Mad Woman of Ventoux! 03/07/2017
Fuelling for long rides 23/05/2017
Christmas Spain Part two 05/01/2017
Christmas in Spain Part One 01/01/2017
Top tips for climbing 06/12/2016
Preparing for your training holiday 29/08/2016
Keeping cool in the heat 26/07/2016
Recovery tips tried and tested 19/07/2016
Riding the roads of the Vuelta
Cycling fans who have been suffering withdrawal symptoms since the Tour de France finished can now get their Grand Tour fix, as La Vuelta a España has started! The three week, 3,200km long race, sees the cyclists start in France for the first time ever before crossing the mountains of Andorra en route to the Tour’s home of Spain. It is often claimed that the final of the Grand Tours is the hardest due to the Spanish summer heat and long stages and this year’s race will be no expectation, with nine summit finishes, three times as many as the Tour de France, including a climb up Angliru, which at 13km long and sections topping out at 30% gradient, has been called Spain’s hardest ascent.
I love to watch the Veulta, unfortunately due to work schedules on the TV rather than live, as I can spot many of the places in the Costa Blanca, where I have trained with Ciclo Costa Blanca in the winter months. Last year I subjected my dad to hours of viewing pointing out various, climbs, café and toilet stops! There is usually a stage that goes through this part of Spain, and this year is no exception with stages 8 and 9 crossing the region.
I am very lucky to be able to take some time each winter to escape the cold British weather to have a training holiday in the Costa Blanca with Ciclo Costa Blanca. Located at the foot of the Marina mountains, Albir, where Ciclo Costa Blanca and the Meta Bike Cafe is located is a fantastic cycling base, as shown by the number of pro-teams that train there in the winter and the amount of times the Vuelta has visited the resort.
One of the best things about riding in the Costa Blanca is spotting the pro-teams doing their winter training. Last December, in just one day, I saw three teams all of which were happy to have a chat! Whilst heading out to climb a Vuelta favourite, the infamous Col de Rates, I had a coffee stop in a café and the entire BMC youth team came in for their break! I had a quick chat with them and then headed up the Col. As I neared the summit some members of AG2R Mondiale were starting their descent and as I reached the top I was able to talk to some riders who were having a quick refuel before they joined their team mates on the ride down. Then, whilst descending the other side of the Col I was overtaken by the Giant Alpecin team and again managed to have a chat with them as they refuelled in the next village of Tarbena. All of the teams were really friendly and more than happy to have a chat and pose for photos. This contact with so many teams really made it a magical day of cycling! It’s also great fun to spot the names of the cycling legends painted onto the roads of the former Vuelta routes and helps inspire you to reach the summit. Once climbing up the Vall d’Ebo I was surprised to see ‘Go Pantani’ on the tarmac! This was obviously very old paint and I suppose shows how little it rains in the area and how little traffic there is on the local roads! On days when you want a tough challenge you can follow in the footsteps, or rather wheels, of the pros and ride a stage route, or part of a stage, of previous editions of the Veulta.
The route of stage 9 on this year’s Vuelta is one that I am very familiar with and follows the coastal road past Alicante and Benidorm, before taking in a climb which often appears on the Vuelta (2015 & 2017) – the Cumbre del Sol. I first climbed Cumbre del Sol in 2015 and although fairly short at about 4km, it is incredibly steep with the gradient reaching 18.5%! I was very glad to have been given a compact geared bike from Ciclo Costa Blanca, as it made the climb that little bit easier! At the summit I was rewarded with breath taking views of the coast from Albir to Denia and beyond, which makes the pain worth it. I am hoping to return to the region this winter and experience a little piece of this year’s Veulta by riding some of the route of stage 9.
So, if you have been watching the Vuelta on TV and wishing you were there, why not go and ride the routes in the Costa Blanca with Ciclo Costa Blanca and feel like a pro for while!
Helen is the current British Quadrathlon Champion and former age group World and European Duathlon champion and European Triathlon champion. In 2015 Helen was part of the One Day Ahead team, which raised £1m for Cure Leukaemia by riding the entire route of the Tour de France one day ahead of the pros. You can follow her on Twitter via @helengoth
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