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Cycling with a purpose through southern Spain


It seemed strange that after a short plane ride and just 35 minutes of travelling we went from the hustle and bustle of Malaga airport to the lush, peaceful countryside of Loja in the Western side of Granada to our hotel. 

After a lunch and a team briefing, our warm up ride was a gentle introduction into what would be a challenging three days.  The ride past Loja’s springs and castle remains, towards the hills gave an inkling as to what was to come when the tour actually started. 

We travelled as a group, the so called ‘Barking Badgers’, a team from Tesco who carry out a wide range of events to raise money for the charity Action Medical Research.  Our team included riders with a range of abilities from Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton from the British Cycling team to people who rarely cycle apart from taking part in this tour and other Badgers, Andy Dewhurst and Tim Mason who do a lot of cycling.  Despite our differences the camaraderie was great. 

The second day marked the beginning of the tough cycling and we left Alcala la Real together on the main route with our bikes following us in vans together with the medics.  Cycling in such heat was something I found hard to get used to but I followed the medics’ advice and managed to avoid getting dehydrated.

For me La Vuelta was all about the challenge and pushing myself to another level so on the first day, in addition to the tour route, I opted to do the extra loops which was hard but at the same time exhilarating and satisfying.  It felt strange to cycle through beautiful, rustic villages and not stop, but I had set myself a target, so I only got glimpses of the olive and avocado groves, and the other scenes.  It was only when we stopped for lunch that I managed to really appreciate the view: the rugged terrain against the backdrop of the mountains was amazing. 

Starting out from Guadix on the third day underneath a bright blue sky, towards the Puerto la Ragua was fantastic. The town was like something out of a history book with the underground cave like houses and the desert like landscape reminiscent of a Middle Eastern country.  The climb was tough and steep and although I found it a challenge, I coped as I tend to get stronger with each day of the tour, and the evening yoga and stretching sessions stopped me from getting sore.  Passing creeks and a waterfall on the climb up seemed a bit weird but captured the beauty and diversity of the mountains.  Although the steepness did leave me breathless a few times, reaching the top, stopping for a picnic and looking at the spectacular views made me realise that it was all worth it.  As always going down was easier and it was at this point that I really began to take in my surroundings: the quaint and unspoilt villages and houses with their white-washed, flat-roofed houses. Again in some places it looked like things hadn’t changed for hundreds of years. 

By day four, the last official ‘cycling’ day of the tour, I really started to ache as the early starts and 6.30pm finishes began to take their toll.  The terrain was flatter and with the wind behind me, I cycled quite fast but with the regular breaks still managed to appreciate the avocado orchards and the prettiness of the mountain villages in Poqueira.

As we cycled back into the coastal villages, I was again struck by the contrast: at the differences between the mountain villages with their rustic way of life compared to the bustling, touristy, coastal villages.

Steve Gershon took part in this cycling tour to raise funds for leading charity Action Medical Research.  Action Medical Research is organising La Vuelta – the Tour of Spain which takes place in October 2009.  For more information, please visit: http://www.action.org.uk/get_involved/la_vuelta_tour_spain

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