Studio Velo Spanish Adventure: Day 4

Today we started our ride in Bisbol, about 30 minutes from the villa.  A quick cortado at the cafe across the street and we were off.  Ritchie led us out as Colin had “forgotten” his helmet and shoes...

 Busy city streets quickly gave way to charming farm roads, and then to a gentle yet mature climb winding through the forest of the old country.  Scott, Eli, Ron, Mark, Bill and Mike had ridden directly from the house and were due to catch us at any minute.  I looked over my shoulder and saw someone coming at me as if he were descending versus climbing this hill.  I said “Hola!” as he flew past, he smiled, and I thought “I wonder if that’s a Spanish pro rider--they train out here”.   As the blur faded, I realized it was Scott. 

 

We descended into the first of several beach towns which were reminiscent of Venice Beach and other Southern California beach town mob scenes.  Progress was slow but amusing--dodging pedestrians, locals, tourists, kids, parallel parkers, car doors, backer-uppers, roundabouts, etc., etc., etc.  Roundabouts can be a bit hair-raising for the uninitiated.  And that’s when you’re in a car.  On a bike it is a sort of white-knuckle affair where you take a quick look, try to recall the “rules” that apply for this yawning 400-yard radius of intentional chaos, and gas it into the breach while mentally crossing yourself in the hope of some late-breaking divine intervention.

We were miraculously spit out the other side unscathed and arrived at the best beach town where we had lunch watching the locals and the beautiful blue Mediterranean.  Some of us swam before getting back in the saddle for the second half of our day.  Every inch away from the coast saw a tiny tick upward in the mercury, but as the views seemed to be competing with one another, our attention was elsewhere. Around each corner the new view handily outdid the last one every time. 

 

To this point, the fun rollers and the scenery had combined to create a delicious harmony.  Only now did Scott inform us of the 8K climb we were about to face.  And it would be steep.  And it would be hot.  And there would be no shade.  It would still be beautiful, I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it.  It went up and up and up, and as Jasmine so accurately described it later that evening, “...and then there was the boat ramp”.  Just when you thought it was over, a wall of pavement materialized in front of you, resembling--well--a boat ramp.  A couple of swear words under the (heavy) breath, and we all huffed it over the top to a long descent into Llagosterra. 

 We reconvened at a glorious fountain in town, some of us (me) opting to take the van back, and more than half of the crew opting to ride the rest of the way back to Bisbol.  It was fun watching the hammerheads sprint for the town line from the comfort of the air-conditioned van.

 Back at the villa, pool and beverages were once again enjoyed by all.  Chef Ritchie/Chris prepared his best dinner yet, in my estimation.  Sole, roasted carrots with onion, garlic (balsamic?), braised rabbit, pasta fabuloso, and bread.  Ritchie showed us how to expertly bone a fish, and since there were extras on the table, well, we just had to keep trying it over and over and over.  And since waste is sinful, we had to eat it all as well.  Dessert was a peach over a Greek yogurt panna cotta that was muy deliciosa. 


Tomorrow:  Options--beach day or ride up the really steep hot mountain to the monastery. 

50% chose to ride, 50% chose beach. 

I’ll be the one under the umbrella with a parasol in my drink. 

Studio Velo Spanish Adventure: Day 3

Left out of yesterday’s post was mention of the raging wildfire that started in France, crossed the border into Spain and began working its menacing, unfocused march toward--well, everywhere.  We saw it beginning around 2:00 in the afternoon, a massive plume of smoke initially misinterpreted as a herd of thunderclouds.  A second look confirmed that this was a rather large conflagration, and as we rode back toward the villa via van or bicycle, the orange tinted gray smoke became increasingly ubiquitous.

 

After yet another splendid dinner (lentils with sausage, a caesar salad, bread, sausage/potato/onion, and eggplant/zucchini/garlic), someone realized that the flames had made it over the ridge and were now visible with the naked eye--flaring, leaping, advancing.  It made for an intensely beautiful (if vaguely concerning) sunset.

Fast forward to the actual beginning of the day 3 post.  Change of plan.  The ash on the ping-pong table and the acrid smell of smoke hanging heavy in the air turned the mountain ride of day 5 to the mountain ride of day 3.  We loaded up and headed to Castleforrit de la Roca, assembled and were off in a jiffy, after a quick “cortado”, Catalan for “spankin’ good espresso and milk”. 

