Clasica Los Lagos de Covadonga 2014

110 kms. well over 2000 meters of climbing and finishing atop the HC climb of Los Lagos de Covadonga. Not the ideal ride for someone who has just been told to rest up and spend 3 weeks off the bike by their physio but sometimes there are things you just have to do, no matter what.

 

The Sportive La Clasica Cicloturista Los Lagos de Covadonga is one of the largest and best known sportives in Spain. With over 4000 participants it’s a pretty big affair and the little town of Cangas de Onis becomes somewhat overrun with cyclists for 24 hours.

Lagos intro

The week before the sportive I had ridden a similar route and had suffered all the way, before even reaching the base of Los Lagos. Suffering from a total lack of form and worn out muscles meant  I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence. However, the one thing the previous week’s ride had taught me, was that I can get up almost anything no matter how lousy I am feeling.

To my surprise the first turn of the pedals indicated the legs were not too bad, and as I rode into Cangas de Onis that feeling was confirmed. I’m not talking great, but at least they felt OK and not as stiff as boards.

The atmosphere was great as I approached the start. 4000 riders crammed into a small town road, nervously counting down the minutes. Somehow I managed to find the other members of my club Nava 2000, so it was nice to be starting with them, even though I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them for long.

As we set off Mario warned me to be careful as the first 40k are quite crazy and there are likely to be several crashes. I learnt that he was bought down last year and was pretty badly injured. Lots of people, like myself, only aim to get round, while others take it seriously and act as if it is a race. This means it’s all a bit gung-ho at the start. I did end up witnessing several crashes, one of which was nasty, but I managed to avoid any trouble.

Lagos2

The pace was pretty swift once out of Cangas but with so many riders it was easy to find groups that suited your speed. After being passed by most of the Nava2000 guys, I caught up with my friend Omar from another club. He was riding with some other club members who were at about the same level as myself so they planned on taking it quite easy, which was perfect for me.

Unfortunately there was a crash behind me and I think Omar stopped to see if his club mates were OK. I later found out that Omar had got caught up in another crash later and had to abandon. I’m pleased to say he’s back on the bike and no serious damage done.

I rode the rest of the way group hoping and taking it steady up the climbs. I was feeling pretty good but decided not to push at all, but to just enjoy the ride. I bumped into several friends on the way but most were just passing. The weather was great and although sunny it wasn’t too hot but the sun did mean people needed to stop at the feed stations and fill up the bottles. On the climb of Alto Robellada we actually ground to a halt in a bike traffic jam as everyone was feeding ready for Los Lagos.

On the way to Los Lagos I stopped for a call of nature and when I set off again I found myself completely alone. To my amazement I rode for almost 10k alone. It must have been the only gap between the 4000 riders and trust me to be the one to find it. It was very peaceful though and by the time I approached Covadonga other riders had appeared. As I passed the final feed station lots of other riders pulled out, so there were plenty of wheels to grab on to.

It was a great atmosphere at Covadonga, with plenty of people cheering encouragement at the side of the road. As I started to climb, I thought back to the previous week and realised I felt much better than I had then, so if I made it up last week I would have no problems today. Los Lagos is never an easy mountain to climb but at the reasonably gentle pace I decided to go up, I didn’t suffer at all. Unfortunately I can’t say that about some other riders. With the sun beating down, the mountain took advantage, downing its prey on the hardest parts of the climb. Many were reduced to walking and quite a few had to just stop and rest. Credit to all of them because the participants came in all shapes and sizes and people did great to get up, no matter how long it took. The slowest time up Los Lagos was 2 hours and 30 minutes, kudos to the person that stuck it out that long.

Huesera

As for myself I did it in a particularly unimpressive 1 hour 25 minutes but I was happy to have completed the ride. My Garmin clocked a time of 5 hours and 7 minutes for the whole ride and my official time with stops was 5 hours 16 minutes, which I was happy with. The first Nava2000 guys Mario and Moro had completed the course in 4 hours, which was damned impressive.

As if going up Los Lagos isn’t hard enough, you are faced with all the other riders who have finished coming down the other way. That and the odd roaming cow can make the ascent a little trickier than normal. One good thing about it though is that you get to see all your friends as they come down (highlighted on the video) and it’s quite a boost to hear them shouting words of encouragement. In general the support of the crowds on the roadside was fantastic and helped spur many a suffering rider on.

