The final day on camp is a chance for the athletes to really test themselves, after all for many this is the highest volume of training that they’ve ever done. They’ve all done huge volumes of cycling along with daily swims and runs, not forgetting that there’s been a selection of races thrown in too! A 10 mile TT, an aquathon, a swim race and finally a 10km run race….and now they’re expected to circumnavigate the whole island with the 180km Ironman route.
For some this is the longest they’ve ever ridden. I do like to pop a couple of century cherries every year. So three cheers for Andy and Stephen, both rode steadily and never once complained. To be fair, I’ve not ridden that far since last year. My partner Ali had decided to come along too, I’m really proud of her, she’s picked up a couple of knee niggles over winter and was worried, maybe it’s riding in the hot sun in such stunning settings that cured it!
I’m sure the athletes thought I was mean, making them ride at a reasonable pace up to La Santa before our first refuelling stop, whilst they knew that the faster group were getting to stop at Johnnies Bakery and drink espresso. Maybe it is a bit harsh but I want to know that they’ll get round in the light, too many early stops and it’s easy to lose a lot of time. As it turned out the fastest group were having fun of their own as one of their party had suffered an exploded rim And Steven was having to sort that. In the meantime Jo’s group had caught up and she sent a couple of them on with our group to give Steven a chance to get going again.
The winds on the island have been fairly kind to us this week, however they seemed to be in all kinds of different directions, as we turned in at Famara, past the surf resort, the long hot drag up to the centre of the island, we gained a head wind. Now whilst it’s fairly easy for me to know the roads and how long each one lasts having ridden and raced here quite a bit over the last few years, it’s much harder when it’s all new. Morale was low, flash lads on bling bikes passed us looking terrible serious, I can’t imagine they’ve done as much as the campers. I began pratting about chasing them, whilst sitting really upright and spinning away. It made Linda laugh. Flash bikes aren’t everything.
Swiftly passing Johnnies Bakery (I wonder if they noticed?) we swooped down before beginning the ascent of Haria. From the top the view is amazing, then you get to whoosh down the white walled hairpins on the other side before turning into the shaded squared of cafes, for fear of a mutiny we had a relaxed stop, Spanish tortilla was the order of the day, mmmm! Jo’s group had caught up again and we gained Rob, as Jo had picked up the fast lads and after a huge amount off riding this week Rob’s legs had informed him that they’d rather a steady ride home, so he offered to ride on the front with me to help the others.
We then climb up to the highest point on the island, Mirador Del Rio, I’d stopped the group at the top to explain that the descent was a bit rough and to be aware. When up pipes Linda again; she really has been character of the camp, she’s from Northern Ireland and now runs a children’s home in London. “Oh I don’t like that one little bit, you know I recon I know a few fellows from home who’d came and Tarmac that for a free holiday! And only I can say that because I’m Irish.” It’s still making me chuckle now!
Whooshing down from the top is amazing, most of the climbing is gone, the athletes know they’re on their way home. With Rob and myself on the front we form into a nice tight pack, it’s not my favourite road on the island but Rob is good company and we chatter our way along. Before long we’re heading back up towards Teguise the old capital in the centre of the island. It’s a road full of memories for me, it always throws something at you, we’ve had mechanicals and horrid headwinds. Last year the group ground almost to a halt the wind was so strong.
For the official route you take a left at Nazaret, down a ragged strip of tarmac, again Linda offered to call for labourers, however we elected to add a couple of km and go up to Teguise before turning left as both roads meet again. Linda is racing Lanzarote Ironman for the first time this year so went to have a quick look whilst we waited at the garage.
After this point you know you’re on the way home, past the goats, up past Monumento de Campessino and into the vinyards that cling to the lower slopes of the volcanoes to the south of the island. It was nice to see Ali looking so fresh at this point. Last year by this point she was nearly in her handlebars. We’ve been rolling in this way all week so everyone knew they’d cracked it.
The last section of the course involves heading down the old donkey track. It’s a wiggly worm of a road that links you back to Puerto del Carmen and the sea. Now for those of you who know me you’ll know that climbing is my strength but descending leaves a lot to be desired. All week I’ve been seeing how hard I can push it down the hill. Learning cyclocross this winter has been a great tool for learning better bike handling skills and confidence. I’ve been using Strava (forgive me;)) and I knew I was 7 seconds from the QOM for the descent. Normally I just collect the climbs. I pushed hard, the worst bit is you don’t know until you upload later. Alas, when I do I’m still second, next time little road, next time!
Rolling it in along the seafront, a trail of happy campers. Linda even went for a run, thus making her the only camper to have done a swim- bike- run on the final day…..and even partied until 4am!