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.

Clasica Los Lagos de Covadonga 2016

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On Saturday 4th June I rode my 3rd consecutive Clasica Los Lagos de Covadonga and despite it being a great event the bad weather certainly took the shine off it. The sun certainly wasn’t shinning when we set off at 9:00 in Cangas in heavy drizzle. Roberto and I had already begun talking about when we would abandon. However, as we approached the coast it began to dry out and the ride to La Torneria wasn’t too bad. Spots of rain on the way down La Torneria awakened thoughts of abandonment, but once again the weather seemed to improve a little on the way to Covadonga.

Many sensible people on arrival at Covadonga decided to abandon, as many were already shivering with cold due to the lack of rain gear and the views upward were not looking so good. Roberto and I, on the other hand, had come prepared (except for forgetting my gloves) and I had a pretty warm rain jacket so thought what the hell. I said goodbye to my companion Roberto who had accompanied me all the way to Covadonga and as he sped off and up into the distance, unenthused I began my annual plod up the mountain.

It didn’t take long to realise that I had probably made the wrong choice as the drizzle became heavier and the fog thicker. Still, I’m a stubborn so and so and just kept plodding along as slow as I could. 1 hour and 30 minutes later I arrived at the finish line. I didn’t even know I had arrived as I didn’t see the lakes as it was so foggy and it wasn’t until a man suddenly told me to go right that I realised I was on the finishing straight. All in all it was pretty horrible, I was cold wet and tired but at least I had finished (as did Roberto, 20 minutes quicker than me).

The descent in cold, wet and foggy conditions really is horrible and dangerous, so I was dreading getting back on the bike and heading down. Fortunately I now know quite a few people in Asturias and it just so happened that I knew the guy who was in the support vehicle, which was geared to take those people really suffering back down the mountain. Now ok, I wasn’t really suffering but I could hardly say no and some of the others in the van looked no worse off than I did. I will be forever grateful to him for giving me a lift down as it saved me 30 km of suffering.

Compared to some I think I actually didn’t suffer that much. I’m used to climbing Los Lagos and although tough I know I don’t have to worry too much about getting up it, I was also prepared for the conditions. What I did find inspirational was other riders dogged determination to make it to the finish. Despite inadequate clothing and having to stop and walk the bike up the hardest bits (and some even the easier bits), some riders seemed determined to make it to the top no matter what. It is this determination to achieve your goal that will always stand out as the thing that made the Clasica Los Lagos de Covadonga 2016 memorable, it’s what makes cycling such as great sport. The guy that came first isn’t the winner, the winners are those guys and girls pushing their bikes up there 3 hours after he had finished. For them it was indeed una hazaña epica – an epic feat.

In total the route is 108km with approx 2190m of altitude gain including one CAT 2 climb and one HC climb: http://www.cicloturistalagosdecovadonga.com/

 

Needless to say with the bad weather I didn’t take too many photos but here are a couple plus one I got off the web:

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My good friend Roberto

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Marcha Cicloturista Pedro Llorente – A great day on the bike

On Sunday 29th May I had the pleasure of participating in the 2nd edition of the Marcha Cicloturista Pedro Llorente in Balmori near Llanes. Once again it was a great event and despite still suffering from bronchitis, I managed to plod my way round the challenging course and enjoy the spectacular coastal and mountain scenery en route.

It was a privilage to ride alongside Chechu Rubiera and Rocio Gamonal who were guest riders at the event and it was nice riding with the guys from RG Team again. This event has a great atmosphere, it’s friendly, well organised and unlike some sportives, is not at all stressful or nerve-racking. The start/finish line is in the lovely little village of Balmori and so it has a real low key, country feel to it.

Despite a high speed blow out and a 20 minute delay repairing it, I really enjoyed the ride and will certainly return next year. I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of doing a sportive in Asturias.

http://www.memorialpedrollorente.es/

Here is the route and a few pics:

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Sportive – Marcha Cicloturismo International Bilbao Bilbao

For the last 9 years my friends Rufi and Ian have taken part in the Marcha Cicloturismo International Bilbao Bilbao , a 115km sportive in, you guessed it, Bilbao. This year I had the pleasure of joining them and several other friends along with another 7709 participants.

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The event really is a social Sportive as there are no timing chips and therefore nobody treats it like a race. I’ve never seen so many cyclists in all my life but the event was incredibly well organised with various recommended start times (depending on ability), a well organised feed stop and no hold ups whatsoever.

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Although 115km long, the course itself isn’t too challenging as it is designed to be achievable by most levels of cyclist.

All in all it’s a great event and I would certainly recommend it. I’ll certainly be taking the family again next year.

Bilbao route

Our accommodation: https://www.barcelo.com

Event web Page: http://www.bilbaobilbao.com

Strava Activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/516207262

My Year on the Bike 2015

Well another year has rolled by and fortunately I managed to keep the bike rolling for most of it. It’s been another year of firsts and unforgettable rides, both in Asturias and further afield.

