Big dog, riding Gran Canaria
There are no straight roads.
There comes a point in every epic ride, in fact in every ride there are several points, including the point of no return and the point of utter destitution, these points are not unrelated.
This point was with around 10km to go on the climb from Puerto de Mogan to Ayacata. The declining temperature, light and energy levels, and the first day in the mountains meant that entering into the pit of doom was inevitable. Stay away from the thoughts of suffering, admire the scenery, think happy thoughts, ‘This is good for me’, as Conor would say.
And the scenery of Gran Canaria is distracting like no other. From a coastal village, through a tropical dream, a precipitous, sinuous, imposing mountain, and back down along a huge bluff, through a city to a desert, there is nowhere else quite like it. But focus on the road, you need to.
A ride without a low point gives no contrast to the teetering high point. The high point doesn’t have to be before the low, but may well be fueled by the proximity of home, or a following wind for tired legs. The key is to build to finish wanting more, but unable to deliver it.
The village of Ayacata is most of the way up the climb to Cruz de Tejeda under a towering golden cliff face which glows in the sun and echoes the sounds of village life. Almond trees and aloe vera decorate the panorama, creating a mountain idyll. At the junction by the village there’s no choice but to dress for the descent, and, despite the pressure of the sinking sun, the outlook is so breathtaking that it’s impossible to resist photos. The tiredness of the 30km+ climb and the low temperatures make dressing a slow process, combined with a desperate energy cramming to make it back.
Back is the coastal village of Arguineguin, ‘home’ for this ride. By happy chance this village splits the coastal ride into two distinct parts, sea cliff road to start, with views South, uninterrupted to the Southern Ocean, and rolling desert road to finish.
But we’re not there yet. High above the road leaves Ayacata, running along the edge of the mountain before cutting through a low point in the ridge line and plummeting down the side of the volcano. The surface is good in places and not so good elsewhere, but never as poor as the average Somerset road in winter. The village of San Bartolome marks the end of the rough sections, and the start of the smooth uncoiling tarmac that plummets in a drunken spiral through the tropical village of Fataga down along the base of the bluff. This is where the crazy high commences, chasing cars, scything bends and a kaleidoscope of countryside.
Just when the sea seems within reach the road twists upwards again, peaking with a view of the blocks of Maspalomas, and also the descent to come. The distance and the drop seem an impossible combination, but the road ducks into the hidden cover of the hillside and rushes into the edge of town.
Avoiding the centre is simple, head right and down hill towards Puerto Rico and join the coast road.
A tailwind into a pink and tan monochromatic sunset fuels the race with the slipping light along the deserted beaches. Drops on the drops and rises tucked on the tops churn the kilometres with adrenalin, eking out the last energy. The cold of the climb is another day as a warm dusk welcomes us home. Just enough!