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Sierra Nevada, the last road bike trip of 2021. October is perfect for southern Spain. Still warm but not hot any more.
After the road bike trip to the French Maritime Alps, I had done some soul-searching. Something was not going right. I came to the conclusion that it was me. In a year and a half of Corona, there were no real challenges or performance comparisons. Therefore, I had made myself comfortable in my comfort zone. I decided I wanted to get out of it. I need to learn again to cycle above my comfort level.
Trip to Alcaucín
My luggage transport from Málaga to the start hotel in Alcaucín had been organized by Quäldich. So I could ride by bike to Alcaucín. I had the whole day for it, because the official start was only with the dinner at 8 p.m.
The farewell from Málaga was again difficult for me. And so I turned a few rounds in Málaga before leaving. Highlight of it was the discovery of the park Monte Victoria. A small road through the forest, close to the center of Málaga.
But at some point I had to get on the road. I cycled first along the coast to Benajarafe. Practically continuously on a bike path. Only at the cement factory I had to cycle a short bit on the highway. Here it was too little space for a bike path.
The bike path was constantly directly along the beach. Mostly in firm sand. From Benajarafe I cycled over a small hill near Cajiz into the valley of Rio Velez and Rio Guaro. The old country road lead me to the short climb up to Alcaucín. Shortly after three o’clock I arrived.
The dinner for the official start became the longest of the whole tour by far. Each course lasted about an hour. After a good three hours, we had made it through.
Day 1: High around the Viñuela Reservoir
The tour around the Sierra Nevada started with a shorter stage to get accustomed. We cycled past the little-filled Viñuela reservoir to the Puerto del Sol. A rather short climb to already 1,085 meters hight. Back we cycled in a figure eight again past the reservoir to Viñuela.
In the evening it rained just when we wanted to go to dinner. Therefore, we drove the short distance by bus without further ado. When it rains in Spain, it rains. We were probably not the only ones with this idea. One car after the other suddenly passed in front of the hotel. Even a police patrol was among them. We had to wait a bit, because the bus had seats only in the front.
Day 2: Little Sierras and Costa Tropical
Already on the second day the group got along super well. We cycled a long climb to the “balcony road” from Canillas de Aceituno to Cómpeta with great views of the sea. Two short climbs followed. The first one from Torrox was quite steep though. We had a flat tire and a fall. The front wheel had simply slipped away in the curve. Bad luck. Good that it remained the only and quite harmless one of the entire tour.
We had the coffee stop of the day at a suddenly busy side road before we continued towards the sea. In Nerja we were already quite close to the sea. But only in La Herradura we really reached it. But we were not at our destination yet. A short hill still stood in our way before we arrived at the destination of the second stage in Almuñecar.
Day 3: Iconic uphill landscapes
In the morning we cycled under the highway out of Almuñecar up towards Sierra Nevada. After a short overpass, the climb on the Carretera de la Cabra to the Cruze de Jayena followed directly. It was a wonderful climb with great views all the way to the sea. The practically car-free road was with more than 20 kilometers, however, also quite long. Shortly after the pass, the bus was waiting with lunch.
After a nice break length we continued our trip. A long and technically easy downhill at a rapid pace followed. In the subsequent flat stretch, we initially continued with well over 40 in the group. After I was briefly in the lead and the group had shrunk to three men, I could not keep up either and fell back. A little further on the group came together again. The following short climbs were quite difficult for me.
The last climb finally led to the hotel in Lanjarón. Everything in the hotel was somehow difficult and I got the impression the understanding was that they imagine themselves quite excellent. For example, they left us, about 20 cyclists, more than half an hour behind the hotel with our bikes. We got rooms out back with a view of the wall with a Hotel surely not fully booked. Here we stayed two nights.
