One Law Just for Team SKY?

We watched the domination of TEAM SKY at this year´s Tour de France. And this after an emphatic Giro win, all achieved under the dark cloud of Chris Froome´s “positive test” for excessive Salbutamol. All this has really opened a Pandora´s box in the world of cycling. You must feel though, that despite the scandalous revelation of Froome´s abnormal result by the French press, TEAM SKY have played this one badly. What Brits see as playing by the book, is seen as arrogance in Europe. And today´s rest day press conference by Brailsford, essentially blaming the French people is not going to help the situation. So, let´s try and put this all into perspective.

The Weight of History

What can be described as old school cycling nations, such as France, Italy and Spain, have always viewed TEAM SKY with suspicion. Almost every dominant team in cycling´s history has been tainted in some way. It is unlikely that argument will ever go away. So,instead, let´s focus on the last couple of months.

The PR Disaster

Froome gave an excessive test for a non-banned substance, and the result, should have been kept confidential during the clarification process. But, it didn´t as  the French press leaked it. TEAM SKY, despite being in the right to protest have handled the PR very badly indeed. The result of this has been booing, and the odd unsavoury incident on the road during the Tour. TEAM SKY could have, and above all should have realised that  protesting the leak was futile. Much better would have been a clear interpretation of what happened. Perhaps a long interview with Brailsford, or indeed him and Froome would have been a good idea. TEAM SKY must realise that this constant war of words against everybody else, the siege mentality, is really working against them. Engaging with their doubters, even if they cannot convince them, must be a better strategy.

Real Positives

And set against this, are the two actual positive tests that have emerged in the last month or so. Jaime Rosón, who signed for Movistar this year, is now banned for biological passport abnormalities. This occurred during his tenure with Caja Rural in January 2017. Confidentiality, sadly lacking in the Froome case, enabled him to sign for the World Tour team. And just this week antoher positive for growth hormone Ivan Merino a rider from BURGOS-BH. This pro-continental team is going to ride it´s first ever grand tour at this year´s Vuelta de España. These two cases have pretty much slipped under the radar, particularly outside the cycling fraternity. This has to be seen as double standards. Continentals assume TEAM SKY is doping, and continental teams are getting caught doing it.

A bit savvier PR from TEAM SKY, rather than circling the wagons could be the way forward. And let´s hope when the Vuelta passes through Galicia in early September that we won´t see the unsavoury scenes that have infolded in France during the past week.

Monte Aloia Galicia’s Mythical Mountain

Monte Aloia is situated at the southern border of Galicia. IIt towers above the River Miño and northern Portugal providing spectacular views. It is a natural park, and a paradise for many different lovers of nature. Hikers can spend a long day exploring it´s beautiful dense woodland. Trail runners have limitless mountain paths to keep them occupied. And cyclists too have as many as five options to reach the Chapel of Saint Julian at the summit, some 650m from the foot. The two most popular are the south face, the shortest route, and from Gondomar, although twice as long, but nonetheless still challenging. This mountain is a must for all cycling holidays in galicia.

The route up Monte Aloia from Gondomar is deceiving. It has three flat sections within it’s 12km, allowing the rider to regroup between each steep section.  The first 4km are steady until the village of Morgadanés , where a quick left and right introduces the rider to 3km at a steady 8% gradient. Next comes another flat section through the village of Prado, and the final drag to the summit. Once there one can take in a great view out to the Atlantic Ocean in the final 2km. It is a truly memorable ascent. The south face tackled from Tui, is a totally different proposition, with the 6km ascent averaging just over 8%.

The steepness of this side of Monte Aloia hits the rider immediately, with a first km averaging 8.2%. This leads to a small false flat , followed by a small rise to the village of Frinxo. From there, all the way to the summit, the gradient vary rarely drops below 9%. There section of hairpins past the water fountain and the visitor centre average almost 11%. The final 2km to the summit really hurts the legs and seem to go on forever. The view in the final 400m across the river valley to Portugal is well worth all the hurt experienced in the previous 6km.

Holiday or Training – the Cycle Tourist’s Dilemma

When is a holiday not a holiday? We all love a holiday, and many of us love a sporting holiday. Finding the balance between enjoying the experience, or just concentrating on how well you perform, can make the difference between a successful trip or sitting in the departure lounge on the way home thinking of what might have been. Was it a holiday or training? Is there a secret to striking the right balance?

