Final Numbers for the day
La Seu d’Urgell > Lleida: 131km (1245km – 9 days)
0 Cols – downhill
Average speed: N/A
Time: ~ 4.5hours
Bike Map: 643972
So I beat on, biking against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. My merino jersey, now stained with road grime, and soiled with sweat, was like those of yore. My desire to rekindle events seen only on film, became a tour that brought me close to catching the fleeting history of cycling and its races. I was part of my own wandering museum, chasing ghosts as I rolled down the C-14 toward Lleida from La Seu. I think this is what motivates me to ride.
How many Vuelta a España’s have seen this road, this river, these canyon walls?
Yet, paradoxically, I thrashed the pedals with impatience, wanting the tour to end. I wanted the luxury of the air-conditioned train car. I wanted comfort and relaxation during a 5 hour train back to Atocha station in Madrid. I knew, upon arrival at café Xana 7 that warm food would be waiting and stories of adventures to be told. My mind was any place but on the road. The last day is always a disappointment for me for so many conflicting reasons. I wish it wasn’t that way, but how else would I know I was finished?
I was tired and cranky. I wanted to enjoy the final day, but like mosquitos interrupting a camping trip, time was buzzing in my ear. I woke up early. I skipped breakfast to be early. I was on the road… early. I needed to be in Lleida for the train, at any time except late. There is one regional train per day from Lleida to Zaragoza and I needed, no, had to be on that train. I also needed that train to be on time, because five minutes after it arrived in Zaragoza, the next train which I had yet to buy tickets for, left for Madrid. Any tardiness meant a 24 hour delay in the worst case, and a five minute panic to buy tickets in the best case. Both sounded less than appealing.
The raw, rough and heat-cracked asphalt commonly found on Spain’s lesser highways were back. Objects on the horizon were motionless, seemingly burned into place but the sun. Any progress toward Lleida felt like an illusion. Heat waves off the baked oily-looking tarmac made my face burn. I was out of the foothills and canyons of the Pyrenees and onto the flats past Ponts. The heat was suffocating.
Flat, hot and straight highways are the devil’s cycling trip. With no visual distractions your mind plays. It searches for amusement, but only finds annoyance. Sweat dripping down your back. The dry itch at the back of your throat. The rattle of an near empty water bottle announcing itself while your tires shake over the broken shoulder of the road. A lone car speeding past stirs up dust that gently falls on my glistening arms. Don’t be late, Don’t be late, Don’t be late.
Instead, I I try to reflect on the trip itself. It was hot, so I thought back to the rainy days. It was flat so I thought of the mountains. I had 1200km of some of the most beautiful cycling in Northern Spain and Southern France. The Pyrenees. It was exquisite. And then, back to reality, and an interstate highway entering Lleida.
As if the last three hours were consumed by my memories I was there. I was navigating the last kilometers of busy streets, crosswalks and stoplights. When a minute had just seemed like an hour, the last hours were suddenly done. The trip was over, and reality splashed into my face. Now, it felt as though it all went too fast. Again, the last day is a confusing one. I slowly rolled into the train station, purchased my ticket, toweled down in the washroom and ate. Two hours later I was on the train. The transfer to Madrid went without a hiccup. And before I knew it I was in bed already thinking of the next tour, the next memories to chase, thinking of the ghosts that want company in the mountains, over the peaks and down the road.
So we beat on, biking against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.