Last year I entered the lottery to get a place in the New York City Triathlon — and won! So this July I joined over 3,000 athletes having a swim in the Hudson river as part of an Olympic distance triathlon. Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t normally post about my training but this was as exciting, for me at least, as any race i have done…
I always though it would be amazing to cycle round a race track and last year I read about the Silverstone 24 Hr* — a bike ride around the Silverstone f1 track, unfortunately the dates clashed with something i was already doing but it made me think — are there other racetracks you can cycle round? Well it turns out the answer is yes.
The first one i found that lets pedal bikes onto the tarmac is the iconic Laguna Seca Raceway in California with their Twilight Cycling. These are monthly events where for $10 you can ride round for a couple of hours (5:30–7:30 pm or 5–7pm in winter).
Then i found out about Bicurcuit at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Held Tuesday & Thursday throughout the year (except race weeks) you can either buy a season pass or a single session for €5.
I already had my bike with me for the Triathlon and although I flew in / out of Barcelona on Tuesdays I would be there for one of the Thursday sessions!
So with that i asked my friend about getting there and she said just to take the train (the same line as the airport) from El Clot to Montmeló which is quite close to the circuit.
So i headed off in my cycle kit and decided to go for a quick ride round the city as it was still quite early in the day. I cycled up to Park Güel (seriously steep) and then headed to El Clot station, which is where i made my first error. I carried my bike down the station steps and looked at the map to get to the right platform and realised that this was a metro only station. Oops. Headed back up the steps and tried Apple Maps on the iPhone and there just a few hundred yards was another station “El Clot – Arago”. I cycled over and this time noticed the sign post outside had another symbol — which i took to be for the rail system. I went down the stairs into the station and Indeed it was, so i got a ticket from the counter and went down more stairs to the platform. There was a train in and i tried to run down the steps but there were too many people getting off the train. It said Airport on the platform sign and this reminded me that me friend had said it was the airport train i needed. Turns out it was lucky i missed that train — after i got down to the platform i looked at the stop list and the airport was in the opposite direction! I had misunderstood in that it was the same train line as the airport not he actual train to the airport. Nearly a big oops but got a way with that one.
Short ride latter i arrived at Montmeló station and went outside, fired up the Maps app and set off for the circuit. A short while later there was a fork in the road for East or West circuit entrance, no idea so had a look at the Bicircuit webpage and it said West so quick u turn and took the West road. As i got closer i could hear the sounds of a race car engine tearing round the track. I went past a few of the race-day pedestrian entrances and then came to a mini round about where the main gatehouse was. I was quite a bit early as i hadn’t banked on getting from the station to the circuit so quickly. The guard would’t let me in so i had to wait until 6pm — the official start time. I cycled along the boundary road and found a place where you could see a glimpse of the track and brief flashes of what appeared to be a single seater open wheel car roaring round.
I cycled back up to the gatehouse about 6 and tried again — no, not yet he indicated that while he could hear the car(s?) on track I could’t go in. By this time a few more people started turning up in cars with bikes wedged in the back. It looked like most where regulars as they got out of their cars to chat and change into cycle kit.
After the track fell silent (it was now about 6:20pm) i tried again, nope not yet. If i hadn’t been so early and / or i had been able to actually see the track properly i wouldn’t have minded but i was now getting a bit fed up waiting.(Note to self: Bicircuit starts at 6:30 in winter, so was not actually a late start)
Eventually another guard came from the direction of the circuit up to the gatehouse and they had a chat, did a load of paper work then finally he waved me over. I paid my €5 and he opened the barrier.
Uh, now what? I cycled down the slip road and under the track saw a tiny a4 sized sign saying Bicircuit and followed it. A second one followed and i was in a car park surrounded by chain link fence which had a small gate that had been tied open. OK, Looks promising i though so headed through it. Next think i know is a painted arrow on the wall saying “Pit Lane” followed that and…Oh My God. I am sat on my bike in the pit lane of an f1 track!!!
