Picos Original Riders

Picos Original Riders
Highlights of 2010

Last of the Picos Riders - to Rome Alone!

Our first two charity rides were a huge success - raising over £20,000 for the South East Cancer Help Centre.

The Centre does a fantastic job of supporting patients and carers at the most difficult times of their lives. They make a real difference and you could help them in their work by contributing to our fundraising. Donations can be made via JustGiving.comhttps://www.justgiving.com/Tom-Vaz/ or directly into the Centre. For more details of the Centre and their work see their website at http://www.sechc.org.uk/

After 3 years of rest it seemed time to dust off the old muscles, bones and sinews and do one more spectacular ride in aid of this fabulous charity.

This time I will travel alone for 25 days, mainly following the ancient pilgrimage route to Rome, the Via Francigene, covering a distance of around 1,400 miles.

The route travels through Newhaven - Dieppe - Paris before I eventually reach the Via Francigene in Eastern France. From then on it is pretty simple apart from having to cross the Alps without an elephant!

Friday, 27 July 2012

A Day of Disasters

Three of us decided to cycle 50 miles to Finestrra while Des opted for a day off and a more leisurely bus ride. First up anew set of pedals for Christopher as the old ones collapsed under the pressure of all the heavy climbs.
So we set off at a fast pace following the ups and downs. We had 10km 8% climbing followed by 10km straight down. As we reached the end of the downhill disaster struck. I hit a big ridge in the road surface and came off my bike at 45kmph. I was able to get up with just some nasty bruises and grazes but no broken bones. My helmet probably saved my life as it was smashed by the impact leaving me with just a bump on the side of my head.
All in all I feel a lucky chap as the total cost to me was 3.50 euros for a bus fare and 35 euros for a new helmet. A very good investment I think!
Having come back into the seminary I have a lovely room with three windows anda lovely view across to Santiago. A day off tomorrow and time to heal.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Finally into Santiago de Compostela

After leaving Parga at 8am we headed out via the Confraternity of St James albergue at Miraz having been invited for coffee by Gosia, the lady who writes the Confraternity's bulletins. She wanted a picture of us for her next bulletin and as it was her birthday we couldn't refuse.
From Miraz the route goes offroad through some rough tracks where we followed the scallop shells that mark out the route. The route here is very dry and bleak before following there road to the monastry at Sobrado. Here Christopher celebrated because he spotted a pizza meal for 5 euros.
We spent the night in a pension at the dull but very busy town of Arzua because the pilgrim alburgue was full. No wifi :-(
Today we faced the short 40k ride into Santiago where we had to weave through the pedestrians to get to the cathedral in time for the 12noon pilgrim mass. We each received a certificate known as a Compostela for completing the pilgrimage. The chap signing our certificates was from Balham!
Tonight we stay at the albergue at the Seminary Menon where we have the luxury of separate rooms before an early start to Finisterra (the end of the known world in medieval times). A trip of 50 mikes with the threat of thunderstorms.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Day of Difficulty

Last night's lovely bed quickly faded in memory as we faced a horrendous climb up to the mountain pass at 540m on a steep old road designed for asses. Sweat poured off us as temperatures quickly reached 30C.
When we finally reached the top there wasn't even a sign to celebrate, just a very busy road to negotiate as we headed into Vilalba. After the big lorries finally stopped bugging us by going onto the motorway, we faced a long road which undulated for miles before getting to town in time for lunch.
As we went to a restaurant Des realised that his back wheel was buckled and rubbing against the brakes. Fortunately everything stops for lunch and I had the pleasure of watching Des and an old Spanish gentleman using Google maps on my tablet to try and locate the bike repair shop. Eventually we worked it out and a mechanic took care of it. No more cheap tyres for Des, as the actual problem was due to a damaged sidewall.
After the repairs Des was a new man and we had to hurry to keep up with him. GB team cyclists please note this new training method. Unfortunately Des was travelling so fast that we took a wrong turning and ended up in the middle of some woods. As Des puzzled over maps I watched a snake chase a frog towards Ricky before it realised he was bigger and uglier than it.
Eventually we got to to the hostel only to find that it was full. We had to go back Parga, the village we had previously gotten lost in where we stayed in a very grand pension.
A very long day, 50 mountainous miles from Mondonedo to Parga.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Upwards Into Galicia

Left Tapia and it's beatiful setting overlooking the cliffs and headed up towards Ribadeo. A bit of trouble finding a route to the bridge but well worth it when we finally got there.
Stunning views overlooking the river estuary. A hair raising ride across the bridge 100ft over the river.
After Ribadeo we began the climb into the mountains.
After climbing for two hours in a sweltering 30 degrees we encountered a sign indicating another 900m. What a let down!
The high point was 435m and it took us almost 5 minutes to get back down to Lorenzá and its beautiful church. Tonight's albergue is our best so far, almost as good as a hotel apart from the dormitory.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sunday is a day of rest!

My night on the concrete floor was quite interesting. I kept waking up to allow the blood to flow in various parts of my anatomy.
A gentle ride was planned as we were supposed to go to mass at 12noon. However, fate intervened, or in Des' opinion we did. He was having a minor problem with his chain coming off. When the rest of us told him how to fix it the result was completely non-functioning gears. After much huffing and puffing we got it corrected but were well over an hour late.
Another huge lunch at Luarca and a beautiful church on the cliff. Even the beach was almost deserted. Cannot believe why the English go to Southern Spain.
One of the pictures shows the motorway bridge high above the road. Our hearts sink everytime we see one of the bridges in the distance. The cars get to drive straight across the valley in elevated splendour while we peasants on two wheels face a steep downhill and a steep climb at the other end.
Eventually we did 80 very hilly km today and at least we all have real bunk beds to share. Just shared a bottle of the Asturian sidre which the waiters pour in a bizarre fashion. Must go, a real bed is calling me!

Following the motorway

What goes down...