Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
Tuesday 29th October 2019
SPONSOR: Jenson USA
HOST: Carlton Reid
GUESTS: Cycling club secretaries from Svarta Haesten cycling club, Lecarrow Lazers of Ireland, University of Bristol Cycling Club, and Redford and District Cycling Club recorded out on the road in Costa Dorada or at the Cambrils Sport Village.
Jaume Rue of Cycling Costa Daurada.
Carlton Reid 0:39
That croaking came from a large reed-covered pond beside a tumbledown church in the ghost village of La Massara in the high hills of Catalunya, 55 kilometres from the seaside resort of Cambrils, and 1000 metres above the Costa Dorada … Cataluyna’s gold coast. The music is by Catalan musician Carles Ribot, from his spooked-out folk-rock album Massara.
I’m Carlton Reid and in this episode of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast, brought to you in Assocation with Jenson USA , I’ve not just been pointing my microphone at frogs, I’ve also recorded club cyclists, breathing heavily as they climbed on a short fam trip to Spain. Two members from each of 14 clubs were invited out here in mid-October by the holiday company Cycling Costa Daurada based out of the Cambrils Sport Village, an hour south west of Barcelona. When the club cyclists went home I stuck around and did some solo exploring, riding an Argon 18 on some spectacular hair-pin bends to get to the ghost village I mentioned at the top of the show. I had La Massara to myself, except for those croaking frogs. The village was abandoned in the 1960s and is believed by some to be not only haunted, but also other-worldly. There are multiple reports of people disappearing from the locale in mysterious circumstances, and not only during those times when fog bubbles up out of nowhere. Close to the entrance to the village there’s a boulder which local legend says is a portal into a parallel universe. It’s not the only legendary place I visited last week in this beautiful part of the world. On the day after somehow surviving the ghosts, ghoulies and potty portals I rode up another serpentine climb to reach the fairytale fortress village of Siurana. Again, I had the place to myself. That’s the thing about this part of Spain in the off-season: it’s so incredibly quiet. It’s still warm and sunny, but there are only 9,000 people living in the whole of the UNESCO world heritage region of Priorat. The roads are wide and butter smooth, but there are very few cars to spoil the party, or the view. And even when motorists do pass you they make sure to leave plenty of space, thanks in part to Spain’s 1.5 metre passing law, signs for which are peppered along the roadside.
David Berling 3:24
This is a dream come true for me and Anders because we never been on climbs like these. We thought climbing were short and hard, but this is this is the best.
Carlton Reid 3:33
That was David Berling from the Svarta Haesten cycling club of Stockholm in Sweden. He was on this fam trip with his bushy bearded buddy Anders Madin. The club has 28 mostly male members, and I asked David how many of them would likely come on a winter or spring trip to the Cambrils Sport Village. Anders also explained why the Costa Dorada sunshine would be so enticing to shivering Swedes.
David Berling 4:02
I think probably like seven or eight or and maybe they a few of us will bring our families because we that kind of come. So this is said this would work pretty well with the with the family type of riding that we do.
Carlton Reid 4:16
Yeah, kids can stay back in the pool. Everybody’s happy. Yeah,
Carlton Reid 4:20
yeah. And then mum and dad can go
Carlton Reid 4:23
riding up the hill.
Carlton Reid 4:26
And what time of year are you thinking of coming?
Anders Madin 4:31
I think would be the beginning of the season, maybe March April, when it’s still snowing, harsh weather in
Unknown Speaker 4:41
Olly Beresford and Sam Tiller 4:49
I’m Olly Beresford. And I’m Sam Tiller. And we’re from the University of Bristol cycling club. So we’re out here in Spain for a two day tryout session with, with this bike company here. Yeah, we’ve had a really, really nice day today. So the first day is a longer ride about 125 kilometres with some nice climbs, I think we had six in total beautiful gradients really, really nice. So nothing really steep, like we have in Bristol, which is which is good. I definitely prefer the longer shallower stuff. But I know some people prefer it the other way around.