Route details: http://www.strava.com/activities/153455647

All in all a fantastic day, a fantastic event and a fantastic experience. If you love cycling, it’s a must do sportive and you can find out more about it at www.ccnavastur.es

The climb of the Lagos de Covadonga will be the summit finish of Stage 15 of this years Vuelta a Espana.

Route of the Alto del Torno and Los Lagos de Covadonga (108 kms)

Despite my friend Mark having a bad back and me still having leg problems, at 10:00am on 6th June we met up in Cangas de Onis to ride the Alto de Torno and Los Lagos de Covadonga. Also joining us was Geoff from San Francisco (who I met via my blog) who was visiting Asturias with his wife, so it was great he could ride with us.

I’d planned the route taking two main things into consideration; firstly the location was good for Geoff who was staying near-by and at the same time it wasn’t too far for Mark to get to. Secondly, it was good preparation for the Sportive Los Lagos de Covadonga that I would be riding the following weekend.

With a few well-chosen alterations by Mark – incorporating the final 50 kms of stage 15 of the 2014 Vuelta a España into the route  – we planned to climb the Alto del Torno and of course Los Lagos de Covadonga. A 108km route with 2500 metres of climbing.

Now I haven’t been riding well lately but on that particular Friday I knew I was in trouble from the very first turn of the pedal. I just had nothing in the legs and even the slightest rise in the road would see me struggling. Probably not the best sensation to have when you’re about to climb an HC mountain at the end of a ride. Still, I’m a believer in starting what you finish so I would try my best to get round.

My main concern wasn’t for me but rather that I would hold the other two up, which I certainly did. Geoff turned out to be a good cyclist and it was great to see Mark riding so well after his back problems, but it did mean they would set an impossible pace given my lack of form. Although I just said my main concern was about holding the guys up, which is true, I must admit by the time I started climbing Los Lagos, my concerns had become somewhat more selfish.

It proved to be a great route, with a great combination of very challenging climbs, really fun descents, great coastal flat sections and some stunning scenery. The weather was perfect. It was hot but bearable and for the most part sunny. Although there was a one minute rain shower atop Los Lagos which only proved to be somewhat of a relief from the sun.

tornogeoffLagos 5

The weather up Del Torno was perfect and the scenery spectacular. It’s a nice climb with a nice flat section in the middle before getting pretty tough to the top. The descent is also quite tough as there are three small climbs on the way down which will sap any energy you may have left after climbing el Torno.

Torno summit

After these three small climbs it’s all easy riding to Covadonga and the start of Los Lagos climb. After filling up the water bottles at a road side spring, I said my goodbye’s at the bottom, knowing that I would be dropped within a few pedal strokes. My legs felt terrible when I started the ride but now after 75kms of riding, they felt totally wasted. As I started the climb I began thinking of the best point to stop and turn round and wondered if Mark would check his phone if I sent him a message. I also wondered how often the buses went to the top as I could go back down and catch one of them. With all this thinking, I kind of forgot my legs and suddenly realised I had passed the Huesera, which is the toughest part of the climb (1km long and 15% all the way). It kind of seemed pointless turning round now so I just kept turning the pedals as slowly as I could. Over 1 hour and 30 minutes from the start, I reached the second lake of Los Lagos.

Mark had taken it easy due to his bad back and did great to get up there. Geoff did great, he had found the climb really tough and had suffered at several points on the way up but dug in and still made it ahead of me. It was a great feeling having made it to the top and seeing the other guys, and after a well deserved drink it was nice to head down hill for the ride back to the van.

Lagos 4

All in all a great route, a great ride and great company. I would certainly recommend it to anyone but it is a toughy. I have also  learnt a couple of things from the ride; men with bad backs can still ride damn fast; no matter how bad my legs feel, it seems I can still get up most things and finally I’ve learnt how Nibali felt always seeing the back of an American, because Geoff was quick.

Route Map and Stats: http://www.strava.com/activities/150194367

Los Lagos Stats: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/lagos-de-covadonga

Alto del Torno Stats: http://bikeasturias.wordpress.com/climbs/alto-del-torno-from-nueva

P.S. I completed the Sportive the Clasica Los Lagos the following week. I didn’t exactly fly round but I felt much better than I did on this ride…… Post and Video of the sportive to follow shortly.