Greg Eden’s Travel Diary

Friday, 05 Sep 2014

Location: Spain

MapDay 10 Bilbao
Breakfast about 9. Nothing much opens here until about 10 but shops generally stay open until about 9 or 10 pm. They work long days but have a couple of fours off for siesta in the middle of they day. Spaniards are very laid back people and mostly very friendly. Bikestyle tours pick us up from our hotel at 12 (an hour late but we are not in any hurry). We take an hour to get to our next hotel in Solares, Cantabria. The drive along the Atlantic coast is spectacular and there are small villages all along the way. Nice little hotel Los Guardeses, typical Spanish design. It used to be a palace some centuries ago but was destroyed and a hotel built on the site. We go for our first ride ofnthis tour. There are 16 people on this tour, including 3 guides. The new owner of Bikestyle Tours is one of the guides and the tour leader is Eric de Clerk who we have done tours with twice before. He is a former pro racer and works part time with the Saxobank pro team. He takes us on a 30k warm up ride. And what an introduction. We go thru the town and beautiful quiet country roads and then the fun starts. The hills here are serious. We do a couple of fairly sharp climbs and then the gradient kicks up to over 20%. the pack splits quickly!! I'm on my smallest gear and can just turn the crank. I'm wondering how Ruth is going with this. We get to the top and 10 mins later she comes walking up the hill. She's not the only one though. Then we do another hill the same gradient. They are not long but they're killers. Then we have the steepest descents I have ever done. I'm on full brakes going down and thinking I might go aver the handlebars. I'm only doing about 20kph. Ruth is in front of me and going really well. My hands and forearms are aching and it is so steep I dare not try to go to the drops, even though I know I will get better leverage on the brakes. Eventually I go to the drops and it is such relief but only for a short time. We get to a t junction in time to watch the pros go through. We then ride on the race route after the pros back to Solares. Eric declares there will be 3 groups going back-the fast group led by him, the middle group led by another tour leader, and the slow group, led by Ruth. She is quite happy to be appointed as a tour leader!!! I sit on Eric's wheel allnthe way back and we have a great descent, which is reasonably gentle although quite fast. Some riders get dropped on the descent. After a shower  we go with Eric to the Saxo team area and watch the mechanics clean and prepare the bikes. He knows the guys so they are happy for  us to get close to them. We get to have a look through the team bus which is a first for us. The team has a bus, 2 trucks and 6 cars. One of the trucks is the mobile kitchen. They have a chef who does all their meals. They eat in the hotel but all food is brought in from the outside mobile kitchen. All teams do the same. It is big business. We walk back to the hotel and have a couple of beers at a small bar with a few of the locals. The girls have vino blanco. It looks a bit sus out of a strange looking bottle but tastes a bit like cider. Apparently they like their cider here. We have dinner in the hotel to get to know our traveling companions. They all seem quite decent. Mainly Aussies with a kiwi and a few yanks.