by Dean Fletcher
At last we are seeing the great and the good of the travel industry waking up. They are waking up to Galicia. It is official after the publication on Wednesday of ABTA’s list of destinations to watch for in 2019. Galicia ABTA top twelve holiday destination. The question is, why has it taken so long for them to see what has been obvious to us for years? We will discuss this later in this blog.
European destinations in the top twelve
There are five European destinations in the top twelve. Bulgaria, Madeira, Thessaloniki, Poland and Galicia. Eastern Europe, we know is growing as a tourist destination. As more people discover these previously unknown destinations, the more popular they get. However, eastern Europe still carries a certain stigma, despite the EU expansion. Is it safe, how is the infrastructure, healthcare in emergency etc. Some of these questions are part of this stigma, and clearly things are improving. However, it will take more time. Galicia, however, doesn´t have any of these problems. It is in Spain, and Spain is the most popular holiday destination in Europe.
Galicia ABTA top twelve holiday destination
So, why has it taken Galicia, a Spanish province so long to be noticed? The answer to this is multifaceted. Primarily, Galicia doesn´t fit into what we all see as “normal Spain”. Galicia is green. Very green. Not the kms of desert roads, and nothingness that is found in the southern part of Spain. Galicia has beautiful mountains and beaches. It also has a very varied geography and more temperate climate than the rest of Spain. Also, it is a haven for Spanish tourists, who escape the heat of the interior in summer. So, Galicia has never been marketed to the outside world. Nowadays, relying on a domestic market in any business model is dangerous. So , the Galician government has embarked on a marketing drive, that is now winning awards.
What makes Galicia stand out?
So why is it that we have Galicia ABTA top twelve holiday destination. Galicia remains unspoilt. The domestic tourism has allowed it to change little over the years. EU money has improved the road system and opened up the province. Galician food is amongst the best in Europe, as it is almost 100% locally sourced. The prices are low compared to other regions in Spain, which always will attract visitors. Galicia has its own deep rooted culture and language. All of this adds up to the perfect holiday destination. And even better on a bike. If you are looking for a destination for a Spanish cycling holiday then look no further. Galicia is your first choice. Galicia ABTA top twelve holiday destination. Come and see what the fuss is all about.Continue
by Dean Fletcher
The Camino de Santiago, in English “The way of St James”, is a world famous pilgrimage. The pilgrimage ends in Santiago de Compostela, here in Galicia, a world heritage site. The cathedral there dates back to the 12th century and contains the remains of St James. These remains are the reason that hundreds of thousands of pilgrims do the walk each year. And don’t forget the cyclists too!
History of the Camino de Santiago
The actual name of the city is Santiago de Compostela. Roughly translated to English this means “St James in the field of the stars”. The origin of this name dates to the early 9th century. The legend says that a bright star led a shepherd to a field on Mount Lebredon. There he found the remains of St James, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. The Spanish king at the time King Alfonso II decreed that a church should be built on this site. Within this church would lie the remains of Santiago “St James”. From that point on, the cathedral became a point of pilgrimage for Catholics. In 2018, more than three hundred thousand pilgrims registered their arrival in Santiago.
Different routes of the Camino de Santiago
All roads lead to Santiago for pilgrims. There are officially four routes that arrive in Santiago, and each route spreads out across Spain. The most popular is the French route, across the north via Leon. The northern route runs in parallel hugging the Bay of Biscay. It is not as popular as the French route, but each year sees more pilgrims. The primitive route is the shortest, from Oviedo in Asturias. This was the route from the 10th century, when Oviedo was the seat of the Spanish king. Very popular now is the Portuguese Way. The full walk is from Lisbon, but the most popular starts in Porto. The original route enters Spain in Tui, and the coastal route close to the Celtic mountain of Santa Tegra . This route will introduce everybody to the beautiful scenery of Southern Galicia , such as Monte Aloia and the Rias Baixas.
