Shutt's James B. headed to Spain for a week to escape the dirty Devon lanes and wet and cold south westerlies, to get some base miles in the sun.
The offer of a week in Denia, riding the mountains and coast roads of the Costa Blanca and training with a pro triathlete/ironman was an opportunity not to be missed. Meeting some new and old friends out on the road was a great chance to get some base miles in before some big challenges later in the year, while still recovering from a bad shoulder injury last summer and the loss of cardio fitness.
What a great way to give some of new garments a go, see how the Shutt pad was over a week of 420 miles, 25hrs in the saddle, and a not insignificant amount of climbIng thrown in for good measure.
The roads are, needless to say, a pleasure to ride. Smooth, fast, mostly dry, but this time of year, watch for those slippery roundabouts and sheltered hairpins on descents.
Tara had been out for a few days before, and warned me that I'd need everything! Summer kit, mid-season warmers, tights, gilets, winter top, gloves, sun cream, shades and cover boots! She wasn't wrong!
With a well planned mix of base layers, one or two of the Shutt VR Sportswool jerseys for chillier days, and my reliable gilet (the three extra pockets were a lifesaver on longer rides!), I just managed to be appropriately dressed for the very chilly mornings, and very warm sunshine, particularly later in the day.
Always remember, up in the mountains, and in those more sheltered spot like some of the mountain valleys, a gilet and pair of arm warmers will be a welcome warmer on cold descents - don't let the bright sun fool you, and even later in the afternoon riding through the sheltered parts of descents at altitude feels like someone suddenly opened the proverbial freezer door.
As always, if you have a good guide (check out Phil Terrett @philter29 on Instagram) there are some great little spots to get coffee, a tostada, and top up the bidon(s). It was good to meet up with Phil, whose local knowledge was second to none when it came to a great stop in La Vall d'Ebo.
One thing that is very apparent in this part of Spain in January is the sheer number of Pro teams and Elite riders out on the road. Fortuitous timing meant I got a video of the Astana team coming the other way as I filmed fellow Mid-Devon clubmate Jim, on a descent, then bumping into Groupama-FDJ at the top of the well known Coll de Rates.
All in all, I would highly recommend this part of Spain to take the bike... Alicante airport gives easy access to Calpe, and Denia, and accommodation can be well priced.
A note about riding in Spain on a Sunday as well is plan in advance what is and isn't open and log it on your route. The day of rest is broadly observed in this part of Spain, so don't assume that a café, petrol station or market store will be open for that emergency bar of chocolate, bottle of water or coffee. We were lucky to negotiate some water, tostada and coffee at 50 miles, on a warm 105 miles ride thanks to some good persuasion techniques deployed by Tara.