My cycling blogs in Europe didn't quite keep pace wih the amount of cycling I did, mostly because I had enough trouble keeping up with my non-cycling blog so the kids have something to look back on when they get older.
We arrived in Santiago de Compostela in early April and left 4 and a bit months later. My el cheapo Decathlon road bike turned out to be a very sound investment - provding over 2500 km of near faultless riding in wind, rain and bajing heat. A few minor issues with the drive train and some cracks in the rear tire were about the only real complaints (apart from the weight of the bike!). I got so attached to it I decided to ship it home as a "holiday bike" - I'll probably send it down to Hobart so I have something to ride there when I visit family every year.
My cycling in Spain, and Galicia specifically, has left a lasting impression. Good quality roads, a huge choice of routes, lots (and lots and lots) of hills, and a never ending stream of wonderful green country vistas made my time on the bike wonderfully memorable. There were never any huge mountains (even the ride in the Picos were low altitude by Pyrenean and Alpine standards) but the climbing was relentless and I don't think I ever did a ride without at least one 10% (or steeper) climb.
Another real positive was the local cyclists I met and rode with. Xan and Fernando tracked me down via Strava and they took me on some wonderfully hilly and scenic rides through the wilds of Galicia. Later, Miguel (the father of some boys at our kids school) discovered I was a cyclist and took me on a wonderful ride in the mountains of eastern Galicia, up 25% gradients to one of the highest roads in Galicia.
For the first time in many years I rode consistently every week - around 150-200km per week, and I am keen to see how this translates to riding up familiar climbs in Adelaide.
The only real negatives of my time in Galicia were regular run-ins with loose dogs - almost every rural property around Galicia is home to at least one dog (usually 2-3) and they all go nuts whenever I rode past. Thankfully most were behind fences or were chained up but there were a few spots where the owners let their dogs roam free to terrorise passing cyclists. The only times I really feared for my life was when large and/or vicious dogs would come running after me (invariably up a hill!) with teeth bared.
I also grabbed a large number of Strava KOMs along the way - not because I suddenly became a gun climber, but simply because so few locals use GPS or Strava. In the coming months and years I expect to get a regular stream of emails beginning "Uh oh you just lost your KOM..." as more and more Galician riders discover Strava and the fact that some antipodean has a huge pile of their local KOMS!
I am heading home now, but managed to sneak a ride in around Paris this morning on one of their city bikes - a wonderful experience at dawn when the city was asleep and I had the streets almost to myself (Gendarmes arresting car drivers and the clean-up crews removing the enormous amounts of rubbish being the exceptions).
My lasting memories of riding in Galicia will be flogging myself up some bad arse hill, surrounded by blue gums, with the green rolling hills and wide, clean, cool rivers for company. Having ridden some of the high peaks of the Pyrenees and French Alps on previous cycling holidays I really have grown to appreciate riding the lesser known rolling countryside of Europe.
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