As seems to becoming the norm, my first memorable (quite often due to the degree of suffering) ride of the year was with my good friend Mark. Asturias had some of the heaviest snow on the mountains for decades, so I had planned on some nice easy coastal rides with Mark when he came over in early March. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I still haven’t decided) the weather soon warmed and the snow melted along with any thoughts of an easy ride. so when Mark arrived in early March I knew the suffering was about to begin.

Actually, it could have even been my idea but we decided to climb the Ermita de Alba, which was making its debut as a summit finish in the Vuelta a España. Not a lot was known about this climb, indeed, everybody I asked prior to riding it had no idea what it was like. I should have guessed just how tough it would be seeing that it was in the Vuelta and boy was it tough with ramps up to 26%.

You can read an account of the ride here:

http://bikeasturias.net/2015/03/18/the-ermita-de-alba-summit-finish-of-stage-16-of-the-vuelta-a-espana-2015

 

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This ride was soon followed by a club ride to Sotres – the other summit finish of the Vuelta a España 2015 – and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The scenery is truly stunning and although very tough, it didn’t compare to the Ermita de Alba in terms of levels of suffering.

Here is a review of the ride and climb:

http://bikeasturias.net/2015/05/05/the-climbs-of-sotres-and-moandi-a-good-weekend-on-the-bike

 

In May I rode the Sportive Memorial Pedro Llorente with Rocio Gamonal and Club Ciclos Teto (now RG Team) which was quite a tough sportive but good fun. It also provided me with my first and probably last ever opportunity to stand on the podium, as we won the team prize.  You can see a review of the ride here:

http://bikeasturias.net/2015/05/23/the-sportive-memorial-pedro-llorente

June proved to be an incredibly memorable experience as my sister had managed to get hold of tickets to watch Bradley Wiggins’ Hour World Record in London. The only problem was that it was on the Sunday and the Sportive Los Lagos de Covadonga was on the Saturday. Fortunately all the timetables worked out well and I rode Los Lagos on Saturday, caught a plane really early Sunday morning and saw Bradley Wiggins break the World record in the afternoon, before flying back really early Monday morning. It was a once in a lifetime experience and one I will never forget.

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A review of that amazing weekend can be seen here:

http://bikeasturias.net/2015/06/10/a-weekend-to-remember-wiggins-hour-record-and-los-lagos-de-covadonga/

 

Talking of experiences I will never forget, August brought with it another memorable cycling adventure.

My good friend Ian and I headed off to Portugal on our bikes. This was new territory for me as I had never ridden more than two days in a row, of any significant distance, yet we planned to ride 1200k in 9 days on heavy, bag laden mountain bikes. The first day was the toughest for me, a gruelling 145k on a bike I was generally unfamiliar with. Although there were no significant climbs, the ride was just a constant up and downer as we followed the coast to Navia.

Incredibly, I still haven’t had the time to put the video together and write the summary of the trip, but then again, I have got 8 hours of video to edit – I hope to get it finished soon (sorry Ian). All I can say for now is that it was an amazing trip, full of laughs, wrong turns and soar bums. I now realise there is nothing quite like the sense of freedom one experiences whilst doing nothing for days on end except ride your bike.

Until I get round to posting the write-up of the trip, here are a couple pics:

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So after 9 days you might think I would have had enough of the bike – Well No! I was back on the bike the next day and then a couple of days later my friend Mark was over for another visit. Tim, a keen cyclist and brother of a friend of mine had also come over, bike in hand. As it was Mark, I knew our rides would be tough but I couldn’t have imagined the physical suffering that was about to follow. Actually the first ride, up the Puerto de la Cubilla, although consisting of over 1400m of ascent in the first 30k, was well within my capabilities. This was mainly due to my slow pace but to be honest it’s not the steepest of climbs. It is however, one of the most beautiful climbs I have ever ridden and information about the climb can be viewed here:

http://bikeasturias.net/puerto-de-la-cubilla-sa/

Two days later and the 3 of us were back on the bike. Mark had been threatening to drag me up the L’Angliru for about 2 years. I’d ridden half way up several times on my own for training purposes but had never attempted to go any further. I didn’t feel like attempting it that day either, but this time I had Mark biting at my heels. Needless to say it was an epic ride and some two hours thirty minutes after setting off all three of us made it to the top. You can read about my pain and suffering here:

http://bikeasturias.net/2015/09/25/shes-out-of-my-league/

DSC_0273DSC_0269In September I rode halfway up the Ermita de Alba again to watch the Vuelta a España which was soon followed by the Clasica Los Puertos Esmeralda. And that was it, my season of Sportives and epic rides over. But hold on! Mark is back, here we go again! And this time it’s The Gamonitiero, the highest ridable peak in Asturias. 24 kilometers after setting off we were 1600 meters higher than when we’d started but at least it was going to be all downhill from there and I descended happy in knowledge that it was Mark’s final trip of the year – I’m not sure my legs could have taken another visit.

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So all in all a great year! loads of firsts and loads of fun and all spent in great company. I’m now looking forward to seeing what 2016 will bring but for now here are my 2015 stats:

Total Distance: 8566km

Total Time: 399h 12m

Total Elevation Gain: 118101m

6 HC climbs

 

Wishing you all a Great 2016 on the bike,