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Europe by Tandem

From Castellon (Spain) to Northern Cape (Norway) by Tandem supporting the fight against cancer.

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Archive for the ‘DIARY’ Category

This morning we went to record images for information on Channel 9 at Desert de les Palmes, a natural area extremely well-known by all citizens of Castellon and the citizens of the surroundings that are cycling fans, both mountain or road biking. Every road cyclist climbs the desert in its exits, and challenges himself to beat his own personal record, getting to know every kilometre, every rise, every curve. The mountain bikers, when they reach the top. They look for trails and paths that allow them to shoot down the maximum levels of adrenaline. Regardless of the means, dozens of mountain loving cyclists and hikers cross greet each other in the Desierto de las Palmas every day.

The truth is that it is also part of us, the tandem team, because outing after outing we climb the Desert or the Bartolo, either from Benicassim or from Castellón, or make a detour through some of its routes  such as the Font Talla (which Ivan particularly loves).

Let’s talk about this natural landscape.

The Parque Natural del Desierto de las Palmas is a natural park located in the province of Castellón and occupies part of five municipalities: Benicassim, Cabanes, La Pobla Tornesa, Borriol and Castelló de la Plana. It is in a mountainous coastline of the region of Alta Plana, parallel to the coast, with many peaks and crags.

This site of 3293 hectares, declared a natural site by the Valencian government in 1989, has suffered fires in 1985 and 1992 remaining, as is evident, in a forest with little wild areas. The name of the site is due to the presence of a Carmelite mendicant order, an order gives this name to the spaces devoted to spiritual retreats (the “The Holy Deserts”). The second part of the name comes from the abundance of palm (Chamaerops humilis), the only palm native to Europe.

This coastal range   is located in the south-eastern part of the province of Castellón having as a maximum height the peak Bartolo with 729 m, which is named of the brother Bartholomé, one of the most famous monks who lived here. The park forms part, together with the Les Santes Mountains, of an anticlinal fold of Paleozoic materials. In it, the red block rocks are abundant and is one of only two places in the province of Castellon where there are blackboards, thus giving it a unique nature within the Community of Valencia.

The typical path for all road cyclists starts at the Ermita de la Magdalena and ends in Benicassim.

The presence of the Carmelite order has given the park two important monuments such as the ancient Monastery (in ruins because of a series of earth movements that damaged it in 1783) (s. XVII-XVIII) and the new Monastery (S. XVIII ). Also scattered throughout the site are several shrines (ss. XVIII-XX). The monastery is supported by the Monte Bartolo (729 meters) and overlooking the valley down to Benicassim.

In addition, Les Agulles Santa Àgueda are graceful relieves of red block where you can enjoy a magnificent panorama, and the park hosts a number of important ruins, such as Montornés Castle and the Miravet and the Ermita de Les Santes.
Also remarkable (and outside the park, but very close to it) are the presence of Castell Vell and the shrine of the Magdalena, place that held the former site of Castellón de la Plana and where neighbours come on pilgrimage during the celebrations of the Magdalena in commemoration of the founding of the city.

There are 9 marked routes:

1. Pico del Bartolo

2. Castillo de Montornés

3. Les Santes

4. Las fuentes del Desert

5. Al Bartolo por las crestas

6. Benicàssim-Font Tallà

7. La Pobla Tornesa Information Centre

8. Information Centre-Bartolo- Santes Hermitage

9. Font de Perelló-Castillo de Miravet

The Desert de Les Palmes is a real pleasure for the senses: exceptional views, a Mediterranean forest with autochthonous flora and fauna, steep mountain formations…. a true lung for the city. Visitors have the opportunity in the Desert to enjoy a spot between hardwood trees, while observing the past and present of the monastic life of the Barefoot Carmelites.
More information in:
The Information Centre The Bartola. Tel: 964 760 727

Mallorca 312: Could not be.