Carlton Reid 5:27
And then no traffic because we were going down those descents and we were we were lapsing in the fact that we were kind of going on the wrong side of the road, because we hadn’t seen any cars. So we’re just naturally just drifting across and taking the whole word for the ride. And that’s amazing to have.
Olly Beresford 5:43
While I was at I was we were talking to each other on the way back into Cambrils where we’re staying. Just saying that imagine if you had 25 people in a group in Britain like that would just be chaos on the
Olly Beresford 5:54
roads like people just trying to storm past you, like crashing into people. So I mean by that is I mean a part of Spain really and even large parts of France, the roads much quieter than they have in the UK. Just definitely reasons come see the roads
Carlton Reid 6:10
I recorded Olly and Sam in the sport village, but I also recorded riders as as we climbed the local hills. Sorry for a little bit of wind noise here. As I talk with Mary and Ashley, the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Ireland’s Lecarrow Lazers Cycling Club
Carlton Reid 6:23
Carlton Reid 6:23
Ashley O’Gara 6:26
I am Ashley O’Gara. I am with Lecarrow Lasers cycling club and we’re based in the centre of Ireland, near Athlone. We’re heart of an organised trip where they hope to promote Cambrils to the Irish as a cycling destination. Some of the clubs are coming already, our club hasn’t been, and we’re basically here just trialling it. And as far as last three years, we’ve gone on cycling trips to other destinations such as Wales and Scotland. And we’ve gotten approximately 24, 25 members to come. But unfortunately there’s about six or seven women that’s it.
Unknown Speaker 6:58
Very male dominated.
Carlton Reid 7:00
Ashley was out here in Catalunya with Mary Lennon, the friend who got her into club cycling in the first place.
Mary Lennon 7:08
We have to have a look at costs and viability of getting 20, 25 members out here and all of that kind of stuff. We tried to kind of keep it to two to three days over a weekend so it’s reasonably you know, affordable because some of our members will be couples so and some will still have young kids and stuff like that so you want to make it that it’s accessible to everybody.
Carlton Reid 7:33
Of course the young kids are gonna be kept at home because Ashley was telling me this is gonna be an adult-only event.
Mary Lennon 7:37
Oh yeah, it’s adults only, but you kind of want to make it that you know everybody can access it. That is not just for people that have loads of time on their hands or loadsof money.
Carlton Reid 7:47
So what’s what’s the things you’re actually looking for on this ride? Are you looking for just rides like this, where there’s lots of variety. Are you looking for, like, extra destinations that non cyclists can go to what, what’s your criteria?
Mary Lennon 7:59
We tend to look for, you know, a nice ride that’s suitable for different abilities. We’d have some very strong members who love hills. We’ve others, like myself, that can get up and have something that’s accessible to different levels and bit of a challenge, but you know, not so, so much that people don’t enjoy it.
Mary Lennon 8:20
And you know, we can tend to have 120 and 130 km cycle rides on our trips.
Roger Pennington 8:25
I am Roger Pennington, and I’m with Redford and District Wheelers cycling club.
Carlton Reid 8:30
Roger, we’re standing here, we’ve had a beautiful lunch after after that few climbs, we’ve got a few climb still to go. Is this convincing you to tell your club, yeah, we’ve got to come here chaps?
Roger Pennington 8:44
Yeah, definitely. With the experience I’ve had, with the smooth roads, lesser traffic on the road and the climbs, I think it compares very well to Mallorca but without the traffic and a massive amount of cyclists that you get in Mallorca.
Carlton Reid 9:00
So Mallorca is where your club has been for a number of years?
Roger Pennington 9:04
Yes, many years, yes.
Carlton Reid 9:06
You’re kind of now you’re used to the roads there and you want somewhere different is that why you’re thinking here?
