Badlands report 2023
Badlands 2023 report
I picked up my number and attended the Saturday evening briefing. The weather in southern Spain had not really dropped below 30 deg for weeks but for the start on Sunday huge storms were forecast, The organizers were already labeling this year's race Worselands. Sunday morning came and after the usual breakfast scoff we were off at 8 o'clock. I really enjoy the starts to these ultra races, super chilled and slow motion compared to normal off road races apart from the nutters at the front who either do well or scratch at some point……..why?
The sky was looking very ominous and the rain was already starting with thunder rumbling around the mountains. As the rain continued I was passing bars with people already taking shelter but knowing we had such a long way to go stopping seemed pretty pointless so soon. I arrived at my first stop in Gorafe 123km with the rain starting to stop. I ordered the bar's famous dish of the softest pasta you have ever eaten with mince and carried on, leaving the usual array of micro influencers to take pictures of anything that moved. Last year I had slept half way around the desert but knowing the bar in Gor at the end of the desert section was open 24hrs this year I was going to push on to there,
I arrived at Gor km 242 where a lot of the fast riders were already preparing to carry on into the night over Calar Alto. Not me sir, I've been up there in bad weather and it could end your ride pretty quickly. The bar in Gor is famous now with many locals staying up cheering people in all night and the bar staff not doing shifts but they all stay up, all night. After another plate of pasta a very nice Irish lad told me there was a room upstairs where you could sleep, I didn’t need telling twice.I made my way up and about 6 of us were getting ready for a bit of sleep. I layed down but the bodies just kept arriving and the smell was getting pretty funky. A couple of people were snoring so loudly (how?) I lay there for a couple of hours and decided to get up, have some breakfast and get up the mountain for sunrise. Calar Alto is the most exposed section of the route and you are riding at 2000 mts high for a long time with no re supply. It was pretty chilly on the way up and I was passing a few brave souls bivvying on the way up. At the top the cloud was so thick in places you couldn't see your hand in front of your face but luckily the rain had kept away. I reached the top and started the huge road descent to Gergal km325. I found an open bar and had a coke, cafe, hot chocolate and a bocadillo…… yes. After Gergal we normally hit the Tabernas desert but due to the recent storm it had made it unrideable so getting to the next food stop at Tabernas was slightly easier although the heat was now building from 10 deg at the top to fast approaching 30 towards the coast. I stopped at Tabernas km 381 with a guy called Chris and we found a bar for lunch. Salmerejo and more pasta was consumed while we talked about……….cycling. After leaving Tabernas I decided to find somewhere to sleep as the heat was building and I hadn’t really slept yet. We were riding along a tarmacked track and while looking around one handed and drinking I hit the only sleeping policeman we had seen and crashed hard on my left hand side with my head hitting the floor, sunglasses flying off and the usual quick slide to a halt. I gingerly got up thinking this was probably it but there wasn't any real pain apart from a cut elbow, hip, knee, ankle and shoulder so I slowly got going but soon found some shade and had a lay down for an hour. After another tough climb and fast road descent I stopped again at Lucainena de las Torres km 422. I decided to have some more food as I wanted to ride to 500 km today and was completely ripped off for a chicken breast and a piece of melon by the sweetest old lady, as was everyone else.
I started making my way across the Sierra de los Filabres and the heat was gradually starting to fade and everyone was riding a bit quicker to make the most of it. We eventually got to the old disused gold mines at Rodalquilar, a very creepy place at night and a few of us stopped at another bar for some more food. A couple of the chaps were looking for a room as it was now 11 o'clock but I wanted to push on to San Jose. One of my lights had packed up at this point and the remaining one doesn’t work while being charged so I was having to nurse it by turning it off when the track was lit. I got to San Jose at 11 ish I think, I set my bivvy up in the park and set my alarm for 3.00 am, yes 3.am. I didn't need my alarm as being in Spain some teens had decided to come and hang out in the park so I packed up, had a couple of energy waffles for breakfast and prepared to get going……no lights! I had my phone mounted on the handlebars so I flipped it up and tried to ride with the torch on which was very slow going. I got to the end of the beaches before the climb to the lighthouse and just pushed the button on my light out of frustration for ages whilst swearing at it and it actually came to life. I carried on along the coast and was planning on having breakfast in Almeria but it was still only 6.00 am so nothing was going to be open, luckily I found a 24hr Pika shop that I never knew existed but it had hot pizza slices, empanadas and coffee, heaven. Leaving Almeria km 545 I was hoping to get to the finish that night and was feeling OK on a few hours sleep but the hardest sections of the ride were ahead of me. The climb out of Almeria is no fun on fresh legs so I knew it was going to be tough but the sun wasn't up so I took it steady and made my way up quite comfortably, another descent and then another long climb over the Sierra Gador before a very painful descent to the village of Instincion. More cokes, coffee and tapas with some nervous chat with other riders about what was to come and off we go towards the wall of Murtas, a hideous gravel concrete mix to the village. I was on home ground now and feeling good, and made my way across the Sierra De Contraviesa to the fountain outside of my house in Cadiar. After a quick hello and a coke we set off towards Trevelez, the next point to focus on before the finish. It was now around 9.30 pm and I’d been riding since 4.am so focus and riding was becoming difficult. As I approached Trevelez I was having a lot of negative thoughts and just wanted to stop but by luck a bar was still open with two friends I’d made, George and Simon. It was great to sit down and have a coffee and sort of chat with them for a bit. They got up and carried on to the finish line while I sat for a bit longer before I was expected to be leaving by the owner, it was midnight. I set off for the finish line at Capileira climbing the steep gravel track out of the village. Everything was getting weird now I was constantly taking my jacket on and off as I couldn't really decide if I was hot or cold. I got to where the track levelled and put most of my clothes on and the adrenaline hit that I’d hoped would come eventually, hit and I made my way down to the finish to be greeted by Sarah and the dogs who had booked a hotel room. I was given my finisher’s trophy and jersey by the lovely lady who was doing the night shift and that was it. Another absolutely bonkers ride finishing at 2am.