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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Sportive – Clasica Los Puertos Esmeralda 2016 – A great day out on the bike!

On Sunday 18th September, after a cloudy start, the sun shone yet again for the Clasica Los Puertos Esmeralda, which every year seems blessed with good weather.

A great sportive starting and finishing in Nava, Los Puertos is one of my favourite sportives; and not just because it’s run by my club Nava2000. It’s set in the heart the cider producing region of Asturias and runs down to the coast before heading back to Nava along beautiful country roads.

On paper the route doesn’t look too tough, with most of the initial climbs not averaging much above 4% but there are quite a few of them and because they are not too steep they are often taken at a pretty fast pace. These are then followed by the longer, steeper climb of la Llama, which inevitably begins to split the field up – but as long as it’s not taken at too fast a pace still isn’t that tough. However, after a rapid decent back down to Villaviciosa Los Puertos has a sting in its tail – The Alto de Arboleya . Now the Arboleya isn’t a long climb but after almost 100km, with an average of around 8% and parts exceeding  12%, it really does deplete what little energy you have left . In total you will end up climbing over 1700m with the toughest ramps saved till last.

Over 400 riders took part this year including some of the kids from the Nava2000 kids cycling club (who pulled over once we reached Lieres) and riders came from as far afield as Utah in the US (Ken, who stayed at my Bike Barn).

All in all a great ride and everyone seemed to really enjoy it.


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To register for the 2017 edition of Los Puertos please visit www.nava2000.com. Registration usually opens in June but if you have trouble understanding Spanish just drop me a line and I can get you registered.

For more details and stats about the Event visit: http://bikeasturias.net/sportives/clasica-los-puertos-esmeralda 

Note:

Please remember that for foreign participants you will have to show proof that you are registered to your Countries cycling federation (ie: British Cycling for the UK) and a letter/email from the federation (or other entity) stating that it covers Third Party liability and accident.

The Route of Casielles – Another gruelling ride with Mark

When my friend Mark comes over to Asturias I know I’m in for a tough ride and on his latest visit the ride certainly lived up to expectations (I’m still undecided as to whether good or bad expectations, I’ll let you know once my legs recover). Unfortunately I only had time for one ride with Mark but he kindly made sure that it was the toughest ride of his visit; thanks for that Mark!

I met Mark and his brother Phil mid morning in Sevares, a village between Infiesto and Arriondas. The planned route included 3 main climbs the first of which was the Collada Moandi (one of my favourite climbs). Climbing the Moandi I realised that despite my lack of training the climbing legs were actually OK, and chatting away with Mark we soon reached the top without even realising it. After a couple of photos with the local residents (see below) we headed down to the next climb.

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I’d never ridden the Collada de Llomena and knew little about it. The approach to the climb rises slightly all the way and is really nice, with great scenery and good road surfaces. After about 12km the climb proper begins. It’s a climb of two halves with the first half (3.5km) to Beleno (where it levels off for a bit) averaging around 7% and the second half (4.4km) averaging 9%. All in all a very nice climb which isn’t as tough as it looks on paper.

We then descended and connected with the N-625 (the climb of the Ponton) and rode a few km’s upward to the turn off for Casielles. Now Casielles is an altogether different kettle of fish, where gradients below 10% are few and far between. Averaging 13% with gradients reaching 20%, Casielles is a real challenge.  It’s also quite unique as it has 20 switch backs in just 2.5 km and resembles the famous French climb of Lacets de Montvernier. http://bikeasturias.net/2015/07/23/the-asturian-version-of-the-lacets-de-montvernier

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The road surface at the start of the climb is pretty horrendous but fortunately it soon turns into pretty decent asphalt (which was laid in Aug 2015). The good road surface continuous until you reach the last couple of switch backs where once again it turns pretty awful and just to make it worse is the steepest part of the climb.

It’s a great climb! Short, tough and quite spectacular. The switch backs actually make it easier, as you are always focusing on the upcoming switch back which serves to take your mind off the pain in your legs and your inability to breath. The views from the top are pretty impressive both looking back the way you came and down the other side. I was expecting more of a village up there but in the end there were just a couple of deserted houses and a church.

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Coming down such steep slopes on the bad bits was quite tricky and at times I thought I preferred going up it rather than down, but we were soon down the bottom and speedily headed back to Sevares via Cangas de Onis.

