Stephen Brand reports on his experiences of riding Spain’s Marcha Pedro Delgado earlier this year. As you can imagine, Spanish mountains do not make for a relaxed sportive.
Distance: 102 miles
Where? Segovia, Spain
Event Size: Large
The Spanish cyclist, Pedro Delgado, triumphed in the 1988 Tour de France. However, he is probably more famous for losing the 1987 race to Stephen Roche, when the Irishman almost caught Delgado on the final climb of La Plagne in one of the most memorable stages in the history of the tour.
Delgado is now a TV pundit in Spain. But more importantly, he organises and takes part in, an annual sportif – beginning and ending in Segovia, about 40 miles north of Madrid. The ride is 102 miles in length and includes four challenging climbs, three of which are classed as “category 1” when featured in the Vuelta (most recently in 2012). The total climb is 10,200 feet.
I learned of this ride from my son, Michael, who is a keen cyclist and a member of a racing team in Spain. He lives in the village of Miraflores de la Sierra (translates to “look at the flowers on the mountain”). The route goes through Miraflores at the bottom of the second descent from Morcuera.
Due to a knee injury, Michael could not take part in the ride. So it was myself and my other son, Thomas, who began the ride at 8:00 am on 16th August along with 2,500 cyclists from around the world. It was chilly under the famous aqueduct in Segovia but an amazing sight to see so many cyclists gathered in such a spectacular place.
I noted straight away that these were serious cyclists – all carbon frames and shaved legs! – and although I started near the front of the group, for the next 12 miles I was constantly overtaken by speedy Spaniards. Then the climb of the first mountain began – Navacerrada. Riders began to group more and I was accompanied by a lady who turned out to be the daughter in law of Chico Perez – recently returned from living and working in Cambridge for a year. Chatting to her made the climb to over 6,000 feet go surprisingly smoothly – but not too quickly. At the top of the mountain there were ski lifts –an indication of how high I had climbed (about 2,700 feet).
The descent was fairly gradual and cold but I soon warmed up on the second and longest climb – Morcuera. The temperature increased to about 30 degrees and I found myself towards the back of the ride with only a few cyclists for company. I again found a companion to ride alongside – a man from Seville and we eventually completed the climb of eight miles. Thankfully there were much needed refreshments at the top.
A fast descent brought me to Miraflores and the start of the “easiest” climb of the day – Canencia. Halfway up the mountain were my wife and son with words of encouragement (much needed) and fresh drinks. I managed to get to the top of the climb but had to stop for more drinks as I was starting to overheat. I had completed three of the four climbs but in distance terms was only half way through the route. It would have been very easy to turn back and go “home” but I mustered some strength and continued down a fantastic, winding descent through the forest and then a long flat until I reached the village of Lozoya.
Here I stopped for a breather looking (I suspect) the worse for wear and was immediately taken pity on by a Spanish family whose father was in the ride and had just passed by. They gave me food, juice and water and chatted – pretty soon it seemed that I was surrounded by half the village who thought that an Englishman in their midst was a novelty. I was given a hearty farewell and was soon climbing the fourth and final climb of the day – Navafria.
By now it was very warm and I had to take on fluids at regular intervals. At one stop near the top, the “broom wagon” came up beside me and the driver asked if I wanted to get in. Tempting as it was, I thanked him for his offer and continued on my way – eventually making it to the summit.
Following the descent I felt quite energised for the last 20 miles of rolling roads to Segovia and the end. I was cycling mainly alone by now and the sign posts were few and far between – however it was easy to follow the route via the energy gel pouches and water bottles littering the road. By the time I reached the finishing line, the time keepers had packed up for the day so officially I did not finish the ride. However my legs knew otherwise!!
A drink and some much needed food and then I set off in my son’s car back to Miraflores. We drove up Navacerreda and I had to pinch myself to think that a few hours earlier I had cycled up this mountain.
By the way, in English, Pedro Delgado means – Peter Thin. I suspect I did become a little thinner during the ride but ate non-stop during the next day to make up for it.
P.S. In addition to water and energy drinks I gobbled up a whole bag of Percy Pigs – kept me going but I don’t think I will eat anymore for a long while.