Posted by admin On Junio - 7 - 2010

JL: The Mallorca 312 is a long distance cycling race not suitable for all amateurs. It is 312 kilometres (around the perimeter of the island of Mallorca) with a cumulative drop of 4,300 feet, which crosses the Tramontana Mountaing lengthwise from end to end and to be covered in a maximum of 14 hours.

This is the first edition and we already have about 130 participants, including four runners among professionals and former professionals. Bravo for the organization (Xisco Literas and company), everything was great and certainly over the next few years you will improve it to make it one of the most prestigious events on the international calendar. You have all the ingredients for it, especially a beautiful route through forests, cliffs and picturesque villages.

Some data speaks for itself about the hardness of the test. Only 70 riders finished the round, with a dropout rate of about 50%. There was a group that was completely exhausted after 25 kilometres from the exit point. Several drops on the descents.  A winner who took more than 10 hours of pedalling getting an average of only 30.6 km / hour, being the only one to reach 30 km/ hour on average. Some professional riders, in not very good shape, did not go beyond the 23 kms/ hour on average. The second runner arrived 12 minutes after the first, and the rest finished with astronomical differences.

The participation of Ivan and me meant the presence of the only tandem bike in the starting line and was intended as training to prepare for the challenge “Europe in Tandem.” Of course we were attending as representatives of our company Record Go, which was one of the firms sponsoring the event, providing all the rental cars needed for the event.

Being the only tandem bicycle participating, and knowing of our challenge of solidarity, the Organization gave us an honorific dorsal: the 311, apart from giving us the registrations and other generous details.

Ivan and I faced the test with a philosophy of “finishers“. But it was not the case. In about 128 km when we had 3,800 of the 4,300 meters slope, when we were about to leave the maze of curves, climbs and descents of the mountain, came the “tío del mazo”, and did it without mercy. The 128 km inside the Tramontana Mountain in bike was a trap for the tandem.

We thought we would achieve the goal since we had passed the hardest part with an average of 19.8 kms / hr., and only 180 kilometres through the island’s flat area separated us from the finish line. But I was lacking strength. Pretending ending a race like this one after a night of stomach pains and just four hours of sleep that had weakened me from the start, was a fantasy. With all the rage to know that in normal circumstances this challenge would have been possible, and after discussing the situation with my colleague, I had to get off the bike. We had to avoid unnecessary complications and our real challenge is just around the corner (only 30 days remaining for the start at North Cape), since we were risking IVAN to suffer some kind of injury from overexertion and to me some greater illness because of my situation of extreme tiredness at that time.

However, we returned with the satisfaction of having tried, with the recognition of the other riders who know how meritorious it is to face these kinds of profiles with a tandem bike, with another hard training that has probably contributed in getting us ready, and with two hundred new fans familiar with our charity project.
We met many people. Among them Arturo Sintes (President of the Balearic Islands Cycling Federation), another brave man who got on his bike. We also met Antonio del Pino, Bicycles Test Chief of the Magazine Ciclismo a Fondo. Antonio approached us when he saw the tandem. We talked during the first kilometres and he told us that in the past he had competed in tandem bike with the ONCE, with very good results, by the way.

Of course, we are left with the desire to pass through the finish line. So we think that someone or something conspired so that we return next year, the upcoming May 14th 2011, to taste  once again the Tramuntana mountains of Mallorca on two wheels. Beautiful paradise for all the bikers from Europe.
Greetings to everyone, and thank you very much for all the encouragement received. So glad!

We’re going to Mallorca 312! Date: June, 5th 2010

Posted by admin On Junio - 2 - 2010

We’re going to Mallorca 312! Date: June, 5th 2010
Hello everyone,

We inform you that we will participate this Saturday, June 5th 2010 in the March International Cycling Mallorca 312, the first edition of a challenge  that consists in travelling in 14 hours the 312 kilometres forming the perimeter of the island of Mallorca.

