The Lagos de Covadonga is an HC climb similar to Alpe d’Huez in length, gradient and height gain. A spectacular climb it was the grand finale of Stage 15 of The Vuelta España in 2012.
The first time I rode this climb I must admit I was expecting it to be a little easier at the start but as soon as you pass the basilica at Covadonga it starts getting pretty tough. Straight away you start hitting sections where the Garmin creeps up to 13% gradients. Several times you are likely to think that you must be on the toughest part of the climb La Huesera only to find that, that is still to come. When you do finally come to La Huesera you really do know about it, and even if you are a sitter you are likely to get out of the saddle. It’s a constant 13% to 15% gradient for approx. 900 meters. Experienced riders will probably have no trouble but beginners will find it pretty hard. That said, it’s certainly not the toughest climb in Asturias.
There are several profiles depending on which start and finish point you choose but the stats below are those starting near the sanctuary at Covadonga and finishing at the first lake. Don’t be fooled by the gradient being only 7%, that’s because there are two down hill sections, take those out and it’s average would be a lot steeper.
Length – 12.3km
Average grade – 7.4%
Height start – 221 m
Height end – 1094 m
Difficulty: Tough HC climb
Road conditions: The approach to the climb from Cangas has finally been resurfaced, before it was a horrible surface to ride on. The road surface on the main climb is very good because it’s often used in the Vuelta but every year after the winter there are often a few parts that need repair due to land slippage.
Strava segment https://www.strava.com/segments/826228
Although the stats are similar to that of the Alpe dHuez, this route has very few hairpin bends. Unlike the alpine passes the road leads to the lakes and stops there and with no ski-resort or hotels the road is more like a country lane. Being near the coast you do not reach the dizzy heights of the alps. Indeed, it is well worth incorporating the route of Los largos in a longer route from the coast such as from Llanes.
Cangas de Onis is a pleasant town with several shops and some good cafes. If you are in the area for long you can always rent canoes on the rio Sella or go exploring on quad bikes.
As you ride toward the lakes you will see the basilica at Covadonga piercing the skyline through the trees, like some kind of fairytale castle. Covadonga is a religious sanctuary with a splendid and historic basilica, a mythical grotto, a museum and both a statue to, and the tomb of, Asturian and Spanish hero, Don Pelayo. The site is well worth a visit and if you have a car and you want a shorter route to the lakes you can always park up and start the climb from here.
On your way up to the lakes you will probably not want to stop but on the way down it is well worth stopping at some of the several view points (mirador). The scenery is breath-taking and you are also likely to see eagles circling the skies above.
Once at the top it is well worth spending some time at the lakes. As well as the beautiful scenery there is an old metal mine at the top lake which is interesting to see and most importantly there are a couple of cafes offering all the refreshment you will need (time of year permitting).
There is also a Sportive run every year calles The Clasica Los Lagos de Covadonga. More information about the Sportive can be found here: http://bikeasturias.net/sportives/clasica-lagos-de-covadonga/