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A great ride! in great company and certainly a route I’d recommend.

Here’s the route and Stats:

Route distance: 95km

Number of climbs: 3 (Moandi, Llomena, Casielles)

Altitude Gain: 1920m

Level: 2 tough, last climb with gradients in excess of 20%

https://www.strava.com/activities/638794851

The Vuelta a España 2016 in Asturias

In 2015 The Vuelta experimented with several new climbs in Asturias, the Ermita de Alba and Sotres. In my opinion it was very successful as both climbs are stunningly beautiful and seriously steep; it certainly made for great viewing.

This year it’s back to the more traditional climbs with the inclusion of Los Lagos de Covadonga, along with the much shorter, but explosive, Alto del Naranco in Oviedo. I was hoping the L’Angliru would be included but, I guess because of the logistical nightmare involved in getting everything to the top of such a steep climb and the cost, it has been left out.

The Vuelta will have a distinctly Northern flavour in 2016, starting in Galicia before coming to Asturias via Leon. The climb of La Camperona in nearby Leon, which made its first appearance in the Vuelta 2 years ago, will make a fitting precursor to the Asturian stages.

Stage 9 will start in Cicternia in Leon near La Camperona and cross into Asturias passing spectacular reservoir at Riaño before heading up The Puerto de Tarna (if they fix the road in time otherwise they will have to re-route). This part of the stage will offer spectacular views as the race makes the transition from the more baron landscape of Leon into the rich, fertile lanscape of Asturias.

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Reservoir at Riaño

It’s pretty much all downhill until the Alto de Santa Emiliano, which isn’t the toughest of climbs so I don’t foresee any splits in the peleton. It’s then on to the Alto de la Manzaneda, a shorter but tougher climb with ramps up to 13% so there is a slight chance of a breakaway attempt here, although because it’s just over 3km’s the peleton might decide to stay together.

From the Manzaneda it’s on to Oviedo and the final climb of the day, the Alto del Naranco. This should make for an explosive finish with the GC contendors doing battle to the top but because this year the Asturian stages are earlier than normal I don’t see it being as significant a stage finish as it was when say Horner attacked Nibali on the steep ramps to the finish.

All in all, I think it’s quite a bland stage and considering everything Asturias has to offer I was quite disappointed when I saw the parcours. The scenery along the route is nice but not spectacular, which is disappointing considering all the stunningly beautiful routes available, the climbs are not particularly challenging and it doesn’t really promote the best of what Asturias has to offer in terms of cycling. Still, you never know I could be wrong.

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Stage 10 is a bit more like it, but is still far from being epic. Starting in Lugones just outside Oviedo, the route heads to Gijon and then works its way along the coast to Colunga. Like stage 9, we could well see a breakaway as it’s pretty flat all the way to Colunga. Here the route heads inland and heads up the Alto del Fito. This is a tough, medium length climb with the last 5km hovering between 8% and 12%. With these percentages we’re sure to see riders drop off the back as the climbers take control, but I would imagine that the front group will still be quite large by the time they reach the top.

It’s then a short run down to Covadonga and the highlight of the stages in Asturias the famous climb of Los Lagos de Covadonga. This is where the fireworks should begin and where the cream will rise to the top. This stunning climb always provides excellent viewing and although it doesn’t have the 20%+ ramps of climbs like the L’Angliru the main GC contenders are sure to pull away as they battle for position.

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With a finish like Los Lagos the stage is always going to be a good one but again, I think the organisers could have made it even better, it shouldn’t disappoint though.

Stage 10

After a rest day, stage 11 starts in Asturias and heads to Cantabria along the coast before finishing atop the Peña Carbarga.

To conclude, I would say the stages in Asturias should be great viewing but in many ways I feel they are disappointing and unimaginative (probably due to cost of fixing roads and logistics) . Last year the organisers did a great job adding new climbs and choosing areas that really showed off the beauty of Asturias and what a great place it is to ride. This year, the routes will do little to put Asturias on cycling map, despite it being one of the best places to ride in Europe. If the organisers in Asturias want the Picos de Europa to be considered in the same light as the Pyrenees, Alps and Dolomites they need to do better and be more imaginative and consistent.