Roger Pennington 9:12
Yep we want to change because we know the roads so well and it’s the same old every year so we want some where different
Carlton Reid 9:20
The piece I’ll do about this trip on Forbes.com will be headlined something like “Move over Mallorca, Cambrils is Coming.”. The Cambrils Sport Village has recently hosted pro teams such as Bahrain Merida, and Wiggins Le Col, and I think more teams will migrate for their offseason training from Mallorca to the the Costa Dorado. There are 1000 kilometres of lightly traffic roads and plenty of photogenic hairpin bends. Here’s me from the top of one of them.
Carlton Reid 9:51
You know those Top Gear kind of roads, sinewy, serpentine? Well, I’m on one of them at the moment. And you probably hear a few cars coming past but there’s not that many cars in this region at all, but they are coming to this particular road. So if you’re familiar with Sa Calobra in Mallorca, places like that, well, it’s another one of those. It’s a really twisty, twisty road and it’s going up to the abandoned village of La Massara. And here comes a car. Now I’ve seen about four cyclists so far this morning, and the car drivers been pretty good, they’re not going crazy. I’ve seen four cyclists, I was the first one up because I got up pretty early. I wanted to get out here. I can see the Mediterranean off in the distance and it’s golden off in the distance there. And of course, that’s why this particular region is called Costa Dorado, which is Gold Coast. And that’s because of the Mediterranean across there which at the moment is looking really, really golden off in the distance and I can see the flat land,
Unknown Speaker 11:01
the Catalan flats. So you got to do about at least
Carlton Reid 11:07
15 miles out from the coast to start coming up hill, and the gradients are really quite gentle, which is why these these these twisty roads are so twisty because in the UK and in other parts of Europe, they would go up the hill, really quite steep angle, but here it’s probably about 6% at most. So it just goes round and round in these wonderful, wonderful hairpin bends. And I’m going to go now to the abandoned village which is a village that apparently is quite popular on Halloween because it’s got a an abandoned church. They abandoned it in the 1960s this particular village, La Mussera. The road the kind of the hill that goes on above it is La Mussara so the village is La Massara. And it’s been abandoned since 1960s. So this graveyard is meant to be quite spooky and people come up here on on Halloween. So let’s go to La Massara and check it out.
Carlton Reid 12:27
La Massara was forcibly abandoned in the early 1960s. Its population had declined from 3 hundred or so in the late 19th century to just 36 in the 1950s, some of whom clearly still yearned for the place because the tiny cemetery — quite the draw on October 31st — has some relatively recent burials. The hardy villagers who lived here way back when were known by others, disparagingly, as “frogs”. The ground wasn’t ever as fertile as further down the mountain, and the high village was infamous for its mists. A regional ditty went:
Hanna Reid 13:04
Mother, if you give me a husband/Don’t give him to me from La Mussara/There is always fog there/And I don’t like the soil.
Carlton Reid 13:14
I captured audio of croaking frogs, but others who visit – at night, when it must be a lot spookier – say they have recorded the sounds of things that go bump in the night. As you’d therefore expect, La Mussara is a hotspot on Halloween. And it was the village’s other worldliness that attracted Catalan musician Carles Ribot to visit. He wrote a folk-rock album about the paranormal paranoia that surrounds the village. I played part of a track from his Mussara album at the top of the show and will close with it, too.
Carlton Reid 13:48
Carles hasn’t recorded an album about the mountain village of Siurana, 30 kilometres from la Mussara but if that place — tiny, high but very much not abandoned — had to be accompanied by a soundtrack I’d use something dramatic and aerial, like say, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Dramatic because Siurana is spectacular — it was built on the edge of a cliff FFS — and aerial because, did I mention? it’s built on the edge of a cliff.
