Pre-season pedals, delights for the senses

The group twists on a narrow road of unexpected ramps. One of those roads that do not appear on road maps and yet offers spectacular views of the surroundings. A mountainous context whose contemplation does not leave indifferent, which varies in each slight curve, with each change of level. A different postcard on each pedal. Diego Pablo Sevilla smiles with picaresque. The cyclist from Madrid acts as a sherpa in this training session. “But where did you put us,” says a colleague as he squirms over his Trek, negotiating a ramp that comfortably surpasses 12%. The ascent to this Coll de La Garga has a point of adventure. It is not a habitual destiny for the high competition and perhaps it is unkind for the same one given its narrowness. But it has a double aspect, an incentive that is not negligible to make long outings, and in an unbeatable scenario for cycling tourism or a good pre-season training. Such is the case.

These mountains Alicante stone’s throw away from the Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Resort, province of Valencia there on the border with Alicante, are the best of scenarios to polish the physical condition and lay the foundations for a season. And for any bicycle enthusiast, a first-class stage. They are not high mountains, not even the highest in the environment. But their panoramic views, whether on the north slope or on the south side, are spectacular. At the top, where he takes a drink of water, eats something and wraps up for the descent, Luxembourger Michel Ries reinforces that impression. “It’s amazing,” he admits; “it’s a beautiful landscape”. Few sports, their practice, offer the possibilities of cycling, that touring and discovering in constant contact with the natural environment.

La Garga is long, more than ten kilometres since the group left the CV-715 road, riding between Sagra and Orba, to take the CV-721 on the right. It is not a climb with a lot of name, it is mediatic, a member of the ‘star system’ of the great cycling mountains. The access is neither intimidating nor spectacular; it is modest, ordinary, it goes unnoticed. Four kilometres away from Vall de Laguar, a sign reads. The climb begins smoothly, between farms where orange and olive trees, as well as vines, are the main protagonists. On the horizon, small mountain ranges with suggestive silhouettes. And on its slopes, a dispersion of small constructive concentrations that allow a composition of place on what is to come. The road increases its slopes and weaves several horseshoes in a wooded environment of conifers. The asphalt is impeccable. And the group of corridors is stretched. Natural selection.

The corpulent Antonio Puppio, one of the new faces, with fewer kilometres on his legs, seeks his rhythm without letting go. Juan Pedro López, Isaac Cantón or Michel Ries stand out. The mid-December shape is neither uniform nor really relevant. They are days of work and load. La Vall de Laguar await cyclists. The pines once again pass the baton to the olive trees in the surroundings of Campell, a small town with a curious crossing. This area has a dense network of small asphalted and cemented roads. Multiple alternatives. The boys of the Kometa Cycling Team head for Benimaurell, a town waiting on the horizon. To the right some curve of valley gives unforgettable views on all the nearby plains of the Mediterranean Sea. Beach and mountain.

The arrival in the vicinity of Benimaurell changes everything. The village phagocytes the width of the platform and engulfs in its streets a road of good asphalt and acceptable width. The steep Colón Street and the Carrer del Pou, its continuation after a left turn, do the rest. The group squirms. There are still three kilometres left to reach the summit, at Venta del Collao, three kilometres between farms that grow on the terraces that try to tame the slopes of a wild landscape. Many almond trees among many percentages. How far away are the orange groves that have accompanied many pedals before and will do so again later. An environment of great beauty… And with double slope! A place perhaps impossible for professional cycling in competition for the narrowness of the route or the firm in some points. It is hard to imagine a descent along this twisty route that in a few kilometres, in an environment of dense coniferous forests, connects the summit at 766 metres with the bed of a valley, with a complex access to the CV-720, carved by the Gorgos river. As before it touched the small level of the CV-728, between the urbanizations Arboleda and L´Almunia, that Port Sorell that also knows the Gran Fondo Alberto Contador, it is now time to pedal towards the Coll de Rates, habitual scene of the first pedaladas of preseason of the many professional teams, WorldTour, contipro or continental, that approach by these dates to these payments of the Valencian Community.

Traffic is non-existent. And the weather, although the day is covered, still gives a very pleasant temperature. It is not unusual for blocks of different formations, organised groups of practitioners or solitary cyclists to cross each other. Some come, others go. Greetings between cyclists and cars.  And another day of training for a paradise, in every sense. It is time to return to the majestic base camp of Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Resort. Turn for the massages, for new talks with the staff, for new encounters about material, for a walk on the beach. And tomorrow, new roads with which to enjoy some sublime environments.

(automatic translation, sorry for mistakes)