Departure planned for 9:30h. The idea is to enjoy a good day of sports outdoors, together with some work mates and guests and also, why not, to get to know each other a little better. There is no better setting for this than the Guadarrama Mountains, not too far from our usual workplace. It is a wonderful morning and the forecast of some rain after midday disheartens no one, our objective is set and we are all confident we can achieve it.
The plan is to start in the town of Los Molinos, altitude 1,100 m, in the foothills of the Sierra, ride up the valley of the Fuenfría River to the mountain pass of the same name, altitude 1,800 m, continue towards Collado de la Marichiva through the valley of the Moros River and on to Collado de los Leones, and then drop down continuously, going around La Peñota, back to our starting point in Los Molinos, where at Javier’s place a wonderful barbecue will be awaiting to regain our strength.
The minute we leave the streets of the town, we are riding on one of the stretches of the old Roman Road from Madrid to Segovia crossing this valley on the Madrid side of the mountains. Tall and sturdy Scots pines escort us on both sides, their roots together with the polished stones of the road scattered irregularly along the ground making our progress more difficult. Shortly afterwards, we reach the recreational area of Las Dehesas, where the first group gathering takes place and where we leave the old Roman Road for the more recent Road of the Republica, with which Primo de Rivera intended to shorten the journey between the nearby towns of Cercedilla, in Madrid, and Valsaín, in Segovia, on the north side of the mountains. The project was never completed, curiously due to the opposition of green parties during the Second Republic, and as a result we have this wonderful path to be enjoyed by hikers and cyclists today.
The cycling gets easier, although some would say it’s difficult, along the gentle slopes of a well-kept track, managed by the administration of the National Park of the Sierra de Guadarrama. This leads us slowly and gradually, through a thick pine forest, to the Mirador de los Poetas [Viewpoint of the Poets], where the more experienced cyclists in the group stop again to wait for those who are less accustomed to making this effort. The views of the mountains, and even of the city of Madrid in the distance, make this an almost mandatory stop along this route.
From here to the highest point of our day, the Fuenfría Pass, we need only continue along the gentle rise for a few kilometres more. The wait for those lagging behind is shorter up there, entertained by the passing of several Griffon Vultures flying low over our heads, and soon we are going down towards Collado de la Marichiva. Here begins a short stretch of a steep slope and rocky road that forces quite a few to walk, but we all gather again at the trail that will lead us to another beautiful spot where again the Scots pines prevail. Higher humidity in these mountainsides facing northwest help create a thicker forest, which are even more beautiful if possible than those we’ve left behind. The group now flings down a steep descent where anyone who stops pedalling is left behind. The ones leading play to see who is the most skilful and strongest going down while those at the end strive to stay on the bike and within the boundaries of the path, making sure the pebbles kicked up by the cyclists ahead do not get in your eye; those who had taken their sunglasses off in the shady forest, put them back on even at the risk of losing control of the bike. And yes, I had already heard this before, but it was interesting to note that going down can be almost as tiring as going up, it all depends, as for any whole route, on the pace. And this steady pace took us in no time at all to the next gathering point next to one of the gates regulating road traffic in the area. There for a few minutes we shared jokes, comments, recent stories and feelings, to keep our minds busy, and also some nuts, fruit and biscuits, to keep our stomachs busy, until we reached the longed for reward awaiting at the finish line.
We resume our ride on irregular terrain that once again tests our already tired legs, although some say that in many cases it is not physical strength that is needed to achieve a goal, but rather stubbornness, and determination. This determination is what drives us all to make it to the end, so familiar to local cyclists, Puerto de los Leones. From there to the end of the route, legs and mind fight once again to impose their preferences; while the legs complain and demand taking a well-deserved rest during the final descent, the mind decides unilaterally that these open landscapes on the basin of the Manzanares River to our right and the magnificent rocky crests of La Peñota on our left, are the ideal setting for one last effort; a last effort that would add new and exciting experiences and feelings to the already intense day of sports outdoors.
In the final kilometres some got flat tires, others got lost around town … the culmination to a morning of hard work, but nothing that cannot be restored with a quick dive in a pool of freezing water and trays of meat coming off the grill. Salads and vegetables are also included for good measure, and a surprise dessert prepared for us by Elisa.
We are already getting ready for the next race, which will be in Madrid for the Corporate Race on 15 December.
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