For various reasons I haven’t been able to ride much over the last two months so it probably wasn’t the wisest idea to ride a route this weekend that included a Cat 1 and HC climb. Still, I’ve never been one to shy from a challenge and when my good friend Moro proposed the route I couldn’t say no. So on Sunday an unfit me and 4 good friends met early in Pola de Siero, loaded my van with the bikes and headed off to Cangas de Narcea.
Now, even when I’m on form I take a little while to warm up so always do a few km’s of easy riding at the start before hitting the climbs. On Sunday however, we rode 50 meters, turned right and didn’t stop going uphill until almost 10km’s later and 800 meters higher. If you’ve done the math using those figures you’ll know that The Santuario del Acebo climb is quite a toughy. What makes the 8%+ average even worse is the fact there are a couple of flattish sections on the way up, which inevitably means to obtain an average of 8 there are sections well into double figures.
Indeed, there are quite a few sections with gradients up to 15% and for much of the climb you are tickling double figure gradients. Apart from the one or two flattish sections there isn’t really any let up. Although the first part of the climb is a little tougher than the second half, the last 3 km’s are quite a slog, and although they average 9% it felt more like 11%.
Knowing that we had another climb straight afterwards, I tried to take it easy up the Acebo but it’s not really the type of climb you can take easily as it’s so steep. Anyway, I eventually trundled over the summit someway behind the others, but I was pleased that the legs weren’t feeling too bad.
After a great descent we were back in Cangas and then headed toward the Puertu de Leitariegos. What this climb lacks in steepness it makes up for in distance. At over 22km in length it certainly takes a while to get up. The good thing though is that there is a bar half way up so it didn’t take much convincing to make us stop when we saw the two fasted guys sitting there with a drink in hand.
The climb averages only 4% with no hidden surprises on the way up, so once you get into a rhythm it’s not so bad. The problem I had was that Ian had said he was dedicating his services to me all the way up, which he selfishlessly did. The only problem with that is that Ian sets a fast pace, even when he is holding back a little, so I was having to work quite hard. Even though I was suffering a bit to keep his wheel, when Ian saw another one of the group dropping behind a bit and started slowing, I quickly reminded him he was working for me and to just get on with his job and keep going. This made him laugh (as it sounded more serious and determined than I had intended it to sound) but he did his job and kept up the pace. Now, I didn’t do that because I’m cruel and unsporting, it’s just when us slower guys climb we need to keep up whatever momentum we’re capable of – we have no fast and slow pace. Even in group rides I always end up climbing on my own as do most of us slower guys – and I know the rider who we’d dropped wouldn’t have waited for me. We are of a similar level but hardly ever ride side by side up the hills, we just give what we’ve got, suffer in silence and meet up the top. Now it just sounds like I’m making excuses for my cruelty but I assure you I will be able to sleep soundly at night.
Refreshed after our mid-climb stop we set about tackling the last 10km’s and sometime later I reached the summit still clinging desperately to Ian’s wheel (although I was nice and didn’t sprint past him at the top). Once we’d all arrived and taken a few photos it was downhill all the way to the van. Quite a downhill it is too. It’s not steep but there are some great straight stretches where you can really pick up some speed.
5 hours (4:30 hrs riding) after setting off we were back at the van and then headed to the bar to start planning the next epic route. I was feeling tired but I had lasted the distance and was grateful for Ian’s help up the last climb. Achieving something like that when you’re out of shape and out of form does wonders for your moral – so it’s off on a double HC climb route on Friday.
All in all a great route with great climbs and stunning scenery.
The Route Stats and stuff:.
Strava Activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/1109084742
Pretty much an up, down, up, down route but one that could easily be adapted into a more varied or circular route. Our route totalled 85km and 1903m of climbing.
The Santuarario del Acebo – CAT 1
Distance – 9.5km
Average Gradient 8%
Max Gradient – 15%
Road conditions – Good
Difficulty – Cat 1 Tough climb
Other info: It’s a climb used regularly in the Vuelta de Asturias. There is a bar at the top at the Sanctuary.
El Puertu de Leitariegos – CAT HC
Average Gradient: 4%
Max Gradient: 7% (very briefly)
Road conditions: Good
Difficulty: HC climb because of its length but Easy.
Other info: Runs down the other side in to Leon so good to incorporate into a circular route. Bar half way up. Water fountain at top