Carlton Reid 13:48
Here I am sitting on a slab of rock at the periphery of this vertiginous village, just after taking a spectacular drone shot of the place, which you can see on the-spokesmen.com
Carlton Reid 14:34
I can’t quite believe I’m by myself at the moment because I have got this stunning view over an old church looking down into a massive valley with a huge huge rock overhang. This is actually a this is the town of village of Siurana and it’s actually a beacon for rock climbers. So when I was climbing up here this morning, lots of camper vans camped out and they weren’t tourists, they were here for the the climbing around here. So the rock faces are just wonderful. The views are just stunning. And yet there isn’t anybody else up here. I think it’s I’m here quite early. So I left Cambrils in the dark. And I left about half past seven because I wanted to get the boring 10 miles out of the way quickly and get up here in some nice light. And it is beautiful. Here, it’s it’s quite chilly. It’s nice in the sunshine, but it was very cold on some of the descents. But this particular town is literally on the cliff edge. And it was a fortress town, the Moors, the Saracens, the Arabs basically, when they had this part of Spain and this part of Catalonia, this was their last stronghold in the 1150s, or something like that, and they held out to here. And then apparently, there is a hoof print in the rock. No doubt that’s been chiselled in by people wanting to get tourists here, but that’s meant to be the hoof print of the Moorish queen who didn’t want to be taken by the the Christian knights who had besieged and were taking over the town. So she leapt off the cliff face with her horse and that is where the horse is meant to have thought, hang on, I’m not jumping over there as soon as it realised where it was going and they fell to a rather obvious death. Today, Siurana is a sleepy place — well, it was when I visited it, I guess it gets busier in peak tourist season — and I was here early enough for many of the climbers to be still asleep in their camper vans. By the time I left all were awake and I saw dozens of climbers on the 200+ routes hereabouts, one shouting when he lost grip, and enjoying the echoes he made in the valley below. Now riding without arm warmers and a jacket I legged it back for lunch in the Cambriles Sport Village. Afterwards I spoke with Jaume Rue, founder of Cycling Costa Daurada, and asked him why he had invited club cyclists to the resort.
Jaume Rue 17:44
The main thing is to have a new clients and new groups to to come in Cambrils Park in the in, in the region Costa Daurada, whatever because you know some some of the some of the groups
Unknown Speaker 18:01
Some of the all groups that we have, they want to change in in of the destination so it’s necessary at this moment to to have a new a new clients and new new groups.
Carlton Reid 18:13
So maybe people who would have gone to Mallorca?
Carlton Reid 18:17
Like pro teams?
Jaume Rue 18:19
Exactly, the the, the majority of the of the clubs and the groups of the country they go to Mallorca before and they want to change of destination for for his trip next next season.
Carlton Reid 18:37
Thanks to Jaume Rue there of Cycling Costa Daurada, and thanks also to Victor Goitia, the cycling product manager of Costa Dorada tourism who extended my time at the Cambrils Sport Village so I could get out and find my own stories. Permission to play the Mussera music was given by Carles Ribot. Links to his work, and links for Cycling Costa Daurada and details for Cambrils Sport Village can all be found on this podcast’s show notes which, as always, can be found at www.the-spokesmen.com If you want to know more about La Mussara make sure to check out my spooky story on Forbes.com due to go online on Thursday October 31st, Halloween that is. All of my Forbes stories can be found at www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid This was show 228 of the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast and it was recorded on Tuesday 29th October 2019. Here’s my co-host David with a short message from our show sponsor.
David Bernstein 19:48
Hey Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a long time loyal advertiser. Its Jenson USA at www.Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen, I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jenson is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle at amazing prices, and what really sets them apart, because of course, there’s lots of online retailers out there, but what really sets them apart is their unbelievable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors and these are cyclists. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it. These are folks who ride at lunch, who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for, go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA – they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/ thespokesmen. We thank them so much for their support and we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. Alright Carlton, let’s get back to the show.
Carlton Reid 21:10
Thanks, David, and that’s a wrap for today’s show. Like the Gino Bartali story on the previous episode, today’s show was more engineered than our roundtable ramblings, and, to be frank, more time-consuming. If you like this editorial approach, make sure to give the show a shout-out on Apple Podcasts or leave a comment on the show notes at the-spokesmen.com The next episode, due out early next month, will be another travelogue, this time from a Belgian cycleway in Germany, a what-did-you-just-say show that will be accompanied soon by a piece in The Guardian. Meanwhile, get out there and ride.