It’s minus 12C in Helsinki and you’re boarding a flight to Sevilla with the essential riding kit in your bag and a grin on your face. Nice. Spain hosts one of the 3 Grand cycling tours every year and is a country full of biking culture. Visits to Granada, Sevilla and Malaga, the last two both hosting a stage in the last Tour of Spain, are scheduled. Sweet.
Bump in the road #1: the Spanish are not the Swiss, as a matter of fact I wonder if most of them have a watch – or a sense of organization. The flight, stops included, is supposed to take 7.5 hours. We clock off after 14hrs – yes, we also got the opportunity to see the Madrid airport. Renting a bike in Sevilla? Other than a bike from the public city bike service…no. My online search didn’t deliver any results and the well-willing staff at the hotel couldn’t help me either – using their best Spanglish.
Next up Granada – the climb up to the Alhambra would make a nice climb-time trial by the way – at a height of 700m and surrounded by mountains the wet dream of a cyclist. The receptionist, upon the same question, looked at me as if I personified the 21st century Moorish invasion of the city all over again. She did gave me her best smile – I think she was actually make fun out of me – and said “No”. Later on I saw at least 10 mountain bikers coming back from their evening ride, however due to hectic traffic and bad timing I didn’t “connect” with the local bikers. Slightly frustrated – excellent tapas and wine softened the pain a bit – I put all my hopes on Malaga.
So, Costa del Sol it was! Known for training camps of professional teams, reasonably good roads, nature parks, nice temperatures in December (16C) – this would be it. The receptionist at our hotel said .. “No”, but I simply was not going to take it this time. During our second day in the city, and after collecting two rental bike addresses style “tour around the historical city on a bike”, I got a phone number from the Russian(!) owner of the “bicycle tours” shop. I gave David from Recyclo Bike Shop in Palo Alto (5 km east of Malaga) a call and, imagine that, got to choose between a full carbon or aluminum frame Focus bike, with SRAM or Shimano group and in the exact size needed. Unlike the fanatic Spanish Catholics I didn’t go and burn a candle for the Virgin Mary but I did walk around with a smile for the rest of the day – bought a more detailed map, and started planning for the next day. More on the route I biked in the days to come, and now that I think of it… I should have burned that candle.