[ blog » 2023 » 09_South-West ]d13: Lagos de Covadonga (by Philipp Gesang, location: Colloto)

Lagos de Covadonga

In line with the Cantabrian weather stereotype it had rained all night and still was in the morning when I hit the road. In Panes I took the provincial road to Cangas which first passes through the gorges of Rio Cares and then the northernmost extent of the Picos de Europa national park – a road that is riddled with breathtaking views and will easily slow you down to tortoise speed due to the uncountable photo opportunities. Cyclists were going in the opposite direction in large numbers, probably en route to Bejes for the finish of the Vuelta stage.

One left turn in Soto de Cangas and I was on a dead-end road into the heart of the Picos de Europa. The gradient soon picked up and within a couple kilometers reached the wild double digit levels characteristic of those Spanish rampas inhumanas. As expected it started raining again around the sanctuary but that rain luckily didn’t last long.

The climb is refreshingly quiet because the road is blocked after the sanctuary and the only traffic are park staff and shuttle buses. Especially in the higher parts from 800 m altitude to the summit the radient is all over the place but mostly on the hard side. Three flat-ish parts and two short descends complete the ordeal, and then you’re up there standing face to face with rain clouds. A festive atmostphere spread over the steep ramps as road cyclists celebrate one of the toughest challenges.

The high plateau just above 1100 m altitude was quite busy mainly with hikers. The panorama of the Picos de Europa was as stunning as it was elusive as clouds kept interfering with the view. Since the air was quite chilly up there and it started to rain again I didn’t stay too long. Predictably the descent was quite intense. Even without traffic the steep, wet, winding path demands all attention to avoid going down the ravine. Then at below 600 m altitude the rain picked up again and turned this into a nerve wrecking finale accompanied by the sharp squeal of disc brakes.


Having survived the sketchy downhill I passed Cangas heading for Oviedo. That road is entirely unremarkable, except perhaps for its solid construction, so no wonder I encountered almost no cyclist for 50 km or so. Not much motorized traffic either, just a succession of moderately steep, small hills. Comforting to know that a country as spectacular as Spain also has its normal, almost "boring" parts.

Concluding the ride with a visit to a local supermarket I was flabbergasted when the cashier reached for my foldable backpack and filled it up with my stuff like stereotypical a “bag boy” in the US. How insulting to imply that I might not be capable of packing a few items myself. I sincerely hope this fad doesn’t catch on.

Quite a long day with 181 km covered in almost 12 hours that I spent in the saddle, and a whopping 2500 m of altitude gain; the Lagos climb only accounts for less than half of that.

gps tracks

[view GPS data in mapbox]


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