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!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Picos de Europa

Having travelled to Soto de Cangis at a leisurely pace yesterday we put a hard shift in today. The Picos de Europa National park started at the Covadonga lakes and they are located in the mountains here at a height of 1100m. The ride is 20km long from our hotel and climb only starts near the basilica at 7km. This leaves an average gradient of 10% for 10km. No wonder this route is featured in the Spanish cycling tour every year. Taking a decision to makd the ascent wss almost automatic after drinking another bottle of the local cider.
Des took the bus leaving Ricky, Chris and myself to face the climb without our leader. 1200km of cycling before today has taken its toll plus I nearly killed myself the last time Des left us alone so we took it easy.
It was a very tough ride indeed and the cows and goats in the road really didn't help.
When we got to the top we had a brief break for some ham, egg and chips before going on a simple walk. Christopher seems able to charm donkeys but the demand that we cycle up to the viewpoint at nearly 1200m so that he could update his facebook profile picture was a bit much!
On the way down we cycled past the impressive Covadongs Basilica where we are going to mass tonight. Tomorrow will ge one of our longest rides at 100km so early to bed tonight!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

How many stars?

As we are now off the Camino it has become hard to find accomodation. Yesterday saw us cycle 95km to Cornellana where we had to pay 50 euros per room in a 2 star hotel for accomodation. Cycling was relatively easy after lunch and we rode 20km, mostly downhill, along a river canyon to get there. Last nights supper was huge and caused us all to feel rather bloated.
This morning saw us climbing instantly back up to 400m. In England that is a mountain. I think in this part of Spain nothing is a mountain unless it has a wind turbine on it! Lunch stop was at a rural casa where our awful spanish caused havoc in the Fawlty Towers of the culinary world. We finally left the owner with a smile on her face. Probably relief I think!
Trickiest navigation was getting through the regional town of Oviedo where we chased a little boy and his big brother out of town. They start them early on very expensive bikes here.
Final resting place tonight is Pola de Siero. Here we are paying the same price for 3 stars! This is the way pilgrims should travel.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Onwards and upwards

The road to Pola de Allande rises and falls several hundred meters at a time so we had a day of serious mountain climbing enroute to Beducedo. Fantastic scenery especially at Grandas de Salime where the river forms a gorge and the Spanish have built a hydroelectric dam. The drop to the dam was 600m vertically at an 8% gradient and although it was not steep on the other side we still had 15km of constant climbing to our overnight stop at Berducedo. Very little accomodation in the town and the landlady at Casa Rural took pity on us when she realised we were her only option apart from another long ride to Pola de Allande and setup a room specially for us. Fried egg and chips at the local taverna tasted great after such a hard day - 75km of mountain roads.
This morning saw us go over the pass at Puerta del Palo at 1146m this is literally our highest point of this trip. By contrast Mt Snowdon is 1085m high so we have had a hard slog with all our luggage. No wonder the huge vultures were keeping an eye on us.
Lunch down here at Pola Allande followed a sensational 10km of swooping downhill ride. Hope everyone back home is having a brilliant Olympics while we are out here having an adventure. :-)

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Through the clouds to Asturia

Having left the Roman city of Lugo behind us we soon started climbing into the mountains eventually reaching a peak of 840m before staying overnight at o Cadavo at 7.30pm where we found the hostel was already full. Not a problem as we could then wallow in the luxury of a 1 star hotel!
The morning ride started with a series of steep ascents through the clouds to 980m before we reached our lunch stop at A Fonsagrada. This afternoon is the big test as we climb what I have just been told is "a bloody big hill!"

Monday, 30 July 2012

Homeward bound

Having decided to change our route to avoid the mountains we left Santiago with a vengeance covering 88km because the road was so smooth and flat. We spent the night in a lovely hostel at Baamonde where we changed our minds about the route. Des has deep misgivings but has agreed to lead us back to the Camino Primitivo and up the Cantabrian Mountains.
Having committed to the route with a swift ride to the Roman walled city at Lugo there is no going back. From here we have 37km this afternoon to our overnight stop at o Cadavo followed by a full day of climbing tomorrow. Hope the legs hold out.

The end of the world

A day of r&r is not an easy choice so instead we spent 6 hours on a coach going to Fisterra (the end of the world) and back. This is traditionally where pilgrims burn their clothes before restarting their life without sin. As we don't have spare clothes we decided to resume our sinful lives! The map shows that this is the furthermost part of our journey but it is not the end of the road for us at all.
My bruises are healing and I feel very lucky to have survived let alone get back on my bike so soon!