Gran Canaria 2009
Gran Canaria 2009- Dave Kirton & Rob Carter
Monday 16th March
After recovering from the disappointment of missing the Northallerton 50 in 4 again due to a family trip, Rob and I set off for Manchester Airport early doors! We arrived at the airport in good time, departures was a bit more hassle than usual. It appeared that the check in staff had not dealt with bike bags for some time and didn’t have a clue what to do or where to send the bikes! It cost £60 with Monarch Airlines, (ouch).
Whilst waiting in departures Rob says “Oh no” and puts his head in his hands. What had he forgotten? His pedals? His shoes? No, just the key for the 3 kg bike lock that’s weighing down his case. Roll on!
We arrived at Playa del Ingles ok. We got a taxi from the airport to the hotel, as there is often hassle on bus transfers with bike bags, 40 Euros. The hotel was ok, of course the first job was to put the bikes together, and then we went down to the restaurant for a nose bag! For anyone who doesn’t already know Playa del Ingles is apparently the gay capital of Europe. Rob brought it to my attention that we were surrounded by mostly German gay and lesbian couples, we were going to have to watch out, two straight cyclists with shaven legs, say NO more!!
Tuesday 17th March
We managed to get up reasonably early to get our breakfast; we were out on the bike by 10:00. We had a 55 mile route planned that we had read about on the internet on the Mike Cotty website.
It was straight uphill for the best part of 25 miles on the GC65, we settle into a steady pace about 10 mph, the tarmac was really smooth; it kicks up through some fantastic scenery and Spanish villages. There were some descents in the climb which also made it difficult as they destroy the rhythm.
We reached Ayacata at about 1600 m. It was spectacular, about a two hour climb. There were loads of cyclists out, including some mountain bikers that were going quite quick and it took a while to distance them.
We decide to press on to the Pico Nieves, the highest point of the island at 1949 m. Unfortunately we miss the turn and end up descending five miles down the wrong side of the mountain towards Tejeda. We stopped to check the map then cycled all the way up again! I was sure Rob did this on purpose to make me suffer!
Once back at Ayacata we descended back down the GC605 and 505 to Arguinegun. The road was really rough in places but unbelievably steep and twisty, like a Castleton descent but longer. Once the road levels a bit it’s a hard slog into a headwind, we did some bit and bit and pass a couple of those free wheeling groups, these are the people who get a lift to the top then roll down! They’re not having it easy though and are having to pedal down hill in to the tough head wind. I wonder if they can have their money back? We go back over some rolling coastal hills on the GC500 back to the hotel. We did 68 miles, 14.2 mph average, 4:40 hours riding.
When back at the hotel we ask about moving rooms, we had no balcony and the room was too hot. The man was really helpful and offered us a room in another hotel near the sea. We packed up and moved on, the new hotel was great! Totally knackered now so time for some San Miguel rego on the balcony.
Wednesday 18th March
Today we rolled out west along the coast; the 20 km or so to Puerto Rico is more difficult than the mountains as it rolls up and down from sea level to 100 m or more. Just to make it more difficult we passed some very fast looking mountain bikers that latched onto our back wheels. We did intend to roll out steady but seeing as we had them in tow we had to put our foot down, they managed to stay with us! By the time we got half way along to Puerto Rico (GC500) the mountain bikers turned right, I was glad because I couldn’t keep up the show much longer!
As we climbed over the rolling coastline and then inland from Puerto Mogan to Mogan on the GC200 I started to pack up, it felt like a bad day. So we took it easy up to Mogan. The weather was looking tricky and it started to rain, it cooled me off though and I started to ride into it. We pass through Mogan and took a right on to the GC601 up a really long rough climb. It was amazing, the road zig zags up with steep hairpin after hairpin, it’s a wall of rock with only occasional glimpses above of where the road goes. After about 6 miles/50 minutes we reached the top in thick cloud. The rain started to get heavy, we had a quick chat with a German couple, they had been away for four days but it was their first ride because their bikes had been sent to Majorca by mistake, Unlucky!
We got our rain capes out and descend gingerly down the rain soaked mountain side. The rain really belted down as we headed back to the coast, “Rain in Gran Canaria, when it’s sunny at home! What is going on!”
On reaching Puerto Rico the rain stopped, we had a café stop, a little tour around then rolled back on the GC500 to Playa del Ingles, we took it a bit steadier than when we rode out.
Once we reached Playa del Ingles, we did about five miles spinning round the resort looking for an alleged bike shop, we didn’t find it but it did clock up a few extra miles whilst winding off. We arrived back at the hotel at 5 pm, it had been a long day out, 72 miles at 14.4 mph, it was a really big hill though, honest!
