‘El más duro en Europa’……those are the words that stick in my mind from the pre-event briefing delivered by Joaquim Rodriguez (La Purito) that he used to describe the 2nd edition of the Cyclosportif named after him!
The following morning I lined up with some 800+ other riders including Sergi and Mike from ‘Club Ciclista Bike Breaks’ to tackle the six climbs totaling 5200+ meters of ascent over 145 km including two graded as ‘HC’!
I was under no illusion as to what lay ahead of me as I’d rode the 1st edition last year and ‘enjoyed’ it so much had come back for a second helping! Over the next 8 hours I spent a lot of time reflecting on my decision to return especially when ascending the 18% sections on the Col de Gallina a ‘HC’ climb in 30-degree heat! Along with many other riders I suffered a severe ‘sense of humour failure’ arriving at the feed station at the top to discover they had run out of all liquid refreshment and all they could offer were ice cubes to suck on!
After a breathtaking descent, a resupply at a roadside font, passing the 120km mark and four out of six climbs in the bag, a mere 25km to go and the end almost in sight, how hard could it be? The answer…very hard! The penultimate climb although only 4km offered no shade and with a few 12% sections was surely designed to guarantee that there would be very little left in the legs for the final 13km drag up to the finish at 2087 meters!
It was all I could do to offset the inevitable leg cramps at this stage and then to my somewhat amusement there was a mobile masseuse on a motor scooter offering quick ‘rub downs’ to those in the direst of need! From what I saw she was kept busy!
Some 4km from the end the finish could be seen at the top of the ski lift, the gradient eased off to a mere 7% and with huge encouragement from those who’d finished myself and Mike rolled over the line after 8hrs 40mins and a very welcome ‘cervesa’ and a trip back down on the ski lift!
Defiantly a ‘bucket list’ event for anyone who wants an extreme challenge, not sure if I’ll do round 3…..but you never know!