We are talking about 312 km long with 4,300 meters of unlevelled ground. The Tramontana Mountains in the north of the island is as beautiful as it is hard. Therefore, we have expanded the number of miles on our trips for training and increased the number of mountain passes and its difficulty, and we know we can get an average 150 miles a day for many days, thanks to our challenge of the Camino de Santiago del Levante , but we must improve ourselves and be able to do 312 km on top of our tandem competing against other bicycles, taking into account that the average speed going up is less than for individual bikes.

We will overcome 312 kilometres (together with the already completed Camino de Santiago de Levante:))) as another challenge pre- Europe. We are the only ones participating with a tandem bike.

This is a virtual tour of what we will do in the test:

Fortunately, we will be accompanied by a member of our team that will go on a motorcycle during the route just to follow our steps, record videos, photograph us … so that you can always know what is happening to the tandem team in  Mallorca.
Source: web Mallorca 312.

Ninth day, Ourense – Santiago de Compostela, 104 km, 6hrs 14min.

IVAN: Day 29th of May, the last, 9 days ago we were leaving Benicassim, Castellón, with the intention of arriving at Santiago de Compostela following the Camino de Levante with an average 50km per day, as a training for our singular European solidarity challenge. Although this journey had the intention of empowering the physical aspect of the challenge, the main characteristic was gaining experience as tandem bike riders and be fully prepared when we begin the real journey in Norway.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened today, a leg-breaking difficult stage. Galicia’s profile in this area is completely uneven; you continually go uphill and downhill and uphill again, a tough stage all the way to the end.  We should have expected this. Bu the reward was worth the effort, the arrival at Santiago de Compostela.

We entered Santiago de Compostela at 4 p.m on a fresh and humid afternoon. We approximated the ancient hull with the strength given by the adrenaline caused by your enthusiasm. We go down the slopes as if they were flat and go uphill with the advantageous speed of the descents. In few minutes we are in front of the ancient hull accessed by the Rua do Franco, leading us to the desired ending. We saw people, many people, the attraction the tandem bike exerts on the passer-by is evident. A woman stopped us and greeted us with a smile, an old French man asked us where we came from, a boy pointed us out with his forefinger and with the other hand he covered up his mouth and released an alaaaa!!!, a group of young people smiled, and little by little and dodging signs of admiration and complicity, we arrived to a huge extension opened in front of us, the Plaza do Obradoiro. We arrived and turning around we end up directing the tandem bike towards the Cathedral of the apostle James. Last pedalling, brake and foot on the ground, glance towards the sky and feeling.  A complete success.

Before changing we find a group of Castellón who come to see the tandem bike. They recognized the company that sponsor us, RECORD GO, and after telling them the commitment we have acquired with the Cancer Association (AECC and UICC), they commit to make a donation.

Once we changed clothes at the pilgrim’s hostel, we went to get our Compostelana, the diploma received by every pilgrim, upon delivering the card with the appropriate stamps. Of course this night we deserve the victory beer. The night atmosphere breathed in Snatiago is very interesting,  there are no slicked hairdos nor  makeup with rouge, what you see are sharp faces , long beards, and fine sculpted arms, all typical characteristics acquired by the pilgrims. All of them with a smile which help you achieve the goal. I invite everyone to experience this, you feel in community with all the neighbours, and the conversations come up effortlessly, going in the same direction: How about you, from where?

8th stage Camino Santiago de Levante. The hole of Verín

Posted by admin On Mayo - 28 - 2010

Eighth day: Town of Sanabria – Ourense. 156 kms. 9 hours and 43 minutes.