Thursday 19th March
Today we planned to climb the Pico Nievis at the top of the island seeing that we had missed the turnoff on the first day. We read on the net that if you head north there’s a much more difficult ascent. The cyclist who wrote about it said it was one of the hardest climbs he had ever done. Even harder than the Ventoux, with some 25% sections, sounded good to us! It turns out to be not good at all. This was the hardest climb I have ever done; it goes from sea level to 1949 m in 18 miles as opposed to 30 miles the easier way.
We headed out for about 15 miles N/E along the coast on the GC500. The road was flat and steady, we turn inland on the GC100, the road climbs up steadily at first. We got to Ingenio and took the GC130, the road ramps up steeply, about 15% through the town, I joked to Rob saying, “When does the climb start?” Rob replied, “I wonder when it’s going to get difficult?” Little did we know what lay ahead, outside the town the road rises more steadily for several miles until you reach Pasadilla.
At this point we had a quick stop because Rob’s computer packed in, we turn right at the junction where suddenly we were faced with a wall of tarmac, just like Carlton Bank with steep 20/25% sections with some short 10% recovery sections, but it went on for more than 4 miles! My bike has a compact chain set on 34 inner ring, 25 rear. This is usually low enough for any Spanish climb, As Rob pulls ahead I have to zig zag some of the steep sections, it was a long time since I had done that!
The road was relentless, when you looked up all you could see was steep hillside on top of steep hillside disappearing into thick cloud. After about 45 minutes/4 miles of tyre licking and swearing we arrive at the top of this section at Cazadores. We had a rest, my legs felt ok but my back was broken! We turn left onto the GC130. The road steadies up at a more normal gradient for several miles. My legs started to buckle, just then as I thought it couldn’t get any worse, a rabid dog with teeth like Jaws ran after me! I had to sprint like hell up the hill with the dog’s teeth snapping inches away from my left ankle, fortunately after 100 yds the dog gave up! Then I had a laughing fit as well as oxygen debt!
We continued to wind upwards for a few more miles. We seem to have broken through the mist and the scenery was spectacular. My powers were getting low now with the sheer fatigue of the climb. We take a left turn and climb the final mile to the highest point of the island to witness the views. After all this there was no view due to heavy cloud and mist. Would love to go back again in better weather and of course take the easier route up!
We put our capes on for the descent down the GC60, it was about 1 hr 30 mins with small climbs in between. We passed the Roque Nublo, more fantastic scenery again and the road is like a smooth river of tarmac flowing down the valley sides. Unfortunately we got caught twice behind buses descending. We had to do some tricky overtaking. When we got back to the hotel I felt ok but was aching all over! If I am ever stupid enough to do that climb again I wouldn’t consider it without a 34/27 gear ratio, Phew! 64 miles, 13.4 mph average, five hrs riding.
Friday 20th March
I managed to convince Rob that we needed a rest day after yesterday’s horrific ride. We went for a wander round and found that bike shop, it was about 100 m round the corner! Rob hired a Cannondale SuperSix for the next day as he wants to try one out. Plus it’s got a 34/27 on! Not bad for 22 Euros.
Saturday 21st March
Back to the bikes again after a day off. Rob wants to put in a long ride over the West to San Nicolas then to Ayacata. He told me it was only about 70 miles, and that we could always pop up to the Pico de la Nievis! Well I’m not stupid and not new to cycling. I know this will be an 80 mile+ ride, and 100 if we go to the top of the Pico Nievis. Who was Rob trying to kid! Well I wasn’t going to let him get more miles than me so I got stocked up with my energy supplies.
We headed west to Puerto Rico and up to Mogan (GC500 to GC200) we took it steady as we knew what was ahead! We climbed up to 785 m on the GC200 towards San Nicolas, it was fantastic Country and Western type scenery. As we went over the top of the first climb we suddenly hit a ferocious head wind funnelling up the valley. I hate descending in gusty winds and have to take it very cautiously. We get to San Nicolas and have to do at least two laps of the town before we find the GC210 heading back inland up in to the mountains.
The GC210 climbs up a narrow valley past a couple of dams with some impressive switch backs. We reach the junction at the second dam where we turn right towards El Carrizal, Mike Cotty reported that this impressive road climbing up from the dam blew both his knee caps off! But he was on a 39 chainring. It shouldn’t be too bad with my 34/25, and Rob’s SuperSix he has hired has a 27 dinner plate on the back. We headed up the first section, the equivalent of two Carlton Banks, then we had time for some photos at a scenic view point. We started talking to a group of English girls and a Spaniard, they couldn’t believe where we had cycled from, they said we must be hardcore. Either that or totally masochistic.
