Cycling on La Palma – Day 2

The second day brought madness all over my mind ;) I decided to ride up to the Roque de los Muchachos, but from both sides to make it a bit more difficult. Ok, I have to admit it was not an instantaneous decision, but a plan made already a long time ago… As I knew it would take me a long time to accomplish my idea, I got up at 7 and left around half past eight. The morning was beautiful and sunny. Last autumn I rode up from Santa Cruz once already, so I knew the route, except for the first kilometers, where I had to take different (and very steep) streets due to ongoing (pre-election) roadworks. Now this was the menu for the first half of the day (till reaching the Roque for the first time):

34.61 km @ 6.5% with a maximum over 100 meters of 12.3% (HC)
3.69 km @ 7.3% with a maximum over 100 meters of 11.6% (3rd category)

I tried not to push myself too much, because after arriving to the top, I knew I would still have almost half the elevation gain to be done… Still, I felt it much easier than last time (though I have reached the summit almost exactly as fast as last time), so I felt very confident about the rest of the day while taking a short break on top of La Palma. (The Omega-Pharma Lotto colours fit me pretty well, don’t they?)

I also refilled my hydration pack with water (and Isostar) here – although my two 0.75 liter bottles were still full. (It is so nice to climb with some excess weight, isn’t it? :D) As the weather was really chilly (and cloudy towards the north side of the island), I got my knee and arm warmers, my wind west and even my rain jacket (still only against the cold wind) on, before I started my descent towards Garafia. Still, I was honestly freezing downhills. Cutting through 13°C air with 50 km/h feels really cold… It was a real revival when I finally reached to the lowest possible point on this side of the island (a lookout point on the edge of the cliffs below Garafia), where the temperature was 25°C. And the view (plus the plants; bushes, flowers and cacti) was also quite spectacular.

I did not spend too much time here (although I really liked this spot), as I still had a lot of climbing to do… So, here is the menu for the second part of the day (the second climb is already after the top, on the way ‘down’):

30.88 km @ 7.3% with a maximum over 100 meters of 16.8% (HC)
3.06 km @ 5.0% with a maximum over 100 meters of 8.7% (4th category)

The first section back up was really painful (the 16.8% – and this is an average over 100 meters, the peak gradient was around 20% – was right there at the beginning – definitely out of the saddle pedaling there), then the slope became significantly less brutal (but much more humid entering the cloud layer pretty soon). Then after km 15, the steepest kilometers came with 10.2% and 11.2%, but I already knew that part from last year… I think expecting this section really mad it less painful – at least now I had to stop only once. (Look at the picture below, it is so steep looking down the road, that the horizontal level is outside the top of the frame, though it is a 28 mm wide angle shot!)

At this point I got really fed up with the energy bars and gels. Now I have to explain this situation a bit more, because my non-cyclist readers might not get the full picture without this. So first of all, I could not carry enough normal food for a full day of intensive cycling. Moreover, I could not even eat normal food on the bike after some hours, because I completely loose my appetite in the saddle. But this is normal, when you do sports intensively for an extended period of time. So what can you do? You still need to refill you energy reserves, so you have to eat, no matter how. To fulfill this fuel requirement of the body, cyclists usually eat energy bars and gels (while riding, not for dinner). They have an excellent weight to useful energy content ratio (most importantly carbohydrates), but they can get very boring really quickly, and they are just damn sweet and sticky, and that’s what I really hate. But there is no better solution… This is not a sponsored post, but here are some details. I usually buy Isostar products (and I had their Long Energy isotonic drink with me also this time), but now I bought (along with some other goods via internet) PowerBar items. I had their Banana Punch Bars (203 kcal in 55 g) and the Caffeinated Green Apple Gels (107 kcal in 41 g along with 50 mg of caffeine – a half cup of instant coffee if you wish). I really hated the latter first, but now I think it is really good (and especially very effective – the taste is still so-so, but at least it goes down very easily). Just to give you something to hold onto, I consumed 6 bars and 5 gels during this ride (while I have burnt ~6000 kcal of energy)… So eating is my biggest concern, and when I get fed up with these things, that is not healthy for my mind either…

Anyway back to the climb. I kept pedaling (though my pace really fell after the two very steep kilometers and my psychological food problem), first escaping from the cloud layer, then passing the last trees and finally I arrived to the vast volcanic landscape of the Observatory. I took a final nap laying down at one of the helicopter landing sites (on the nice, warm asphalt, bathing in sunshine – I really enjoyed those minutes there) before I rode the last kilometers to the top. Near the peak the wind got very strong, so the last hundreds of meters were again damn hard. But then I was very happy when I finally arrived, though it was very cold (I put my warm clothes on right after the picture below was taken), but it was clearly a huge success to ride up from sea level to the top of La Palma for the second time on the same day. I think my happiness is evident on the picture below :)

The way down (with still a 4th category climb soon after leaving the territory of the Observatory) was cold (again) and uneventful (no torrential rain or dogs attacking), but beautifully clear and sunny, with nice views onto Santa Cruz from the hillside. I could even ride onto the fresh asphalt (where the road was still blocked on the morning) and enjoy a smooth roll during the final kilometers. On the evening I had dinner with a colleague from the Nordic Optical Telescope, then I went to bed after watching the Tour of California for a while on TV… It was a really crazy but awesome and epic day of 147.4 km with an elevation gain of 5069 meters! GPS data of the day is here. The next day I did not go anywhere, just stayed at home, watched the Giro and ate a lot :D Oh, and on the evening, I had dinner with now all the people from the NOT!

To be continued!

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