LOS PUERTOS ESMERALDA – 2017, Register now!

Just a little reminder, that this year’s edition of the Puertos Esmeralda is being held on Sunday 17th September. There is one little change in this year’s route. The leading groups, instead of climbing Arboleya will instead climb the excessively steep Carabañu. Fortunately however, most of us will still be climbing the Arboleya as the Carabañu is a climb not all participants can get up – as it touches almost 20% in quite a few places.

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As always, the price of inscription includes the ride, a trophy and an eat as much as you like lunch after the ride.

It’s a great Sportive so make sure you register in time.

See you there!

 

Riding the Climbs of El Acebo and Leitariegos

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Climbs:

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

Distance:22.2km’s

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

The Vuelta a España in Asturias – 2017

With the Tour de France done and dusted it’s less than a month now until the start of the Vuelta a España – and I don’t know about you but I have a feeling the Vuelta is going to be far more exciting than the Tour. One of the main reasons for this will no doubt be the stages in Asturias which, no matter who is in contention beforehand, could really reshuffle the GC positions.
We are in for a real treat this year with the inclusion of the L’Angliru on the penultimate stage of the tour. This summit finish could well be a podium changing moment and should be a real humdinger. Remember it was this climb that thwarted Bradley Wiggins chance of winning the Vuelta and we could well see a shift in overall positions in GC after this stage.

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The climb of the L’Angliru is on stage 20 but first let’s have a look at stage 19. On paper it doesn’t seem much of a game changer. Indeed the Cat one (Colladona: http://bikeasturias.net/climbs/alto-de-la-colladona-mi ) and first two 3 Cat climbs (St Emiliano and Faya de Los Lobos http://bikeasturias.net/climbs/alta-de-la-faya-los-lobos ) shouldn’t challenge anyone. However, don’t be fooled by the 3 Cat status of the last climb – San Martin de Huerces (http://bikeasturias.net/climbs/san-martin-de-huerces-ca ). This little climb is a real brute with double figure gradients all the way up and with parts reaching up to 17%. Its 2.3 km’s average 11% so we could well see an attack or two from the GC contenders who need to claw back some seconds, although the long downhill to the finish might put paid to that idea. It will also be interesting to see if the local rider Ivan Cortina (Bahrain Merida) will go for glory in his home town.
I’m really looking forward to Stage 19 as it is mainly set on roads and climbs I ride on every week and is in fact passing through my home town of Pola de Siero and through my clubs town of Nava. It’s always nice riding on roads that you know the wheels of the likes of Contador, Froome and Valverde have rolled over.

 

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So, stage 20 and the final showdown – Putting the L’Angliru as the summit finish on the penultimate day is quite a crafty move and pretty cruel. The stages in Asturias are normally mid tour but the organisers or obviously after creating a spectacle with a dramatic final showdown. I’ve climbed the L’Angliru (and I don’t want to climb it again) and I can assure you that if there is any weakness in those contending for the GC, it will be found out here. It’s so steep that it’s one of those climbs that just splits the peleton to pieces. Just to get an idea of what it’s like check out the video here: http://bikeasturias.net/alto-de-langliru-climb

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The riders will have some pretty tough climbing to do before they even reach the L’Angliru. The peleton should stay together up until the base of the Cobertoria but I’d imagine the peleton will start to splinter once they start climbing. La Cobertoria is a tough climb but they are climbing it from the slightly easier side and I’m sure the GC contenders and their team’s will all stay together to conserve energy for the L’Angliru. However, with a quite undemanding first 70km I would imagine there will be a breakaway hitting La Cobertoria first.


El Cordal ( http://bikeasturias.net/climbs/el-cordal-from-pola-de-lena-mi ) from the Pola de Lena side is pretty steep, especially the last 2 km’s, but it’s quite short so I believe nothing significant will happen here – but it’s a lovely climb and should make good TV viewing.
Indeed, whether you’re watching on TV or lucky enough to be there in person, the two stages should make for spectacular viewing.

Best Places to watch from:
Stage 19: Pola de Siero should also be a good place to watch for the sprint. The main climb to watch the race would be San Martin de Huerces as it is the steepest climb. You may have to park up a little distance away if driving but not too far. It’s near Gijon so easily accessible but is likely to be crowded.
La Faya and Colladona are also nice climbs and won’t be crowded.
Stage 20: Anywhere on the last 6 km’s of the L’Angliru but go early and make sure you are fit. It’s tough by bike or on foot. It will be crowded.
El Cordal is really nice with parking space at the top and it shouldn’t be too crowded. La Cobertoria also has plenty of open space at the top and crowds shouldn’t be too heavy.