 

Another gorgeous climb with a maximum of two polite cars per hour, dreamy roads, epic views, and the perfect dose of camaraderie to get you up the quite grueling climbs.  The first descent ended too quickly (as descents are wont to do), and up we went once again.  A quick stop in the town of Beget for spring water dispensing from an iron spigot backed by old (ancient?) stone masonry was like something out of a travel brochure.  Again with the climbing, another disproportionate dollop of descending, and we arrived at lunch.  It was a luminous affair under an ivy trellis with an adorable 8-year-old in pigtails serving our cokes and bocadillos that made the previous three sweat-filled hours worth every searing pedal stroke. 

 

After lunch, there was an option for a mind-bending climb up Valter.  Enthusiastically opting out, I joined 10 others less masochistic in persona and Scott led us down the most delicious downhill I have ever deigned to delight in.  No cars, open sightlines, my Cyfac whirring like a precision top beneath me.  When we coasted into town, we headed for the cafe of earlier cortada fame.  We reveled in a few well-deserved beers as we awaited the return of Marni, who had flatted on the descent and was provided assistance by the Spanish police (and Mike and Scott too). 

 

Pool and cocktail hour(s) at the villa remind one that yes, we are in fact on vacation in Spain, and that all is well.

“Esta es la vida”.   This is the life.  Indeed. 

Studio Velo Spanish Adventure: Day Two

The day dawned thankfully hazy and not too hot.  Chef Ritchie had whipped up eggs, potatoes, homemade muslei, fresh fruit and yogurt for the morning feast.  Five alpha males set off at 8:30 to get some extra miles in before our planned meet up spot in Olot.  The balance of us prepared for the ride in a leisurely fashion and hopped into the vans at around 9:45.  In a masterful piece of choreography, the alphas arrived mere minutes after we had suited up and rolled into the square, having already clocked an impressive 35 miles. 

 

Our group of 17 riders was an energetic force wheeling out of town for our first climb that began after about a .003 mile warm up.  The road turned upward--as did the heat--though to be sure, I was once again thanking whomever controls the weather (Scott?  Colin?) that it wasn’t 105 or any other obscene three-digit number that the first week was cursed with. 

 The grade was relatively gentle--4% to 6%.  And the roads?  The roads need a full poetic praise-filled paragraph all their own.  As any half-cognizant person is likely aware,  Spain, like her erstwhile Greek cousin, has found herself in a bit of a financial bind of late.  She can’t pay the rent, the phone company is gonna cut the line, and the German landlord is knocking with increasing fervor.  Unemployment is rampant, street protests flare and swirl, accusations fly.   But the roads?  They are perfect.  Like butter.  A pothole is a most unusual creature, and I imagine that should one appear on a Spanish thoroughfare, the locals might gather around stroking their chins in a thoughtful pose considering the aberration before them.  These people know how to prioritize their spending.  No job?  Go for a ride--the roads are great! 

 

The landscape was reminiscent of Southern California (the good parts--Santa Barbara, etc.), but with the occasional thousand-year-old castle thrown in just to keep you on your toes.  Ron, Rachael, Petra, Deanna, Scott and I crested the climb together and there was much rejoicing.  We picked up James on the descent, and oh-what-a-descent.  Again, the roads smooth as silk, the only potential hazard the ill-placed cow splatter which I assume would be rather slippery at 40+ mph. 

 A bit of a hand-gesture misunderstanding at the bottom of the descent led half of us to head for the town square and wait for the others, while the others were wondering why we were so god-forsaken slow, and where the heck were we anyway?  They say that 90% of human communication is non-verbal (or maybe its 56%, but in any case, “they” say it’s a lot...).  While this is probably true, a nod, a wink, and a point “that-a-way” from Colin as he rides in the 100% percent opposite direction might have dictated an actual verbal exchange in this particular case. 

 

In any event, we soldiered on and after another beautiful-if-challenging climb, and another grin-inducing descent, we found our troops assembled at a delightful long table in town brimming with water, beer, pizzas, salads, and a plethora of happy SV patrons.  Except Mike.  He was still “out there” somewhere.  He was eventually retrieved and brought back into the lunch-fold.  After lunch, half of the crew jumped into the van, and half needed yet more pedaling so rode home with full bellies and cramping legs.  These people are made of steel.  I enjoyed the steel of the van that carried me back to the pool. 

