Ten Hard Riding Days in Andalusia, Southern Spain - Part One

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

Hola! I am not quite joking with the title! For me, there were ten days of brilliant riding in Andalusia (as usual), but there was a lot of extras; beer, catching up, real flamenco in Granada, a walking tour of the Al Hambra, and a load of tapas! After a week in the UK seeing family and friends, Andreya and I met Nick Rea at Gatwick airport for the three hour flight to Granada, and we were met by Julio of where he and his wife run a very special triathlon/biking operation in the mountains north of Granada. The breakfast and dinner package we chose was exceptional value and also included three dinners in restaurants in the local town of Alcala La Real. When I say there is little traffic here, I mean on some routes we saw maybe ten cars an hour! An example of how cyclists are respected in this area is that of the 20 year old in a beat up. noisy BMW who patiently waited until it was safe to pass without spraying us with smoke (something that happens too often here in Arizona); in fact, there is a three meter rule for overtaking cyclists compared to half of that distance here. So, it is safe, scenic and did I tell you? It is hard or as hard as you want to make it!

We were joined by Uwe from Germany the following day, and I decided we'd do an up and downey 90km loop which covered nearly 2,000m of climbing!. So, Day One was a shake down of our bikes and legs. I kept a good pair of eyes on the group and ensured we all kept hydrated and fed. Highlight of the ride was when Nick realised that Spanish petrol stations usually have a bar attached! The evening food was very welcome and sleep was easy even at 1,000m altitude. Monday or Day Two, was a bit...just a bit..longer and harder. The route we rode went through the UNESCO town of Montefrio and down into the Granada vega (fertile valley) before climbing out and passing through picturesque Moclin on the way back to Los Olivos. Another 2,000m of climbing was knocked up and no knackered or missing in action so far! This cycle leading job isn't as arduous as some people have described...wait til tomorrow!

Day Three, a very early 'stuff down the food and coffee' breakfast, and a short drive to Pinos Genil, just up the road south of Granada, and we were ready to take on Europe's highest bike-climbable peak - La Veletta.

Yes! That pyramid peak thing poking up on the ridge of the real Sierra Nevada (not the re-named ones in the USA). I mean, it's only 5cm high from this point down in the valley! There's Nick who is ticking off Europe's highest bike climbs in some strange book he hasn't shown us, and we still only half believe this tome of pain really does exist. There's Deutsche Uwe whose quiet nature betrays a strong motivation to get to the top of this mountain. And there's Andreya who has climbed up this hill many times and knows better than to go past the normal finish for most cyclists who have half a brain - namely the top car park where you can get refreshments, an amazingly decent view, and a suppressed laugh at those of us who ride or attempt to ride to the very top, La Veletta! Julio and Janice did a great job of support in their car and popped up time and time again on our ascents. At the aforementioned car park, we say "Good Bye" and start the hard part into the rapidly thinning air, and the twisty, slowly breaking apart road. A bit of bike shepherding was needed to check up on Nick and Uwe, but although tired and breathing a lot more than normal, they were game for the top. I'd warned them that mountain bike skills are needed where the road finally gives up pretending to be smooth, black topped and anything other than a slight track in the rubble. This is because the winters here are severe and even though we can now see the Mediterranean, the temps and the snow are arctic-like in the winter months. I'd been up here twice before, and I knew it was rideable. Even with this experience and knowledge, it is still tricky to stay on a road bike with fully inflated 25c tyres on what really needs a tractor tyre! The top 200m is really a cyclocross style lug of the bike over big rocks in...yes... cycle shoes... the hikers thought us the comedy act as we stumbled in a half drunk manner up the the trig point and the inevitable photos. What a view! Cliche,,. yet true. All the way north over Granada up to Wednesday's target, La Panadera, and all the way over the sea to north Africa, sadly lost in the haze today. Food, drink and beetle-like scuttle with the bikes and silly shoes saw us begin the 45km flowing descent

down to Julio, Janice and Andreya who had eaten lunch and closed the kitchen! Naturally, we had celebratory beer instead! Who cares! We had scaled the 3,450m of La Veletta! Now, it was time for a quick clean up, a proper flamenco with dinner, and a walk around the Al Hambra in Granada.

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