[ blog » 2023 » 09_South-West ]d14: Alto de l'Angliru (by Philipp Gesang, location: Mieres)

Alto de l’Angliru

After a slow start into this short day I wento the historical center of Oviedo for some sightseeing before concluding my visit with the obligatory ride up to Naranco, the city’s UNESCOfied heritage. A fascinating building – or what’s left of it – but its magnificent backdrop was stealing the show: the panorama of the mountain chain on whose top the Angliru plateau is located. After catching that glimpse of today’s goal I suddenly had purpose flowing through my veins and hasted to the bottom of the climb which is just to the south of Oviedo.

I chose the ascent from Santa Eulalia / Santolaya which features a wild variety of gradients from easy-ish at the bottom to nightmare further up. The alternatives all converge on the falso llano at around 700 m so the choice makes little difference. At that altitude, 800 m below the summit, the road was already teeming with fans waiting for the Vuelta stage to arrive. It wasn’t necessarily a bad choice remaining there as the temperature was pleasant and the fog didn’t reach that far down.

Whereas the top of the climb was engulfed in the dense fog of a cloud, as is customary for the Angliru. Luckily we were spared the also customary rain today.

After the falso llano the actual fun begins as the gradient rises steeply and never goes down again until all the way up. Even by Spanish standards the Angliru is an exceptionally tough challenge. A gradient of 12 (twelve) percent is the lower bound on that final section, with numerous stretches exceeding 22 %. No wonder it is generally considered one of the hardest, if not the hardest climbs of the continent. On this trip it easily ranks top two, behind the Finestre – the only other place so far where I had to resort to the granny gear.

La Vuelta a España

The road was packed with people, especially the stretches of 20+ %. Amateur riders like me heading to the top got cheered on by thousands of fans, and sometimes they’d even get a push when they looked like they were struggling. Like me. Receiving a push on that kind of incline is like someone lifting a fifty kilogram sack off your shoulders. I did the whole thing in one go without stopping. Only once did I have to put a foot on the ground because some other guy that was riding fragile switchbacks, lost all awareness of his surrounings and suddenly came to a halt right in front of me. Quite a few people were pushing their bikes or taking frequent pauses; the Angliru can break you like that.

Under the chorus of “¡ vamos, animo, venga, campeon !” I eventually reached the plateau only to find the entrance blocked by the guardia civil so I could not ride that flat final kilometer. Not again! The same happened to me on Tre Cime day this spring. At that point there wasn’t any altitude left to conquer, as already mentioned the final meters on the plateau are flat anyways. But a monster climb like this just feels incomplete without a photo in front of the summit sign.

To escape the cold and humidity, and to actually get to see something of the race I rolled down to around 1000 m where I set up shop on a moderately hard 15 % ramp next to a group of Spaniards and a lady with a Slovenian flag on what must have been a five meters pole who claimed to be a personal friend of Roglič’s. With the spotty reception up there news of the race only percolated through slowly but we kept each other updated as much as possible before and after the riders passed. Needless to say the Slovenian was happy with the result!

With the third piece of this Spanish triptych – Picón Blanco, Covadonga, Angliru – today also concludes the pilgrimage of El camino de l’Angliru, the place of worship to the Cycling Gods in the mythical mountains of Asturias. With that completed this trip going to take a different turn starting from tomorrow.

73 km distance with 1860 m climbed. Neither figure does the experience justice.

gps tracks

[view GPS data in mapbox]


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