Day Four: Seu d’Urgell to Berga

16th June 2016

In giving the briefing for today’s ride, the DA lead said that she would chose today’s ride over any other, single day ride she knew of, because of the challenging cols/mountain climbs, the stunning downhills, the magnificent scenery & the lack of traffic. She was 100% correct on all counts!

We were breakfasting at 7.30 and left to lovely weather by 08.30 and in the entire day saw very little traffic & in fact, very few people.

The first climb, which came shortly after we left the hotel, was long & hard & mindful that there were three others to climb, I studiously kept my pace slow & used the low gears a lot. The first water stop was about 1km from the top of Fornols, which had a magnificent vista viewpoint, & there are group photographs, from this viewpoint, which will appear at some time on a communal photo sharing site. The temperature, as expected, was significantly lower than our start point so we all donned extra clothes (I added 2 lightweight jackets & winter gloves), in preparation for the upcoming descent.

Whilst the road surfaces on the way up were pretty sub standard, to our surprise & delight, the downhill section was faultless although there was some rock fall in a couple of places. This section of the ride is virtually indescribable in that the sun was shining, there was little development, other the odd stunning hilltop villa or small settlement, virtually no traffic & the ability to see, thousands of feet below, a continuous ribbon of steep winding roads – cycling heaven!

What I did do was stop at fairly regular intervals to take photographs, share a big grin with some of the others & also try to ensure it all didn’t end too soon.

What goes up & all that!! The problem with such descents is of course that they come to an end & invariably at that time, the legs have begun to seize up and the fatigue of the last couple of days sets in. Everyone seems to feel this & the initial reaction is to see if a brake is catching or a tyre has gone flat. Add this factor to a long, long relentless climb to Tuixen at 1658 metres & it all added up to some very tired riders at lunch, where once again the cold weather kicked in & the hot soup was oh so welcome.

Downhill number two was again quite wonderful & seemed to go on forever & although such a run needs little in the way of leg power, it nevertheless seems to set the heart racing & I think everyone is aware that when you rely on two skinny tyres at 35-45 mph then it’s not sensible to lose concentration. I was certainly blessing my new bike at this stage of the ride (A Cannondale Synapse, a present for my 70th) as it has slighter wider tyres & also disc brakes, the latter such a wonderful innovation & so much better on long, steep descents.

We had a set water stop in the village of Sat Llorenç de Morunys where there was also a coffee shop. How attractive that coffee shop seemed, but clearly only to me. Everyone wanted to press on, so I reluctantly followed, as we headed out for the final third of the day & the last col. Oh those poor legs & that overworked lower gear, it just seemed to go on and on. At one point I was doing some mental arithmetic with the distances & converting miles to kilometers, when I decided that another 2 miles would see me at the top. Within minutes of this exercise I was in a tunnel & at the other end, there was a water stop & mountain peak. How very, very welcome was that & the third descent proved no less exciting than the other two.

So here we are at Berga & the very pleasant HCC Cuitat de Berga AND to the joy of some & dismay of others, England have just beaten Wales 2-1. I suspect both sides will evidence such joy/dismay in the usual way tonight, which is not the most highly recommended way to approach a final day, which I think will run to about 130 kms, although with hopefully less climbing (today being the most to date).

Statistics for the Day;
60.9 miles
10.6 mph average
2267 metres of climbing
5 hours 43 minutes in the saddle