Day 4: Alpujarras
The already fourth stage of the tour in the Sierra Nevada was a round trip from Lanjaron to the Alpujarras and the hamlet of Trevelez. The first mountain of the day offered again great views down to the sea. But also a very long climb with more than 800 meters of altitude. First stop of the day was shortly after the Haza del Lino. The subsequent wonderful descent on the ridge with beautiful curves and long straights was for me the highlight of the day and perhaps the most beautiful descent of the entire tour. Before the lunch break, another long uphill ride followed. My legs were hurting but the prospect of food helped. Then we continued undulating further to Trevelez.
Stop in Trevelez with the usual Cafe con Leche, Coke and Fanta. In addition, however, here we had the famous Jamon Serrano.
The road back to Lanjaron was marked by a lot of traffic and a few jostling cars. All in all, we arrived fortunately quite fast at the top.
Day 5: First Portichuelo, then Ragua
On day five we first cycled from Lanjarón down the mountain to Orgiva. The first short climb followed at the end of the village. Then it continued first wavy and then steeper up to the balcony road through some white villages until Laroles. The longer climb past the quarry we already knew from the previous day.
The real climb of the day we cycled at the end with almost 1000 meters of altitude up to Puerto de la Ragua. First my legs did not want at all. The closer the summit came, the better it went and with increasing euphoria even better and better. I knew the next day was almost like a rest day.
Finally reaching the top, we took a few pass sign photos and soon we tackled the very beautiful descent to Calahorra. We were rewarded with fascinating views into the valley and the wide plain to Calahorra and the Castillo, to many wind turbines in the plain and a huge solar field.
We slept again in a very nice hotel with quite passable dinner. The day ended in the hotel garden. The next day we finally went to Granada.
Day 6: Canyons, caves and Granada
On the active rest day we cycled first quite flat on main roads and side roads to Guadix. We had the chance to visit a cave apartment and we could admire Guadix from the roof in a panoramic view. Then we continued in great scenery to the refreshment point also with a view.
The break was followed by a short descent and a scooter climb to the only pass of the day, Puerto de Los Blancares. I took momentum from the descent and passed the group. Despite what for me was a fabulous 300 watts for an unfathomably long stretch, I had no chance of arriving first. When I thought I was alone, three men passed me out of nowhere. When the fourth one came too, I wanted at least to keep up with him. That didn’t work either. I gave up and let him go. Almost at the same moment the pass sign appeared and I caught up with him after all. It’s unbelievable how much one is controlled by the brain. In any case, we had a lot of fun.
We continued downhill to Granada. Entering the city with a lot of traffic was very unusual after the days of overland cycling. The hotel was perfectly located in the middle of the old town of Granada.
In the evening Quäldich had organized for us a guided tour of the palaces of the Alhambra. I think everyone wants to come back again.
Day 7: Pico del Veleta
On day seven, the Pico del Veleta was on the program. The highlight of the tour. The highest passable road in Europe is in the Sierra Nevada. We cycled up to 3,396 meters.
We quickly left the busy Granada behind us and cycled first back the same way we had come the day before. At the reservoir, we left the main road for the small village of Monachil. At the end of the village, the real climb to Veleta began. It was a tiny road on which there was hardly room for a car. The first part was quite steep and it was clearly in double digits. Then finally we reached the usual percentages.
The climb was endless. Just don’t think about it. A sign appeared: 2,000 meters altitude. Then another one: 2,250 meters. At 2,500 meters, the bus was waiting. There was the refreshment. 3 hours and 10 minutes I was already on the way. The summit was at almost 3,400 meters.
A few drinks, a short refreshment. There were still almost 1,000 meters of altitude missing. I cycled on. It was very fresh up here. There was the famous barrier. Photo. Further on the road were quite some hikers but no cars. Amazingly many people wanted to hike up to Pico de Veleta.
Reaching the top
As announced, the road became steadily worse. Really big holes appeared more and more often. It went up and up. And it dragged on. The gravel sections got worse and longer. At least it was possible to cycle almost to the top. I had expected to have to walk further. Only the really last meters we had to walk and then climb with the bikes over the rocks to the real summit. It was really the highest point. We could not go any higher. A summit photo against the bike etiquette just had to be.