Cycling the Camino de Santiago
Over the last few years, cycling the camino de Santiago has become more popular. To follow the actual camino one must use a mountain bike, or at the very least a gravel bike. It can also be done on a road bike, although one will have to deviate slightly from the original routes. However, it is quicker, and for those pressed for time a more viable idea. Whichever way you decide to experience the camino, it will bring you to Galicia, the jewel in Spain’s crown. So, whether or not you are looking for a walking holiday in Spain or a cycling holiday in Spain, choose Galicia. You won’t be disappointed.Continue
by Dean Fletcher
Galicia is becoming, very rapidly a destination for cyclists, and cyclotourists. It is a great place for a Spanish cycling holiday , as it has everything that a destination has to offer. There are kms of safe roads, fantastic scenery and nature , and the Galician food is excellent for “apres-cycle”. For those who love mountain climbs, there are endless choices. So, what is on the menu for those who like to pin a number on their back? What are the options for Cycle Sportives in Galicia? Well, the answer is, there are quite a few. So, let’s look at them in chronological order for 2019.
Strade Termal Ourense 7th April
This is a very special race in the Cycle Sportives in Galicia calander. That is because it is one of the rare races that crossed the Portuguese border. Because of very difficult administration of traffic police, cross border races are rare between Spain and Portugal. However, the Strade Termal can offer this rarity. Also, as its name implies, there is strade. Strade , or strata in Italian is gravel. And this race loves its gravel. In the Strade Termal 2018 edition , there were four distinct strade sections, with two of them mountain climbs.
A quick glance at the drone footage from the race video captures these climbs. The race starts and finishes in the Spa Hotel of Caldaria de Lobios . The pasta party the night before, and the full buffet lunch after the race are excellent. The race for 2019 has a provisional distance of 108km with 2000m+ accumulated. Contact Cycling Galicia for details of packages.
4 Picos Road 16th June
The 2019 edition of the 4 Picos Road will be the third running of this cycle sportive. It pays homage to Everisto Portela, the sporting director of SuperFroiz, Galicia’s biggest pro cycling team. The race starts and finishes in Pontevedra, and has four distinct climbs, the “4 picos”. Two of these are on the Morrazo peninsula, Lago de Castiñeras and Mirador de Moraño. The other two are just to the north of Pontevedra. Acibal, and finally the Vuelta de España climb to Monte Castrove, where Fabio Aru bested Chris Froome in 2015. The 2018 edition welcomed Miguel Indurain, the 5 time Tour de France winner as its patron. The race is controled , apart from the climbs, and is growing in stature every year. For package details contact Cycling Galicia.
Gran Fondo Ezaro 7th July
This race, organised by the famous Galician rider Ezequiel Mosquera, is growing every year. In 2018, and in 2019 it is a qualifier for the UCI world gran fondo championship. The race starts and finishes in Ezaro, the stunning waterfall, close to Cape Finisterre. The final 2.5km is the climb to the mirador de Ezaro. It has been used twice in the Vuelta de España and is famous for its ramp section that touches 30%. There is always a great crowd on the climb, that grows every year. This race has rapidly become the standout of the Cycle Sportives in Galicia. This is a proper race, with 20km neutral section, followed by 110km on mainly closed roads. Many of it along the coast, or overlooking it. It is a stunning race, and well worth visiting. For details of packages built around the race contact Cycling Galicia.Continue
by Dean Fletcher
In the blog of 22nd October, we touched on the use of power meters. I stated that I do not use one, and that I would investigate them. A couple of days later, nobody less than Michel Prud’homme was lamenting their use. He called for the UCI to ban them at the tour. Fighting talk. So, after some research, I am going to say what I think. And also,Strava. So, let´s discuss these two big subjects, and ask. Strava and watts, are they spoiling the fun.
When I discuss this with friends, it becomes a bit like Brexit, or religion. Everybody has a very firm view. You love Watts and Strava or you don’t. Polarised is too strong a word, but it isn´t far off. So, who is in favour of these two additions to modern cycling? It seems to me to be those who compete at the highest levels. Not exclusively, but in my small census, there is a leaning towards top end cyclists. For training purposes, there is a huge advantage using Watt meters. I have seen this first hand. The ability to control your effort, in short intensive training is clear. Also, what you thought was your absolute threshold, is indeed a lot higher. The watts don’t lie, so you keep pushing to new levels.
Can it become like a Drug?
