Create Your Own Classic
Exploring New Roads
We took flight searching for sunshine and amazing climbs, and to answer the burning question... is it possible to get two days of summer cycling in February without breaking the bank, and keeping the flight times less than the drive from London to the Midlands?
It was a cold, damp February morning when we arrived at Gatwick airport, ready for our 7:25am flight to Alicante. We were heading south to find warmth and previously unexplored roads. After a short flight we arrived in Alicante, the bleary eyes were widened as we stepped off the plane into 20 degrees of wall-to-wall sunshine. As we began to strip back the unnecessary layers, we acquired a few strange looks from the locals, who are more used to the blistering heat of a southern European summer.
We collected our rental car (more on this to follow) and hit the road, our destination being a hotel about 30km south-west of Murcia near a humble town called Aledo. This was to be our base for the trip. On arrival, we dropped our bags, built the bikes and swiftly got changed into kit, ready for our first ride.
Unfortunately, our time on day one was limited due to some issues with our rental car, so we made a decision to ride a point to point route, taking the car to ferry us and the bikes back to the hotel afterwards. We headed south towards our destination; Batería de Castillitos, a historic site originally built in the 1930s to protect the bay of Cartagena. The route starts with some slightly undulating country roads that roll through fields of blossoming trees. The scenery feels a little underwhelming, but we knew the best was to come and any monotony was broken by the regular interjection of the small sleepy Spanish villages.
Our first climb came as we turned onto the E22, a winding road that dissects the peak of Cabezo el Cambron and Cabezo de la Panadera, this climb is ideal for opening the legs as it is just 3km in length at a rather gentle 3.7% average gradient. As we crested the summit of the climb we were on the lookout for our first stop of the day, Mirador Cuestas del Cedacero, a lookout point with incredible views towards the Mediterranean Sea and various mountain peaks. After taking a few photos we flew down the remainder of the E22 and took a sharp left to take on the final climb of the day, a truly epic, short and punchy 4km, this is what we had been waiting for.
The road surfaces in this area of Spain are not for those seeking out silky smooth riding. Be prepared for regular gravel and rock appearances, whilst the potholes deserve your respect and attention at every turn. However, this didn’t feel like it was damping our experience, merely adding to it. There was something enchanting about the imperfect surfaces, rural surroundings and run-down buildings.
What feels like an ancient military track carries you away from the farms on the plains and quickly snakes its way around the side of a relatively low mountain. Hairpins, tight turns, steep banks and incredible views greet you, this isn’t the climb you’ll be able to tap out a steady rhythm, this is one that will lull you into a false sense of comfort, and then bite you unexpectedly with a sharp incline and broken surfaces.
As you ride between mountain peaks you’re greeted with a view of mountains bursting out of the sea at an angle that would be more suited to a city skyscraper. The views don’t end there, a short descent, a sweeping turn and you’re greeted with a view of Batería de Castillitos, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll be instantly referencing Kings Landing. As we pulled up to end the ride we realised we’d timed it to perfection, the sun began setting across the ocean in front of us, a fitting end to what felt more like an exploration than a ride.
Rising early, there was a distinct chill in the air, more akin to a morning in the UK. This was contrasted by beaming sunshine, already breaking above the mountains in the distance. Our ride today would take us deep into the Sierra Espuña, what we regularly described as a true cyclist's playground. We left Aledo and were immediately climbing the foothills into the national park, quiet roads and traditional Spanish architecture surrounded us and as the kilometres ticked away, we were joined by more cyclists on the road, an indicator we were heading the right way.
We rode on, taking on glorious hairpin after hairpin, dancing on the pedals, desperately channelling our inner Contador. The climb went on, with regular breaks in the trees allowing us to reward ourselves mentally for the elevation already gained. As we neared the top the gradient fell off, and we arrived at another viewing point that is a key stop for those looking for some Instagrammable moments. After a swift break we continued on, in search of a road we’d previously identified as “hairpin city”, which would be followed by lunch.
The initial descent was sweeping. It was a dream for those who love cornering, hard on the pedals as you reach the apex, bring up speed, hard on the brakes, inward crank brought up, push down on the outer pedal, lean in and search for the apex again. The descent brought us to lunch, a quintessentially Spanish building tucked into the side of the mountain, a table outside, beaming sunshine. It was time to top up the tan.
How We Did It
Once you arrive in Alicantè it’s a 1-hour drive to the hotel in Aledo and almost the entire journey is on a quiet motorway. As long as you avoid the half term period, flights and car hire can be sought without spending a fortune. We calculated our journey was cheaper than many train tickets to Manchester. Accommodation around the Sierra Espuña is also very good value, you can choose between a range of basic 2/3 star accommodations or select something like the Hotel Jardin which still offers great out of season pricing and puts you right at the start of the national park.
If you travel out of season it’s worth bearing in mind that many restaurants will be closed for the majority of your stay. We’d recommend planning your meals and taking a quick trip to a supermarket to ensure you’ve got any essentials you need for your ride. A great alternative to a hotel may be to seek a self-catering villa, which again at this time of year offers great value.
- Booked with: Expedia
- Airline: EasyJet, Gatwick to Alicante
- Car hire: Avis/Budget
- Accommodation: Jardin Hotel
- Average budget per person: £200
Inspired to create your own classic? We'd love to see what you get up to. Post photos and videos of your rides and use the hashtag #ClassicsCreator on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and we will share our favourites.