Picos day 4

Yesterday I did not announce my Pick of the Picos. Well it was a close run thing between the gorge shot with the river and the shot of the peak that we subsequently climbed above. But there was a late contender after I had published the blog, namely the goldfish bowl of gin before dinner!

Orange slices, not goldfish

It turns out that the old town of Riaño was flooded in 1984 to create the reservoir and dam. The old town is apparently beneath the bridge in the shot below, though there are many bridges criss-crossing the water which are quite fun to ride over.

The dam itself was impressive, with today’s shot being so much better because of the clear blue skies.

We spent a large chunk of today on the plateau. This does not mean that it was flat however as there were many “undulations”. We were at 1,000 to 1,300 metres above sea level for the first 100km or so, meaning that though the sun was out, when we were in the shade it was chilly and the wind was a bit nippy too. So we still enjoyed magnificent scenery from the limestone rocks that surrounded us and the various rushing streams and cascades. There was still snow clinging to the sides of the road as well as on the mountain tops.

In places there was more shale than limestone and there used to be a lot more mining activity around here. I took the following shot which reminded me of my home town – not that there were many mine shafts in the centre of Cardiff!

We reached our first cafe stop, after which it got a bit interesting. A dog decided it was going to chase Graham, but he got away. That left Joe, Doug and me to get past. I thought I had succeeded until there was a shout behind me. I looked round and sure enough there was a large dark shape barking and foaming at the mouth. Turns out it was Doug encouraging me to do a hill sprint to get away from the dog that was charging up the side of the road! We were OK, but unfortunately one of the other riders got bitten – nothing that needed hospital attention though.

The four of us had a decent lunch at a spot popular with truckers and with an owner who seemed determined to find it difficult to understand what we wanted to order.

After lunch was a short climb and then a 20k decent. Needless to say I was well behind the others on the way down, made worse when I got stuck behind a cattle truck for a while. After a couple of km of this, I finally had the opportunity to complete my first ever overtaking manoeuvre of a vehicle! That made the rest of the descent a lot more pleasant.

At the bottom of the descent we passed a turning for our hotel, but we were all planning to do the extras today and climb at least as far as the next 9km to Cobertoria and for some of us (including yours truly, naturally) the further 7km to Gamoniteiro. I had arrived at the right turn where the Gamoniteiro started thinking that I still maybe had another km to go before that climb began. So that was a pleasant surprise and also a relief as the average gradient was between 10-15% all the way up and I now only had 6km to go, even if the gradient remained steep.

Both of these climbs regularly feature in the Vuelta also, the latter being described as being the Ventoux of Spain. Those who know that mountain would probably recognise that as being a reasonable description. One key difference was a couple of sections of really rough concrete which made it difficult to navigate, whether going up or down.

But we made it, then it was a case of putting on more clothing for the final descent of the day to get to our hotel. This shot at the top of the Gamoniteiro has to be my Pick of the Picos for today – the mountain is known as The Big G!

It was somewhat frustrating to have no phone signal to call home and only intermittent Wi-fi access with which to contact the outside world, but I will catch up.

We have the beast that is the Angliru tomorrow. Various short-cut options were proposed for other sections of the ride which will be the “queen” stage – 170km again like today but with 3,600 metres of climbing, not “just” the 3,100 of today. I have put my name down for doing the whole lot on the bike. Of course. It will be a 6am alarm for 7am breakfast (in a well-negotiated break from Spanish tradition!) and 7:45 start. Just like old times!

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