2010 Cima Coppi Tour – Day 11 – Logroño > Pamplona

I met with Carlos at 15 minutes after 2pm that afternoon. The day had gone much more quickly than I expected. Even with the addition of the climb upEl Perdón (Perdonanza bidia in Basque – ‘The way to forgiveness’) I was early to Pamplona. “Llegas temprano” said Carlos over the intercom in his sharp Colombian accent “¿Qué pasa? ¿Qué tal?” I stood, my arms gleaming with sweat in the bright, harsh and hot Pamplona sun, at the entrance door to his flat in Huarte about 5 km’s NWW of the city centre. “Bien, y tu? Todo es bien.” Bzzzt. The buzzer sounded and I plunged into the dark cool entrance way, stopping to lift my sunglasses, take off my helmet and cover my hair, which was now awkwardly divided into three distinct rows, with my cap.

Final Numbers for the day
Logroño > Pamplona: 110km (527km – 4 days)
1 climb – 1008m (1630m gain)
Average speed: 25.5kmph avg.
Time: 4hr18min.
Bike Map: 636851

Carlos is Colombian. And by that, I mean, he’s Colombian – he’s dynamic and energetic. He talks fast, smokes fast, and makes decisions…tranquilo. I liked him immediately. His girlfriend, Paula, was Napolitana, kind and warm with a big smile…and ever critical of Naples. It was ideal. Meeting couchsurfers for the first time can be slightly awkward, I know, because I have played the roll of host dozens of times. Somehow, when meeting them after 110km of hard bike riding in the blazing 37C heat, things are a little easier. You stink, you look like hell, you’re dirty and you’re exhausted. It’s the kind of normally awkward social parameters, gift-wrapped into an obviously no-need-to-be awkward explanation. I showered. We ate. And then was asked the Spanish equivalent of “So…..?”

So I began. I woke up surprisingly early, ate breakfast and was on my way. It was cool and calm, the first day without wind. I was also fast, at first, because it was relatively flat, with no large cols between me and my destination. Rolling and winding roads, the riding was great and I was outside of Pamplona before I knew it.

The N111/N111a highway is nearly a straight-shot between Logroño and Pamplona and in parts it seamlessly merges with the A-12, which was under-construction, and car-free in many areas. The freshly laid asphalt made it easy, smooth riding but the heavy and dark surface also reflected back the increasing heat with spectacular intensity. It felt like I was being spit-roasted.

When I rolled through Legarda, about 25km from Pamplona, at barely past twelve started the climb up the Carratera de Basongaiz from 350m to 650m I saw the sign to El Perdón. On the right side of the road it indicated that the thinner, steeper, slice of asphalt going up and toward the line of windmills on the ridge, was something I could do, if I wanted. I rode right by. Then 200m later, I turned around and went back. Why not? I thought. I’ve got time.

This ‘way to forgiveness’, is not a nice road. It’s not overly steep, but it certainly is in places, it’s windy and it was hot as hell. Add to this the the road in the best parts is bad, and in the worst parts is down-right awful, and you’ve got a challenging climb. El Perdón, looks like a jagged tooth on the profile, just piercing the 1000m mark and gaining about 560m in 10km. The last 6km after the fork from the highway are the only really challenging potions with the steepest kilometers being 8 and 9%. Perdón, as I found out, is also a haven for the over-50 naked sunbathing crowd.

The descent down Perdón is slow, because the poor road makes it difficult to go more quickly than about 25kmph without being dangerously close to plunging the front wheel into a 5-inch deep pothole the size of a frying pan. But once back on the highway, the riding is good and fast into Pamplona.

Going to Pamplona exactly one month after the start of San Fermin and three weeks after the madness, drunkeness and gorings conclude, feels a little like missing a ferry. It probably feels more like missing a plane, but I’ve never done that, so the ferry will have to suffice. I know there will be more San Fermin festivals, and I know I had no opportunity to go when the madness was consuming the streets of the capital of Navarre. But it still feels like I was in the right place at the wrong time. Carlos assured me it was better this way.

“The streets smell like a mixture of wine and puke, and stupid gringos are jumping off everything landing in the hospital” he assured me. “The first year I lived here, I was a little interested, but then with no music, or art, or events normally found at large festivals, it’s just a bunch of drunken idiots and some bulls. I don’t even like the bulls.” As a Colombian living in Spain told me his disregard for the bulls, I realized that Spaniards themselves are feeling the same way. Cataluña has banned bull-fighting, and most of my friends in Spain roll there eyes at the suggestion that Spain is Bull-fighting, Flamenco and Paella. As I was leaving Pamplona for France and a 7-col, 180km death-march the next day, I was distracted by a bizarre sensation of urgency to return to the place I currently was.

Final Numbers for the day
Logroño > Pamplona: 110km (527km – 4 days)
1 climb – 1008m (1630m gain)
Average speed: 25.5kmph avg.
Time: 4hr18min.
Bike Map: 636851

La Rioja in the morning
The Camino, halfway up El Perdón. Is there anywhere that trail doesn't go?
One of the better sections of road on El Perdón and more windmills.
Where I came from...
...and where I would end the day, below in Pamplona
The summit, about 700m above Pamplona


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