What's Cool In Road Cycling

Top Ride: From The Mountains To The Sea!

When “The Pez” asked me to do my favourite ride, I couldn’t make up my mind, which one would be the most interesting, especially taking into consideration my fitness level for this time of year. Where I live in this part of Spain it’s very hilly and you’re never too far from the coast, so what’s better than combining them both for a great ride?

The 1st Coffee!
My regular Saturday morning ride is up a climb that I have written about before; the Col d’Rates, the Vuelta a Espaсa and the now defunct Vuelta a Valencia have both climbed this local “monument” from all directions and a few local races use it also, some days you can’t move for cyclists in different states of fitness on the climb. To get there means turning left from my road end away from my village of Polop De La Marina and the coffee of Javi’s at my local “Bar Pol-Mar”, but in the next village at the start of the climb in Callosa d’En Sarriб, the coffee isn’t bad at the bar with a window onto the street and is a necessity for the coming efforts!

First coffee of the day in Callosa.

Callosa has a big mix of nations, on the roundabout next to the bar there are always South Americans sitting around, mostly they are Ecuadorian or Colombians and came here to work on the land, but now many are on the building sites, they are good workers, but like a (big) drink at the weekend. The sad thing (due to E.U. regulations) is that unless they have the proper paper work they have to go back to their country and their places are being taken by East Europeans who are not so keen on work and are not as colourful as these mountain people who still wear the same outfits they wore in the Andes (Of course, I’m speaking in generalities here, so please don’t take offense).

The views to the south on the climb up the Col d’Rates.

Col d’Rates
The climb passes through Balulla before the proper start of the climb, I guess you could say the climb starts from sea level at the coast, but when you cross the little bridge as you leave the village you know it’s all uphill from there to just above the village of Tаrbena where there is a little descent before the last part of the climb to 800 metres. One Saturday, nearing the village, a Rabobank rider passed me: I managed to stay on Oscar Freire’s wheel for about 2 metres.

Col d’Rates doesn’t actually mean Col, as in Col du Tourmalet, in Valenciano it means; neck of the rat, don’t ask me why, I’ve never seen any rats, only eagles, snakes, wild goats and boar.

Al climbing the Col d’Rates.

Tаrbena is a beautiful little village with great views and a great place for lunch at one of the restaurants that specialise in local products and country paella, just ask Ed Hood or take a look at his write up on the area.

The view to the north.

Tarbena was raided by pirates and the population were sold into the slave trade, the village was repopulated by people from Mallorca and their descendents still speak Mallorquese, which is a form of Valenciano/Catalan.

A familiar view, but this time with Al’s beautiful TIME.

No time for food or a drink in the Communist bar of “Casa Pinet”, but there is time to rest before the struggle to actual top with its view northwards towards Valencia and the coast; from my wife’s home town of Gandia down to Calpe.

Looking up from whence we just came: the descent.

Jalуn Valley
The descent down into the Xalу/Jalуn Valley is not too tricky, with just a few hairpin bends, the road takes you down from Alpine fir trees through almond and olive groves into the grape growing areas of the Jalуn valley where they make a very “boisterous” wine, which if bought from certain outlets can be in the region of 15є alcohol, the first glass will bring a sour look to your face, but by the second bottle, mmmm. The cafй on the crossroads in Parcent is a great place to stop; they are quite used to cyclists, as there is a photo of the owners with Tony Rominger above the bar.

Wait, who’s that? Let’s take a closer look.

To get to the coast from Jalуn/Xalу you have to ride out of the valley to the fairly big town of Benissa, if you are getting a little tired this not so difficult part starts to hurt the legs. You could stop in Benissa for a coffee or a snack, but it’s all downhill to the coastal town of Moraira.

Tony Rominger of course!

Coffee in Moraira
The road from Benissa twists down to meet the coastal road, turning right would take you to Calpe and home, turning left takes you to Moraira which is an up-market port, posh shops, big yachts and some very nice cafйs.

The vines aren’t much to look at in winter.

On the way to Moraira.

Moraira: a perfect town for a coffee stop.

The Route Home
After a good coffee and cake, the ride back takes a very picturesque route along the coast until you pass through Calpe and join the main road to Altea. Calpe is where all the Pro Teams used to come for winter training, not so many these days, but Quick-Step and Vacansoleil are here at the moment and Katusha are here next week, later in December. Then in January Quick-Step, Katusha come back to be joined by Astana and then RadioShack in February. Calpe is a great base as you do have a choice of easy or hard routes, unlike where I live where it’s all hard!

Beautiful Calpe.

Out of Calpe there is a nasty little drag before the tunnels on the main road south, the road undulates along the coast past the new Russian church with its gold minarets, this section can be hard going but the views are well worth it.

The new Russian church.

This is where you can choose to ride back to Callosa or up through La Nucia or the main road past the tourist town of Benidorm, but all of them you have to climb from sea level to 200 metres, today I took the back road to La Nucia which climbs sharply in to the village and then I only have the 3 kilometres past Polop and home.


The day I took this ride was Friday the 11th of December, the average temperature was 17єC, a little bit colder on the mountain, but sat outside the cafй it was near 25єC. I saw 5 Rabobank, 4 Vacansoleil, 1 Quick-Step and around 30 other different riders from all over Europe. The next day I saw the complete Quick-Step and Vacansoleil teams pass each other in front of my house.

Almost home!

Distance: 84 kilometres.
Ascent 1075 m.
Max 696 m.
Cafй stops: As many as you want!

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