It’s windy and wet in the UK and I’ve just got back home after my bike ride, soaked from the rain. Luckily I can console myself with the fact that I will be able to escape the British weather this winter to cycle in the mountains of the Costa Blanca with Coll de Rates Holidays. When the temperature plummets in the UK, the Costa Blanca becomes a hot-spot for professional and amateur cyclists,
seeking to take advantage of winter temperatures in the high teens.
I first cycled in the Costa Blanca back in March 2010 and enjoyed it so much that I return most winters for a cycling holiday. In the past I have used my stay to build a block of fitness for early season triathlon and quadrathlon (swim/kayak/bike/run) races. This winter I am teaming up with Coll de Rates and using one of their Bianchi hire bikes to explore the region and get fit!
Here I share my top 5 reasons why the Costa Blanca is the ideal warm weather training destination.
Well when I say “ride with” I mean “spot” or “try to keep up with!”Coll de Rates Cycling Holidays is situated at the bottom of a range of mountains, so the area attracts lots of professional cycling teams, who head to the region, not only for the warm winter climate but also to test themselves on the challenging hilly terrain ahead of the start of the race season. It’s a real buzz to spot the pros on
the road and maybe to try and keep up for a bit! In my experience if you come across them having a break or fuel stop they are happy to have a photo taken or chat.
One of the reasons the area attracts lots of pro teams is that it often features in the Vuelta a España, the Spanish Grand Tour. The 2023 race saw the pros battle it out on the brutal slopes up Xorret de Cati and many local climbs have featured in previous years, including the Cumbre del Sol,
Tarbena, Col de Rates and the infamous Port de Tudons which reaches 1024 meters. It’s great fun to try out these famous climbs and spot the names of the pros painted onto the roads. The Costa Blanca tourist board have invested in signs at the bottom of many of the climbs that show the profile and gradient of the climb, as well as installing KM markers up to the summit, so you know exactly how far there is left until you reach the top!
The Costa Blanca doesn’t just attract road cyclists – the challenging off road terrain also attracts mountain bikers. Just off the main coastal roads is a large range of trails, usually dirt paths or farm roads with different levels of difficulty. There is a mixture of terrain including rough sweeping fire roads, tough technical single tracks and back to back switchback runs. The region of Valencia has ten
MTB centres which offer signposted routes, maps and other support services. The annual Costa Blanca MTB Race is a four stage mountain bike race and is part of the UCI calendar. Next year it takes place on 25-28 January. Last year Benidorm hosted a UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup race, which saw Mathieu van de Poel beat Wout van Aert in the men’s race. It returns to the town in on 21 Jan 2024, so you could combine a holiday with watching the race.
Although known as a cycling destination, the area is attracting a growing number of triathletes. Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee are regular visitors and use the village of La Nucia / Polop as their training base. As a quadrathlete I won’t be just riding this winter- I am taking my wetsuit with me, as the sea will be warm enough for some open water swim practice. The region has over 200km of
coastline and 74 beaches have the Blue Flag of the EU. There are also plenty of public swimming pools in the local towns and villages. The coastal paths are great for running and there are also local athletics tracks for some interval practice –all ideal for triathletes and quadrathletes!
With over 9 million visitors arriving at Alicante Airport a year, you may be wondering how the region is quiet! However, in the winter the area has a relaxed atmosphere with far fewer tourists. What’s more, the roads, especially in the villages and mountains, are extremely quiet. I’ve done rides and seen fewer cars than I have fingers! Some cycling destinations are becoming a bit crowded (I’m
thinking Mallorca) but the Costa Blanca has a nice amount of cyclists. There are just enough fellow riders for you to find people to cycle with if that’s your thing, but also enough room on the roads and in the cafes for a peaceful ride.
As a quadrathlete and triathlete the Costa Blanca offers everything I need for a winter training holiday and I can’t wait to return this winter!
Helen is a Coll de Rates Ambassador and will be riding one of our Bianchi hire bikes during her winter training in the Costa Blanca. She will be blogging for us, sharing her experiences.
Helen is the current European Middle Distance Quadrathlon Champion. She is also the current GBSUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) National Champion and GBSUP Series Winner in the NiSco class. In 2019 she was the Middle Distance World Quadrathlon champion in her age group and in 2018 the age group World Cup Series winner and Sprint Distance World Champion. Before turning to quadrathlon,
Helen was age group World and European Duathlon champion and European Triathlon champion. She was named as one of this year’s Cycling UK’s ‘100 Women in Cycling’. You can follow her exploits on Twitter via @helengoth or via www.hrussell.co.uk