Spain is no stranger to men and women in lycra darting about on two wheels. If anything, the Spanish roads seem to be built for cyclists. Smooth tarmac roads wind into picturesque valleys dotted with quaint villages, and up mountains dominated by balcony roads. The best part? You’ll be cycling in glorious sunshine. Additionally, you’ll be spoilt for choice with a variety of iconic climbs across the country if you choose to go road cycling in Spain. Cycling havens along the eastern coast are especially popular with pro cycling teams. The likes of BMC racing and Quick Step frequently ride in Spain as part of their pre-season training. We’ve brought together all of our favourite routes for road cycling in Spain, so that you can spend less time planning and more time on the bike!
Located 100km North of Barcelona near the Costa Brava coastline, Girona is a little pocket of truly epic cycling. Girona’s gorgeous Old Town is home to gothic cathedrals and a myriad of cobblestone streets. What’s more, every corner you turn leads to a cosy cafe serving up fresh coffee and cake. You’d think Girona was designed for cyclists! In fact, you may not be far wrong. Legend has it that over 100 pro cyclists live in and around the city centre, including David Millar. We’re not surprised considering the Girona Pyrenees are just on Girona’s doorstep, boasting incredible climbing…
Not so long ago, Rocacorba was only really known by radio mast engineers, and a bunch of hand gliders. There was no tarmac road, only a dirt track that led to the summit. Puigsou, the mountain where Rocacorba is situated, is hailed as an iconic cycling route nowadays. The name ‘Rocacorba’ is derived from a 12th century Santuari de Rocacorba located on a nearby hill to the Puigsou summit. Starting at a stone bridge at the bottom of Puigsou, the Rocacorba climb extends 10.1km upwards. As a result of the average gradient hitting 6.5%, many, especially pros, utilise Rocacorba as a tough time trial.
Similarly to Rocacorba, Els Angels was made famous by a pro cyclist. Lance Armstrong is the cyclist in this instance, who loves the climb due to its short intensity. Beautiful forests adorn the road, with views out to the rolling hills of Catalonia. Els Angels ascends for 11km at an average gradient of 3.8%, which isn’t too daunting for the legs. Yet the climb is so peaceful and enjoyable you’d be mad to miss it! Did you know the famous artist, Salvador Dali, married at the summit Santuari dels Angels Chapel?
A little on the lowkey side, Sierra Nevada’s cycling routes are a refreshing challenge. Quiet roads are the selling point here, with a sparkling coastline to your right, and epic climbs on your left. Likewise, Sierra Nevada’s landscape is breathtaking, enough so that after route one you’ll be itching for more! Amongst all the climbs in Europe, those down here in the South of Spain fair well on the weather front. All climbs bar the Pico Veleta, which is the highest paved road in Europe, are ridabale all year round. Basically, you’d be mad not to have road cycling in Spain on your bucket list. Your best choices for a base are either coastal Almunecar or inland Grenada, where there are plenty of accommodation options.
Road of the Goat
Ready to travel back in time? One of the most loved climbs of the Sierra Nevada is the Road of the Goat. Cycling this route takes you on the same road merchants used to haul mules carrying fresh fish to Grenada. Whilst the merchants took a couple days to trek up, a cyclist can now tackle it in under a few hours. Stretching out between craggy cliff faces and the rugged drop off the balcony stone wall below, the Road of the Goat is 37km. In addition, switchback lovers will be at home in the final section, which features some pretty epic tight bends. Even better, you’ll have the thrill of descending these twists and turns all the way back down to Almunecar.
In fact, if you are a switchback lover, let us direct you to Canar, the twistiest in Sierra Nevada. Don’t bother trying to count the bends, we guarantee you’ll lose count! Even though it’s a tad shorter than Road of the Goat at 8.3km, the gradient often kicks up to a whopping 15%. In total, you’ll ascend 1015m from Orgiva, with absolutely gorgeous views back down the valley at the summit. En route there are numerous photo opportunities, what with the bright blue Rules Reservoir peeking between the trees. In particular, when you reach the town of Canar, consider stretching the legs and exploring. The town has a rich history, most notably the arrival of Arabs in the 8th century. Even though the Catholic monarch expelled the Muslim Arabs in 1609, arabic culture is infused into the architecture and agriculture.
Costa Blanca and Calpe
Practically a playground for passionate road cyclists, the Costa Blanca coastline combines both flat and steep. Grab some speed riding along the coast, where hills are unlikely to be higher than 200m. Then, head inland where you can feel the burn in those thighs tackling the big guns. Much like Sierra Nevada, cycling in Costa Blanca offers a dreamy paradise that is quiet and picturesque. However, don’t be surprised if you stumble across a peloton of pro team cyclists, such as Sunweb, Ineos and NTT. Close to Beniorm and Alicante Airport, Calpe is the perfect place to base yourself when cycling Costa Blanca. Here, you’ll be able to stroll to the Arenal-Bol beach post-ride to enjoy some sand and sea.
Coll de Rates
Coll de Rates is a classic climb, even if it is less well known than the Rocacorba or Sa Calobra in Mallorca. It’s certainly not one you’d want to miss when road cycling in Spain. Although not particularly long, or steep, it’s a pleasurable ride with gorgeous scenery. Look one way and you’ve got the light blue Balearic Sea lapping at the land, and look the other to the jagged Bernia y Ferrer range. Because the Coll de Rates is only 6.5km and averages at a steady 5% gradient, combine it with another area of Costa Blanca. For example, Coll de Rates links with the coastal route, further North and West inland too. If it’s just a there and back you’re looking for you’ll be looking at around 60km in total. However, Coll de Rate’s secret is that the summit isn’t actually the summit! Head on for another 300m up the asphalt path at the cafe to the real summit…
A Love Velo special, the Benasau Loop leads you on smooth tarmac roads in a loop to the tiny village of Benasau. The route is chockablock with switchbacks that pass many typical Spanish villages, as well as the beautiful almond trees. The almond trees of Southern Spain are likened to Japan’s cherry trees between late January to mid-February . Pink and white blossoms cling to the branches, adding a bright vibrancy to the earthy landscape. Benasau sits atop the summit of a gradually ascending climb, that winds gently into the mountains for 17.7km at 4.4%. Once at Benasau you can rest the legs whilst admiring the rustic buildings and authentic Spanish atmosphere before heading home via Benidorm.
Let us guess, you can’t decide which area of Spain to cycle in! Give our cycling specialists a call, and they’ll help you decide, and arrange your flexible cycling holiday tailored to your needs. Either embark on a self-guided cycling holiday, with our handcrafted GPX experiences, or join our daily guided rides.