This is what worries me about the use of these meters. We have all seen Chris Froome staring for hours at his display. Riding like a computerised human. Agreed, it hasn’t done him too badly, but there is only one Chris Froome. Yes, we can learn from him, but we ride our bikes for the enjoyment. And this is the paradox of power meters. Once you start using them, you become addicted to Strava and watts. Speed, distance travelled, the scenery. It all becomes irrelevant. Those three numbers before the W are all that matters. And that isn’t why we ride a bike. Certainly, for me it isn’t. So, yes, they can improve your training. Yes, they can improve you as a rider. And, undoubtedly they are a great weapon in your armoury as a cyclist. Will you enjoy riding more with one? I didn’t.
Strava is a bit more difficult to argue against. However, I am going to try. And why? Simply because I enjoy riding a bike. I am not competing against anybody, just myself. When I ride in a group, of course I like to test myself. Equally I like to speak to my fellow riders, take in the scenery, and much more. I have found over the last few years that this is more difficult. And the reason is Strava. Go out now in a big group, and it is “eyeballs out” all day. Particularly if there is a strong wind in favour on a particular “”. Everybody wants to get up the league. It has become an obsession. I realise that many ride bikes for the competitive side. Comparing times with friends. Pushing to the limit. It is escapism, and that is why we love the sport so much. Strava helps those who like to ride, and like to boast a little.
Many will argue that there aren’t any at all. I am simply going to say that I do not have Strava. I have Garmin, and when I get home, I download my ride. It is good to see how many kms, how many metres climbed, cadence etc. That helps me know where I am physically. However, I do not have any interest in who is the KOM on my local mountain, nor their time. Cycling for me is a hobby, and for 99.9% of cyclists it should be that. Only the top 0.01% are pros. If cycling paid my wages, I would use every available tool to improve. I ride a bike because I love it. Cycling has turned into a business for me. We try to make our cycling holidays in Spain as interesting as possible. I love riding, and even more with people that I have never met before. However, if my obsession is just the numbers, then I won’t love it.
So Strava and watts, are they spoiling the fun? The answer to that is yes if you just ride for the enjoyment of it. The answer is no if you really want to improve and compete. For somebody in the middle like me? Those who can ride a bit, but don’t want to sacrifice enjoyment. For now, I will stick to the old ways. Perhaps I just need a bit more research. This means more rides, which is always good news.
by Dean Fletcher
A while back I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with Oscar Pereiro. Oscar is Galicia’s most famous cycling son, winner of the 2006 Tour de France. During our chat, Oscar spoke about the importance of being an athlete, not just a cyclist. He told me about how much he enjoyed running, particularly in his off season. He emphasised the importance of running and riding, as part of his overall training. And above all, he made a lot of sense.
Early morning rollers
If, like me, life is always a battle with weight gain, then running and riding makes a lot of sense. I love my food and find strict diets quite demoralising. So, anything that can help with weight loss, or weight control is important. Particularly if it means that you can still enjoy your food. On the riding front, half an hour of steady work on a static roller first thing in the morning is perfect. OK, I agree that it can be hard to get up thirty minutes early. However, if you can do it, the benefits are huge. With no food in the stomach, the body burns fat as you ride. Just half an hour, at 125 bpm heart rate will suffice. And you will be ready for the day. This was something that Oscar did every morning, so it must be beneficial. Look where he ended up.
Benefits of running and riding
Many cyclists hate running. And rightly so. If we loved it, then we would be runners. Or perhaps the halfway house of triathletes. As somebody who completed a half-ironman, for a bet I must add, I have done a bit of running. Pounding out the kms on the road is no fun if your heart is a cyclist’s heart. However, running and riding can be fun. And the key is, where you run. If you can, look for off road running. The impact on joints is a lot less, and this is important, particularly amongst veterans. I must add that many cycling buddies are ex-runners, who came to cycling to recuperate from running injuries. Looking for trails, or paths through forests, or just a decent sized field is preferable to asphalt. Here in Galicia, we have a lot to choose from.
A problem with cycling can be the time available. Many with busy lives can only find a maximum of 45-60 minutes during the day. The rollers are always a good idea. As mentioned above, this is always more beneficial first thing in the morning. However, an hour, or less, is a lot of time when running. So you should try and incorporate it into the schedule, particularly during the winter months. Buy a decent pair of off-road trainers, and start finding those routes. You will see the benefits very quickly indeed. And if you are looking for cycling holidays in Spain, then bring the trainers with you. There are endless kms of trails here in Galicia after a good days riding to explore.Continue