After a day off the bike due to rainy weather, the group was keen to get out and climb as many metres as they could. There are so many climbs into the mountains from Andorra la Vella that you would need to spend a couple of weeks here to ride them all. Many have featured in the Vuelta (the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France) which takes place in September and we have been passed by many pro team riders who have been training on the mountains. The first climb of the day (and my only one) was to the ski station of Arcalis which is 2,229 mtrs above sea level. This climb featured in the 2016 Tour de France and has also been in the Vuelta 5 times. It was upwards pretty much from our hotel for 18 klms at an average of 6.2% gradient, but early on in the climb it was over 8%. My Garmin bike computer said I climbed 1,114 metres and I rode 43.2 klms at an average of 15.3 kph. My average heart rate has been 109 for the last couple of rides which is low for me and is probably an indication of the upper respiratory virus I’ve had over that time. When I got to the 7.5 klm marker, I really thought I’d have trouble getting to the top today but the gradient flattened out towards the top, which helped me get there in time to see the rest of the group head off for their second climb of the day. I was happy just to sit in the sun (it was very cold up there) and enjoy a coffee before descending the mountain to our hotel.
On our second ride in Andorra, the local tourist office provided us with a guide for our ride. Inka was a lovely Spanish girl who spoke good English and was a pretty mean bike rider. She took us up the 2,302 mtrs high Port de Cabus – for us a climb of 1,141 metres over 18 klms averaging 6.2% but with stretches up to double that gradient. I found it the toughest ride of our trip so far. In all, I rode 42 klms in 2 hours 50 minutes for an average of 15 kph. Although the scenery was not quite as spectacular as the day before, we rode to the Spanish border at the top of the climb.
Andorra la Vella is located high in the east Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. It is the capital of the small independent country of Andorra which has a history dating back to the 11th century. It’s main industry is tourism and it is know as a duty-free retail hub. It also earns considerable foreign income from being a tax haven with only a 4% tax. The country has about 70,000 inhabitants but in the winter hosts up to 6 million visitors. It is one of Europe’s most popular ski resorts. We stayed in a small hotel of 40 rooms named Arbella, located in the upper suburb of Ordino.
It’s therefore not surprising that our first ride was to the Col d’Ordino, because the road when right past our hotel. The Col is 1,980 metres above sea level but from our hotel it was a climb of 690 metres over 9.9 klms. It was a steady ride averaging about 7% gradient and I rode 20.5 klms in all over an hour and 35 minutes. The ride featured in the 2015 Vuelta (Spain’s version of the Tour de France) but I doubt that the riders had time to look at the amazing views along the way.