Montanas Vacias // Spanish Lapland (Video)
Filmmaker Jeanne LePoix was out riding the 2022 Women’s Montañas Vacías Rally with 55 other women earlier this month, where she shot this lovely short video capturing the route’s spectacular scenery and the some of their eight-day journey. Watch the video and find a brief day-by-day recap and photo gallery here…
Words, photos, and video by Jeanne LePoix (@jeannelepoix)
Not too long ago, I received an invitation from Komoot and Lael Wilcox to come and ride Ernesto Pastor’s Montañas Vacías route together with 55 women from all over the world. The opportunity to take on the 680-kilometre loop and its 13,000 metres of climbing through “Spanish Lapland” was something I couldn’t possibly refuse. So I packed my bike and bags and headed south to Spain, where I shot this three-minute video that documents our eight-day adventure.
I share the first kilometers with the 55 other women who came from all over the world to ride the rally and I’m amazed by the incredible colors of Albarracín. Sliding down zigzagging tracks or climbing up steep slopes, we experience four days in one on the first day before setting up our camp in an idyllic area at an altitude of over 1,700 metres (5,600 feet).
The tracks are much smoother than the day before, and we get a little further into the deserted mountains. The name “Spanish Lapland” earns its namesake here. We pass just a few houses where time seems to have stopped a long time ago. I’ll never forget this tiny bar where the waitress discreetly took a video of the room full of chicas in shorts and bike helmets: never before seen in Checa.
The geology is constantly surprising us. Huge red rocks come out of the ground to create breathtaking forms. The temperatures rise. Some girls refresh themselves by bathing in the turquoise waters of the Rio Tajo. Others take advantage of it to dry their tent in the sun. And we can’t forget those who hydrate themselves at the very particular fountain of Beteta.
Our route is punctuated by multiple stops to refuel. Around the cafes, there seems to be more animals than people. Café con leche and bocadillos: we fill up on energy and warm exchanges before the pedalling starts again.
The rain and fog are rather unpleasant this morning, and we swallow more hot chocolates than kilometres. After Zaffrilla, the fight against sticky mud is long. It’s like riding in peanut butter. I make some progress with Adélaïde for a while, but the wind is getting stronger and our bodies are starting to get tired. What a surprise to find a large group of girls sitting in this rustic restaurant in the tiny village of Alobras. There’s a general euphoria all around. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.
Our time in the Sierra de Javalambre range is definitely part of one of the most beautiful cycling days of my life. With Weronika, like hunters crouching in the distance from our concealed position, we patiently wait for the cyclist to reach the ideal position on the curve to capture him. We enjoy the moment. In this karstic scenery punctuated by numerous areas of strangely rounded vegetation, everything feel unreal. It’s so beautiful that emotion overwhelms me and a tear rolls down my cheek. As we approach the summit, dotted with a few areas of snow, the mist gives the place a mystical atmosphere. At right around 2,020 metres of altitude, the cold and the rain are intensified. The descent is fast and epic. We unplug our brain and rush to recover our fingers and toes.
I’ve never ridden with so many girls, so many different nationalities, and above all, so many amazing and inspiring stories. I improve my English, I laugh a lot, I chase after groups who ride super hard, and I enjoy every simple pleasure that the ride offers: the beauty of a landscape bathed in sunshine, the delicacies gleaned from bakeries, the mischievous look of a goat around a path, the amusing stream crossings where you choose either to take off your socks or to charge in full speed.
That’s a wrap on this incredible and unique human adventure. We ride in slow motion with the aim of extending this last day to infinity.
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