Last summer we went to Spain to discover one of its most beautiful landscapes
It all started with the idea of gathering some friends and go somewhere to enjoy a nice landscape while ridding our bikes and have some rest. Picos de Europa seemed like a reasonable choice since it’s one of the most beautiful protected areas from Europe.
This National Park in the north of Spain is a mountain range extending for about 20 km and occupying several autonomous communities. This area’s also greatly appreciated by cyclists from all over the world for its natural landscape and topography.
On the first day we left Portugal and head north to León. After lunch we continued our journey towards north until get to the overwhelming landscape of Embalse De Riaño, a water reservoir that belongs to the vast Douro River’s basin. From this point we took the N-625 towards Cangas de Onís.
Cangas De Onís is a district in Astúrias with a very rich historical past and unique identity. Despite being in the middle of the mountains its altitude is just 87 m above sea level (the highest point is above 2400 m).
Our holidays began with a “warming-up” 10 km bike ride to Covadonga’s Sanctuary and then a 14 km ascent to its famous lakes. This section has a difference of 962 m which means an average slope of 6.87%. The hardest stretch is between km 7 and 9, in areas known as La Huesera (a line of 800 m with ramps between 12 and 15%) and Mirador de la Reina, with ramps reaching 14 and 15% of slope.
Covadonga’s lakes were promoted for the first time in the history of the Vuelta a España in the 1983 edition. In a stage coming from Aguilar de Campoo and on a rainy and windy day, the winner at the top was Marino Lejarreta, and the eventual winner of the race, Bernard Hinault, came to compare this port with the mythical Alpe d'Huez, which began to make him world famous. “Los Lagos” were end of stage in the Vuelta for 21 occasions.
At the end of the day we needed some rest so we went to the beach of Ribadesella, a small port city at the Atlantic coast. The water temperature, the tapas, the beer, the sunset — everything was just perfect.
JITO DE ESCARANDI
The next day we went for the biggest ride. Picos de Europa is place to one of the best climbs in Spain — Jito de Escarandi. That’s one of many roads that actually run inside the Picos de Europa National Park boundaries, and the views are incredible throughout. Jito de Escarandi is essentially the same climb as Alto de Sotres, which made its debut on the 2015’s Vuelta.
Jito de Escarandi is a very, very tough climb — far more challenging than the statistics suggest at first glance. It has two significantly tough sections: the first 4 km and the 2 km either side of Sotres. Both of these have numerous stretches above 15% gradient, with the latter containing sustained ramps of over 20%. The middle part is easier and it is vital to recover. Although the incredible scenery here may prevent you from catching your breath too easily. We’ve ended the ride at Tresviso, a very small village, alone at the end of the road.
On the last day at Picos de Europa we went to The Cares Trail or Ruta del Cares — one of the most popular trekking paths within Picos de Europa. It runs from the Asturian village of Puente Poncebos to Posada de Valdeón through Caín in Leon along the Cares Canyon.
Those days at Picos de Europa were great to rest our minds and recharge energy. We bring from there great memories of the adventures lived with friends that we will keep with us forever.
©2018. Photos: Daniel Vieira; Text: Andre Cardoso