I arrived in Andalucia on the back of two promises – good weather and quiet roads – and day two delivered on both counts. Oh, and lots of climbing, too.
We rolled out of Bedar for a 60-mile loop which our guide, James, described as his favourite in the area, thanks largely to a 15km descent midway through the ride. But first we had to get there – climbing was to become a feature of the day and we were riding uphill from the gun.
Andalucia is classed as a semi-desert and sees very little rain throughout the year. While day one started with a nip in the air – enough to don arm warmers and a gilet on the descent out of town – it was 20 degrees by the time we started our second ride of the training camp, and the immediate ascent ensured it took little time to warm up.
Rides here are measured in hours, not miles, owing to the mountainous terrain, and, by and large, this loop saw us either climbing or descending throughout, with our progress on the only flat section of the ride stalled by a nagging headwind.
After a succession of smaller climbs we arrived at the foot of the main ascent of the day, the Puerto de La Virgen, filled our water bottles from the following vehicle, and set off for the summit. The climb was used as a summit finish for the Ruta del Sol last month, with the stage and overall race won by Alejandro Valverde, and wraps its way around the mountainside, offering far-reaching views back over the arid plains. It also proved to be the perfect training climb, with a steady average gradient of five per cent enough to test the legs and open the lungs while maintaining a real sense of speed.
The reward for that effort is a glorious descent on a wide, snaking road with an immaculate surface and no traffic. We weren’t passed by a car on the entire descent in either direction, and a series of sweeping S-bends allow you to see down the road and, as a result, pick the racing line.
In fact, having grabbed a coffee and sandwich at the foot of the descent in Albanchez, where each of our group arrived with a broad grin from ear-to-ear, we weren’t overtaken by a car for nearly 30 miles. The climbing continued after lunch, and was by now beginning to take its toll on the group but, with blue skies above and temperatures in the mid-20s, cycling doesn’t get much better than this, and after each climb came a descent on roads seemingly engineered for cyclists, save for one climb and descent on a rough stretch of tarmac which would be considered normal in the UK.
The final two-mile climb on the mountain above our village served as a sting in the tail thanks to an average gradient of eight per cent but, more significantly, a block headwind. However, we arrived back in town for the now customary ‘recovery’ drink – beer or Coca Cola, take your pick – having packed in anywhere between 8,000 and 11,000 feet of climbing, depending on whether you believe Garmin or Strava. Either way, those recovery drinks were well earned after a glorious day in the saddle.
Website:Wheels in Wheels