The Open Road in Front of You - part two

The Open Road in Front of You - part two

Tom De Wilde is one of our many incredible ambassadors placed around the world. Born and raised in Brussels, Belgium, Tom has currently given the sedentary lifestyle the boot, and is travelling on his favourite titanium gravel bike, our Kevin across Europe. Tom will be reporting in as he rides, below is part two of his new adventure - Provence to Spain.

Words below by Tom De Wilde

The second week of the journey started with an extra two days of cosiness at my friend's place, the time it took me to reclaim my coffee filter and my rep kit I misplaced in the most random places. Anyway I finally hit the road again on a cold but windless day that wasn’t  appealing for breaks of any kind. The sun light was metallic white, real winter is coming. So I pushed on the usual mix of rocky tracks and asphalted roads and eventually ended up at sunset on a small pass which actually was the border with Spain.First border crossing of the trip! Yay. I am always amazed by how everything can change all at once just going over a pass. Culture, langage, climate, scenery, architecture, roads, they are all different and it feels so good to experience that change from the slowness of the pedalling perspective. The riding totally changed, bumpy rocky two tracks shaking the hell out of me left place to five star smooth gravel pistas. And they are all over the place! Even via verdes (old train tracks turned to cycleways) are made of fast rolling gravel. Both my skeleton and mind were happy to welcome that change and I guess Kev too.
I couldn’t ride through Catalonia without visiting Curve’s dealer “The Service Course” in the World Gravel Capital : Girona! I wasn't sure of how much time I'd spend there but it finally happened to be a pit stop for Kev and a lunch break for me. The boys in the workshop helped with a well deserved service after I gave Kev the foamy shower it needed. As it is off season, many people are away so no rides are organised. The ones who stay are spoiled by Spanish weather so they don’t ride much in what they call winter, which almost feels like a summer day in Belgium! Without community catch up possible, I escaped the city before it stole all my money in cosy bike cafes. 
The following morning I granted myself with one of my all time favourite bikepacking treats : putting on wet and cold clothes in the morning, when it is 2°C and after a rainy nigh in the tent. Lovely! It was probably the price to pay for that first ray of sun caressing my face while I was bombing that winding gravel road hung out above a massive reservoir/canyon with no one around except for a few chanting birds, well it was orgasmic! 
Everything always comes with a price I guess. I like to pay ahead though, so I can really enjoy the gift afterwards. One afternoon I struggled on a mega sticky wet clay road that clogged my wheels with gradients going up to 20% making me sweat those extra watts to keep moving BUT it was followed with one of those wonderful smooth gravel descent enlightened by gorgeous sunset directly followed by being offered an indoor shelter in an old Chapel by a local. Ho yeah! It felt even better when I got out the next morning to discover a fully frozen landscape.The sun is shining again but I am slowly gaining altitude and the temperature drops down again making it hard to really relax outside and do something else than riding…  but riding can also be an issue in the morning with temperatures below freezing. My fingers don't like it! With an even higher route ahead sprinkled with super technical hike-bikes and steep climbs all over the place, we will see if I stick to the European Divide Trail for the next week or if I draw a mellower route at lower altitude. Both Kev and I like spending more time riding than walking in rocks and bushwhacking in freezing temps. But we shall see what’s awaiting us ahead !Disclaimer alert, not everyone will like this but my point is not trying to convince anyone but just to share my travelling feelings :) Jamòn (ham) is a big thing in Spain. Well that means that they have pigs somewhere. Riding those wonderful countryside dirt roads makes me pass by ghostly places that look like concentration camps for pigs. You can smell them way before you see them and it is not enjoyable. These dirty, stinky, horrible places make me think of those enormous battery chicken warehouses I encountered in Mexico’s remoteness. That’s one of the reasons I went vegan and this experience confirms my choice.

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