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Day 5.

We woke to the patter of rain which did not bode well for the day’s planned ride and looking out of the window low black clouds hung over the mountains. When we assembled at 9.30 it had stopped raining and the weather was starting to clear, however, Sean and Doddsy decided to postpone the start until 11 to allow the roads to dry. They were concerned that the roads might be wet and the descents potentially dangerous.

The delayed start meant that the ‘Big One’ (some 90 miles and nearly 9,000ft of climbing) would not be possible as we would be back too late. This was a real disappointment as we had built ourselves up for the challenge, however, the ‘Sa Calobra; The road to nowhere’ ride was offered as an alternative.

Sa Calobra is a small port on the north coast with one road in; 10km long winding down the side of a mountain from hairpin to hairpin at an average gradient of 6%. However, to get to the pass was a fair climb in itself. We set off in our two groups and following a largely flat approach of about 10km hit the bottom of the first climb. This was about 8km long at a gradient of 5% and soon the group began to split up. We had several regroups along the way to allow Sean and Doddsy to count us all in and out and then stopped at the Orange Cellar roadside cafe at the turn for Sa Calobra (http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/87615889 this is only one way as could not be arsed to trace it back again, but you get the picture!).

There was a couple more km of climbing to reach the pass before the decent down into Sa Calobra where we were advised to stop and have a good look down to be absolutely sure we wanted to climb back up. It was a long, long way down with the road clinging precariously to the side of the mountain. No bottling out not even for the still spluttering Huw.

The decent was not very enjoyable as the road surface was not particularly good and the hairpins were very tight. Added to this were the cyclists coming up and tour busses who could only get around the hairpins by completely blocking the road. Keeping to your side of the road and being able to stop at a moment’s notice improved your chances of not becoming just another annoying stain on the front of a bus.

By the time we got to the car park and café at the bottom of the climb (we didn’t even see the beach) my neck, shoulders and hands were aching from being permanently on the brakes. A quick pee to lighten the load and a gel bar (three in Huw’s case..) and we were off up the climb.

Having left me on the last climb, Kim said she would stay with me, however, true to form, half way up she spied a few people ahead she wanted to make a point to and just could not help herself. I did however spend occasional fleeting moments with Dave the Texan who passed me about 10 times as he got off at every vantage point to take a photo. The last few hundred metres back up to the pass were the steepest part of the climb and I was really missing my biggest cog. One brief moment of light relief in the last push to the summit was the sight of Doddsy on the side of the road desperately trying to recognise those in his charge ‘You with Legros mate?’; a slight nod of the head was all I could manage…

Dave the Texan got off at the top to take a final picture which I think was ruined by me grimacing into his viewfinder.

This is a profile of the climb, however, I don’t remember the downhill bit in the middle! It does, however, look like one of Roger’s prescriptions.

We regrouped at the Orange Cellar before the 20km decent back to the hotel. I really pushed myself to catch up to Brian’s rear wheel only for my chain to come off. After a pit stop, I re-passed several people and went as fast as I could on the rather lumpy first few km before the main descent. Convinced I was on my own and feeling smug at my athletic prowess, I was suddenly passed on a slight rise by 4 or 5 from our group, including the now flying John. I latched onto the wheels of the group and off we went.

At our first evening group meeting there had been a couple of rather loud young ladies in the front row who we later derided somewhat over a few drinks. It transpired that they were from the San Fairy Ann CC based in Maidstone that Kim and I used to cycle with and we had a few mutual friends. Their ‘loudness’ and general demeanour could therefore be explained (and forgiven) as they came from Kent.

Out front on the decent was one of these young ladies, Donna, who was flying down with the rest of us in tow. This was our first real experience of a fast flowing decent on newly surfaced dry roads and was a blast. However, all good things must come to an end and we soon hit the 10k flat run back to the hotel. Donna, still up front, was now setting a ferocious pace and try as we might no one could get past her to share the load. Eventually we came upon a small group of riders causing her to slow slightly giving me the chance to hit the front. I went as fast as my little legs would go for about a mile before Huw slipped passed followed immediately by John. John sat on the front for about a minute but it was not enough for Donna and she was off again.

As we hit the roundabout with 5km to go a sudden injection of pace (or perhaps I was knackered) up front and I was spat out the back. I tried to keep my pace up and slowly picked up a couple of others who had befallen the same fate. Dave the Texan and I had a last dig and just caught John as we turned off for the hotel (I have to keep reminding him of this fact lest he gets too carried away). What surprised us all was that after 2,000m of climbing (including a Cat 1 and Cat 2 climb) over 90km we still managed a 10km 30mph+ sprint home. The power of SIS, or just stuffing your face each night?

It was straight to the pool to freeze aching legs and take the obligatory protein recovery drink. Next up was the now obligatory per-dinner drinks, extreme carb loading and the evening meeting. From a rather deflated feeling at the start of the day, we were all on a high appreciating the achievement and glad to have completed one of the classic climbs on the island. Huw ‘Strava’ Morgan did point out that the record for the climb was some 27 minutes compared to Andrew’s 43 and my 50. We speculated that they had probably been driven to the start and retired to the bar feeling very self-satisfied.

Saturday was to be another ‘active recovery’ ride before the promise of the ‘Big One’ on our last day. Pat and Brian got back into their groove whilst the rest of us relived each peddle stroke of the day over a couple of beers, in my case the last two that took me past John on the sprint home (a sort of Roger vs Andrew skirmish).