Larry Warbasse and Conor Dunne explore the Canary Islands on island-hopping off-road adventures

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Larry Warbasse kicked off his 2022 season with a twist earlier this month.

The American driver teamed up with his former teammate Conor Dunne and spent five days crossing the Spanish Canary Islands on a mix of paved and gravel roads that turned out to be quite an adventure for the pro Ag2r-Citroën.

“It was fun, and at the same time I trained well,” said Warbasse. VeloNews. “It was a lot harder than I expected, so I had a good base during the week. We thought we had more time for surfing and other stuff, but we didn’t have a lot of time because we were riding so much!

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The pair traveled around 700 km in five days and plotted routes through five of the eight islands in the Canary Islands archipelago.

The idea was to travel to Lanzarote and then join Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Gomera on a five-day trip, riding from one side of the islands to the other, then hopping on the ferries to ‘to the next destination.

As Warbasse was about to find out, it turned out to be an adventure in more ways than one.

Get closer to the ground

The trip was a sort of reunion between Warbasse and Dunne.

The pair were teammates on Aqua Blue in 2018, and when the team abruptly folded that summer, the two wondered what to do next. Instead of racing the Tour of Britain as planned, the two fit riders wanted to use their good condition for something and spent a week crossing the French Alps in what they dubbed the “NoGoTour”.

They had so much fun they wanted to repeat their 2018 adventure, but “life” kept getting in their way.

Warbasse landed at Ag2r-Citroën, where he begins his fourth season with the team in 2022. Dunne raced with the Israel Cycling Academy in 2019 and retired at the end of the season. Dunne quickly became a father, then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Finally this fall, the friends found a window to ride together again.

The question was where to go.

They wanted a bit of adventure, and originally they envisioned gravel roads in the mountains of northern Greece or maybe something as far away as Sri Lanka. However, with COVID continuing to create obstacles, they have decided to stay close to Europe.

“We threw out a few ideas and decided we had to do something simple, warm and close,” Warbasse said. “Conor heard about this road that connects all of the Canary Islands, and I thought it sounded good. “

Dunne read a route that connects all the main islands called ‘El Gran Guanche’, a mix of routes including road, gravel and mountain bike sections designed by avid cyclist Matteo Minelli, an Italian who lives in Lanzarote .

They packed their gear, and off they went.

Every island is a continent

Larry Warbasse, left, and former pro Conor Dunne charted a route through five of Spain’s Canary Islands. (Photo: Larry Warbasse)

Surprising enough for a pro, Warbassse had never been to Tenerife, the high-altitude volcano where WorldTour pros spend weeks camping near the top of Teide crater.

“It was my first time in the Canary Islands,” he said. “I have visited just about every high altitude training area in Europe, but I had never been to Teide. The islands are amazing.

The Canary Islands are a string of eight islands under Spanish control since the 15th century off the west coast of Africa. The islands are part of Macaronesia, four archipelagos of volcanic islands that also include the Azores, Madeira and Cabo Verde.

The islands are famous for their beaches and their everlasting spring climate that attracts millions of tourists a year, but as Warbasse and Dunne quickly discovered, their incredible mix of geology, topography, and scenery makes for spectacular driving as well.

Read also: Spanish history on the ‘El Gran Guanche’ route

Elite pros have long discovered the heights of Teide, Spain’s highest point at over 12,000 feet where some of the biggest names reserve time in the crater’s “parador” for weeks on end. Several teams organize training camps in Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

The couple landed in Lanzarote, the austere and arid island teeming with volcanoes and black sand beaches. They rolled across the island, hitting about 15 km of gravel along the way.

“We traveled almost 700 km in five days,” said Warbasse. “The longest days were 140 to 150 km, the shortest about 100 km. Every day was a bit of climbing. Normally we took the ferry in the morning, which complicated the logistics a bit. Some days we didn’t start until 2pm because the ferry was late so we used our lights every night.

On the second day, they lined up for the ferry to Fuerteventura. Renowned for their world-class kite-surfing, the couple quickly discovered the strong winds sweeping the island.

“In Fuerteventura we tried to take a shortcut and hit a bit more gravel, but it really wasn’t a track so we had to come back in the opposite direction,” he said. “On the way, we had a very strong tailwind, but once we got lost we had to go up on a false flat against a headwind of 50 km / h. Oh man, this was the windiest place I’ve been to!

They have been joined by two producers from GCN, and their adventures will be packed for a documentary which will be broadcast on the network in the future for their last adventure which they have called the “SlowProTour”.

Their bikes were fully loaded with 10 kg of gear and they camped most of the time on the beaches. They were eating at local restaurants, but the whole trip was very close to the ground.

With the ferries and long hours in the saddle, they often arrived at campsites well after dark.

“I have suffered so much. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be, ”said Warbasse. “I had just started training after a few weeks off, and Conor isn’t training like he used to. A 36 km climb when you’re in good shape, it’s already hard, so it’s really hard. We both really suffered.

The pair are already thinking about options for their next adventure. For now, Warbasse returns to his day job at Ag2r-Citroën, where the team recently completed a training camp in the French Alps.

Warbasse did not know what the bivouac was until this trip. He quickly discovered it. (Photo: Larry Warbasse)



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