L’Angliru – A welcome return to the Vuelta a España 2017

Most of you have probably already heard that the L’Angliru will once again feature in the Vuelta in 2017. The cost and logistical nightmare of holding a summit finish atop the L’Angliru means it doesn’t feature as often as it should, but it has become probably the most iconic climb of the Vuelta; even overshadowing Los Lagos de Covadonga. Indeed, as the hardest climb on the World Tour the L’Angliru certainly draws the crowds both during the race itself and throughout the summer when people travel from all over the world to come and climb it.

If you look up the routes and dates of the Vuelta 2017 you will probably find mention of it being in the last week on the 7th or 8th September. However, I have it on very good authority (from contacts within the Vuelta organisation itself) that the L’Angliru will be the penultimate stage held on Saturday 9th September. Traditionally the L’Angliru has always been held over the weekend due to its popularity, so it seems quite likely it will be on a Saturday. But of course nothing is official until 12th January 2017.

The other stage is meant to finish in Sotres (which made its first appearance in 2015). This is also a great stage, offering spectacular scenery and challenging climbs with the final ramps to the summit reaching 20%. All talk will be about the L’Angliru though and I’m sure it will be quite a spectacle – we await with bated breath.

Puerto de Pajares – and yet another great Asturian climb

If you read my last post you will know that I decided to make the most of the good weather in late October and ride some of the climbs I had yet to ascend on a bike. Well, as per usual, it’s taken me a while to get round to writing about it but after San Isidro I decided to climb the other ski station climb, The Puerto de Pajares.
Pajares is probably the best known of all the Puertos (mountain gateways linking Asturias with Leon) as for many years it was the main route to and from Leon. The new motorway means that traffic levels have decreased considerably but the only problem is that logistics companies do still use it to avoid paying the motorway tolls.
Once again I was really lucky with the weather and set off in full sun from the base of the climb; I would have preferred to have ridden a few kilometres before climbing but with limited time it was straight up from the start. I wasn’t having a great leg day and the wind, although light, wasn’t favourable but there was no way I was turning back. The good thing about Pajares is that it has stretches with quite shallow gradients so you can recover a little. The bad thing is you need them because there are stretches with ramps well into double figures.
You will be able to read a more detailed review of the climb shortly when I add it to the climb section but what I will say here is that I’m glad I took my Boardman bike that had a 12/32 rear cassette. There are several ramps of 14 plus % and the last half k is a painful 17% plus climb.
I didn’t feel great the whole way up but the scenery took my mind off my suffering legs and I actually really enjoyed the ride. The view back down from the top is great and the now deserted Parador (posh hotel) makes for great photos;

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All in all a great climb, very tough in parts but with plenty of flatter sections that offer some respite. The large lorries passing, although unnerving at times as they crawl past you, are not too frequent. With two big climbs done the next on the list was The Puerto de Tarna. To be continued……

 

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Puerto San Isidro (Alto de San Isidro) – Another Great Asturian Climb

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Up until now I have ridden most of the major climbs in Asturias but at the beginning of the year I decided that 2016 was going to be the year to ride those I had yet to climb. However, kids are great plan breakers and having to spend most of the summer taxiing them around, I only managed to climb one (Casielles) and that was only thanks to my friend Mark. With winter fast approaching I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t get to ride any more of them. Now I’m sure my cycling friends will agree, once I set a goal there is usually very little that will stand in my way of achieving it, so the thought of not riding any more of them didn’t sit comfortably. Perhaps that’s why I awoke one morning and thought sod that, I might not get to ride them all but I’m damned if I can’t get at least three done before the really cold weather arrives – after all I’ve spent a fortune on cold weather clothes over the last few years so I might as well get my money’s worth and as long as it never gets as cold and wet as when I climbed the Farrapona (once again, thanks for that Mark) I’ll be fine.

For some reason I have never ridden the climbs up to the ski resorts in Asturias, so for my first new climb I decided to ride the Puerto San Isidro (Alto de San Isidro). It was a beautiful sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky and only a very light head wind. Having had a tough club ride the previous day I was certainly in no hurry and anyway, I wanted to enjoy the climb and not slog my guts out up it. In fact my heart rate never went above 140bpm.

It’s not too hard a climb and for the most part hovers around the 7% mark but there is one section after the tunnels that hovers between 10 & 11% for just over 1km. There was hardly any traffic and the road is quite wide so it’s pretty safe. The road conditions are pretty good as it’s well maintained due to the fact it’s the main road to the ski slopes. There are climbs in Asturias with more spectacular views and landscape but nonetheless it’s still breathtaking.

So it’s one down and at least 2 more to go. I hope to get up to Pajares this week but the weather forecast isn’t great. After that I plan to head west to Cangas de Narcea and climb the Pozo de Las Mujeres Muertas (the grave of the dead women) and if I can get my friend Ian to join me the Connio as well.

Below are a few photos of the ride and a Strava link to the ride. A full description and stats will be added to the climb section soon.

Here is my ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/740345154

 

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