Be Realistic

Firstly, the key is to choose the right trip, one that is achievable. Do you want it to be a holiday or training trip.Can you only get out on a Sunday ride ? Do you have time for just a couple of hours on a home trainer ? If so, then six straight days of 125km and 1500m+ of climbing is not viable. You may think that you can survive, and it is admirable to give it a go, but will you enjoy it? Probably not. However, that should not preclude you from taking on a challenge that, on paper, looks beyond you. Many cycle tourists can perform small miracles with the sun on their back. And also free of the day-to-day stresses of modern life.

Plan Ahead

So, how do you choose the correct trip. A good rule of thumb is to establish how long you are comfortable on a bike. Physically and mentally. If your Sunday ride is about 3 hours or so, but always leaves you wanting more, then a five-hour day is doable and enjoyable. And six days straight may sound a lot, but most cyclists will get stronger and stronger as a trip goes on. Plan your training in the three months before the trip, increasing time on the bike, rather than huge intensity. A smooth five-hour effort will adjust your mind and body to excessive time in the saddle, and stretch, a lot, after each ride. A holiday is just that, a holiday, and there to be enjoyed. So the dilemma of is it a holiday or training can be solved, with some good forward planning.

Travelling With Your Bike

Travelling with your bike nowadays can be what the Spanish call a “rollo”, a real chore. However, if you know the rules, it can be made a lot easier than you think. There are various options that you can use. Firstly, you can hire a bike when you arrive. However, many enjoy using their own bike, so this option is not for many cycling tourists. So, let’s assume that you want to bring your own trusty steed with you on you Galicia cycling tour.

So, when travelling with your bike, the key is preparation. Firstly, we would recommend a good bike case. The solid plastic types are expensive to buy, so hiring one can be an option . The cheaper soft, nylon bags can do the job, but you must pack the bike correctly. Make sure that vulnerable parts of the bike, such as the drop-out and gear mechanism are very well protected. Plenty of padding inside is the key, and your local bike shop is a good place to get advice for correctly packing your bike.

Airline Charges 

Almost all airlines now charge for travelling with your bike, and the three airlines that serve Porto, EASYJET, RYANAIR AND TAP AIR PORTUGAL, all charge. Easyjet will charge £42 one way if pre-booked, Ryaniar £60 and TAP Air Portugal 45€. With all three airlines, you can play with your baggage allowances a little to try and reduce costs. So, correctly packed, and correctly planned, getting your bike to and from your destination shouldn’t be too much hassle.

Some travel companies now offer a door to door delivery service for bikes. This can cut out the hassle of travelling with your bike. Cycling Galicia is one of the few companies that offer this service. Click here to find out more on how it works.

Safe Cycling in Galicia

Most Brits have faced the challenge of driving on the right hand side of the road whilst in Europe. However, if it is your first time on a bike out of the UK, it can be an eye opener. Safe cycling is paramount when riding in a new territory. The great thing about Cycling in Galicia, and in  northern Portugal, is that the cyclist is a respected species. Many of the roads have wide verges, allowing for cyclists to ride side by side without any problem.

Carlos Moure

The RFEC, Spanish Cycling Federation have been actively promoting the “give the cyclist a 1.5m space”. Carlos Moure, the godfather of Galician cycling, has been very vocal in his promotion of this initiative, promoting safe cycling to a national level.  So much press attention has clearly had an effect, and drivers are giving cyclists the utmost respect on Galician roads.

Local councils have also been diligently carrying out their duties clearing the road verges. After a wettish April, the grass has really grown quickly, and this can prove to be a hazard for cyclists, particularly when descending on Galicia’s numerous mountain roads. The tractors and hedge cutters have been out in force clearing the curves and bends to give cyclists a clearer view when cornering. This has enhanced the quality and helps the safe cycling message.

They have also been following an active road repair programme, and again the main benefactors have been the cyclists. Next May’s local elections are having an effect, and the councils are using up budgets to buy votes. It may or may not be true, but everybody on two wheels is reaping the benefits. If you are looking for a new destination for your next cycling adventure, then look no further. Galicia has lots to offer ,and above all , the safety of the cyclist is one of the greatest attractions. Don´t just take our word for it, come and see for yourselves.