JL: We  departed from Puebla de Sanabria at 8:00. The day is fresh, clear and sunny allowing us to see the snowed peaks. We are tired but the landscape and the sun are comforting, and it makes us smile. Better, go on! Today we have to reach three superior heights at 1000 meters, one of 895, another of 868, and for the dessert, a high point of 590 meters. The two most difficult climbs are in the first 50 kilometres: 1380 meters, descent and 1170 meters more. We take it easy, we put the “catalina” (name given to the small plate) and “up we go”. At the beginning of the climb, we met the first pilgrims who were leaving Sanabria. It were Raquel and Aníbal of Madrid with whom we spoke for a few minutes. Go on guys, and good travel! Here is a photo of the group.

The most difficult part of the day arrived in Verín, a locality situated in low ground: vertiginous descent to arrive and an incredible climb to get out (and this appears on km. 100, when we have 56 km. more before finishing the stage). We ate in a park before going ahead. Shortly after we restarted, blue palette of “slow – moving car”, which means that we are near an important climb: we have to gather strength, grind our teeth and begin to climb.   We are starting to dislike this traffic sign.

After this climbing remaining path to Ourense was a complete “leg breaker”/ I no longer know how much food, water and fruit we had that day.

Finally we arrived at Ourense at 21:30, had diner and went to bed.

Seventh day: Toro-Puebla Sanabria: 135, 8 hrs. 8min.

JL: Since we arrived so late, we couldn’t walk through the streets of Toro, so this morning at 8:00 am, we went to least see the outside of the Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor. I have seen it many times in books, and it is not disappointing in reality. The city of Toro´s past is associated to relevant historical facts. Among other things, it was the place where the battle of “el Toro” occurred, which determined Spain’s since here, the troops of  Isabel la Católica beat the troops of Juana la Beltraneja  thus becoming the new queen de Castilla.

Wandering about the streets, we searched the exit and found Toro´s charms including the street bars. There is very good wine in Toro. Yet another place we had to say goodbye to without having enough time to get to know.

At midday, we had lunch in a bar at Castronuevo. While I finished eating, my friend Iván went to the bathroom. I was quietly watching the TV, and right away my phone rang. Astonished I saw in the viewfinder that the person who was calling me was Iván. My first thought was that he had finished and was calling me to go out; I glanced towards the bathroom door and when I picked up the phone, I hear him asking me, in a low voice, to get him some toilet paper.  Today I have the conviction that the mobile phone is, without any doubt, the best invention in History.

Today’s route has the best views of our entire journey. We passed through beautiful natural spots, with green areas al around, creaks and the river Esla and Sanabria Reservoir.

We have been riding for 7 days, with an average of 150 km/day, with almost 1050 kilometres accumulated. It has been 168 hours of life of which 52 were passed 52 seating on top of the bike seat, 31% of the time.  And if we add up the time used for the stops in order to eat, reparations, physiologic needs, take some photos and find the route, we have spent 77 hours on the road, in other words, 46% of the time.

All of this explains why we feel so tired and as if our legs were missing”. We have lost weight.

With all of this, it’s not serious if what have been lost are fats. As long as we are well hydrated, eat carbohydrates and proteins in a balanced way and in proportion to the effort made, our health will not be threatened.

For that reason it is very important to know about these questions. Luckily we can count on the help of expert Pilar Esquer, nutritionist of Castellón, collaborator and member of the team of Class of Gastronomy and Nutrition of the University Jaume I of Castellón. Thanks for your advices.

Sixth day: Ávila-Toro: 156 km. 7hrs 56 min

JL: Yesterday we left the bank of the Tajo river trying to arrive today at Duero We left the Puerta Alcazar hostel first thing in the morning regretting not having more time to admire some of Avila´s gems. We suddenly discovered an important mechanic failure which obliged us to delay the departure. We had to find a workshop in order to dismantle the entire spool and the back wheel’s axle.  An amateur cyclist, a brave 71 year old man part of the Santa Teresa cyclist group, explained us how to arrive to Ubeda bike shop, where they gave us priority so that we could leave as soon as possible.

We leave Ávila at 12:00.

