Christmas Spain Part two
Christmas cycling in Spain-Part Two
Christmas week had arrived and with it a cold spell back home in the UK-just in time for people attempting the Festive 500 challenge! I was lucky to be entering into my second week of training in the Costa Blanca and was looking forward to cycling some new routes as well as some of my old favourites, which I always return to!
One of the rides that I do each time I ride with Ciclo Costa Blanca is to climb through the lemon and orange groves 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. It is possible to do a circular route back to Albir and Benidorm via the infamous Port de Tudons but I wanted to save that for another day so I headed back home!
As well as cycling my favourite routes I always try to discover some new roads and climbs and this year I headed a bit further south to meet a friend and try the Puerto Tibi por Montnegre from the Mutxamel side. This 15km climb, reaching 728 meters isn’t very well-known but is a good challenge. Although the average gradient is only 3.55%, a sign at the bottom showing the profile of the climb warns riders that there is a 323 meter section at 16.5% and 215 meters at 12.2% and the climb peaks out at 21%! Due to the gradient and gravelly surface in some parts this is possibly the hardest climb that I have done in the region.
From one of the lesser known climbs to possibly the most well-known: the Port de Tudons. 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 15km 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. 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 wanted to swim in the afternoon I just headed back down to sea level.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, as a triathlete it is important to balance my training between cycling, swimming and running. During the first week of my training holiday I had a swim video analysis of my swim technique with local swim coach Martin Hill and had been trying out some of the drills I had been given to try and improve my stroke. There are public swimming pools in Altea, near Albir and Benidorm and so I was able to get plenty of practise but on Christmas morning I donned my wetsuit for a festive sea swim, followed by chocolates and Cava on the Benidorm’s Poniente Beach! The water was warm enough for least a 30 minute swim and during my second week I enjoyed a further two swims in Benidorm and further down the coast in Villajoyosa. I also did a number of runs along the beach promenade and the off-road trails.
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 leaving the village of Tarbena I climbed a bit further towards Casas de Bixauca before the steep descent into Castell de Castells and then rode the lovely sweeping low gradient descent into Parcent before heading back to Benidorm. Team BMC can sometimes be spotted on the road between Castell and Parcent- as it is one of the few fairly flay roads in the area they use if for their sprint training. However, as it was Christmas week they were back home with their loved ones until their next camp in the Spring.
As it was Christmas, my partner and father were with me, which meant that I didn’t do as many rides as I normally would but by the end of my stay I had covered 660 kilometres, which is still a lot more than I would have done back in the cold UK! Thanks to Ciclo Costa Blanca for another great training break, which will hopefully translate into some decent summer results!
1) Benidorm>Altea>Altea la Vieja>Callosa d’en Sarria>Guadalest>Confrides>Port d’Ares and return the same route = 62 miles / 100km
2) Benidorm>Villajoyosa>Orxeta>Relleu>Aigues>Busot>Mutxamel>Port de Tibi>Xixona>Busot>El Campello. End = 67 miles / 107km
3) Benidorm>Villajoyosa>Orxeta>Sella>Port de Tudons>Sella>Finestrat>Benidorm = 44 miles / 71km
4) Benidorm>Altea>Altea la Vieja>Callosa d’en Sarria>Tarbena>Castell de Castells>Parcent>Benissa>Calpe>Altea>Albir = 61 miles / 98km