No one else had arrived yet and there were no marshals so i just cycled off round the track.
It was so so cool I had done an entire lap on my own before i even saw another person! They had parked up and got their bikes out and then cycled out into the pit lane and were circulating in bunches. There are a few local clubs (full team kit ) doing draft training and a farther son pair as well as a few older blokes on mountain bikes having a chat as they went round.
It was surprising how much elevation change there was, and in places this made it quite hard work but swooping down through the final chicane into the finishing straight is something i will remember for a long time.
I cycled 6 laps down the start finish straight & down the pit lane. It was still quite warm and i had nearly finished my water bottle so went in search of a refill. There is a shower block and toilettes behind the pit garages, near the start of the pit lane, but notices on the taps indicated the water was not safe for drinking. Also I could’t find any vending machines so if you do go remember to bring your own supplies. I returned to the track and i did a couple more laps as the light faded.
It was a great (if a little lonely) evening and something i would definitely recommend to cyclists who have even a passing interest in F1!
The third error (after the station and early arrival) was on my way back to the station. There was a bit of one way road then a sign for Montmeló so i thought, erroneously, that i was going back the way i had arrived. I cycled quite a way until i was on a slip road for AP-7 ( the spanish equivalent of a motorway). By this time it was pretty dark and i uttered a few 4 letter words in frustration. I looked at the maps app and saw the problem — the ‘quickest’ way back to Montmeló was indeed to go one junction along the motorway, the sign had sent me round the northern tip of the race track ( as in further from where i wanted to be). I cautiously walked up the hard shoulder with all my bike lights in full christmas tree mode and made it back up to the C-35 a much more civilised road. I then cycled back round the track and on towards the station, stopping for a rather refreshing pint (well, two halves) at Bar La Ruta on Carrer Vic not far from the Montmeló station.
* The Silverstone 24hr charity ride was cancelled and many people lost their entrance fee.
Breakfast from Robilio’s before walking to the bus station to go to Siena
The cathedral was supposed to be the largest in all Christendom but they ran out of money and so there is a wall which should have been the long side of the cross but is literally just a wall you can climb up and get a pretty good view of Siena
Stopped to look at the Miesta on the way out
Visited the Crypt ( which I don’t think was open last time I came) it is about 30 ft under the Cathedral but they have excaveted even further down – the fluted columns streetch down anoth 100+ ft
Met for lunch at Pitti Gola E Cantina @ 1 o’clock
Piazza Pitti, 16
Go over ponte Vecchio and go down via Guicciardini
After lunch went back to the hotel and had a drink on the teras
We went to the Uffizi at 4 and spent a while going round, sadly they now allow tour guide in the galleries which means there is the incessant noise of the guides giving their spiel. One particulary obnoxious one stood onfront of Leonardo’s Annunication for about ten minutes with her group of 15+ people while she described all the paintings in the room!
As this ( and Caravagio’s mediasa) are my favourite paintings in the whole of the Uffizi I was just a little annoyed
We were going to the Yellow Bar for dinner but it was closed so instead we went to Gusto ( Leo the Lion ) just across the street. Not as good as YB but nothing really wrong with it ;-)
Had to get up at 4:30 to get to the airport in time for 8 o’clock flight
I know you get what you pay for but I would be willing to pay a bit more just so Ryan Air could afford a better tanoy system!
Got the bus from Pisa airport to Florence which took about an hour and a half.
Checked into the hotel and changed into shorts as the weather here is soo warm.
Wandered round for a bit and had some lunch in Plazza della Signoria
Had an ok capriciosa pizza – the toping was fine but the base was a little under cooked. Sadly I don’t think they had a proper pizza oven.
Walked round the Duomo area then went up to the Cuppola it takes a while and the stairs are pretty steep but the view is well worth the effort.
Walking round the circumference you realize quite how huge an achievment it was for Brunelleschi (obviously not on his own!) to build it in 1418
( over 100 years after work on the cathedral was started)