Then we arrived at Mingarría. Here we looked for a fountain to fill water, but two locals told us it was not drinkable water since they believed it contained arsenic (too much chemistry in agriculture?). People in small towns always seem more willing to help than city people.  They took the empty cans downhill to their houses and returned them filled with water.  We talked with them for a few minutes while we ate sandwiches at a speed never before seen. When we left, the children encouraged us from the school patio. Why does the tandem bike make everyone laugh, especially young children?

Then to Olmedo and later to Medina del Campo, where we had the pleasure to contemplate the splendid La Mota castle. But we couldn’t visit the inside, we had no time. We continued the route crossing towns like Alaejos, which from a distance, already shows its two beautiful church towers.

The wind crushed us. Finally we arrived at Toro at 22:10, with the last ray of light; luckily the days are long. We were tired and had just enough time to eat and sleep.

Fifth day: Toledo – Avila, 142km, 8:38” hours.

IVAN: Day of contrasts, we experienced intense temperatures without any wind, and now it’s very cold because of the Gredos Mountain’s air which still has some snowy peaks.  From the most difficult and “slow” climb to the fastest descend at 70km/h, which considering we are carrying a trailer, is a lot to say. From the most difficult moment, knowing at midday what was still ahead of us, since we were not even halfway (and we woke up at 7 a.m), to the most pleasant moment of the trip, with the semi bath in the reservoir near Barraco, birthplace of cyclists : Ángel Arroyo, “Chava” Jimenez, Ángel Mancebo and Carlos Sastre were born here.  In fact, the day had this profile… ( 2245 m of accumulated climbs)

and it went almost like this…

At 8:10 a.m. we were in front of the Puerta Bisagra de Toledo, in 1 hour and a half we had progressed a lot in our route and seen off the Tajo without stopping to appreciate its beauty. 15 minutes later we experienced the first blow-out, the bottom wheel exploded, as if it was a sniper. We discovered the perfect explosion; we checked the tire but didn’t find anything. We then changed it and continued.

After 30 minutes we checked the wheel’s pressure and discovered why the other one exploded, a fissure in the tire. So we have to make a second change, this time of the tire in the same petrol station. We have only one tire and one chamber so we implored the apostle to help us.

We continued and we began our first climb of the day. The best were the views, this area is a zone of castles which are particularly cared, bearing in mind the origin of the Toledo route and Ávila. I don’t think it is necessary to add anything more. In any case, I’m posting photos of these beautiful places

Finally, and after the lunch, we began the second climbing of 1,000 meters of altitude which began in the 98km of the day. This climb passed through Barraco, hometown of famous athletes and cycling joys. This doesn’t surprise me because of the beautiful and difficult landscapes for its practise, but the best has been the break in the swamp situated at its base. Believe me, it is one of the most special areas of Spain according to my modest point of view.

There is nothing else, tomorrow Toro awaits use. Let’s see if we are capable of carrying out a good stage  and are able to arrive to the first dig. Greetings!

Fourth day: El Toboso – Toledo: 131 km. 6 hours.

JL: A lot of things to tell

For example, that Israel wrote us in order to encourage us and give us a BTT route that goes from the commercial centre of Alfafar to the surroundings of Enguera, published in “Wikiloc”, by “mulet” ( in response to our routes petition to pass along to another friend of ours, Gabi  from Enguera.

With regards to our route, every day we go through many villages. All of them, included which name we ignore, have some evocative corner;  we just have to stop and take an instant to change our usual conventional and hurried look for another perspective, more able to appreciate the significance of things.

Today we suffered from our first mechanical failure and also anatomical. Approximately on kilometre 70, the back wheel pinched. It was a “nip” because the wheel was not inflated enough. A rooky mistake which made us loose 15 to 20 minutes.

The other breakdown was more dangerous. Iván’s right shoe was breaking. The pedal was perforating the sole of the shoe and in order to prevent the perforation he changed the pedal’s position and inclination. Guys, be careful with changing the position of the pedal once your legs have become accustomed to a specific pedalling position. In fact: in only two days it caused him an incipient tendonitis on the Achilles’ heel.

