“The most profound experiences aren't going to simply reveal themselves. You've got to go out and find them.” OMTM
Although we might be drawn to the bright side of the moon, what lies in the shadows might be far better than what meets the eye.
The infamous Llacuna climb out of Villalonga outshines many climbs in proximity. Still, that status was boosted since the climb was featured in La Vuelta a España. But, what if I told you there's a climb harder and downright more epic in every sense of the word, a stone's throw away, lurking in the shadows?
As I’ve mentioned, I was and still am highly influenced by OMTM, Chasing Lions, and many local legends back in Portland. I learned to read between the lines, look past the static of paved roads, and focus on what’s hidden in the shadows.
The gates to these dimensions don’t reveal themselves to those drawn to everything that glitters.
Like moths to the flame, they flock to the brightest red line on the heat map.
However, I’m drawn to the vacuum of the unknown.
Roads less charted, following that gut feeling of “there’s some epic shit that way, I know it”
Alright, maybe I went a bit too hard on wizard talk. Still, seriously, the gates to epicness need a certain mindset that would get you off the beaten path and follow that infrasound humming from yonder below the mountains.
One day in Valencia, I followed that rumble and humming from afar, a valley and a few mountains in between. I left the house towards the pass above El Genovés, east of Xativa.
First climb of the day.
Gliding down towards the network of pueblos scattered throughout La Val De Albaida, towards the Mediterranean. Ebb and flow through the day and terrain. The humming from the mountains grew louder as I got closer to the foothills of the coastal range. Past the small village of Palma de Gandia, I peddled south to Villalonga, the gateway to the infamous La Llacuna climb.
As with any epic ride, fuel is key. Luckily, Villalonga has plenty of places to grab Tortilla de patatas, olives, and coffee. As I was sipping coffee, the lights shifted as the clouds moved above, casting contrast over the land.
I left town westward, following the hums and rumbles at the base of the mountain. Then, suddenly, it all went silent, the humming, the birds, the wind, and even the voices in my head.
I locked eyes with the forest and mountain as if they were anticipating my arrival. Dazed by the sheer magnitude of the climb ahead, I tightened the boas, downshifted to 34-30, and started climbing.
Just to throw some numbers at y’all, this climb is categorized as an Hors Catégorie climb, a French term for the most challenging type of climb in cycling terms. With a gain of over 1800ft in about 5 miles, it might not sound like much, but the grades are relentless, with a max grade of 25% towards the summit.
At the base of the climb, I started under a canopy of trees and rode up a road seemingly unfolding as I climbed. The road looked like a mirage from afar, but as I peddled, it appeared more true than ever.
The twists, and cliffside, show all the beauty that can be seen from the mountainside.
The peaks above me are like the elders of the past watching over me as I ascend the steeps. Some mountain roads in Spain are narrow and made out of poured concrete slaps clinging to the mountainside. Thus, the hairpin turns can be very steep, quite the kickers.
Hands on the hoods, out of the saddle, jersey while open.
My pedals preceded my heels as I climbed.
I have difficulty focusing on riding in Spain, with all the picturesque views wherever you look; how could I not?
Mile 30.8, 21% grade, just past a tight turn.
What else might be out there if this hidden climb was this good?
Between miles 30.8 & 33 was the most epic section of the whole climb. At 1800ft, with an average grade of 10% and a max of 30%… need I say more?
The summit felt so far away, but at the same time, deep down, I didn’t want to reach it just yet. The sensation, euphoria, bike-high? I got from all the views, and steep grades were borderline addictive.
There’s something so rewarding about wild climbing ratios.
Past the summit was a slight dip, then a small steep climb before the downhill through one of THE best terrains I’ve ridden in Spain. It’s simply unmatched. The view of Solana De Benicadell in the distance lives rent-free in my head, playing on repeat.
At that moment, I understood why Spain is the cycling heaven it truly is.
I can’t describe how epic that descent into the small village of l’Orxa was. I tried to express that experience in words, but my words won’t do it justice. So, here’s a video that’ll provide a glimpse of that.
Chasing that hum earlier in the day turned out to be a call from the mountains. A call to humble me as a rider, adventurer, and storyteller to continue looking for those hidden gems wherever I went.
That experience was spiritual, not in the sense of a higher deity, but in the sense that I connected with the land on a higher level than I thought I could.
From l’Orxa, I ventured west, meandering alongside the Serpis river towards one of my favorite passes at the village of Beniarrés. The climb up to the summit from the southern side is as unique as the northern one. Both sides boast hairpin turns, sharp grades, and postcard views.
What more could you want?
I left Beniarrés and heeded up the southern side towards the summit. The magnificent Solana De Benicadell towers over everything with every twist and turn. I was somewhat cooked at that point, so my prayers for speed were answered by the time I reached the pass.
The slight humb at the summit gives a good boost to build up speed. You’re quickly riding at ~50mph by the first right hook. A quick brake before the tight zigzag, and you’ll be catapulted out of the turn on the other end.
The northern side of this climb clings to the mountain, snaking down into the Val D’ Albaida. On a clear day, you can see the entirety of the valley and the mountains crowning it from every side.
Once I reached the bottom of the pass in the town of Castelló de Rugat, I decided to take the long way home, riding alongside the Solana De Benicadell. One of my earliest write-ups of Spain was about that stretch of road between Castelló de Rugat & Albaida.
Meandering along The Foothills Of Solana De Benicadell, I pass one pueblo after the other under the Spanish sun. Once I reached Atzeneta d'Albaida, it was homestretch from there. The only thing between me and home was the eternity of Val D’ Albaida and a few hills in between.
The route continues north downhill into the heart of the valley through 6 pueblos west of Embassament De Bellus. Past the dam, the last climb of the day, although it's a small one, it has always been a thorn in my side for some reason. Perhaps every time I climbed it, my legs were already done from the previous climbs.
Just past the quarry and the castle of Xativa is within view, and I’m home.
I wanted to write about this ride for a while, and I’m glad I finally did. This ride offered more than I could ask for, from great food, Hors Catégorie climb, gateways to wizard lands, and more.
If you want to join me on some of these rides in Spain, check out my touring guide business at www.SpokeCollective.cc.
As always, thank you so much for reading.