This event was a HUGE success in 2015, despite also being hailed as the “toughest yet” by CCC veterans. It will NOT be held in 2016 but will make a triumphant return to the CCC roster in 2017.
This Challenge is as hard as the CCC Dolomites. The longer stage distances should not mislead: there are more sections than usual, for a CCC, of faster, flatter cycling. However, those who shy away from LONG days in the saddle should be warned: stages will often be dawn-to-dusk adventures at the time of year the event will be run. The weather will be warm or mild, if possibly wet at times (!): elevation will almost always be well under 1500m even at the highest points and the maritime influence of the nearby coast is dominant.
From the short, often sharp, hills of the Bizkaia region around Bilbao to the long, dramatic climbs of the Picos de Europa, this Challenge includes many of the famous Vuelta climbs as well as the usual mix of lesser known “CCC Climbs”.
The route weaves across Spains’ Costa Verde, through Cantabria, Asturias and the Picos de Europa, and then back again. The wilderness of the Cordillera Cantabria provides the perfect setting for this very tough new Spanish addition to the Cent Cols Challenge catalogue.
NOTE : ‘Up-and-Back’ climbs feature much more frequently than in other CCC’s here, which will be very useful for those who feel that complete stages are just too much for their legs.
Stage 1 : Bilbao to Los Corales de Buelna
Stats: 205km. 4450m
Main climbs: Main Climbs : Loizaga, Bezi, Collado Espina, Lunada, Estacas de Trueba, La Braguía,
Description: After 20 kms of valley roads the climbing starts with three gentle climbs taking us out of Bizkaia and into Cantabria. The Espina climb is as rich in gradient as it is in beauty. The contrasting 17km Portilla de la Lunada with its extensive views of deserted green valleys and the narrow road that snakes its way across the slopes, is the second Big Ask of this stage, which then ends in gentle climbs on perfect tarmac.
Stage 2 : Los Corales de Buelna to Cangas de Onis.
Stats: 222km. 5200m
Main climbs: Main Climbs : Carmona, Ozalbla, Collado La Hoz, Jito Escarandi, Lagos de Covadonga.
Description: This stage is steeped in Vuelta history as we hit the ‘Real Climbs’ of the Asturias region. A trilogy of climbs ending with the Collado La Hoz provide some early meat and the best descent of the event so far. The Jito Escarandi – known by few but remembered by all who have been there - provides another mid-stage HIGHlight : a long climb ending with a super-steep final 3kms. The stunning Lagos de Covadonga concludes this epic day: both the gradients and the views will leave you gasping!
Stage 3 : Cangas de Onis to Pola di Lena.
Stats: 219km. 4870m
Main climbs: Main Climbs : Sobrefoz, El Pontón, Tarna, Bobia, Colladiella
Description: This stage takes riders through three different National Parks (Picos de Europa, Ponga, and Redes). The two main long but steady climbs are set off by three much shorter and much steeper ones to make this stage one of special contrasts. The scenery is superb: ranging from gorges to wide open plateaux at 1000m altitude.
Stage 4 : Pola di Lena to Cangas del Narcea.
Stats: 183km. 5150m
Main climbs: Main Climbs : Gamoniteiro, San Lorenzo, Somiedo, Leitariegos, El Acebo
Description: A tough stage book-ended by two of the three BIG climbs here. The Gamaniteiro is exceptionally beautiful and wild and comes after only 6km of flat; the San Lorenzo is a brutal 12% slog; the El Acedo closes this feast with true drama, which is why the Vuelta loves this one too, i guess!! A King Descents sweeps us down to our Parador hotel. Stages 4 & 5 form a figure-of-eight route that make up the most dramatic central part to this somewhat demending event.
Stage 5 : Cangas del Narcea to Pola di Lena
Stats: 182km. 5600m (Extreme Version : 212km, 7180m)
Main climbs: Main Climbs : El Acebo, Llamas del Mouro, Las Estacas, Santianes, Maravio, Cruz de Linares, Tenebreo, Angliru
Description: Both versions of this stage deserve the title of Queen Stage.Some of the quietest roads of the event feature, as well as some of the steepest! Many of the climbs here contain regular passages of 15-20% gradient. There is an option to do an Extreme version, which is the hardest CCC stage ever to be presented. Riders planning to do this will need to notify the organiser before the event, at which point full details will be given out. In both versions the Angliru, the penultimate climb, will stand out as the crowning test for all legs !
Stage 6 : Pola di Lena to Potes.
Stats: 192km. 3800m
Main climbs: Main Climbs : San Isidro, Las Señales, Pontón, Panderruedas, Pandetrave, San Glorio
Description: More stunning landscapes in the heart of the Picos de Europa. The roads are all quiet with climbs whose length is more testing than their gradients. The core of this stages’ challenge is provided by the ‘Triple Crown’ of the Panderrueda, Pandetrave and San Glorio climbs before a long descent to Potes rewards the effort. This is the town where we spend our Rest Day: deliberately chosen after six stages because it is full of charm and bars serving the local ‘Sidra’ !!
Rest Day : Potes
Description: Potes is a beautiful little town in the heart of the Picos National Park. We just HAD to have the Rest Day here!
Stage 7 : Potes to Los Corales de Buelna.
Stats: 206km. 4550m
Main climbs: Main Climbs : Piedrasluengas, Palombera, Embalse de Alsa, Brenes
Description: This stage takes us across the Sierra del Escudo de Cabuerniga and through the National Park of Besaya. A couple of gentle climbs that will loosen the legs, before three much tougher ones in the latter part of the stage. Two dam-summits mark this stage that includes our faewell to the Picos and a dramatic return to Cantabria.
Stage 8 : Los Corales de Buelna to Arzentales
Stats: 160km. 3890m
Main climbs: Main Climbs : Quintana de Toranzo, La Barrancosa, Estacas de Trueba, La Sía, Alto Torre de la Bastilla, Aldeacueva, La Escrita
Description: Back in the green lushness of Cantabria but another especially tough stage consisting of numerous ‘medium’ climbs. A Pyrenees feel to this stage, with narrow roads and true pastoral beauty. We end the stage firmly back in the Bizkaia hills with two exceptional final stages to follow.
Stage 9 : Arzentales to Lekeito
Stats: : 229km. 5250m
Main climbs: Main Climbs : Bikotzgane, Lamindao, Kanpazar, Elgeta, Elosua, Endoia, Azurki, Asterrika, Mendexa
Description: This stage provides THE reason why so many fine climbers come from the Basque country. It is the place where Zeus-Orbea-BH bikes come from. There is NO FLAT anywhere here. No high climbs, but then they don’t need to be ! A gradient-feast ending at a picturesque fishing village for a seaside rest well –earned.
Stage 10 : Lekeito to Bilbao :
Stats: 175km. 3800m
Main climbs: Main Climbs : Nabarniz, Rigoiti, Bizkaigane, Paresi, Sollube, Jata, Atretxabalgane, El Vivero.
Description: More Basque ‘walls’ after a welcome gentle coastal road to start the stage. True local gems that will give your legs one last thrill before we choose whether to short-cut to the finish back in Bilbao…or take in all 193 kms because we want to…! The second of a connaisseurs’ duo of Basque craziness that will provide many anecdotes for future training-rides chat !