MTB Holiday in Spain

30 03 2007

After a 2am start we arrived at our village midday. Village = one road and a bar so if you want peace & quiet this is the place. The villa is a 400 yr old Cortijo originally built for the Marquis of the area, now restored by joy-riders.com into a mountainbike rider heaven.

We wanted a holiday with a bit of luxury and this is what we got. Bedrooms to 4* Hotel standard, clean & tidy, bit of character and every mod con going (Spanish electricity allowing !). We didn’t even miss Comic Relief on the telly, which sent us to sleep in no time. Oh and did I mention the Hot Tub on the roof terrace, now that was just pure bliss with a fantastic mountain view… Our guides were Garry (owner) and Ian (the Flying Scotman). The week we chose was the week no-one else did so we had the place to ourselves but the villa sleeps 8 max so you never have massive groups which is good.

Rick was chomping at the bit for a ride and I wanted a nap, so that’s what we did. Gary and Ian took him on some local leg warmer tracks for a 2hr ride and I sat in the beautiful 23 degree sunshine on the roof terrace, not bad for mid-March!

Day 1 – The Highland Fling Climbing: 1050mtrs Mileage: 38km

A ½ hr drive took us to the quiet mountains of the Subbetica National Park. This place is so quiet all you hear is your own breathing and the birds singing. The sun was already beating down and after fettling with our hire bikes (Specialized FSR Stumpjumper Expert) we were off. A short tarmac climb, followed by 2.5kms of decent (this is important), and we were off-road onto wide open tracks through the Olive groves, which are everywhere. Speciality of the area, lots of little yappy dogs. The Spanish love ‘em, we didn’t, but none were harmed during our exploits J

After our first really stiff climb of the day to 700mtrs, disaster struck. Garry’s rear mech hanger & swinging arm got destroyed by a stray olive branch clipping laying across the track. Flicked into his rear wheel and that was that, his frame was twisted. An attempt to singlespeed wasn’t successful so back down we go ! Remember that 2.5km descent, yep we had to go all the way back up to the van. Garry drove off to sit at the pub for 2hrs while we did a climb that should have been our final decent.

This was a challenge, riding at altitude for the first time really hit me and I just had NO energy and this was a mother of a mountain to get over, topping out at 2,500 mtrs. The climb wasn’t technical but it was long with switchback after switchback, the olive groves getting smaller & smaller in the distance. I really struggled. Rick and Ian – not even out of breath ! I got a slow puncture near the top (any excuse for a rest) but the Slime Tubes they were running saw that off, quick spin of the wheel, blast of air and we’re off again, oh great! The views from the top though were amazing with buzzards circling and not a soul to be seen. So, after 700mtrs of up it was time for some down.

After a quick singletrack ridge crossing with rock garden washouts which nearly collected our Guide, we descended on wide, open, loose, dry, dusty tracks all the way. Switchback, switchback, switchback, brakes get very hot over here and pad usage is high. Back in the valley we stopped at the bar for lunch, but we had been 3hrs and it was now 4.30pm. I was knackered but luckily Garry worked his charm and the bar still did us some food. We slept well.

Day 2 – Cabra to the Monastery Climbing: 1150mtrs Mileage: 42km

With sore legs and already 21 degrees at 11am we headed off up another 700mtr off road climb. Not a technical climb (bit like UK trails fireroad up, singletrack down) but pretty steep with no switchbacks to help with the height gain. Bit more up on tarmac to the Monastery for a view admiring / picture taking / munch stop where we were accosted by the ‘killer turkey’. Bloody thing didn’t want us on his territory and eventually we left. Armour on because the really steep, tight switchbacked, boulder strewn rocky descent off the back sorts the men from the boys. Rick loved it, I rode most of it but those really tight, steep, technical switchbacks get the better of me every time. How annoying L

We crossed a mountain prairie, which in a few weeks will be awash with alpine flowers, onto some loose rocky trails and our own mini-moab. A lump of pumice slab sticking out of nowhere. The boys played around a while, Rick got stuck between a rock and hard place and ended up going over the bars, then off again into our very own ‘moonscape’. A nice moon-rock garden climb and fast rock garden off camber descent onto some narrow singletrack through the trees and to the bar for lunch. From here we had a blast back to the van on an old railway line which helped flush out our legs for tomorrow.

Day 3 – Zucheros (pron. Swearos) Climbing: 600mtrs Mileage:22km

Another fantastically sunny day, we climbed on wide fireroads up to 400mtrs to meet Garry at a strategic spot (van logistics etc). After a little bit of hunting we eventually found each other and armoured up for the descent of my lifetime. This trail is about the hardest thing I have ever ridden and goes on for 8km. That’s 8km of down in a beautifully remote, boulder strewn, loose rocky, tight & technical, steppy, droppy, switchback, singletrack fest J It starts off with some singletrack rock gardens across a ridge before it starts decending proper and then the fun begins and goes on, and on, and on, and on. You have to ride this trail to believe it, it was great, and personally it was the best ride of my life. The really tight switchbacks beat me again but I would say I rode 95% of it and it was tuff. It’s appropriately named because all the way down I was swearing my head off while the adrenalin pumped !! Lunch was in a beautiful café by the ancient castle where we laughed, relaxed and relived our ride. I had a glass of wine to celebrate so no more singletrack for me, but Rick and The Flying Scotsman went off on another singletrack rockfest back to the van. Top day, top riding.

