First solo ride – 105km to Itu

Posted: October 10, 2012 by Ben Weber in Cycling, English, Training
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Pirapora do Bom Jesus

A little while ago, after completing the Santos Challenge with André and his group, filled with a bit of confidence for long distance riding, Natalia and I went on a long ride by ourselves to Itu, a 105km ride from our house, along the Estrada dos Romeiros road. Most of the cars that go to Itu would take the perfectly maintained, smooth and straight Castelo Branco highway, which is much more direct, for the large part of the journey. The Estrada dos Romeiros is still nicely maintained, with good asphalt and not really any potholes that could throw an unwitting cyclist, though there are plenty of hills and bends to go along and it doesn’t have much of a hard shoulder which is always nice to have to protect against some of the more vicious drivers around…

Ciclotur para Itu conhecendo as cidades turísticas, Santana do Parnaíba , SPThe day we ended up going to Itu was a Sunday and it eventually turned out to be one of the hottest days in the year. Okay, when you are riding you get cooled down by the wind going past, though that wind diminishes massively when you are going up those hills and it turned into quite an exhausting journey – we drank a good few litres of water, Gatorade… more water, coconut water (thank goodness there were places along the route where we could stop off and restock!). At the town of Barueri, just as we got to the main road, the hills began in earnest with a short but a sharp 15-20% climb… then after this it was constant up and down, with little or no shade.

The countryside as we left the city was great – plenty of green, and a river going by; just no substantial tree cover at least for the first 50km or so. We stopped off at the historic town of Santana de Paraiba, which has a lovely historic centre and market, and also at a quick break at Pirapora, a good 17km further along the highway. We didn’t spend long there, though it was definitely one of the more picturesque places I have been through for some time. After Pirapora, a few more rather lethal climbs through long exposed sections of the road, and eventually the number of trees by the road increased and we were able to have more time cycling in the shade, which helped make life easier. With all the trees and with stretches of the road going along the river, it almost felt like we were going through some areas of Canada – very lovely, and made up for the suffering beforehand!

One of the more shocking sides to the journey, however, was the amount of pollution in the river. Pirapora was lovely and picturesque, but you could see foam in the river (which flows from São Paulo city) which originated from pollutants. As we got towards Itu, there were stretches of the river that you could not actually see any of the water – just this white foam that was a good foot or two deep. Not nice. It is amazing to me that nothing appears in the news about all of it as am sure it can’t be healthy. Talking to people later and we were told that when the wind picks up, the foam gets blown into the towns and can cause burns…

We managed the journey comfortably in the end, taking it easy with good breaks and going on average about 17kph (there was one great, long, clear, smooth downhill where I went up to 65kph… quite an exhilarating change from the tortuous uphill that preceded it!). We left at 8am and got to Itu at about 5.30pm. It was great getting there and we were able to find a German restaurant recommended by our friends where we were able to relax a bit before bundling our bikes into a bus and heading back to São Paulo. On the learning side of things, I did get a punctured tyre… and we didn’t have a spatula with us… Guys at our bike store had shown us how to take off a tyre without the tools and made it look quite easy, but it sure wasn’t as easy for us. Fortunately this was at Santana de Paraiba, and there were other cyclists around who were able to help us. First thing we did when we had time in São Paulo: yes, buying spatulas and a better couple of repair kits!

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