Since I had my fair share of fun during last year’s ‘Tour de France‘, we have no cycling adventures scheduled for this year.
Instead, it was Paula’s turn to book a trip, which basically means she picks a location where we get close to ‘100% sun guarantee’.
This usually means Egypt, but since we have been there so often already, she settled for a little less certanty by booking an apartment in Playa del Inglés.
On Gran Canaria…
You remember what happened that time she decided to go to Mallorca, right?
So, although I only knew it was close to Tenerife – but not close enough to have a shot at going up El Teide – it didn’t take me long to figure out that Gran Canaria is probably as much a cycling heaven as is Mallorca.
swearing lying that I was only going to have one or two trips up to the ‘Pico de las Nieves’, Gran Canaria’s equivalent of El Teide, she reluctantly allowed me to take a cycling kit with me.
Obviously, once we got to the bike shop that was offering both rentals and organized trips, Free Motion which I highly recommend, I managed to convince Paula that it was cheaper to rent a bike and buy a tour package, than to just rent a bike once or twice.
Now, before you think she’s retarded and / or (very) bad at math, let me assure you that she is neither – she’s just so much more than I deserve and she allows me to get away with it. Plus, she figures that since all she wants is to bake in the sun all day, preferably undisturbed, she’s better off without me moaning about ‘lost opportunities’ all day long…
And before you think that I have been cycling in the same kit every day, it so happens that Free Motion is also offering a fair collection of cycling kits and other gadgets.
As they didn’t have the bike that I wanted – Cannondale Synapse Ultegra Disc – available, I did spent our first day on the beach and at the pool, giving me the opportunity to check the routes of the trips I had booked.
Free Motion offers different levels of difficulty: Cappuccino (easy), Hobby, Sport and Sport XL. They also offer MTB routes and I’ve been told they are very nice too. For those needing a little ‘help’ it is also possible to rent E-bikes.
Friday’s Sport XL ride started in front of the bike shop and brought us up to Fataga, San Bartolomé de Tirajana and back to the shop via Temisas, Santa Lucía and Agüimes. The difference with the ‘normal’ Sports group is the extra loop over Temisas and Agüimes – otherwise, the trip continues straight down to El Doctoral, for the final along the coast back to the shop.
As I had the trip up / through the Valley of the Tears (VOTT) scheduled for Sunday, I figured I’d better have an easy ride on Saturday, so I opted for the Hobby group going up the Tauro pass.
This is one of the most scenic climbs on the island, also known as the ‘Serenity climb’. This ride started after a bus transfer via the highway to just outside Puerto de Mogán, as the secondary road used to cycle there has collapsed.
The first 10 kilometers to Mogán and on to the split where the actual climb begins, are a nice warm up. The climb itself is indeed very scenic and not too hard: 8.5 kilometers at 6.2% average.
After the lunch break, it’s basically straight down to El Pajar for the final 15 kilometers along the coast back to the shop.
I noticed during the descend that somewhere during the ride I had managed to ruin my chain, so I could not shift gears (rear cog) anymore, but I got home and they replaced it.
Total: 61 kilometers and 1,200 meters of elevation (Garmin)
Sunday there were only 4 cyclists (plus 1 guide) willing to get up the dreaded VOTT.
First we had a bus transfer to just outside Mogán, at the split where the climb up the Tauro pass actually starts. This time, we followed the GC-200 for the first climb of the day. At the summit of that, the wind was blowing so hard, that it was difficult to stand and take a panoramic picture and the descend to La Ladera was difficult at times.
Although this trip is usually following the GC-210 to Candelaria, on to Acusa Verde and Artenara, that road has also collapsed, so we took the ‘official’ VOTT route via de GC-606, through Carrizal de Tejeda.
Unfortunately, the only possible lunch stop was right there, in the middle of the climb, which meant we got right back into climbing the remaining brutal 8 kilometers on a full stomach. That didn’t sit well with me, although I didn’t even eat half of the allotted slice of tortilla that was freshly made for us there…
The return back to the shop was the reversed route from Friday’s ride up to San Bartolomé, with only the short climb from Arteara to the viewpoint as noteworthy extra.
Today’s trip was supposed to go up to Soria, where we had our lunch break on Saturday. I was already looking forward to the Papaya juice, but because of the weather forecast and the 40 kph headwind, the guide decided to alter the tour.
So we returned back down from Barranquillo Andrés for a flying team time trial through the valley to the coast, interrupted by a short rest stop.
After following the coast back to Playa del Inglés, the guides suggested an additional loop over the east side of the island to make up for the loss of kilometers, but I decided not to go for that. I could still feel yesterday’s VOTT and the ride from the start to Santa Águada (full gas), the TTT and the same road back along the coast – which is a roller coaster of ups and downs – had been more than enough for me.
Today was a counterclockwise copy of Friday’s ride. First, everybody (Hobby, Sport/XL) went along the coast up to El Doctoral, to start the climb up to Santa Lucía. As I had switched to Sport last minute, it turned out I was the only one – the others were either Hobby (too slow) or Sport XL (not in the mood / up for the extra ‘Temisas’ loop).
So, as there were three guides, they could have one ride just with me, which was quite a luxury.
After the break in Santa Lucía, we went on to climb to Fataga, after which it was the same way back as Sunday. However, as the guide was leading the descend and I had left too much of a gap at some stage, I was almost clipped by a motor cycle going up – he had seen the guide, but not me and he swayed back into my half of the road for a right turn…
I managed to stay upright, but my saddle (point) hit my nether region so hard, that I had a hard time continuing to ride after that. The stinger climb out of Arteara was almost too much this time and I was glad to get back home…
Also today’s ride was altered due to the weather. We were supposed to get up to the island’s highest spot, the Pico de las Nieves, from the north. But as it was bad weather there, we transferred to Puerto de Mogán again and rode up the Tauro pass.
We’d see if the weather would permit continuing to Ayacata and on to the Pico from there.
The passage from the top of the Tauro pass past Presa las Niñas and Presa de la Data up to Ayacata was very scenic, although the road is in very shitty condition for large parts.
As it turned out, the weather was just fine and when we reached the Pico, we even had good views over the island and I could also see Tenerife in the distance.
And not for the first time, the return was over San Bartolomé, Fataga and Arteara – obviously, there are only so many roads you can take, so you’re bound to ride some of them more than once…
Total for today: 91 kilometers and 2,300 meters of elevation difference, which is more or less equal to what was originally planned, albeit 10 kilometers short. Garmin registration here.
Another day of “We’ll see what the weather allows”. Sadly, that meant no Bandama Crater which I had been looking forward to.
Instead, we transferred to just outside El Doctoral (again) to ride up to Santa Lucía (again). However, instead of continuing to San Bartolomé, the guide took us up the (to) Risco Blanco, which is not normally on any guided tour’s menu.
That 8 kilometer stretch of sometimes very degraded road offers breathtaking grades similar to the VOTT.
After that, we went on to Ayacata and climbed to the viewpoint 2 kilometers from there. We then returned and followed the reverse of yesterday’s route past the Presa’s to the top of the Tauro pass and on to Barraquillo Andrés and back down and to the shop the same way as Monday.
Totals: 100 kilometer and close to 2,000 meters of elevation difference – Garmin registration here.
And that was the end of my / our well deserved holiday. As I have not seen any part of the north side of the island, where it is supposed to be greener and the climbs more gentle, I would like to come back for some more relaxing one day.
However, Tenerife is just as far away from home as Gran Canaria, so who knows…