After a very long, miserable, cold January & February, March 7th finally came!
All aboard, our guests left Dublin and Paris, arriving in sunny Malaga for our week long Cycling and Yoga Holiday in the Sierra Nevada. No more cycling in the wind and rain, well, for one week anyway.
Twelve enthusiastic cyclists and one non-cyclists that would make up the group for my inaugural Yoga and cycling trip to Spain. Myself and Cormac from Cycle Sierra Nevada teamed up to provide a holiday with a difference.
Arrival is probably always the hardest day, making sure you have the correct guests in the car is always a good start. Everyone had their luggage, off we went to our final destination. All friendly, chatty and excited we headed up the motorway to Velez de Benaudalla. A sleepy town north of Motril, nestled in the mountains, still snow capped in March. It is small, not exactly center of the universe but to be honest, its fantastic. Traditional Spanish siesta is observed by the entire town, the coffee is strong and cerveza comes with nibbles! What more could you ask for? There are two mini-marts which have everything that you could need, including Gillette razors for our serious cyclists!
The sunshine and blue skies took everyone's breath away, you have to remember, winter in Ireland and Paris can be pretty dreary. Our first port of call was lunch, al fresco much to everyones delight. Our first of many Bocadillos for the week. Great big slabs of white crusty bread roll, with cured ham and strong cheese. These would become staples on the cycles during the coffee breaks.
After relaxing and refreshments everyone got dropped to their accommodations. All apartments got welcome hampers of fridge and cycling essentials. Needless to say the bags of porridge and bananas went down a treat, even if some couldn't cook it! By the end of the week though the reports of lump free porridge were a point of discussion. So not just a yoga and cycling holiday, cookery classes too!
The first of three Yoga classes was held on the evening of arrival. Everyone was tired and somewhat stiff from sitting in planes and cars all day. I took them through an easy yoga flow to boost their circulation, ease out sore tired bodies and introduce those Yoga newbies in gently. I always encourage everyone to go at their own pace, take the easier options if necessary, have a sit down if all else fails!
Everyone managed to partake in the class, the scenery surrounding us was breathtaking. The skies were getting dusky but the mountain view was no less stunning. Snow covered caps on the distant mountain, lemons trees overhanging the nearby walls, the sound of a gentle cascade of water from the nearby waterfall made an idyllic setting for our class. I wish I could teach there everyday of the year.
The second Yoga class was after our first day of cycling, our focus for this hour was on back strength and hip openers. Sitting on bikes all day in a round back position, grinding legs up long steady climbs, gripping handles bars for dear life on descents all takes its toll. Yoga is progressive and even for those new to Yoga, they could manage the slightly more technical class and reap the benefits.
Our final class was far by far the most challenging, not because of the Yoga but because of the cycle we did that day! 106km to the highest town in mainland Spain, we all felt somewhat broken. Those that didn't come to Yoga were sorry! Those who dragged themselves there, while sore, were glad. Sometimes you have to suffer a little. Sore necks, achy shoulders, tight hips and saddle sore, it was a little like the walking dead. I can't tell you they bounced out of the class, but they did feel better. Stretched, relaxed and somewhat human again.
CYCLE THE SIERRA NEVADA
The highlight of the week in cycling terms for everyone, was our fourth cycle. A mammoth day both in terms of heat and distance. The temperature got up to 26 degrees but a slight cool breeze and technical descents kept us fresh and focused.
Trevelez is the highest town in mainland Spain, famous for Serrano ham and pottery. There is also a 34km climb to the town which part of will feature in this years Tour of Spain (La Vuelta a Espana).
Sometimes switchbacks, sometimes long rolling lumps, after 20km there is a slight descent, which leads back to another long climb. It was challenging, thankfully most of us were in small clusters and had a companion to chat with, only one tackled it alone and had to be decompressed afterwards.
The climb took the best part of 2 and a half hours, it was hot. A long time to cycle alone, especially a tough ascent such as this, we found him munching a bocadillo and talking to cats in Trevelez!
The spin was 106 kilometers in total with 2400 meters gained elevation. Not to forget, what goes up must come down! We had a thrilling descent back to Torviscon where we treated ourselves to a well earned Coca Cola. Homeward bound we all rolled in safe and happy to Velez feeling very proud of our accomplishment.
All the cycles were different and each had its own highlight. Our first day took us to the seaside town of Motril, introducing us to our first tasty climb. A nice, steady 5km up from the coast back to our base. It also set the mark for King of the Mountain which was heavily contested daily. An ice breaker of 46 kilometers with just 460 meter gain. It also became our cool down on the last day, enough to loosen the legs.
