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18-09-2023 | Luc Nouwen

Four picos in one ride: the unfinished story of the 7 Picos

Madrid 7 Picos celebrated its second edition on Sept. 9. The riders could choose between four "picos" (hills or climbs) or seven. The original distance was just over 190 km for the seven-picos with about 3,300 meters of elevation. However, road works forced organizers to shorten the distance of the longer ride to 152 km with nearly 3000 meters of elevation; the shorter ride was 72 km with just over 1600 meters of elevation.

Those expecting departure and arrival to be in the capital will be disappointed. The center of events is in Buitrago del Lozoya, about 60 km from Barajas Airport. Spaniards still do not excel at knowing a second language. For those who can't speak a word of Spanish, the trip is a challenge. Fortunately, I can manage well in that area. By the way, the friendly man who handed me the keys to my rental car spoke perfect Dutch.

Tight organization

The organizers deserve nothing but praise. Lots of volunteers to keep everything on track, registration without queues, an excellent goodie bag and clear instructions. Moreover, the course is phenomenal: mostly good road surface, little traffic, beautiful views and challenging. There were a little over 800 participants. Most of them (like myself) had signed up for the 7 picos. Having done 160 km with 3000 meters of elevation on my own a week before the start in the Ardennes, I felt well prepared.

The mass start took place at eight o'clock; you could join in from 7:30. The sun did not rise until a few minutes before eight. With a mild 18 degrees and the prospect of this rising to 25 degrees, the weather conditions were ideal. The complete route was recorded by timekeeping in several places. With Miguel Indurain as the guest of honor at the start, I was eagerly on the fourth row.

Not for today

Most seemed well aware of the fairly tough task. It was fun from the head of the peloton to experience the first two lighter climbs (of 21 according to my bike computer). Then followed climb three toward the first pico. And then my body said, 'not today, buddy, I don't want to...' The day before, I had done the whole course by car. It was just beautifiul, here you just want to ride your bike. But when the legs don't want to cooperate, it'll be tougher than tough.

After about 50 km, there was a split between the four and seven picos. Thickly against my will, I took the exit and limited the ride to 72 km. Judging from the results compared to the entries, I wasn't the only one. Many seemed to have underestimated the task.

Mixed feelings

It gnaws that I wasn't able to conquer the 7 picos. Judging by the fact that I spent an hour in bed after returning to my hotel and then another half hour in the bathtub, it turned out to have been the better choice. Six hours instead of a mere three hours on the bike would have been too much of a good thing.

In any case, this is a beautiful region for cycling! The area lies between 1000 and 1600 meters of altitude. There is not one meter flat. If you are talking about a challenging cycling paradise, this is a real gem!

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