It’s midday, 30 degrees centigrade and I’m halfway up an 800 metre climb somewhere North of Maspalomas, Gran Canaria. It’s really hot and I’m struggling with this. I thought this event would be a bit like the Cristalp but much easier. Wrong. At the moment, it seems a lot harder. I’m starting to have serious words with myself just so that I don’t get to the summit of this hill and climb into the awaiting ambulance at the top. I know from past experience that the pain of carrying on is nothing compared to the month-long dull ache of quitting early and the constant nagging of if’s and but’s.
I should have trained harder for this. This is not a training ride. The last time I did anything hard (as in the hard rides I was doing last year) was September.
We arrived in Gran Canaria a week ago and checked into a gorgeous apartment, just 5 minutes from the start line. A week by the pool at this time of year is just the ticket – I had a book, a swimming pool and plenty of time to do some short rides to acclimatise. The only problem was that I had no idea where the registration was. I spent a whole afternoon riding around a neighbouring town looking for the hotel where the race organisers were based. This was after an hour on the Internet trying to find the name of the place. All the race website said was “bike hotel San Agustin”. It’s actually called The Gloria Palace. Hmmm. I eventually get some directions from a dutch mechanic in a bike shop.
When I finally get there, all I have to do is find the registration desk. Nobody at reception knows. There are no bikes or cyclists anywhere. Great. I literally stumble upon the registration desk, hidden in a room in a cellar. There are a few naked people in there receiving massages and a load of carbon bike components. Those crazy Germans. The girl at the desk looks puzzled and asks me why I was there, “registration is tomorrow and it isn’t here”. “Your website says it’s here and it’s today.” “The website is last year’s”. “No it isn’t”. “It is”. “Isn’t”. “IS”. This went on for a bit and I left in a huff. I had to register the day after at the start line, 5 minutes from my bloody sunlounger.
Saturday came, and I spent an hour or so hanging about, going to the bog, drinking some water, going to the bog again, trying to chat to germans…the start time was advertised on the website as “8am”, but it was actually 9am. On one bog-queueing session I was chatting to 24 hour solo legend Jenn O’Connor who was doing a fine job of shouting “hurry up!!” in four different languages to the Continent’s Finest Endurance Poo’ers. It seemed to work though, I was having another wee in no time at all.
9am (well, ten past ish) and we were off. I was more than a bit surprised when everyone went off at full-tilt, given there were 85k’s to do and it was already getting very warm. The climbs were all rocky and wide, lots of gravel and a struggle to maintain traction. The Global softail rules on this kind of terrain though – the climbing ability of a hardtail with just enough give to dig the rear tyre in when you’ve a load of wobbly riders to get past. The downhills were pretty much the same as the uphills, which was a disappointment, I was expecting something technical I guess, an Austrian bloke told me it was going to be technical anyway. He also said that my frame looked “home made”. Was that a compliment?
About halfway though, and suddenly things got narrower, twistier and very, very rocky. It was fun and I was really impressed by the USE fork – the anti-dive gubbins really do laugh in the faces of rock steps and slopes of loose boulders. Lots of folk were walking down this bit.
Near the end, there was a huge shoulder-the-bike section, not as high but just as steep as Pas De Lona and a real killer when you’re not expecting it. I chatted to an English bloke (who was moaning his head off) who is doing Hit The North – small world!
I crossed the finish line in 5 hours 32 mins, 64th overall. Turns out almost 100 riders didn’t finish, most of them presumably succumbed to the heat.
I’ll do this one again; despite the slightly shonky organisation, lack of proper food at the feed stations and wildly innacurate website, Gran Canaria is such a beautiful place. Such a shame that most people who go there never leave the coastal towns.
Next time though, I’ll treat it with more respect and train properly…..