We enjoyed for a while the feeling of accomplishment by having reached the top. We took photos of the spectacular view from the summit. Finally, the descent had to be tackled after all. Climbing over the rocks again and rolling the bike carefully downhill first over the gravel. It took quite a while to get the bike running. Unbelievable how far up we had cycled. I didn’t notice that at all on the way up. The hands became numb again and again. It was cold. Then finally the bus was reached again. Everyone was in a great mood and euphoric.
Strengthening and then tackling the second and longer part of the long descent. For a while it was still quite cold and fresh until finally the heat was felt. The descent took no end. We had driven away from the others in pairs. We saw no one any more. So we cycled on to the hotel. This also gave us a little more time to rest before dinner. And I needed time to rest. Therefore, with a heavy heart, I renounced another visit to the Alhambra.
Day 8: Quick ride to La Viñuela
The short waves were difficult for me already the last few days. After the Veleta it was even worse and every time one appeared I had trouble staying with the group. I always needed a while at each climb until the legs were running again.
After a flat bit the short climb to Suspiro del Moro was reached where according to the legend, Boabdil gave a last, sighing look to the lost Alhambra. After the following descent by far the most desolate and worst road of the whole tour came up. Only straight ahead. Endlessly long, a wide road. Desert. Simply awful. I can’t stand that at all. Nevertheless, I was up to under 100 meters to the guys in front before my motivation was finally gone and thus also my strength. Then it continued again endlessly on the same type of wide road up the hill.
After the refreshment we cycled to the last pass sign of the day. I could ride the slope again much better and I even had real pressure on the pedal. The motivation was back.
The last descent of the day was reached. Michi cycled in front. He did it the whole descent and almost the entire plateau. And with headwind. Almost until the next village. Unbelievable. I had trouble to stay in the slipstream. If I had to lead, I would not have been able to follow afterwards.
After passing Ventas de Zafarraya, we continued downhill with great panoramic views towards the province of Malaga. Sierra Nevada was behind us. We continued to the very beautiful but also unfortunately last hotel of the tour in La Viñuela.
Day 9: Into the Montes de Málaga
To my surprise, almost everyone wanted to take the longer route on the last day. That was different on my previous trips. After leaving the hotel, we first cycled even further downhill to almost sea level. We went on the old road parallel to the new main road. Then the climb to Comares began. It started with a very steep part. It took a long time until the slope settled in the usual range. But after more than a week of cycling, the climb dragged even with easier percentages. The legs hurt again and again but overall I was quite satisfied with the last day. A collapse remained absent.
For the umpteenth time Cafe con Leche, Cola and Fanta in Comares. But with a very nice landlady. She led us together with our bikes on her sun terrace. We built a big table and enjoyed together with group 1 the great weather and the view. We would be back in the German autumn all too soon.
Then we cycled on to the Puerto del Leon. First undulating at altitude and with wonderful views. Then we cycled downhill to Colmenar. In the waves uphill I had again difficulty to stay on. Good that I could close the gaps in the descents. In Colmenar we made the last stop of the tour. Almost everyone ate something. I had chosen a plate Fritura Malagueña. It was a bit heavy in my stomach and gave me the needed energy too slowly. So my legs remained heavy.
The last descent to the hotel we cycled again in threes. After the short climb up to the hotel, the last tour of the trip in the Sierra Nevada was finally over.
It was a great tour!
My group two, the “persistent group” was just great. The whole tour group was great. Hotels were great. The organization was perfect. It’s impressive on every road bike trip how a group of like-minded people can grow together in just one week.
Getting out of the comfort zone was the right decision. It worked. And even longer than expected. And further than expected. I cycled wattages like never before. Too bad that the season is practically over. But the next one can come. I have enough motivation for it!