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NBNL Travellog from Spain - for the Norwegian language impaired...

-By Stig Nerland.

"Winter. Numerous degrees below who are forcing cold asthma and bronchitis upon you, making you stay inside instead of going for a decent exercise outdoor. Fitness is just a vague dream. Every winter is worse than the previous. Until a mate asks if you want to join him for a trip to Spain to ride our bikes for a full week in February – finally the pattern is broken.
Two mates quickly become seven, who prepares during the winter for a trip that we only can imagine the content of. Our travel guide Glenn trickles pictures from Spanish forums to give us a hint of what to expect, and we finally find inspiration to make the off-season preparations we desperately need.
Last Wednesday in January we are finally set for departure, leaving Drammen with bikes, huge bags of clothing, cameras and gear. The flight from Oslo Airport Rygge is packed with squabbling Spanish students heading home with a fine mix of women on the verge of breakdown from a cocktail of valium and alcohol. From Alicante we have a 45 minutes drive to Alfaz del Pi; our base for the trip. Glenn is administering a house through his family, and upon arrival @ 4am in 15 sweet degrees we are all agreeing upon this is “like being in the South”:
A short sleep later our bikes are assembled by the pool, and we mount our rides, eagerly anticipating the search for gold in the hills near the house.
Two hours later lunch is consumed on a cafeteria in the centre of Alfaz, us babbling like mad after our first ride on decent trails in what seems like centuries. Glenn has appointed us with some local heroes for a tour of the area, after the meal and minor technical issues (punctures…) we are heading for the rendezvous point…
Where 20 riders in lycra are waiting, us sticking out like Brits on the beach with our large AM-bikes compared to their XC-oriented setup. Some of them are muttering “loooong travel” through their buffs – Spaniards are strangely enough under the belief that 20 degrees is “winter” and they are all dressed up like our friends in a Norwegian Enduroteam (name not mentioned) are during their snow rides through Østmarka.
A few of them are mastering English decently, and after the greetings we head for a ride where 10km’s of warm-up is our first obstacle….
The local cycle club’s Thursday exercise eventually redirects from gravel into trails with various degrees of difficulty. The speed is not that scary, but those of us with poorer fitness are riding the tail. Still we have no problems catching which direction to go – the pack in front is noisier than the procession at 17th of May, with their constant whistling and cheering, targeting fellow riders, passing drivers as well as pedestrians.
The crew takes us into trails and areas we visit more during the week, with insane flow and feel, making our grins only stop from the placement of our ears.
After a smashing end of the ride we thank our guides and finish off the day with a climb back to the house bringing the Lanterne Rouge (me) off the pedals. Payback time for slacking the winter training, luckily this is changing during the week.
The next days we are playing on dusty trails, hard climbs up hillsides and mountaintops, freeride slopes, gnarly singletracks, in a dirt park, even a bmx-track. On Saturday a smaller group of riders are guiding us on trails in the mountains north of Alicante, giving us a lesson in how to pay attention to the local habits of clothing and protection. Sharp thorns and rocks are projecting images from self-torturing rituals when looking at our feet, and we quickly decide upon never laughing at pictures of what seems to be redundantly protected local riders. Saturday also provides the only serious crash during the trip, when Torstein performs an Over-the-bar resulting in a fractured rip. T-man has suffered worse before, and manages to finish off with style.
The area surrounding Alfaz del Pi is a true Eldorado for all kinds of cycling. A tired group takes a pause on Sunday morning, however Jostein is in no need for such, and he decides to make the climb up to Guadalest on Glenn’s roadbike. This climb was featured during the Vuelta in 2009, and warms Jostein perfectly up for the afternoons group effort on new trails.
Bringing Svenn Fjeldheim to any trip is a guarantee for extra effort. Normally he will lead the pack down any hillside and flowy trail, but all the time he will cause havoc with his sudden stop then commanding the rest to go back up to repeat the section – he has found a perfect spot for taking good photos. As long as the light is good we will repeat the effort until he is pleased. Elevation is tracked on our GPS, and we comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the end result is pure art. With perfect trails and dust raising around the tyres it is all up to us to ensure he has good material to work with – that being said, Svenn is able to create gold from granite. Having a good photographer on the ride brings extra motivation to the rest, and unknown reserves are found knowing a huge lens is waiting below a crux.
The days are passing by, endurance increasing. The place with no name in contact with the seat is slowly hardening, and instead of starting each ride with pitiful whimpering we can put full focus on the experience ahead. The climbs are getting less and less exhausting, springing the idea of joining some of the season’s competitions with a team of our own, establishing “Nedre Buskerud Nerroverlag” (NBNL – untranslatable?). 2013 will show if we manage to put the foundation created in Spain into use with a plate on the handlebar.
Madeira and Malaga has been the usual choice amongst gravity-based cyclists going to Spain. We can highly recommend trying other areas, and Alicante/Alfaz del Pi is a strong alternative. The locals are many and very active, the network of trails as well as hand built elements are proof of that. Our favoured area is being used by trial riders (the motorized kind), and the hard soil is taking a heavy load without effort.
The food and service is without flaw, the highlights were many in the towns around Alfaz, and the drive to Benidorm is short if one is eager to find what the tourist magnet can offer. A gastronomical climax for some was the dinner with one of the guiding crews presenting Paella, a National course including rice, rabbit and snails. The challenge became tougher than whatever the trails could offer for some, while others had less problems…
Overall we had a fantastic week in Spain, and are hoping to repeat the trip perhaps already in 2014. NBNL has kickstarted 2013 – the year of the cycle!!"

NBNL Goes to spain pictures.

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