At the end of my last blog post, I explained that I had left Girona, having got a good few weeks of initial base miles in the tank, and had returned home to spend Christmas with my family.
After six days at home relaxing and enjoying the festivities, I packed what felt like almost all my worldly belongings into my car (including almost £20 worth of Sainsbury’s crunchy peanut butter jars), and set off at 4:30am on 29th December towards Dover ferry port.
This was the start of an epic 2,300km, two day road trip from my house in Kent to Almería in Andalusia, southern Spain.
16hrs after shutting my front door and numerous BlaBlaCar passengers later, I arrived at my overnight stop in Girona.
Back on the road early the next day, and after a total of 24 hours of driving I arrived at my final destination in Andalusia, where I would spend a couple of weeks before travelling up to Calpe.
The roads around Almería were incredibly quiet, and with the Sierra Nevada mountain range on the doorstep, it was possible to access some pretty epic long climbs.
It was also surreal to welcome in the New Year amongst a small Andalucian village community, taking part in the tradition of eating a grape for every chime of the church bell and celebrating with fireworks, champagne, and hugging/kissing everyone in sight.
To training though, and the focus remained predominantly on building a large aerobic endurance base, but some longer efforts started to be incorporated at this point. The two weeks were very productive, made easier by the stunning surroundings and good weather.
One ride in particular stood out and was an experience that I’ll never forget, and that was climbing up to the observatory atop Calar Alto, which peaks at 2,168 metres (some way above the snow line and certainly high enough to feel the effects of altitude).
The climb itself is HC rated, 29.1km in length and ascends 1,393m giving an average gradient of 5%, which I completed in 1hr 36mins.
I can’t wait to see the Vuelta tackle this mountain in August; it should certainly sort the men from the boys!
Needless to say, the views were stunning, and on a clear day it’s possible to see Africa to the south, and the mountain range lying just in front of Madrid to the north (a distance of some 700km).
You really do feel like you are on top of the world.
The city of Almería itself was also stunning in its own right, and it was great to relax and explore the Alcazaba (fortified Moorish citadel dating back to the 1st century) on a rest day.
And with that, it was time to head up to Calpe to join a group of British riders staying together in a villa for a month or so.
This is an area I know extremely well now and to which I am a little bit attached, having been on training camps there for four years in a row.
It was certainly good to be back on familiar roads and be able to navigate from memory.