We continued up for another five miles, the road became much more difficult than I expected and it turns into another one hour leg press session. Not quite as difficult as ride three’s ascent from Ingenio but it’s much hotter and I start to fry as I make my way up through the hot rocks. Rob eased himself well up ahead with his dinner plate on. After just short of an hour’s tyre licking since turning at the dam we arrived at the junction of the GC60 at Ayacata. We top up with water and press on another seven miles to the Pico Nievis. Its now 4.30 pm and we have been on the road since 10:00. My power is getting low now and I have to go into economy mode all the way to the top. We got to the top at 5.25 pm. My legs are shattered, although it was worth it for the stunning views. We could even see the top of Mount Tiede, Tenerife.
Conscious of the time we get our capes on and descend down. The rough tarmac road at the top soon smoothes out in to a river of good tarmac. We perhaps unwisely decide to quickly stop at a café at Ayacata for a coffee and baguette, the waiter looks at his watch with some concern when we tell him we were cycling back to Playa del Ingles. We head straight off with about an hour of light to spare. My legs start to feel good as we descend back. The roads are quiet and the sunset makes it a pleasant evening. Rob gets stuck behind a car and just for a bit of fun I do a sneaky downhill attack! I time trial along the flat and get as far up the final hill as I can. It’s a nasty Newgate Bank of a climb which adds a final obstacle before you get to the 500 m viewpoint which looks over Playa. Anyway Rob catches me half way up and rides straight past. Well everybody loves a trier!
We got back to the outskirts of Playa del Ingles at 7.10 pm just as it was getting dark. But what a nightmare, there’s a big gay parade going on and the roads are all blocked off, we have to take a big loop around and finally get Rob’s SuperSix back to the bike shop at 7.40 pm just before it closes. Back at the hotel we collapse and contemplate our 7 hr 50 min leg press session. 102 miles, 13.1mph. After a quick shower we quickly go down to the restaurant. I think I must be a bit delirious as Rob’s pile of food starts to look a bit like Mount Tiede. The pasta’s piled up so high that I started to plan a route up it!
Sunday 22nd March
After barely 15 hours of rest we were back on the road again, we were both very fatigued. It feels like I have just got off the bike, had a quick shower and got straight back on again. Anyhow we had an easier 40 mile route planned round Santa Lucia and San Bartolume and then a final 26 mile spin to a café at Peurto Rico. It all sounded good but we immediately encountered a galing head wind heading East on the GC500 to Sardina. The wind made it feel like you we going uphill on the flat.
We steadied through bit and bit and ground our way to Sardina where we turned left on the GC65 heading to Santa Lucia, it was much easier now. We steady up a nice picturesque climb winding up the side of a valley. We’re glad we have discovered this road. We get to Santa Lucia and I take advantage of a fountain to cool off. My legs are still on empty and I talk Rob into a stop at a café I had spotted whilst on another ride. We were both pleased with our large chunks of cake, but then Rob noticed he had a chain ring bolt missing, I advise him to check the others and not to press on the pedals too hard!
We headed back on the GC60 to reach today’s highest point of 930 m. After this we descend back to Playa del Ingles, and back over the Newgate Bank climb. At Playa we turn right on to the GC500 this time heading west to Puerto Rico. My legs were still struggling and I had to sit in on Rob’s wheel. I just hoped that no menacing mountain bikers were going to try and pass us. We arrived at Puerto Rico and have a good café stop at the beach and a tootle around for an hour.
Now for some reason Rob has difficulty with café stops! It’s his weak point. He has difficulty getting his big turbine going again especially after the long holiday miles we had done, whereas I feel rejuvenated! We head on back and this time Rob had to sit on my back wheel as we tackled the rolling climbs on the coast road. I felt increasingly good and our speed built up. About four miles before Playa there is a last coastal lump to go over and I contemplate attacking Rob. I’m sure I would have had I good chance of distancing him but as I’d been sitting on his wheel all the way out I thought it would be unsporting. Wrong! Never miss a chance to hurt someone like Rob when they’re suffering. Rob tells me later that I should have attacked when we hold our post ride analysis. This is nearly as big a mistake as when Armstrong gifted Pantani the win on the Ventoux. Anyhow we wound down back to the hotel not knowing how things might have turned out. Phew! Riding over.
Gran Canaria Cycling Overview
Its been an excellent week of cycling, I hadn’t thought of Gran Canaria as a cycling spot before when taking regular holidays there. I did take my bike to Puerto Rico once before but found the routes to be limited, although Peurto Rico is a nicer resort than Playa del Ingles. Playa del Ingles is much more central for all the cycling routes.
Gran Canaria has stunning mountainous scenery, we found the climbs longer and much steeper than those in the French Alps, Benidorm and Majorca. There were loads of German, Spanish and French cyclists but not many Brits, I don’t think it is well known amongst British cyclists.
I wouldn’t recommend Gran Canaria unless you enjoy extreme mountain climbing, and you definitely don’t want anything less than 34/27 gears. Report over, I hear you say, “Thank God for that!” The next big outing is the Marmotte in the Alps, July 4th! Should be easy now?
Dave Kirton – April 2009