Costa Blanca Cycling - old favourites and some new surprises
Costa Blanca Cycling - old favourites and some new surprises
By Helen Russell
Each year when the days get shorter and the temperatures start to plummet in the UK I try to get away to do some warm weather training in the Costa Blanca. I first cycled in the area back in March 2010 and enjoyed it so much that I have returned most years, using a hire bike from Ciclo Costa Blanca/Meta Bike Cafe.
This year I would be riding a beautiful looking Bianchi Intenso Ultegra compact road bike, which offered the perfect mix of speed and comfort. On my first day of riding I wanted a relatively easy route to warm up my legs and try out the bike fit, so I headed off from my hotel in Benidorm to the chocolate manufacturing town of Villajoyosa where the air smells of cocoa! I then turned inland and started the climb past the Amadori reservoir to the village of Sella where I had a café stop before heading back to Benidorm via the village of Finestrat. (35 miles)
One of the rides that I do each year is to climb through the lemon and orange groves to the hill fort of Guadalest. The route through the valley on the CV- 755 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. After a café stop in Guadalest I headed out of the village and towards Beniarda where I cycled down through the village to join the unclassified road which loops around the reservoir. The road isn’t in the best condition and a bit gravelly in places but it is rideable and the view of the glistening turquoise water of the reservoir is stunning. The loop road comes out just beneath Guadalest on the CV-755, where I descended back to Benidorm via Polop and Nucia. (50 miles)
My third ride was another old favourite. Again, I went through Villajoyosa and inland towards the Amadori reservoir but instead of staying on the main road towards Sella I crossed the dam and took the unclassified road towards the main road just above Aigues. From here I climbed to Relleu for a cafe stop before a fast descent back down to sea level. (40 miles)
A few days into my holiday it was time to discover some new routes. I’d spotted a climb on my map called Vall de Laguar. It seemed to be a dead end road but I leant from speaking to the guys at Ciclo Costa Blanca that a newly paved road meant that it was possible to go over the top of the coll and descend to make a loop ride. After climbing Tarbena and descending the Coll de Rates into Parcent, I entered the valley from the town of Orba and climbed on the CV-721 through the villages of Campell, Fleix and Benimaurell. The panoramic views over the almond blossom trees towards Denia and the coast were some of the best I have seen. The roads were in good condition for the first 6km but that would change for the final 3km beyond Benimaurell to the summit of Coll de Garga/Venta del Collao at 766 metres. The incline ramped up and the roads were narrower with some potholes and gravel. It was clear that apart from hikers and climbers, not many people went beyond the village! In fact, on the whole of this climb, I only saw one other group of cyclists. I was relieved to reach the summit where I was surprised to find a café, which catered for climbers and hikers. After rehydrating I descended down a narrow switchback road for 5.8km into the Vall de Pop. On this side of the summit, the surface was strangely in better condition closer to the top, rather than further down, where the tarmac alternated with gravel and broken asphalt, necessitating a cautious descent onto the CV-720. Once I had joined the main road I descended beyond Parcent to Xalo and then onto the coastal road through Calpe and Altea back into Benidorm. (78 miles)
Encouraged by my successful day of discovery, the following morning I headed out for another new route up to the Port de Bernia. My map showed this as being an unclassified road and I had never thought it would be rideable but again the folks at Ciclo Costa Blanca assured me it was, but suggested I ride up from Xalo rather than the Pinos route, which was very steep. The 10km ascent to the top at 620m had a pleasant average elevation of 4.3% and maximum gradient of 8%. Like the Vall de Laguar climb it was very quiet with only a few cars passing me and no other riders to be seen! I was very glad that I had climbed this way, as the long 16km descent down from the summit into Benissa was extremely steep, with some sections at 17% and the road surface after the village of Pinos wasn’t in great condition. The descent was a mixture of me catching glimpses of the stunning view towards the coast, whilst as the same time trying to overt my eyes from the sharp drop over the roadside edge! At the end of the ride I was kicking myself for never having done this climb before and will definitely return. (66 miles)
From two of the lesser known climbs to one of the most well-known: the Port de Tudons. I always try to ride this climb, as at 1024 meters, it is the highest summit in the area. The 11km climb from the village of Sella is a Category One climb with an average gradient of 5% and is a regular feature of the Vuelta España. 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. It was great fun to read the names of the pro-riders painted on the road, which increased in number the closer to the summit. It is possible to do a circular route that takes in the Tudons but as I needed to return my hire bike that afternoon I just headed back down to sea level. (45miles)
As a quadrathlete (swim/kayak/bike/run), for me a training holiday has to include some swimming and running. The sea and air temperatures were so good this year that I managed two sea swims (with wetsuit) in Benidorm Cala and Villajoyosa and also enjoyed some runs along the promenade in Benidorm and a visit to the running track.
Yet again this was a great training holiday, made all the better by discovering two fantastic new climbs. I returned to the UK to be greeted by Storm Ciara and had to settle for watching the ‘Queen Stage’ of the Tour of Valencia on Eurosport where I marvelled at the speed that the pros cycled some of the same climbs I had conquered a few days before!
About the Author:
Helen is the current overall British Quadrathlon Champion and British Quadrathlon Trophy Series winner. She is also the World Cup Series winner and the World Quadrathlon Champion in both sprint and middle distance in her age group. Before turning to quadrathlon, Helen was age group World and European Duathlon champion and European Triathlon champion. In 2015 she 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