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The diary of a fundraiser's epic cycle through Spain

16 June 2022
First he tackled America, then France and now our extreme cycling fundraiser Mark Godsland has just returned to the UK after his latest cycling challenge in Spain. Mark completed 717miles (the full length of Spain in 8 days) raising over £1300 for Exeter Leukaemia Fund.
Here’s Marks very own diary of his amazing journey through Spain.

‘Santander-Malaga: 717 miles (completed in 8 cycling days).

Major cities/towns travelled through:  Santander-Potes-Leon-Benavente-Zamora-Salamanca-Bejar-Plasencia-Caceres-Merida-Zafra-Monesterio-Seville-Malaga.

Temperatures:  20 deg in the north, rising to 35 deg in the south (Seville).

Population Density:  UK - 281 people per sq km; Spain - 94 people per sq km  (I popped this fact in to reiterate just how vast and empty Spain's interior is, particularly when you consider that most of its population lives around the coastline and in its major cities).

Stage 1: Santander-Potes-Leon.  Relatively easy start along the coast, a bit drizzly, but started to brighten up as I turned inland towards Potes.  Steady uphill to Potes through a large gorge.  Potes is a pretty mediaeval town in the foothills of the Picos de Europa mountains.  Brutal climb from Potes (4500 ft in 15 miles) to the Puerto de San Glorio, which signalled the start of a cracking descent into Riano, and some great scenery.  Route then flattened out on the way to Leon - now on the high Meseta (Spanish Plain).

Stage 2: Leon-Zamora-Bejar.  Brutal day from Leon to Zamora due to headwinds - 20mph headwinds for 80 miles - tough going.  Zamora beautiful mediaeval/roman town on the Douro river (which flows all the way to Porto).  Zamora to Bejar was first stretch of real heat, with some challenging climbs.  Passed through Salamanca around lunchtime - well worth a longer visit as it is a World Heritage site.  Limped into Bejar after a long day - took a while to rehydrate in the hotel after the heat.  Loads of Storks with little 'Storklets' and their huge nests!

Stage 3:  Bejar-Caceres-Merida-Zafra.  The weather gods were with me on this stretch in the form of tailwinds (they're usually southerly, blowing up from north Africa, but on this occasion they were from the north - yeehaa!).  Barely touched the pedals to Caceres because of the winds - I reckon I had 45 miles of coasting and 45 of pedalling - was wonderful!!  Merida - another World Heritage site with its famous Roman Aquaduct ruins.  Tailwinds again to Zafra, which was another picture postcard town with a lovely main square.

Stage 4:  Zafra-Monesterio-Seville.  Getting hotter!  Could also smell herbs and spices on the breeze - must be getting near the Med!  Seville is stunning - beautiful architecture, a great old town area with narrow cobbled streets, and great tapas bars and restaurants.  Took a day off here just to explore a little further, and definitely want to return.  Great people-watching whilst soaking up a few beers in whatever square you choose to sit in!

Stage 5:  Seville-Malaga.  Took a little while to clear Seville, but was a relatively short stretch.  A final climb into the mountains overlooking Malaga before a stonking 30-mile descent to finish!  Straight down to the beach for some fresh baby sardines and a beer or three to celebrate.

A great experience seeing the real Spain that not many people do.  Interestingly, not many people spoke English at all, so I was grateful for my pre-study of basic Spanish words and phrases!

And now on to the next challenge.............’

There’s still time to sponsor Mark’s challenge in aid of Exeter Leukaemia Fund at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mark-godsland2.
If you could take on your own personal challenge like Mark and fundraise to support local families affected by blood cancer, please contact our fundraising team by emailing enquire@elfcharity.org.uk or call 01392 493344 (option 3).