Day 4 – Sierra Cordobora Climbing: 680mtrs (me) 1000mtrs (Rick) Mileage: 32km

Today should have been a rest day but Chris is joining the holiday tomorrow night so we agreed we would rest then to save hassle. 4 days in a row is going to be tough though and today was hot, 32 degrees by lunchtime – scorchio! This ride starts in the City of Cordobra and after a 5km through the City (via 5 lane-wide traffic on the wrong side of the road) we were in the mountains. This area is totally different to Subbetica, greener, leafier, wooded, mountains not a high, a bit more like UK riding except it was hot J

The climb today was again on wide tracks but more technical than usual. Picking a line was essential and although the pics don’t do it justice, it was pretty steep & rutted too. Once at the top we armoured up for our descent into a tight steep gully which was littered with dry, loose, rocks. At the tree remember to GO RIGHT ! The line to the left is really dodgy and followed by a very sharp lefthander with a nasty drop if you naff it up. You have been warned… The technical gully went on for ever and was really good fun.

We re-grouped in the forest (the pattern for descending was Rick and Ian would go off ahead like nutters while Garry and I descended at my more reasonable pace) and decided to split. Ian and Rick went on to do a really rocky, technical descent that we decided would be too much for me, and Garry and I went via some really sweet singletrack along a beautiful valley. This singletrack was more like UK trails in the summer, fast, dry hardpack but still technically interesting – it was a blast. We both really enjoyed it and were smiling like idiots at the end. Rick and Ian arrived suitably pleased with their trail and off we went for lunch in the Old Square at Cordobra. Paella sorted us all out, followed by handmade ice-cream in the sunshine. Quick culture visit to the Mosquita and Roman Bridge then back home for a well earned rest & beer from the free bar.

Day 5 – Rest Day

You think you can ride every day until you actually do it. Taking a rest really helped us for the remainder of the week, we chilled, had lunch in the local town, drank beer, sunbathed, hot tubed. Nice !

Day 6 – Return of The Highland Fling Climbing: 1400mtrs Mileage: 40km

Chris joined us today so we did this ride again to settle him in and we didn’t mind because we never did complete it proper. So the story’s as above to the point where the killer twig ruined bike.. this time at the same point Chris’ old knee injury was already giving him jip. Not a good sign, but like a trooper he decided to carry on. We carried on climbing and then armoured up for a very narrow singletrack section with hidden boulders begging to take your front wheel away. Through some trees and across the olive groves. No tracks here to follow just sandy, off-camber follow your nose stuff through the trees and try not to lose sight of the guide, this theme went for a while and made for interesting off camber practice.

Into the village & lunch in the sunshine and more 32 degree heat, we could get used to this. The thought of the 700mtrs of climbing to follow straight after lunch was looming like a hole in the head, luckily though I chose the ‘power pizza’. It was amazing, my legs just wouldn’t stop spinning making easy work of a climb I was dreading. On the way up we saw the first people all week, a group of hikers all shouting ‘los animos, los animos (you animals)’ as we climbed and laughed. At the top we scoffed the remaining bits of pizza I’d doggie bagged and put our windstoppers on. We were now so high it was only 22 degrees and blowing a hoolie, a bit like Scotland which the scenery of this ride resembles, hence the name.

Now for the fun bit… the bitch of climb I had done on day one was now my descent. Although not technical it went on forever and we enjoyed every minute. Rick decided to make up a few of his own ‘choice’ lines along the way and we were all laughing like idiots when we got back to the van. Chris had managed to last the day but was now in real pain, not a good sign.

Day 7 – Zagrilla Climbing: 400mtrs Mileage: 20km

Apparently, most people only ride 5 days out of 7. We weren’t most people, we were idiots ! Poor Chris opted out of today and when we first started pedaling I wished I’d joined him. It was cold and windy and I was grumpy cos it was in our faces. I was tired..

Anyway, off we went climbing fireroad and after a short while we turned the corner and the wind was behind us but black clouds were rolling in and rain looked likely. So we carried on up, at the top we armoured up for our final descent. I almost wasn’t looking forward to it because I knew I was running out of energy and didn’t want to crash on my last day but what goes up must come down.

The trail was steep, tight, rocky and fast. At one point Garry warned me that “this bit is a little bit steep”, understatement of the week. As I turned the corner it was a loose almost vertical singletrack that made my bike feel like it had no brakes ! Rick and Ian were laughing so loud as I snaked my way down the hill shouting a few choice words to Garry as we went ! That was it, I was done for. All my energy & concentration was now used up I just wanted to sit down and chill but we had the rest of the mountain to do. I managed it but it was a struggle.

Back at the Town we met up with Chris (who had tried in vain to do a small road ride) and then singletracked back to the van. A well-earned lunch in a traditional Spanish restaurant was had and with eyes bigger than my belly I way over ordered and crammed.

We just had an hour left to dash back to the villa and pack etc. Just about made it in time and after fond farewells to Garry & Chris, Ian drove us back to Malaga. Back in England at midnight, IT WAS SNOWING ! Did we just dream all of that sunshine, it was surreal.

So, would I go back, yes. Would I recommend it, yes. This holiday can be catered for all abilities and I would say our level was advanced XC and there is nothing to compare it to in England. There is more gnarly stuff to be had if you want it, but there are no chairlifts so you have to be fit enough to propel yourself up some pretty big mountains. Oh and Body armour is essential.

Our guides were fantastic company and nothing was too much trouble. They took us to nice places to eat in the evenings when we wanted it and to the supermarket when we didn’t. You can go on a budget and eat in every night or splash out the average £7 (yes that’s £7) on a meal in a tapas bar, we did a bit of both. Hopefully my idle ramblings have whet your appetite to get your holidays sorted if not with http://www.joy-riders.com no worries holidays anywhere are good for the soul.. happy biking !

Lisa, Club Founder

Click here for photos

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