Modesto attorney Robert Fores, his wife Cindi and four other couples are on a cycling sojourn to participate in the Gran Fondo Quebrantahuesos, the biggest cycling event in Spain.
Fores is blogging over the next several days about their adventure. Following is his third installment:
“Bob, our driver is here,” Balvino Irizarry said on the hotel phone. It was 6:45 a.m. Sergio, of Ciclored.com, was driving around our hotel, Onlyyou.hotels.com/madrid, because there was not enough room for him to park his van in the narrow street in front of the hotel. We needed to leave early to beat Madrid’s heavy early-morning traffic. Madrid is a city of 3 million. It would be a 5-hour trip to Jaca in northeast Spain. Mike Purnell followed in a van that we rented the previous night. With Sergio’s van, we had plenty of room for eight people and luggage.
Ciclored organizes bicycle trips all over Europe. They took care of our ride registration, hotel and meals, and would take care of us for the next three days.
We passed through torero country. There were numerous imposing silhouettes of a bull at various points along Highway E-90. By California standards, the freeway was well maintained. Much of the terrain was Mediterranean like, similar to southern California, even though my understanding is Madrid lies at a latitude 350 miles north of San Francisco.
Sergio Medina Mena is 35. He spoke little English, and I little Spanish. Nonetheless, we communicated well enough. He indicated his countrymen's concern about doping among professional cyclists. Sergio handles business issues of Ciclored. He would shuttle all of us, riders, and non-riders, back and forth the 12 miles between Jaca and Sabinanigo over the next two days.
We arrived at Larres, a very small village between Jaca and Sabinanigo. We would leave from Larres the next day at 6:30 p.m. to ride the four miles over to the start of the Quebrantahuesos (QH). Hotel El Churron, in Larres, includes a “bike hotel” that has a facility for bicycle maintenance and storage. Ciclored set up shop here for their customers for the QH. We met Luis Ortega Garcia, our contact person over the months of planning. Luis and his bike mechanics made final adjustments to bicycles which came from the weekend’s package that we purchased from Ciclored. It was helpful they spoke good English. He was a journalist for 10 years before immersing himself into the bicycle travel industry, his passion. He is enthusiastic and helpful. At 5 foot, 3 inches with zero body fat, he does not need to substantiate his riding credentials. He would finish the QH 11 minutes behind his fellow countryman and former five-time Tour de France winner, Miguel Indurain. Indurain, now 50, would finish 20 minutes behind the fastest rider.
My steed was a Specialized Roubaix bicycle frame with FSA (Full Speed Ahead) and Shimano 105 components. The gearing, in bicycle jargon, included a 34 in the front and a 30 in the back. For climbing (the QH has a lot of climbing), you want the smallest sprocket you can get in the front and the biggest one you can get in the back. The 34 and 30 sprocket sizes are decent for climbing.
We then made our way to the QH expo at the ride’s start in Sabinanigo. For anyone who likes bicycles, the expo was the happiest place on earth. Thousands of people checked in for pre-registration and crowded the booths next to the ride’s start area. Bikes, components, nutritional supplements and clothing were the order of the day. Sergio then took us the 12 miles west to check into our hotel.
The Hotel Oroel in Jaca was our home. We had dinner there and did our best to eat lots of carbs. We were tired.
Sergio would be picking us up at 5:45 a.m. the next morning to take us to our bikes where our adventure in Spain’s largest amateur bicycle ride would start.