Ride Report: Andalusia – pack your climbing legs.

Road cycling & upcoming rides
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Postby paul » 01 Jun 2017, 05:46

Part 1 Ronda.

Margo and I are holidaying is Spain and I have taken the opportunity to do some hire bikes and do so cycling around Ronda and Granada, including the Pico del Veleta, at 3,395 m, the highest paved road in Europe.

The bike was hired from http://www.cycleronda.com. Ferry, the owner delivered to bike to a local hotel and provided maps of suggested rides. It was a Stevens brand aluminium road bike with 105 compact and 32 tooth on the back. It came with tools, spares, pump, computer and light weight lock. Mechanically it was A1, with good tyres, brakes and gears in perfect tune. The only odd thing is that the brakes are set up in the European fashion, with the right lever working the rear brake. I take it for a quick spin around some local roads, which are hilly and cobbled.

Day 1: 104 km 2366 m Ascent. Ronda is quite high up, so the ride starts with a long descent, then it is up and down all day, winding through olive groves and citrus orchards, small towns and fields of barley. There are little villages for coffee and lunch stops. Part of the ride is on a very rough and remote road though national park. And the last part climbs to 1000 m and is very hot and exposed.

Day 2: 114 km 2147 m ascent. This ride goes through more farmland, olive groves, and some larger towns. Navigation could be tricky because it was not always easy to find the correct road out of town, they are often maze of cobbled streets, some ridiculously steep. Not knowing any Spanish didn’t help either. I ride some of this ride with a local cyclist, who as you might expect, is a strong climber.

Day 3: 61 km 1190 m ascent. This ride goes over the Puerto del Viento at 1190 m to the town of el Birgo, where I have my now customary ham, cheese and tomato roll, then back to Ronda. The scenery is breathtaking. It is a well-known local climb so I see lots of other riders. After this ride I hand the bike back and we are off to Granada.
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Postby paul » 01 Jun 2017, 05:54

Part 2 Granada and the Sierra Nevada.

The bike is a Specialized Tarmac carbon road bike with Ultegra, compact cranks and a 32 tooth on the back. Rented from http://www.sierranevada.cc. There is a minor glitch in that it is delivered without helmet, but this is soon sorted. Again, the bike is mechanically A1.

Day 1 104 km 1384 m ascent
This ride has three long climbs and three long descents, each higher and steeper the previous. Navigating in and out of the centre of Granada is a bit tricky, but once out into the countryside it is easy. The weather is very hot and windy, but again the scenery is spectacular.

Day 2 64 km 1736 m ascent
Up into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains to about 1500 m. Some of the roads are very steep, with hairpin bends labelled with the gradient, 18, 19 21%! Lots of cyclists are on this climb, some pushing, it is also marked with the painted names of Vuelta Espana riders. I have a scary moment on a steep descent, confused by having the brakes the wrong way around, I lock up the back wheel and nearly go over the edge.

Day 3 107 km 2664 m ascent.

This was an epic. Before attempting this, the highest ride I had ever done was 2054 m, more than 20 years ago in the French Alps. The Pico del Valeta is 3395 m, the highest road in Europe. The way out of Granada follows the river, before climbing steeply up to meet the main road after about 10 km and at 1000 m. The main road is wide with a good shoulder, little traffic, and not too steep, mostly 5 -8%. Someone had told me that nothing was open at the ski resort near the top, so I have an early lunch a café at about 1500m up. The altitude of 2000 m is marked with a sign, I stop and take a photo, just 1400 m to go. Near the ski resort members of the AG2R cycling team are descending from the mountain followed by a team car. They look confident and relaxed descending at speed, I think of my knee-trembling, knick-soiling effort of yesterday.
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Just 1400 m to go.

The ski resort is at about 2300m and 30 km from Granada. There are in fact a few cafes open, so I have a coke. Like most ski resorts, it is ugly in the summer time when not covered in snow, but there are high peaks towering over the town, one of which has a big dish antenna on top.

Now the fun starts. The climb out of the resort is very steep, and a bit tricky to navigate because of lots of side roads going off to apartments, and the direction signs are for ski runs. Back on the main road, I pass the 2500 m altitude sign, then find that the way is blocked by a boom gate, with quite a few cars parked nearby. The sign on the gate is in Spanish, and I can only make out that something or other is prohibited. I clamber under it and keep going. There are lots of hikers around, so I assume that it is just cars that are prohibited.

The road is very steep now and I’m starting to feel the altitude. I come to an intersection and am fumbling with my iPhone map when another cyclist passes me, “Valeta to the right,” he says, in German accented English. So I follow him along the road towards the big dish. He is a bit faster and soon out of sight around the bends. Then I meet him coming the other way. “Sorry, should be to the left.” So we roll back to the intersection and start climbing again. In a couple of k’s I meet the German stopped assisting a cyclist with a puncture, I can see sealant oozing out of his flat rear tyre. He has deep rims and, although he speaks only Spanish, I gather that he needs to remove the valve core to change the tube. I don’t have the appropriate tool, so am not much help. Leaving them to it, I proceed upwards. Soon the German passes me again: “2700 m, about 7 km to go,” he says. It is getting hard now, the road is very steep and rough, with lots of pot holes, and no vegetation, just rocks, scree and snow by the sides. I’m feeling light headed and breathing hard. I recon it will take about another 45 min to reach the top. As it gets higher, the road gets worse, more holes, rock and scree than tarmac. I’m worried about puncturing, and in a couple of places carry the bike over sections where there really is no road at all.

The ski resort and the big dish are way below me now, and the top of the mountain Is in sight, with a stone hut on its peak. Coming around a hairpin bend, I see the German off his bike and taking photos. “The road is blocked by snow, 100 m ahead.” We talk for a while and take photos. He lives in Granada and this is his second attempt at the Valeta climb. He was stopped by snow the first time as well. After he rolls off down, I ride on and indeed, a least a metre of snow blocks the road at the next hairpin, with about one km of road still to the top. My Garmin says 3290 m. Which is plenty. Nothing for it but to turn around and start the descent. I take the first bit carefully, because the road is so steep and rough, but once on the main road it is easy and I’m back in Granada in an hour, barely turning a pedal. The temperature in the city is 38 degrees, so it seems odd that just an hour before I was holding a snowball.
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Postby jcaley » 01 Jun 2017, 09:06

Wow - that's some great riding Paul!

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Postby Strawburger » 01 Jun 2017, 13:24

Awesome Paul!

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Postby JoTheBuilder » 02 Jun 2017, 14:04

Nice riding Paul!

Ummmm... how does Margo feel about you riding 100km a day?

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Postby Dougie » 21 Jun 2017, 10:41

Excellent stuff Paul

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