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Roads to Ride - Vuelta 2018 edition

From the slopes of the Sierra in the scorching south to the rolling Basque uplands in the verdant north, and from the craggy peaks of the Picos to the royal summits of the Pyrenees; each year the Vuelta a Espana offers a multitude of beautiful, legendary and challenging roads to ride. We selected a few to look out for this Vuelta.

La Alfaguara / Andalucia / Stage 4

Length 12.4 km
Elevation gain 650m
Avg gradient 5.6%

A pleasant climb near the historic town of Granada, La Alfaguara is part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It features for the first time in this years’ Vuelta, but the region is well known as training ground for many cycling professionals. It might be hard finding a rhythm on this particular ascent, but the gentle gradients, quiet roads and remote natural beauty of the Sierra de Huétor National Park more than make up for that. Adventure-minded cyclists can explore the hillside to find the ruins of an old sanatorium and several natural cave systems.

La Covatilla / Castilla-y-Léon / Stage 9

Length 19.7 km
Elevation gain 1100m
Avg gradient 5.6%

La Covatilla is one of the hardest climbs in this area of central Spain. It has some proper grand-tour pedigree, being used four times in the Vuelta before, with stage winners including Danilo di Luca and dauntless Dan Martin. The landscape is typical for the region, mostly barren scrubland, with rolling hills fading away into the distance. There is a charm in this dry landscape, even more so when the distant summits you see all around you are capped with snow. Try to pace yourself on the first half of the climb, as the gradient on the second part runs into the double digits, and this is not a place you want to run into the man with the hammer (though none are really).

La Camperona / Castilla-y-Léon / Stage 13

Length 8.5km
Elevation gain 650m
Avg gradient 7.4%

Part of the Asturias-Castilla triptych, La Camperona brings a promise of fireworks during the Vuelta 2018. The road is narrow and gravelly at places, while on the upper slopes the gradient reaches a brutal maximum of 25%. After that the gradient does ease up slightly, but still remains deep in the double digits while snaking up towards the radio tower. Contrary to Asturias, the roads in Castilla are much more open to the blazing heat of the Spanish sun, so make sure you can deal with the heat when cycling here in the summer months.

Lagos de Covadonga/ Asturias / Stage 15

Length 14 km
Elevation gain 960m
Avg gradient 6.9%

Set in the Picos de Europa National Park, one of the most stunning natural sites in Europe, the Covadonga truly is a climb for the aficionados; one of the most visually stunning climbs that you could ever ride. It is notoriously hard to find a rythm here, the gradients differ per kilometr, with multiple very steep sections in excess of 10%. The road can be busy with tourists, altough it is closed to cars in August. The spectecular surroundings make this one of the best climbs in Spain. And when you near the summit, and can catch your breath a little, a smattering of lakes at the top – which give the climb their name – is the icing on the cake that is the Covadonga.

Monte Oiz / Basque Country / Stage 17

Length 8.8 km
Elevation gain 830m
Avg gradient 9.4%

Monte Oiz is one of the most important and celebrated mountains in Basque culture. It is one of the five so-called Deiadar-Mendiak – visible summits from which messages were sent across the countryside (by fire- or horn signals), summoning members of the local government to meetings. More recently, in 1985, Monte Oiz was the tragic scene of a plane crash, after a flight from Madrid to Bilbao hit the radar tower at the summit in dense fog. The views over the rolling hills and crags of Euskadi are amazing, especially towards the end when the road winds precariously over the ridgeline among the giant wind turbines. To get there though, you will have to climb arduously and struggle with the double digit gradients, but the rewards are reaped at the summit.

Coll de la Rabassa / Andorra / Stage 19

Length 17.8 km
Elevation gain 1112m
Avg gradient 6.2%

The Rabassa winds upward from the holiday resort of Sant Julia de Loria towards the ski lifts on the top. The steepest sections are in the first two kilometres, after which the gradient slackens to a nice consistency, so those who feel so inclined can sit up and enjoy the views while rolling through the impressice array of swtichbacks. The side via Juberri has been climbed in the Vuelta twice before, but only one of those was a summit finish, and Alessandro Ballan took the win.