Cycling in Valencia - Puerto de La Llacuna


Around 80 kilometres south of the city of Valencia and lying on the provincial boder, Puerto de la Llacuna takes us abruptly from the coastal flats of la Safor to the mountainous roads and climbs of inland Alicante so familiar to cyclists from all over the world.

Popular among local cyclists and set to feature as the first of the six scheduled climbs of Stage 7, the first real test of the 2021 Vuelta a España, this 10 km 1st Cat. climb has an overall average gradient of 6%, with kilometres at 10% and maximum ramps of up to 17%.


Puerto de la Llacuna

Lying around 15 kilometres inland from the coast and roughly half-way between the cities of Alicante and Valencia, Puerto de la Llacuna is a low-traffic, tree-lined, 1st-category climb that loads most of its difficulties into its first half, although the second, gentler section does hold a sharp sting in its tail in the form of a @17% ramp.


Cyclists climbing Puerto La Llacuna from Villalonga, Valencia, Spain
Cyclists climbing Puerto La Llacuna from Villalonga

Starting from the village of Villalonga, the first half rises through a series of wooded hairpins to the residential area that gives the climb its name. The road surface here is generally very good, if unmarked, and there is abundant tree coverage and shade, which is welcome as the going can get a little hard at times. The second section between the residential area and the summit has a wider, newer road surface and initially has a considerably lower gradient, that is until we reach the last @2 kilometres or so, when the disappearance of the trees and the increase in the gradient make for tough going once again.

The summit of the climb can also be reached from the villages of Alpatró and L'Orxa on the eastern, Alicante side.

Location

Location of Puerto La Llacuna, Valencia
Location of Puerto La Llacuna, Valencia

El Puerto de La Llacuna sits at the easterly extreme of Sierra de la Safor, which separates the provinces of Alicante and Valencia.

Entrance to Villalonga from the direction of Gandia, Valencia, Spain
Entrance to Villalonga from the direction of Gandia

Like many of the local towns, Villalonga, which lies at the foot of the climb, has grown out of the nucleus of narrow, winding streets first built during and immediately after the period of Muslim occupation in the region.

Traditionally an agricultural town, dedicated to the cultivation of olives, oranges and other fruit, a large part of the population is now employed in the ceramics industry and a local pastries and cake plant, the latter responsible for Villalonga's characteristic aroma of vanilla and madeleines.
 
It can be reached by car via the AP7 highway and N-332 national road from Valencia and from Alicante, exiting at Gandia (@10 km distant) or at Oliva (@10 km distant) and taking local roads (CV-680/CV-638, for example) from there.
 
Gandia can also be reached by train from the city of Valencia.
As always, check with rail operator RENFE beforehand to make sure you can take your bike onto the train in question.
 
The CV-638 between Oliva and Font d'en Carròs
The CV-638 between Oliva and Font d'en Carròs
Please note that care should be taken when approaching Villalonga by bike from Oliva on the winding, narrow CV-638 local road which, whilst very picturesque and popular with cyclists, is also used by a considerable volume of local traffic as a shortcut to the coast. 
 
Villalonga itself can be surprisingly busy, with the type of rapid traffic more associated with larger urban areas. Expect plenty of cars, vans, school buses, and lorries carrying whatever it is madeleines and doughnuts are made from as you approach.

Profile

Profile of the ascent of Puerto La Llacuna, Valencia
Profile of the ascent of Puerto La Llacuna, Valencia
In this article, the start of the climb to the summit of Puerto de la Llacuna has been taken at roundabout on the CV-685 local road, next to the IES Vall de la Safor public high school (coincidentally, this is also the point indicated in our article as the start of the Via Verde del Serpis greenway), although we can approach it through any number of other streets. There is a signpost at the roundabout indicaticating Villalonga. 
 
Entrance to Villalonga from Ador, with IES Vall de la Safor on the right
Entrance to Villalonga from Ador, with IES Vall de la Safor on the right

A shade under 10 kilometres in length, Puerto la Llacuna has been classed as a 1st-category climb by the organizers of the Vuelta a España, with a modest average gradient of around 6% and maximums of around 17% on both its first and its second sections.
 
Profile of the 7th stage of the Vuelta a España 2021 ©Amaury Sport Organisation
Profile of the 7th stage of the Vuelta a España 2021 ©Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.)
Whilst the average gradient drops considerably in the second half, the tough first section, the overall  length and the final steep ramps make this a climb that requires a certain degree of physical fitness.

Starting altitude: @100 metres a.s.l.
Length: @10 kilometres
Average gradient: @6%
Maximum gradient: @17%
Altitude gain: @600 metres
Maximum altitude: @700 metres
Difficulty: 1st Category

The Climb

Climb of la Llacuna, in relation to the villages of Villalonga, Alpatró and l'Orxa
Climb of la Llacuna, in relation to the villages of Villalonga, Alpatró and l'Orxa
As mentioned above, we've taken the start of the climb of la Llacuna as the roundabout at the entrance to Villalonga.
 
Route through Villalonga on climb of la Llacuna, Valencia, Spain
Route through Villalonga on climb of la Llacuna
We get to the start proper of the climb by navigating through the streets of Villalonga, covering the 300 metres or so until the end of Carrer de Ador 
 
Carrer de Ador in Villalonga, Valencia, Spain
Carrer de Ador in Villalonga
Once there, we turn right into Carrer de Gandia/Barranc de la Moneda and continue to the left turn into Calle Nueva San Vicente, which is where we see the first indication for La Llacuna.

