To Plasencia - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

October 13, 2019

To Plasencia

We have a simple breakfast in the hotel bar this morning - good coffee, orange juice, toast with jamon and tomato, then more coffee.  Not much, but enough to jolt us into action.  We digest for awhile back in the room, and then pack up and hit the trail.

It’s pretty cold when we start out this morning, and a bit damp.  For the first time since we left the coast it looks like there’s a real possibility of rain today.  We’ve seen this coming fo the last several days, watching the forecasts as we obsessively do.  We’ve been apprehensive about both the ride here to La Alberca and today’s descent to Plasencia.  They’re a pair of challenging back to back rides, and we’ve been anxious about which way the weather would break.  Today looks iffy, but tomorrow looks certain to rain.  With this in mind, a few days ago we changed our original plan to stay here two nights, and decided we’d better get down out of the mountains while we can.  

Cold and windy, with the chance of rain. We haven’t started out a ride layered up like this for awhile.
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We’re not the only ones who are cold this morning. Everyone is layered up and clutching their coat closely for extra warmth.
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It’s still the holiday weekend. Rain or shine, the show must go on.
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Leaving La Alberca, just as a light mist begins to fall.
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After yesterday’s forced march, our legs aren’t keen to see much action today.  To get them in gear, we pull a bit of a trick on them and start with dessert first - a two thousand foot, ten mile descent off the mountain.  They’ll find out soon enough that they’ll just have to climb out the other side of the valley once we reach the bottom.

The first mile or two of the descent are misty, making us wonder if we should have stayed longer in the village to see which way the weather is going today.  We know we have to move on though, and with a long day ahead of us we’re better off getting an early start.

It quickly becomes apparent that we’ve made the right call.  Within just a couple of miles we lose some elevation, leave the mist behind, and see brighter skies to the southeast, our direction for the day.  Before long we stop to take off a layer, and then stop multiple times more on the descent to brake for impressive views down into the Alagon canyon and east to the Sierra de Gredo mountains.  It’s looking like we have a beautiful ride ahead.  Only one worry now - the wind, which blows strongly in our faces as we descend.  Fine now, but we wonder how it will be climbing up the other side of the valley.

Beginning the ten mile descent to the Alagon River.
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We’re on a winding descent. When it curves back into the mountain we can see mist and rain high above us; but when we bend away from it the skies are much more promising. We’re going the right way today.
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Looking east, we first see the ridge on the opposite side of the Alagon River, that we’ll be climbing shortly. Beyond that are the Sierra de Gredo mountains.
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Approaching the river, we pass this atmospheric wreck. There’s another one like it across the road, protected by an aggressively barking dog guarding a few goats sheltered inside.
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The Alagon River, on its way south to its date with the Tegus River.
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The bridge over the Alagon, and the bottom of our descent. Time to switch gears.
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The Alagon River
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Today’s ride is an opus in four movements: allegro, andante, presto, largo.  Quick, slow, quicker, slower.  We’re on the second movement now, a ten mile climb that matches the descent we just completed.  We break the bad news to our legs, and after a bit of grumbling they spring to life.  

We worried about this climb, wondering if we had enough reserves after yesterday’s ordeal to climb our way out of this valley.  Surprisingly though it ends up not being bad at all.  The grade is never bad, and the views are spectacular and inspiring.  It’s actually a very fine ride, slowly climbing out of the valley, watching the river gradually recede below us.  I’m surprised to see that we’re climbing up through olive groves, the first we’ve seen on this tour - evidence that we’re making progress on our journey south.

It’s a beautiful ascent, and very quiet.
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Andrea BrownWhat an enticing road.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownThis is really wonderful cycling country. I’ve wanted to come back to Extremadura ever since our first visit here.
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1 month ago
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A few goats. We could hear them a mile away.
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We’re surprised to find ourselves passing the first olive groves of the tour.
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An old stone trough
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The third movement, a presto, is another long descent.  The legs go back to sleep for the next eight miles, and the hands take over.  By the time we bottom out they’ll be aching from cramping on the brakes for so long.

It’s a fantastic descent - very squiggly, with many sharp twists and bends; and super steep in places, making us glad that we’ve crossed the ridge in this direction rather than the other way around.  It’s also very windy.  The ridge we’ve just crossed thankfully sheltered us from the wind on our ascent, but now there’s nothing stopping it.  It’s forceful enough that we take our sharp hairpins with more caution.

Somewhere before we bottom out we cross an unmarked border and enter Extremadura, the next region south of Castilla y Leon.  We come to tiny Granja, the first village we’ve seen since leaving La Alberca, and decide it’s time for lunch. There’s really nothing of interest in Granja, but we do find a tiny, benchless square in front of town hall where we plop down on the pavement, lean against the wall, and break out the PB sandwiches and some figs I bought at the market in La Alberca yesterday.

It’s a pretty uninspiring spot for lunch, but at least it’s a step up from yesterday’s cyclonic warehouse loading dock.  Not two hundred yards later though, we come to a lovely small park by a creek that would have been perfect if we’d just waited a bit longer.  It even has bike racks, just waiting for someone like us to drop in.

It looks like we’re dropping off the edge of the world here as we start our long, fast descent to the Ambroz River.
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Hard to improve on this.
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More olive groves
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Look at those skid marks! This isn’t a road you’d want to take lightly.
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Video sound track: Adouma, by Santana

This spot is a bit of an optical illusion. It looks like we’re about to plunge over a cliff but there’s a wide descending switchback just beyond the drop.
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The town square in Granja, another very atmospheric lunch stop.
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Jen GrumbyDefinitely beats the loading dock!
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1 month ago

Finally we come to the last movement, a largo.  Generally flat, and under the right conditions it would be a much faster tempo.  Not today though.  We’re going straight south, and the wind is going straight north.  Thankfully it’s not the murderer we faced yesterday, but it’s bad enough.

There’s not much of interest to see - we’re back on the N-130, the wierdly empty national highway - so we just focus on the far off finish line and plow on.  Ninety minutes and fourteen miles later, we arrive - Plasencia, our first stop in Extremadura.

We’ll be here for two nights.  Rest day tomorrow!  We’ll show you a bit of the town then, but now we’re going to loaf around in the room until dinner.  We’ve had enough, and are both thrilled that it’s supposed to rain tomorrow and entitle is to a day off from the bikes.

On the home stretch. Too bad it’s such a long stretch though.
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Approaching Plasencia, we see the first cork trees of the tour. We really are getting into different country now.
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The aqueduct, Plasencia
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Ride stats today: 47 miles, 3,000’; for the tour: 716 miles, 35,000’

Today's ride: 47 miles (76 km)
Total: 716 miles (1,152 km)

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