A hill or two – Crete, Greece

 

In order to maximize a week of sun and swimming we booked us and the kids in a Sunwing resort in Crete. Charter as it is. Everything is supposed to happen inside the walls of the resort. Sure, the kids are having fun, but… out there, outside the walls is the real Greece with mighty mountains, the white painted houses and the smell of the Mediterranean fauna like a dish ready to eat.

I managed the first 24 hours, but then the abstinence took over and I rented a bike and sneaked out when the others were sleeping. Maybe not the best circumstances: no biking gear at all and a bike that brings back memories from the 80ies. But it was equipped with reflectors and a kickstand.

And a looong stem compensated (?) with a riser bar

Simply put, a whole lot of Pro and Spec:

But… a perfect bottle holder and with my daughters socks the GPS fits neatly on the handle bar

So… In my Beach shorts, sneakers and t-shirt I got going at 6 o’clock. I had this idea to go for a hill that I had seen from the hotel. I started off along the sea and after some 8 kilometers a reached Mavros Kolimbos and turned right. Long shadows at this hour:

Having done the warm up, the memory from a slight mistake on the freeride track last weekend feels OK.

It’s just about finding the grinding pace and enjoy the long climb. The sun is shining and the smell in the air makes you think of delicious dishes you hardly know the name of. Kind of same sensation of other places around the Mediterranean and I like it so much

After a while I reach Oreino. It’s a small village nobody cares about, but this morning it feels like the center of the Universe.

On my way out of the village I pass drying tomatoes for those lovely dishes.

It’s getting windy – and of course it’s strong head wind. Asphalt is turning into concrete, concrete into gravel and gravel into sharp rocks. One or two pick-up trucks are slowly making it up the hills to the olive groves. The drivers are saluting. I start thinking how much a worn front tire of 1,5 inch can take, but the pick-up trucks makes me calm. Hopefully I can ride back with them in case I get a flat tire. Because of course, I haven’t got spares or tools. No flat tire so far. I turn left to the top ”Afentis”.

I’m impressed by the signage on these tiny roads, but maybe it’s to compensate for the lack of signage on the bigger roads?

Wow, I can see the other side of the island. Agios Nikolaos.

Now the REAL climb starts. I’m starting to be reminded why you wear biking pants… or why you have biking shoes… Why you eat breakfast…. 2,5 hours of riding and I’m getting a bit tired. One more banana while enjoying the looks of the switchbacks I’ve done.

Wow! I can see the top!

I’m on the granny, the wind is a bit too strong and something blew off the mast at the top, including some power lines. I don’t know if there is current in them so I get off the bike and jump over them. Only a couple of hundred meters more…

The mandatory picture-of-the-bike-at-the-top: 1476 meters above sea level

View towards West

Towards East

There’s a church in case you would need one

I don’t. It’s mighty enough to enjoy the views from the peak. A bit spooky though, all alone… An abandoned restaurant with broken furniture… Shutters moving in the wind…

But I sit down and enjoy a piece of chocolate. Laughing at myself. Here I am, in my beach shorts. 1,5 kilometer up in the air…

I use the same way on the descent and really have to hold back not having a helmet or for that matter the right bike for the job. In Oreino I take another route just to encounter another climb. Peak in the background:

But after that it’s just downhill on gravel roads to Stavrohori

Going back was fast and after a shower it was quite rewarding to splash into the pool with the kids. I also realize that the ride became a bit more than climbing a hill… 5 hours, 57km and 1800 meters of climb.

Second ride

This time I only did roads, but on the same bike… Here you can spot both rides. First one to the left and second one to the right

Started off early again. Strong winds. The sun hadn’t reached the south side of the island yet. Here’s a look back – the “hill” from the other trip in the background to the right

Strong gusts from the side but I just had to hang in there

The climb starts in Goudouras and the sun is making it over the mountains

After the first climb I’m finally greeted by the sun, but also by a stronger head wind. Some downhill and then another climb up to Ziros. By now the head wind is just ridiculously strong, as well as the steep climbing. But the road is beautiful so all good

After the climb I reach a nice plateau with vines

Ziros:

These signs…

Another village; Handras

…and Etia

Now I can spot Sitia at one direction – located on the North side of the island

…and the other way – towards South

Beautiful views all the time and hard to hold back from taking pictures. Papagianades:

From Papagianades I reach the main road coming from Sitia and the strong wind is now coming from behind. I catch some speed on the good (not) old bike. I don’t dare to think of what would happen if something would break – I’m approaching 80 km/h in speed (!). Some pedaling and I’m home for breakfast before 9 o’clock in spite of a trip of 50 kilometers and 750 meters of climb. Very poor average speed but it wasn’t the objective either…

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