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by Scott Penzarella on April 22, 2014
Awakened by the beverage cart on the return flight to SFO, I can barely distinguish between my dream and reality. This is a story of a cyclist’s ‘right of passage,’ a culinary and wine aficionado’s dream vacation, and a cycling adventure of a lifetime.
Destination: Southern Spain’s remote mountain region of Andalucia near the town of Ronda, a historic southern gem known equally for its gorge & historic bridge as for its famous bull ring.
The ever-present Toro (literally & figuratively everywhere in Spain)
Situated in the beautiful Spanish countryside, base camp for this cycling adventure was an ample ‘finca’ with 3 separate structures, with the main house hosting each meal and social gathering.
The Main House
Staff & Guests toasting a full house (Photo by BK)
No dream is perfect but the weather for this spring trip neared perfection, with cool mornings and gorgeous, warm afternoons, with lightening that makes nearly any photographer smile.
Self Portrait during afternoon spin (Photo by Chas)
Each day’s departure brought a quick dirt roll from the estate, before both the A Team and the B Team tackled one of 7 totally unique rides. Departing from the estate daily offered a relaxed environment after a nice, healthy breakfast and amble Spanish coffee.
Pia glides over the dirt section before each day’s ride
No cycling adventure is complete without a moment of peace and calm. And this trip was no exception. While the group departed together and generally returned together with Matt, our incredible SAG driver throughout the trip (below), the long, windy roads permitted some ‘alone’ time.
Bill Keller shows us how to climb as he achieves over 55,000' for the week
Marni’s contageous smile & great attitude never went unnoticed or unappreciated
Matt, proudly wearing his dZi Foundation cap, takes a well-deserved nap at a meeting point mid trip
Cycling over the course of seven full days can take its toll on each and every rider, requiring the right balance of rest and proper fueling. After our evening toast, we generally relaxed on the outdoor patio while our world-class chef, Chris Dressick, of The Station SF, diligently prepared a robust, calorie –balanced meal to refuel our carbohydrates stores in preparation for the next day’s ride. No doubt this was generally the highlight of the day: feeding time!
The outdoor patio sits within eyes' reach of Chef Chris doing his magic in the kitchen
When I think of the perfect vacation, I think of good food, unique experiences and good friends. SV:Travel’s uniqueness lays in bringing together like-minded, fun couples and individuals who, in some cases, forge new friendship’s that last a life-time. Bill and Chas epitomize this phenomena: friends who have now taken many a Studio Velo cycling trip together and push each other year after year.
Here Bill and Chas celebrate atop Los Reales, one of the most rewarding rides of the trip, which offers a bird’s eye view of Africa & The Straits of Gibralter.
No rest for these four riders: Taylor, Pia, Eric & Simon, a new micro-group, hit the open roads when others took a rest day and spent the afternoon in Sevilla.
The “rest day” brought a trip highlight: a visit to the historic city of Seville, where Semana Santa (Holy Week) peaked with ceremonies & precessions, all the joy of us onlookers.
The day after brought another long ride to the coast, where the group celebrated its triumph atop one of the area’s longest, most scenic climbs: Los Reales.
Only one rider is missing from the photo, but all riders made it up to Puerto de Penas Blancas, while the rest (shown here) wanted each and every foot of elevation on this day.
Never is a trip more pleasurable than when the trip chef enters the kitchen with a smile from ear to ear. Here Chef Chris earns his strips after a hard, hilly ride after lunch one day.
And when the food was served, morning, afternoon or night, the crowd got their monies worth. Whether it was Spain's famous 'jamon', a local goat or sheep cheese, home-made dessert or organic eggs and granola in the am, the guests undoubtedly ate well. Below Taylor enjoys his morning feeding before a big day on the road.
In the end, the numbers tell all: the mean distance nearly 400 miles; the mean elevation gain just shy of 50,000'; two Spanish "paletas de jamon," more wine bottles than I care to remember carrying to the recycle bin and a bunch of sleepy riders at the end of each day. We ate well. We road hard. And we embraced the essence of Spanish culture: in to bed late, up early and sometimes an old-fashioned siesta.