We searched for a physiotherapist since the pain was important and threatened to make us quit the route. Here is where the day’s beautiful anecdote comes up. Manuel García of the KYNES clinic of Toledo, knowing our story and our project, didn’t want us to pay anything. But under a condition, we have to keep him posted of our activities.

The treatment applied changed Ivan’s condition. And with the purchase of new shoes we hope that we are able to continue.  Another thing we think can help is bettering our hydration and diet. But I don’t know how Iván can improve his diet considering I have to eat at full speed, otherwise he attacks my plate too. I don’t know if you have seen the cyclone caused by the Tasmanian Devil in the cartoons when it eats……., in short, don’t forget to try the “carcamuso“.

In regard to Toledo, I don’t want to forward anything, only that you have to see it.

3RD stage Camino Santiago Levante. Following Don Quijote

Posted by admin On Mayo - 23 - 2010

Third day: Albacete- El Toboso: 141 km. 5:50´ hours.

Ivan: This stage is suitable for running, grinding your teeth and training courageously. We had a slight breeze coming from the south-west that accompanied us and made the ride easier. Moreover, the road was favourable, with not too many ascends or descends. In fact, apart from the final stretch, the road was pretty flat.  On the other hand, the angst, the will, the precipitation or the anger (I think because we were carrying an all-red equipment) ;) gave us a rough time. In four hours we had covered more than 100 km of the whole road, and if we consider that the first hour is usually for warm-up, it meant that during three hours we had carried on an average of 28km/hour, which on a tandem bike is already something, but if you further add a load of about 30 kilos, it is more than enough for amateurs like us.  The last hour became almost two, ruining our whole average, along with our legs. And a journey that a priori seemed easy and didn’t seem to hide any problems, ended up exhausting us.

Other than that, we met, as usual, many curious people that encourage you with support and questions, like for example the guys from the DIEGO bar at Minaya, with whom we held a cheerful chat about our trip and of course, of the curiosities rose by our special vehicle: our tandem bike.

As a last curiosity, our night at El Toboso was spent in the convent of Trinitarias, a fantastic architectonic complex with wonderful surroundings. Upon entering, I experienced the first anecdote. Imagine the entrance like the entrance of a church (evidently). To talk to the nuns you must call a bell. After this, they greet you with the usual ´hail purest Mary´, to which I, being a complete ignorant of the matter and due to lack of practice, almost answered by saying “hello, good afternoon”. Thank god my colleague J.L., attentive and alert, came forward and answered with the corresponding ‘conceived without sin’.

JL: We continued without running into other pilgrims going towards Santiago de Compostela. I guess this route of is not as transited as the north road, and also the date does not correspond to high season. However, on these dates, the fields are beautifully died with a reddish colour due to the poppy flowers. Everything is in abundance. If you throw the guy from the TV show Survivors with just a machete, you will pick him up seven days later weighing 4 more kilos.

We have arrived to El Toboso. This town has some interesting things. The church dedicated to San Antonio Abad dated from the 17th Century, from the late gothic and renaissance period. You can also visit Dulcinea´s house and the Cervantino Museum. But its true gem is without a doubt the Trinitarias Convent where we stayed the night. It has an explanatory plate on the outside where it further states that it is usually called the “Escorial de la Mancha”. This confused me because as far as I knew, that title belonged to the Ucles Monastery. In any case, both are worth visiting.

What surprised me the most is that they charged us 50 Euros per night including breakfast (the price of a 2 or 3 star hotel) and the room was a humble chamber with a bathroom with no hot water or soap bar (and no receipt). Anyway, anything for a good cause.

Worth tasting are the local wine, the lamb and the “duelos y lamentos”, a typical dish of the area.

We leave you with a video showing the pretty field of Castilla de la Mancha thanks to the poppy flowers. Greetings from El Toboso!

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