A Mega Meta Stay! My rides with Meta Bike Café.
2018 didn’t start well for me-I caught a cold the day after Christmas which lingered and meant that for the first few weeks of the year I only managed minimal training. However, my year improved in the penultimate week of January as I flew to Spain do a short block of warm weather training. Each winter I take some annual leave from work to escape the British weather and cycle with Ciclo Costa Blanca/Meta Bike Café. In this blog I share my experiences as well as some of my rides that you can try.
As usual I stayed in Benidorm, which is a great base. As a quadrathlete and triathlete I need to have easy access to a swimming pool and nice run routes which makes Benidorm ideal. The town has a public 25m swimming pool, running track and the sea is warm enough for some short wetsuit swims- even in January! Benidorm is also a good base if you are travelling with family. Children can enjoy the parks, beaches or hotel pool whilst the non-cycling adults can enjoy the cafes and bars or explore the shops in the old town.
I started my training holiday with an easy along the Poniente Beach in Benidorm to loosen up my legs after the flight, before collecting my hire bike from Ciclo Costa Blanca/ Meta Bike Café.
As usual on my first day of riding I did a relatively easy route to test out my legs and my hire bike (which is always in much better shape than my legs!). I left Benidorm and headed to the chocolate manufacturing town of Villajoysa where the air smells of cocoa! I then turned inland and rode to the village of Sella at the bottom of the infamous Tudons climb for a café stop and then headed back to Benidorm via Finestrat. The 10km climb up to the top of the Tudons would have to wait for another day!
Benidorm>Villajoysa>Orxeta>Sella>Finestrat>Benidorm = 28 miles / 45km
The area around Benidorm and Albir, where the Meta Bike Café is based, is a favourite amongst the pro teams and this year there were quite a few of them testing the roads of the forthcoming Tour of Valencia. Stage 3 of this year’s Tour was a team time trial from Benitatxell to Calpe, so it was no surprise that on my second ride of my stay to Moraira via Calpe I saw lots of teams, including Bahrain-Merida and Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini. Passing through Calpe on my way home I spotted some team buses in a hotel car park, including Sunweb and CCC Sprandi Polkowice. Although the riders were out on the road it was fun to chat with some members of the support crews. The coastal road from Altea to Moraira is stunning with views of the famous Cap Blanc rock, beaches and coves and as it is rolling rather than hilly, it is great for a warm up or recovery ride.
Benidorm>Albir>Altea>Calpe>Moraira and back along the same route = 48 miles / 77km
I had company on my third ride, as Terry and Will from Meta Bike Café met me in Benidorm. We rode to Villajoysa, then inland to San Jorge, across the Amadori reservoir bridge and towards Aigues. The rural road past the reservoir is one of the few in the area that is not in great condition but we soon joined the main road and climbed the switchbacks with views over the sea and Alicante to the village of Relleu for a café stop. On route we stopped and had some photos with members of team Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini and whilst enjoying our drinks the Astana Team sped past in a blur! It is always great fun seeing, and occasionally getting to chat with the pros. After finishing our drinks we enjoyed the descent back down to sea level via Finestrat. This is another good warm up ride of 40 miles with over 1160m of ascent.
Benidorm>Villajoyosa> Amadori Reservoir>Relleu>>Finestrat>Benidorm = 40miles / 64km
It was time to increase the distance and difficulty of my rides and so I headed out to climb two of the most famous peaks in the area. One of my favourite rides is the climb through the lemon and orange groves up to the hill fort of Guadalest. The route through the valley is green and luscious due to the River Guadalest and as you ride the 6km climb there are spectacular views below to the Guadalest Reservoir and towards the coast. The road continues to wind upwards beyond Guadalest village to Confrides and the summit of the Port D’Ares at 966 meters. Sometimes there is snow on side of the road near the summit but this year there was no sign of the white stuff. After reaching the top I then descended the other side, which took me to the foot of the Port de Tudons. The climb up this side of the Tudons is the easiest, as it is just 5km with an average gradient of 6%. However, after already having climbed almost 20miles this final climb of the day was certainly testing! The breath-taking views for miles over the town of Alcoi and beyond made it worth the effort! I then enjoyed the descent to Sella and back to sea level in Benidorm.
Benidorm>Altea>Altea la Vieja>Callosa d’en Sarria>Guadalest>Confrides>Port d’Ares>Alcoleja>Port de Tudons>Sella>Finestrat>Benidorm = 62 miles / 100km
After climbing up the easier side of the Tudons it was time to do the biggie and ride the hard way up! I always try to ride this climb on a stay with Ciclo Costa Blanca, as at 1024 meters, it is the highest summit in the area. The 10km climb from the village of Sella is a Category One climb with an average gradient of 5% and is a regular feature of the Veulta. The penultimate stage of the 2016 race climbed the Tudons twice and finished at the military base at Aitana, which unfortunately is closed to the public. Reading the names of the pro-riders painted on the road makes the climb really fun and maybe distracts you a little from the pain! After reaching the summit I enjoyed the descent back down to Benidorm.
Benidorm>Villajoyosa>Orxeta>Sella>Port de Tudons>Sella>Finestrat>Benidorm = 44 miles / 71km
The final ride of my holiday took in yet another climb of the 2016 Vuelta, this time the climb from Callosa d’en Sarria to Tarbena. From the village of Bolulla this is a 6km climb with an average gradient of 5.5 %. After a café stop in Tarbena I climbed the Port de Sa Crueta before the steep descent into Castell de Castells and then rode the lovely sweeping low gradient descent into the village of Parcent. Looming over Parcent is the Col de Rates, which again is another regular route of the Vuelta and was to be the final mountain climb of my holiday. With an average gradient of 5%, the 6.5km Category Two climb up the Rates isn’t too difficult and the amazing views towards Denia and beyond from the top makes it one of the most popular cycling climbs in Spain! After arriving at the top and celebrating my final summit, I enjoyed the rolling road back into Tarbena and my last descent to Albir, where I returned my bike to the guys at Meta Bike Café and regretfully said my goodbyes!
Benidorm>Albir> Altea>Callosa de’n Sarria> Tarbena>Castell de Castells > Parcent> Col de Rates> Tarbena> Callosa de’n Sarria> Polop> La Nucia>Alfas del Pi> Albir>Benidorm = 65 miles / 105km
As well as cycling, to maintain my triathlon fitness, for me a training holiday has to include swimming and running and during my stay I did a number of runs along the Benidorm beach fronts. I also met up with triathlon and swim coach Matt Hill, who lives in the region, to have a video swim analysis and some technique coaching. It was also warm enough to enjoy a sea swim in Villajoysa, followed by some chocolate y churros (I did say it was a chocolate manufacturing town!)
Thanks to Ciclo Costa Blanca / Meta Bike Cafe for another great training holiday and see you next winter!