Malaga evokes images of sun-drenched lad’s holidays and cheap nightclubs. It might not be the first place you think of when asked about the perfect winter cycling holiday, but it has sunshine, mountains and cheap beer. What more could you ask for?
So a group of us booked a villa, packed our bikes and headed south during the university’s Innovative Riding Week.
As it turned out, when we arrived it was around 5 degrees and the blowing gale. Expectations of sunshine meant a serious lack of winter cycling kit but nevertheless we headed out into the maelstrom to spin our legs and get our bearings.
In our intrepidness we planned a 130km route out to the HC “Queens Climb” north of Malaga.
A cold start to the ride soon became worse when we reached the foot slopes and the weather began to change.
The climb topped out at just under 1000 meters of altitude and the higher up we climbed the more it began to snow.
Miserable, tired and cold we huddled in a café to have lunch near the summit and waited for the clouds to pass.
When we couldn’t wait any longer we started the cold descent blowing on our hands, complaining, dodging roadworks and puddles on the frantic descent to find warmth in the valley below.
Soon the sun returned and the change in altitude meant that everybody was back in high spirits, and after another smaller climb, we started the longest descent of the week, 22 kilometres of sinewy roads in the afternoon sunshine.
Our actions developed into a ritual, the porridge in the morning, along with a fight for the freshly brewed coffee, followed by the usual pre-ride faff. Shouts of “Who has the route?” accompanied the sound of shoe cleats clicking across the tiled floors.
One by one we would gather impatiently on the road waiting on those who hadn’t quite filled water bottles or pumped up tyres.
And then the simple pleasure of soft pedalling away on the smooth tarmac, everybody trying to spin the previous day’s efforts out of their legs and taking the time to relax into the new ride.
We would pile into small cafes with quiet cries of “café con leche” and stretch our legs beneath the tables, eyeing up the food menus with barely disguised depravity.
Parson’s birthday fell midweek. But we didn’t want to celebrate it.
Friday took us out to Concepcion along a red dirt road. We loathed to take precious pieces of carbon off road but the enjoyment factor soon won out.
The descent back was agreed to be the most enjoyable route of the week, as it rolled gently downhill for fifty kilometres, through stunning gorges and olive plantations.
By the time it came to pack our bikes up on the final night, most of us had cultivated some razor sharp tan lines, and cycled over 550 kilometres.