Tomorrow:  To the coast!

Studio Velo Spanish Adventure Summer 2012: Day One

As we cruise through our three weeks of cycling trips to Spain, we are graced with some talented scribes who are eager to share their stories with our friends back home. This will be one of many articles to come. Enjoy the read. No doubt this will help you join us on our journey through the roads of northern Spain. 

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We were met at the Grand Hotel Central in Barcelona by the SV van packed to the gills with the first week’s guest and their luggage.  As they poured out, bubbling and oozing admiration for their trip, Scott, Colin and Ritchie welcomed us and began anew the task of fitting 12 cubic yards of luggage into 3 cubic yards of van space.  After some “creative apportionment” (and putting some shoulder into it), the doors were closed and we were off to our estate in the countryside of Girona. 

 

Arriving at the villa in the beautiful Spanish countryside--a converted farmhouse on 90-acres--was a soul soothing tincture for flight delays, jet lag, and the beautiful chaos of the city.  While we were lucky to be arriving when the temperatures were in decline from the previous week (110 degrees!), the sparkling deep dark blue pool was tantalizing even at a reasonable 80 degrees. 

After Scott, Colin and Eli made quick work of assembling the guests’ bikes, we set off on a mellow warmer-upper of 25 miles.  The road surfaces, though rather narrow, were smooth and delightful, and the relatively few cars we encountered were gracious.  My Cyfac rental bike was a scant 15 pounds and was heaven on (a super light, super smooth carbon-like) wheels.  Pedaling through bucolic sheep-laden fields, complete with grizzled old sheepherders and their working dogs made me giggle with the delight of it all. 

 

Cicadas sawed their song of summer as we rolled past that most quintessential view of pastoral Europe--giant golden rolls of hay, plump and ready for the artist’s paintbrush.  We rolled as a happy unit, occasionally needing a regrouping when the fast guys got away from the peloton.  We rolled back into the villa a couple of hours later--a smile on our collective faces--and hit the gleaming pool with cold beverages. 

 

Dinner on the veranda was accompanied by sunset over the Pyrenees and the glow of warm conversation.  Bright orange shrimp in their birthday suits graced an expansive platter, multi-colored cauliflower, exquisitely dressed salad, potato perfection, and hearty chicken contributed to a magazine-cover table.  A welcome toast from Scott, a description of our bountiful meal by Chef Chris (aka Ritchie), a fill of deep crimson wine in all glasses and thus began our weeklong Spanish gastro-palooza.  Dessert was a mango Zabaglione that was light and perfectly sweet, and, and.....uber delicious is the only way to truly describe it.

 

Sharing this fantastic experience are several first-timers, and many returning customers from fantastical Studio Velo trips past.  Our guides/cook are Scott, Colin, and Ritchie.  Guests include Jasmine, Mike, Maureen, Ron, Rachel, Sandy, Jerry, Nina, Eli, Mark, Petra, Deanna, Sara, Steve, Marni and half of James who has stayed an extra week after his delightful first week at the estate. 

Tomorrow:  Olot!  65 or 100 miles. I’ll take the 65 thank you! Stay tuned for tomorrow's report. 

by Maureen Gaffney

Osmo: The Science of Hydration


Hydration has long been understood as an integral part of performance, endurance, and recovery; however, new brands such as Skratch Labs and now Osmo Nutrition are taking hydration to an unprecedented level. Osmo, created by Dr. Stacy Sims, a Stanford University sports physiologist, and athlete herself, is designed to help regulate your body’s internal temperature and keep athletes cooler longer. Sims is one of the nation’s leading authorities on thermoregulation and has tested her product on top endurance athletes.  

Based on peer-reviewed science and tested on athletes who are training in heat and high intensity environments, Osmo is truly making a wave in the hydration business. The Osmo team has developed four different drinks for the specific needs of the body before, during, immediately post, and nightly recovery. Made with natural and organic ingredients and refreshingly good tasting, the hype about Osmo is well deserved.  

 The active hydration system is designed to ensure rapid fluid absorption, delay fatigue, boost endurance, reduce cramping and maximize cardiovascular efficiency. Check out the Osmo site, http://osmonutrition.com/science and find videos about how to utilize their different hydration mixes for increased results.

We are excited to be sampling Osmo in our shop this week. If you are looking for a way in to increase your overall performance and strength, this could be it.

**Also available online click HERE to view the product.