Signpost indicating la Llacuna in Villalonga, Valencia, Spain
Signpost indicating la Llacuna in Villalonga
Some 50 metres later at the end of Calle Nueva San Vicente, we take a right into Calle Mercado and we are as good as out of the streets of Villalonga and onto the climb proper, surrounded now by orange groves. As is common on the climbs in and around the area of la Safor, the presence of citrus fruit at the base of the climb is a sure indication that we are starting the ascent from a low altitude, in this case around 100 m.a.s.l.
 
Start proper of the climb of Puerto la Llacuna, Valencia, Spain
Start proper of the climb of Puerto la Llacuna
Neverthless, we have already been climbing through the streets of Villalonga at a rate of around 4/5%, and once we leave the village the gradient kicks up significantly with ramps of 10%-15% and up to 17% as we tackle the first hairpins, the oranges trees quickly disappearing and giving way to pines.
 
Trees at the start of the climb of la Llacuna, Valencia, Spain
We enter the trees around 2 km from the start of the climb of la Llacuna
A couple of kilometres in we come across a quarry on our right, from which we shouldn't be surprised to see the odd heavy lorry  appear. Given the curves and tree coverage, it pays to stay especially alert at this point. In general, traffic is nowhere near being heavy on the climb, but it is curiously constant, with a regular flow of residents' cars and builders' vans hiking it up and down to La Llacuna. Let's say one every five minutes. In both directions. As if they were being set off from the top/bottom in an orderly fashion. It's curious.

Entrance to the quarry on the climb of la Llacuna, Villalonga, Spain
Entrance to the quarry on the climb of la Llacuna, Villalonga, Spain
The Mediterranean forest that lines the road here really is something to be enjoyed, providing quite a bit of shade and the characteristic, intoxicating scent of pine, rosemary, thyme, pebrella and other aromatic plants native to the area.
 
Mediterranean forest on the first section of Puerto la Llacuna, Valencia
Mediterranean forest on the first section of Puerto la Llacuna
As the road rises and winds at an average of around 7-10% up the hillside, the trees give way on our left to reveal views over Villalonga on the plain below and still further beyond over la Safor to Gandia and the coast.
 
View of Gandia and the coast from the climb of la Llacuna, Valencia, Spain
View of Gandia and the coast from the climb of la Llacuna
However, with a succession of short, sharp ramps of up to 17% it's possible that we'll be a little too occupied to take in the vistas.
 
Curves on the first section of the climb to la Llacuna
The final section of the first half of the climb includes a tough defile with scant tree coverage and straight ramps of 10%-15%
 
Cyclist climbing the desfile on Puerto la Llacuna
Cyclist climbing the desfile on Puerto la Llacuna
To ease the going a little, off to the left we have magnificent views of Forna Castle and the coastline of the neighbouring comarca of Marina Alta.

Half-way up the climb we come to the residential area of La Llacuna, a low-density area composed mainly of second homes spread out in the forest. An unusual place with a character of its own, many of the houses here were initially constructed without strict obeyance to an ordinance plan and the area as a whole has yet to be connected to the main electrical grid, leaving us with many houses scattered among the trees and mainly dependent on generators and solar panels for power.
 
Entrance to la Llacuna, Valencia, Spain
Entrance to la Llacuna
Once we arrive at la Llacuna, the road drops immediately and bears round to the right as we pass through the houses, before picking up again at a more reasonable average of 4-5%.
 
The road through la Llacuna, Valencia
The road through la Llacuna
At around the 6.5 kilometre mark, tucked away at the side of the road among the trees, is the Hotel Rural Bonestar, which has a bar/cafeteria and a restaurant and is a fine place to stop for refreshments and a rest.
 
Entrance to Hotel Bonestar, La Llacuna, Valencia, Spain
Entrance to Hotel Bonestar, La Llacuna
The rest of the climb is much gentler than the road covered so far. As we leave the houses of La Llacuna behind, the road widens, loses tree coverage and acquires markings, although traffic is still relatively scarce.
 
"Nevera" for storing snow to make ice in la Llacuna, Valencia, Spain
A stone "nevera", formerly used for storing snow to make ice, in la Llacuna
As mentioned, tree coverage is virtually non-existent at this point, a situation made all the more evident by the charred remains of the hillside forest on the right-hand side of the road, a grim reminder of the fires that hit the area in the summer of 2020.
 
Charred mountainside on the final stretch of Puerto la Llacuna, Valencia
Charred mountainside on the final stretch of Puerto la Llacuna, Valencia
Whilst it should be obvious, it can't be stressed enough that extreme care should be taken to avoid provoking wildfires when visiting the area, and especially during the hotter summer months. The local firefighting forces are excellent and very-well prepared to tackle fires, but there is only so much they can do. 

Final ramp of the climb to la Llacuna, Valencia, Spain
The final, 17% ramp of the climb
The climb's last obstacle omes in the form of a 17% ramp a little of over a kilometre from the summit. It's not so terribly difficult, but it does drain the legs somewhat after the climbing already completed, and especially when the temperature is high. 
 
Whilst we are almost sure to see an attempt at a break go before  Stage 7 of the 2021 Vuelta a España reaches this point, the final ramp is an ideal launching pad both for those looking for a stage win and, just perhaps, those with loftier aspirations. Maybe? Maybe.

The unmarked summit of Puerto de la Llacuna, Valencia
The unmarked summit of Puerto de la Llacuna
The summit itself is unmarked, with the road almost levelling out briefly as it crests the mountain, only to immediately start the plunge down into the province of Alicante and its endless cycling opportunities.

It's a steep drop in places, with segments of up to 20%, so care should be taken, and of course fun should be had.

Further information

Safor Turisme - Official Tourism Portal for la Safor

Michael Dixon

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario