When I first heard that the main Asturian stage of the Vuelta a España was finishing atop the Ermita de Alba, the first question that came to mind was ‘Where?’. I’d never heard of it before so contacted a few Asturian cycling friends and to my surprise they didn’t know much more than me.
My friend Jorge, who is now based in the UK, informed me that it used to be just a road used for cattle when he was younger, so it seems to have a similar story to the L’Angliru. I also read that it was considered for a stage finish in the 2008 Vuelta but was finally sidelined.
Of course there was only one way to find out more about it, and that was to ride it. Some of my cycling friends didn’t sound too keen to try it when I mentioned it had slopes of over 20%, but I could always rely on my friend Mark, who was over from the UK, to take up a tough challenge.
Pushed for time, Mark rode over to mine and we drove over La Cobertoria to Barzana, just 2 km from the start of the climb, and parked up. It probably wasn’t the best idea to start a climb like this on cold legs but mine aren’t great even when warm, so I figured there wouldn’t be much difference.
The climb hit double figures right from the outset and it would prove to be a brutal climb. Mark pulled away early on and I was catching him when a team of horses pulled out in front of me. Every time I tried to pass them they would run ahead and block the road, but I finally got passed. Of course that’s not true about catching Mark, I had no intention of even trying, but at least the horses gave me an excuse for being so far behind.
The climb is brutal with ramps well into the 20% range and the last 2kms are incredibly steep. There are two very short stretches where some respite can be had but the rest of it is in double figures.
All the suffering was worth it though because the climb is stunning. A hidden gem in an area plentiful in jewels, the Ermita de Alba truly is a rare diamond. The views are breathtaking and the climb, itself worthy of becoming another iconic Asturian climb alongside the L’Angliru and Los Lagos.
Information and Stats on the climb can be viewed here (needs updating as written before I rode it): https://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/emita-de-alba-ca/