Our distances progressed each day, as did the length of the climbs. Our second cycle, 56km, had a 14 kilometer climb including a light dusting of gravel in places. At the top of the climb everyone regrouped, not just for a picture but for refueling and hydrating. Not to mention the obligatory messing about and slagging. It was a holiday after all. The group were bonding at this stage and everyone had found their climb pace buddy. With just shy of 1300 meters elevation gain we were starting to realise, its not about distance, its about climbing!
Our third cycle was challenging, 78 kilometers,
1660 meters of climbing, but gave the option to those feeling a little tired to have a rest in the very quaint town of Troviscon while others did an extra loop. What a loop that would be.
A lovely descent down the valley and into a climb. A long climb with olive, orange and lemon trees in abundance. We came to a very small town which must have amused the locals. The epicenter of the town was a small cafe/ bar, with elderly men sitting outside having a permanent siesta. We rolled in, not exactly like hell Angels, but a sight all the same. Eugene decided he needed to practice his downward dog, not to be outdone, a local man decided to challenge him to one armed pushups! It was like the twilight zone for a brief moment, we never did see Eugenes attempt!
We all know the importance of hydration and food when cycling, a fruit and veg van was smack in the middle of the town. Juicy, ripe, luscious pears for everyone. They were delicious, water and fuel all in one. It was the yummiest piece of fruit I ever had, just what we needed before we tackled the technical switch back descents.
They were the steepest and sharpest corners I personally had ever experienced. Amazing to get confident on the bike. You gotta man up! Fast! Sharp and twisting, turning quickly, just out of one chicane into another. Gravel and potholes just for added challenge. Down we got, all of us, safe and sound and back to the main road.
A week of amazing scenery, fantastic, challenging routes, something for everyone and best off all, quite, smooth roads. Not one puncture for the week and more importantly, not one mishap. Every home safe and sound.
OF COURSE THERE WAS FUN, FOOD AND A FEW DRINKS
When we advertised the holiday we wanted our guests to feel that they could do as much or as little as they wanted. If they felt like staying in bed, not cycling, sightseeing or doing whatever pleased them were were happy for them to do that. We provided an itinerary but kept it loose enough that people could opt in or opt out. The one thing though we really wanted was for everyone to have fun and go home happy.
We need not have worried, the group gelled instantly and the slagging started almost instantly after the first hellos. The men naturally enough were sizing each other up and looking at King of the Mountain contenders. Everyone though, without exception was mad for "the banter!" It didn't matter that we had a mish mash of lifestyles, careers and backgrounds. The sun was shining and we all had wheels!
Each morning pre spin we would meet up at a cafe, have teas and coffees to set us up. On every spin we would arrive on mass to any cafe that sold bocadillos and Coca Cola. However, personally, for me it was the evening meals that I looked forward to the most.
We ate each night in Nasimiento, a wonderful local Spanish restaurant who more than catered for our needs. Each night they would provide us with a three course meal, including a drink for €10. In return we always enjoyed pre dinner drinks and perhaps a few more after that. Chatter, laughter and of course banter, everyone refuelled and got set up for the next day.
Our last night, we had a special Paella and Cava meal. No trip to Spain is complete without Paella! Not to mention the fantastic chocolate cheesecake that arrived after it.
A little award ceremony to acknowledge those who stood out on the trip. Not always for the right reason! Our King and Queen of the Mountain we not in the cycling world the actual KOM and QOM, more like a prom King And Queen. Our King has an abundance of charisma, after cycling 34km uphill on his own and likening the experience to Tom Hanks in Castaway, he had found his own Wilson in his cycling gloves.
Our Queen had pushed herself very much out of her comfort zone for the week. The spins were challenging but she took them in her stride,with grace and poise, always with a smile from ear to ear. There was no better woman.
Also highly commended was Eugene, for having the "banter" and being himself always.
Well done Charles Charisma, Sandra, Queen of the Sierra and Eugene our banter legionnaire.
All in all, a fantastic trip, if I say so myself, with really wonderful people. No punctures or mishaps most importantly. New friends were made, mountains overcome, sometimes yoga poses being more of a challenge for some. Roll on next year, if it's half as good as this years, your in for a week you will never forget!
Fancy joining us March 2016?
Full Details of the trip: Yoga & Cycling Holiday Sierra Nevada
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About the Author:
Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in South County Dublin. She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners & golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independant, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety.
A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive. Sinéad has also completed two Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races and Half Marathons.
Keen to spread the word on all things related to Wellness, Fitness, Coaching and Travel.