The Vuelta a Espana: Difficult Climbs - Lagos de Covadonga

Region: Asturias, Spain

Departure: Soto de Cangas
Length: 16 kms
Altitude: 1134 metres
Height Gain: 1056 metres
Average Gradient: 7.4%
Maximum gradient: 15.0%
Category: Hors Categorie

The Picos de Europa National Park, is one of the most photographed places in Spain. Hardly surprising, it’s a Mecca for cyclists who over the summer months especially, come in droves to travel along its beautiful triangle of roads boasting 7 and 8% gradients.

The pick of the crop is of course, the Lagos de Covadonga, which is one of the most often used climbs in the Vuelta a España. Not introduced to the Spanish Tour until 1983, it has appeared  20 times since, the most recent being in 2016, when Colombian cyclist, Nairo Quintana became the first to reach its mythical summit.
Sixteen kilometres in length, with an average gradient of 7.4%, the climb offers an easy beginning. Running streams and lush forest disguise the difficulty that waits just a handful of kilometres up the road.  Even the switchbacks and the steadily increasing gradient that accompanying them, don't seem to matter so much  at first.   Quaint Spanish dwellings, sheep, goats, and sometimes cows along the tarmac, provide a welcoming distraction from the gradual discomfort you begin to feel in your legs. 
Then, about half way up the climb, you reach the Cuesta de la Huesera, a nasty 'pinch' which lasts for two (though seemingly longer) excruciating kilometres. With four kilometres remaining, the gradient finally relents and the world of pain you were just feeling, turns into euphoria. With a welcomed descent you're soon greeted by two stunning lakes - Enol and Ercina - that were once the centre of the park. You're now standing in a huge basin, surrounded by a jagged limestone massif as far as the eye can see.
The Lagos de  Covadonga is tough but not likely the most difficult climb you'll ever attempt. As for the views, that's a different story. You won't receive much better for your efforts.

Books by Mark Krieger:

‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books

Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante

“Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride”.                          
                          Eddy Merckx, Belgian road cycling legend

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