Cullera, A Giant Rock By The Sea
I first saw this climb on Siempre Ciclismo's IG story, and I just had to check it out myself!
It turned out that it was a stone's throw away from Xativa, just over the coastal range separating the valley from the Playa de San Antonio where the giant rock is.
I took this as a chance to reach the beach by going around the coastal range instead of up, over, like I usually do on my way to Gandia.
The route heads northeast, passing through a handful of small pueblos towards Valencia. Each small town has its own vibe, style, and, most importantly, bakery. Riding through small towns in Spain is an experience in itself, and I encourage you to do so if you can!
As you near the Northeastern tip of the coastal range, you get a glimpse of the Mediterranean and the rice fields.
Quite honestly, I am not a fan of flat roads whatsoever. However, sometimes it's a must, especially if it passes by a region with historical significance, such as the Albufera, the cradle of paella rice. On this ride, I decided to hug the foothills as much as I could on the way out and cut to Cullera through the rice fields on the coast. If you have eaten Paella or bought Spanish-produced rice, it most likely came from those coastal farmlands and the Albufera region. It is said that Valencians eat rice 6 days a week, and on Sundays, they eat Paella.
It's not every day that you ride across one of Europe's most important wetlands. As a matter of fact, people have been cultivating rice in these wetlands for over 1000 years.
The town of Cullera is not that hard to navigate, just follow the roads that go uphill, and you'll eventually get to the summit.
The highlight of this ride is when you take that right turn onto Pujada Santuari, up the steep and curvy roads. The sudden shift in grades from flat to a complete wall is something that I love and chase on my rides. Whether in Spain or Portland, zipping up and down the west hills. The picture above speaks about the experience of riding up the Cullera. The stepped wall to the right, masonry on the left, and the false summit behind the tall tree in the center.
The grades up the Cullera are steep enough to challenge you on this very short climb. But, to me, the real challenge is keeping your eyes on the road! As you climb, you'll be greeted with views that can only be seen from Cullera, as it's the only permanent hill on the coastline south of Valencia and north of Gandia.
Climbing up the Cullera felt genuinely unique. The blue Mediterranean waters to the east and the towering coastal range to the west. I recall running into another cyclist who saw me with my jaw down on the ground, taking in the fantastic views in front of me. "beautiful, huh?!" he said as he grinds up the hill.
Beautiful? I think calling this beautiful just doesn't cut it. To me, this is mesmerizing. I took a few minutes at every viewpoint to process what I was looking at. It is more than just nature. This place is an open-air museum, where modernity meets thousands and thousands of years of existence and human history.
The views keep getting better as you climb, and the grades get steeper too! Especially as you approach the final leg up to the weather radar, the true summit. On the summit, you get a 360° view of the soundings. On a clear day, you can see all the way south to Denia and North to Naquera. If you look closely at the picture above, you'll see a giant hill that looks like it is in the middle of the Mediterranean; that's Denia.
This route checks a lot of boxes and offers something other than flat roads on the beach.
The ride back to Xativa was not lacking either. After descending the Cullera, I headed south towards the Alt de less Creus alongside the sea and through the wetlands. This stretch is a good warm-up to the second and last climb on the route. Port De Simat-Barxeta is a personal favorite. Both sides offer beautiful views and fast descents.
The variation in the terrain within those 60 miles is just outstanding. There is so much more to see in this part of Spain, right from my doorstep. I hope to ride more around this land that means so much to my family and share more stories with you in the near future.
A question for you, flat or steep roads?