2010 Cima Coppi Tour – Day 8 – Arcos de Jalón > Soria

I set off from the Madrid-Atocha station at 10:30 by train to Arcos de Jalón, which, by the measure of avoiding the relentless 38+C Spanish dry heat, was far too late. The option for another train however, did not exist. For those interested in cycling in Spain, do take note that a standard bicycle (ie. not a folding bike) can only be taken on media distancia regional trains without being boxed up. Spain’s larga distancia Avila trains and high-speed AVE trains only accept folding bikes or boxed bikes. In other words, options are available, but departure times are limited.

I arrived at 13:30 in the small pueblo of Arcos de Jalón which lies in the south of the Province of Soria, in the massive autonomous region of Castilla y León and headed initially west on my route which would eventually take me to the capital city of Soria, sharing the same name as the Province. The road which initially was superb hues of the red terra cliffs lining the Rio de Jalón between Arcos de Jalón and Medinaceli quickly flattened once I turned North on the N111. There was certainly elevation to be gained as the road climbed consistently upward, but gone were the dramatic cliffside caves and rugged sharp rocks of the canyon. –cont’d–

Final Numbers for the day.
Arcos de Jalón > Soria: 96km
2 cols – 1156m, 1086m (820m gain)
Average speed: 26.2kmph avg.
Time: 3hr40min.
Bike Map: 627127

For more description and photos

Soria, the province, is one of the least inhabited areas not only in Spain, but the entire EU with a density of about 9 inhabitants/km² and once on the road it is certainly noticeable. Gone were the experiences I so loved about touring in Europe, with a village – or pueblo in Castellano – every 7 kms and the smell of fresh bread cascading through the breeze. Instead Soria, was a vast, hard and abandoned landscape akin to Canada’s prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. There was nothing in this land but open-fields, abandoned gas-stations and wind. Lots and lots of headwind.

Perhaps this landscape is perfectly fitted for a province with so few signs of life, as Soria has built it’s reputation on the folk-legend of a mass-suicide by the townspeople of Numancia upon there capture by the Romans in 133BC. Legend has it that after some 20 years of resistance fighting the conquest of Numancia was finally realized and the remaining townspeople, fearing a life of slavery, burned the town with themselves inside. The remains of Numancia now lay about 7km’s north of the city of Soria on the N-111 in the town that is presently Garray.

This history was so present in my mind as I rode I could almost swear I could experience the sounds and smells of burning flesh. I realized as I rode by another abandoned gas-pump with the still functioning digital temperature display reading 42C that burning flesh was my own. I stopped to drink some water and apply some sunscreen and I realized as I looked around that this was no place for a lone cyclist to be battling the wind and heat. In fact, this wasn’t a place for many signs of life or human-activity other than the organized rows of sun-flowers and now, beginning to line the risen crest of the horizon, windmills.

As I reached the height of the second col of the day and the Altos de Lubia at 1093m, with not a car in sight, the wind buffeted boldly over the crest churning the windmills on. I had another 40 km’s left to fight with this persistent resistance before the first day of 96km would be complete, and it felt like it was going to be a very unsympathetic ride.

Around 17:15 I rolled into Soria, more exhausted than I feel I should have been for riding only 96km. The day turned out to be slower, harder and much hotter than I thought. And did I mention the 14kmph headwind? I toured the city, searched for a hostel and ate a huge dinner alone amongst the hoards of young basketball teams in town for a tournament. I went to bed looking forward to the ride the next day, preferring the couchsurf host I had awaiting to the current hostel, the early departure to the late one, and the opportunity to have a fresh start to the day heading west to Burgos, a day I was hoping would have less wind. If only I knew that night that a massive set of windmills just outside Burgos were also awaiting the next day and a very heavy workload of westerly wind.

Final Numbers for the day.

Arcos de Jalón > Soria: 96km
2 cols – 1156m, 1086m (820m gain)
Average speed: 26.2kmph avg.
Time: 3hr40min.
Bike Map: 627127

Photos of the day:

The canyon walls of the rio de Jalón
If there's not much, but wind, at least there's renewable energy.
The second alto of the day, Lubia, a gradual climb to 1093m
The Romans left behind bridges and a history of actions causing a mass-suicide.
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