla to the ports where this grand building greets intrepid adventurers from the sea.

Near the port, there's a bridge that accesses the monstrous docks required for the big cruise ships.  It's over the Sea and offers a nice view of the city.

Leaving the bridge, across the street is a big park called Montjuic that is mostly on a hill to the west of Barcelona, and it has a funicular and cable car access to the top.  Within the park are some gardens that looked beautiful.  Here's the road that leads to the gardens.

And, one last photo from the top of Montjuic park.

Tomorrow it's back to a strict training regime.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Barcelona to Montserrat, day 2

Drinking a beer.  A nice, cold beer.  This is necessary.

Today's ride (see route here) falls in to the truly epic category of rides.  What I thought was going to be a 4 to 5 hour ride turned out to be a 7 hour adventure over every kind of terrain Spain could muster.  I suppose that is what I get for not knowing the area.  I didn't know that loosely labeled "road" I swear being created out of nowhere just to mess with me was part of the route, nor did I realize I was riding on a goat herder's dry riverbed at one point.  I did know I was climbing one mountain, but did not know I had to cross two others.  Oops.

Today's ride from Barcelona to Montserrat was amazing.  I loved every second of it.  90 miles, 7000+ ft elevation gain, three big mountain climbs, perhaps 20 miles of dirt roads and single track.  Were it not for the GPS on the iPhone I'd still be somewhere out there in the Spanish countryside.

It all started around 10am when I headed north from La Rambla towards Tibidabo Mtn overlooking Barcelona.  The climb up Tibidabo is what most east coast US cyclists long for when they watch stages of the Tour de France.  It has it all, but it's a small dose, and easily accessible.  A switchback road winds it's way up the side of the Mtn offering amazing views nearly the entire time - if you can manage to take your eyes off the front tire as you grind your way up the road.

The road is called bv-1462 and 1468 and is a required ride, in my opinion, for anyone living in or visiting Barcelona.  It's a great workout.  If all you can do is that climb, descend the other side before returning to Barcelona.  There's a cute, old, Spanish town in the valley where you could grab a bite to eat before returning to the city.

Below is a view overlooking Barcelona from near the top of the climb.  It was hazy and the sun wasn't friendly, but it's quite a sight.

Atop Tibidabo, there's a grand church called Sagrat Cor overlooking the city.

A fun descent awaits you on the other side of Tibidabo.  If you keep your fingers off the brakes you will learn the limits of your tires while getting some practice on your technical descending skills.  It's fairly realistic to launch yourself off the mountain in a few spots if you don't pay attention.

After the climb and fast descent in to Molins de Rei, my adventure truly began.  I didn't really know how to navigate this particular section and decided to follow a mountain biker on to...  I don't even really know how to call this thing.  It had a few signs offering distances and towns, but it's definitely not a road that cars can access.  I think it's maybe a multi-use path system still being developed to connect Barcelona to other towns.  I'll let the photo do the talking:

This is the tamer part of the path, and it's definitely not ready for a road bike with 23c slicks.  Thankfully I had tubeless tires so didn't have to worry about pinch flats.  I can't say I'd recommend this to anyone unless you enjoy your own private hell as much as I do.  Huge holes everywhere, stream crossings, descents over very rocky and root laced terrain - it has it all.  It'd be manageable and fun on a 'cross bike with fat tires, but it's ideal for a mountain bike.  I'm still amazed I didn't break something on the bike, or end up walking a very long ways with a ruined tire or wheel.

About halfway up the adventure trail I had to navigate my way through a bunch of goats being led by a dog and it's owner down a mostly dry riverbed.  I needed to get to the other side.  The goats refused to be polite and let me pass, and made me eventually give up and walk through them for fear of crashing in to one.

I eventually made it on to a paved road again, and finally got a good view of my goal - Montserrat.

Montserrat is a little over 4000ft high, and has paved road access to near it's summit.  Nestled high on one of the sides is a Benedictine Abbey where some think the Holy Grail from Arthurian myth was hidden away.  You can see the abbey below if you look closely.

The climb is relatively easy, but long at nearly 10 miles, and gains quite a bit of elevation.  I think the avg grade is about 7% once the climb truly starts.  Leading up to it there is a long, steady drag at a lesser grade, but I had a wicked head wind making it more challenging.

The peaks of Montserrat have some very interesting shaped rock formations.

The descent was FAST, very windy, and with the tight switchbacks it was pretty sketchy at times.  Deep dish wheels would've been terrifying.

And then it was back to the mud and rocks and river to take me back to Barcelona.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Barcelona, day 1

Yesterday my wife I and arrived in Barcelona, Spain for a 9 day vacation of touring and cycling.  After meeting our temporary landlord at the apartment we rented for the duration of our stay on La Rambla & Colom overlooking Placa Reial, we wandered around a bit while trying to shake the jet lag, had a wonderful meal at Cometacinc, and went to sleep way too early.

Today, I had planned a roughly 2 hour easy ride to get used to riding around Barcelona.  Here's a link to the ride I did today.  Pictured above perched on our tiny terrace is my weapon of choice for Barcelona, a Neil Pryde Alize.

Before heading out, I went to the Boqueria, a huge food market right by our apartment, to stock up on some food.

I quickly discovered Barcelona is significantly more bike friendly than Manhattan.  Bike paths are everywhere, cars, even the police, actually respect them, and people don't randomly cross streets in front of silent cyclists without looking.  Whoever is planning the cycling routes in NYC should come to Europe for a few weeks and check out their cities.  They might learn something.

Did I say it is warm here?  Perfect for cycling, 60F.  Maybe not warm enough to be on the beach, but these guys had some insulation...

You may have noticed the hill in the background above.  I had to have at least one decent climb so I set my sights on it and eventually found the road to it's summit.  The climb was pretty tough with switchbacks carved out of the side of the hill that were quite steep, and it took me about 20 minutes to make it to the top from the small town.

After the climb, I retraced my route for the most part back to Barcelona, and am now enjoying an incredibly good Iberico ham sandwich with some aged Manchego and creamy, salty butter:)

A few more photos that will hopefully be viewed by the bike lane planners in NYC:

Above goes along the Sea for quite a ways outside of Barcelona.  I went about 10 miles on it, and there was clearly more to the northeast towards France.

Above is very near downtown Barcelona.  It's actually safe to ride on the road!

Above is a bike path a few miles from the city center.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

early 2011

Last summer, I raced against Jeremy Powers, a pro road and cyclocross racer, perhaps 3 times in July at hilly NE road races, and later over Labor Day weekend at the GMSR in VT.  Soon after the stage race in VT, we got in touch, and he asked if I wanted to race with a team he's involved with two of his friends Al and Mukunda.

For 2011 I'm on the team JAM/Wheelhouse racing with 11 others from around the Northeast.  We will primarily be racing in the Northeast, but there are also some great opportunities to race outside of the country.  I'm very excited to say I'll be racing in Brazil at two 5 day UCI stage races in April.  And then two days after I return from Brazil I'm off to Bangkok, Thailand for the Tour of Friendship with Neil Pryde Bikes.

Brazil is sure to be a challenge especially this early in the season.  I'll be racing against top South American pros over amazing terrain.  Thailand originally appeared to be more of a "fun" race I was going to treat as a vacation, but I've recently learned there are going to be a few Asian pro teams attending.

Next week I'm heading to Barcelona, Spain for 9 days with my wife.  We are both very excited and can't wait to tour the area!  I'm bringing my Alize, and hope to meet up with another Neil Pryde epic rider who lives in Barcelona to go for a long ride one day.

So far 2011 is off to a great start.  More to come, but now it's time to ride for a few hours!