Cycling in Valencia - La Bola de Cullera


Cyclists climbing to the radar station in Cullera, Valencia, Spain


Located around 45 km to the south of the city of Valencia on the southern edge of the Albufera Natural Park, la Bola de Cullera provides incredible views over the surrounding rice fields, the Gulf of Valencia and the Cap de Sant Antoni and el Montgó. 

Set to feature as the finish of Stage 6 of the 2021 Vuelta a España, this 3 km climb starts from the centre of Cullera, rearing up past the town's Al-Ándalus castle to "la bola", the meteorological radar station located at the summit. The average gradient of 7.5% and the final altitude of 230 metres a.s.l. are somewhat misleading, as the first 2 kilometres average around 9%, while the final stretch has eye-watering ramps of 24% make it a climb requiring strength, rather than stamina.


La Bola de Cullera

Perched on a spur above the town of Cullera and overlooking the surrounding countryside and sea, the climb to the "Bola de Cullera" meteorological radar station is an easy ride south of the city of Valencia, with its popular slopes offering cyclists a short, sharp challenge that is rewarded with spectacular views, especially over the changing scenery of the Albufera rice fields.

Sierra de los Zorros in Cullera, seen from the south
Sierra de los Zorros in Cullera, seen from the south

Starting from the centre of the town of Cullera itself, the road up this short climb leading to nowhere in particular is mostly very quiet indeed - especially once we've passed Cullera Castle - and, whilst the surface is a little worn and narrow in places, is perfectly rideable and safe.

There is only one ascent, by road bicycle at least, so the road we take up is inevitably the road we take down again. It is possible to reach the summit by other routes on foot and by mountain bike.

Location

Map showing location of la Bola de Cullera, Valencia
Location of la Bola de Cullera, Valencia

La Bola de Cullera is located atop the Sierra de los Zorros, one of the final spurs of the Iberian System mountain range before it submerges into the Mediterranean Sea, rising further east in the form of Ibiza. Many Valencians are somewhat fond of the idea of being able to see the island from the summit of la Bola de Cullera, but at over 140 kilometres distant it's most unlikely that you will see it from here. At other points along the coast in certain moments of the year, perhaps, but not here.

La montaña de Cullera seen from Muntanyeta dels Sants in l'Albufera Natural Park
La montaña de Cullera seen from Muntanyeta dels Sants in l'Albufera Natural Park

The summit of the climb is located around 45 pan-flat kilometres south of the city of Valencia, from where it can be reached by bike through the sublime l'Albufera Natural Park on the CV-500/502 roads.  

Alternatively, it can be reached by car on the AP7 motorway and the A-38 highway. The town also lies on the Valencia - Gandia railway line, which operates from the capital's Estación del Norte. As always, check with rail operator RENFE beforehand to make sure you can take your bike onto the train in question.

Moorings in l'Albufera Natural Park, Valencia, Spain
Moorings in l'Albufera Natural Park

Some 150 km to the south lies the city of Alicante, which can be reached by several toll-free highways, and of course in-between are the popular cycling destinations of Denia, Calpe, Altea, Jalón, etc., some 80 km distant.

The town of Cullera itself is a very popular holiday destination among Valencians, and can get very busy indeed during the summer season and bank holidays, whilst it is relatively quiet during the rest of the year.

Sierra de los Zorros, or la montaña de Cullera, seen from the ricefields of l'Albufera Natural Park
Sierra de los Zorros, or la montaña de Cullera, seen from the ricefields of l'Albufera Natural Park

The mountain, with its distinctive sign spelling out the name of the town in large, white letters, is itself a significant local landmark that can be seen from a distance of many kilometres across the flat surrounding landscape and marks the natural boundary to the plain lying south of the city of Valencia.

Profile

Profile of the ascent of la Bola de Cullera, Valencia
Profile of the ascent of la Bola de Cullera, Valencia

The climb to the meteorological radar station in Cullera starts at the junction of Carrer Josep Burguera and Calle Replà San Antoni in the centre of Cullera, where a signpost indicates the route to Cullera Castle.

A little over 3 kilometres in length, la Bola de Cullera is classed as a 3rd-category climb by the organizers of the Vuelta a España (who have denominated it el Alto de la Montaña de Cullera), with an average gradient of around 7.5% and maximums of around 20% and more on its final section to the radar station.

 

Profile of the 6th stage of the Vuelta a España 2021 ©Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.)
Profile of the 6th stage of the Vuelta a España 2021 ©Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.)

Whilst short, it can be classed as a difficult climb due to its steep gradients, and one which requires a certain degree of physical fitness to be climbed successfully.


Starting altitude: @2 metres
Length: @3 kilometres
Average gradient: 7.5%
Maximum gradient: @20%
Altitude gain: @227 metres
Maximum altitude: 229 metres
Difficulty: Difficult
 

The Climb

As mentioned, we've taken the start of the climb of la Bola de Cullera at a road the junction in the centre of Cullera.

The climb to la Bola de Cullera, Valencia
The climb to la Bola de Cullera

A signpost at the junction indicates the route to Cullera Castle, which we will follow for the first kilometre or so.

Sign indicating Cullera Castle at the start of the climb to la Bola de Cullera, Valencia, Spain
Sign indicating Cullera Castle at the start of the climb to la Bola de Cullera

No sooner do we leave the junction behind than the road starts rising at a steady 8-9% through the dense residential and holiday accommodation so typical of the intense development experienced by the region as a whole in the 1960s.

Road to Cullera Castle, Valencia, Spain
The first stretch of the climb rises at around 8-9%

A scant 250 metres later we come to the first junction of note, with our destination indicated to the right.

Signpost indicating road to Cullera Meteorological Station, Valencia, Spain
Signpost indicating road to Cullera Meteorological Station

The gradient immediately kicks up a notch here to around 11% as we begin to leave the densely built-up streets behind us.

The road to Cullera Radar Station, Valencia, Spain
The skyline quickly begins to open up as we ascend the climb

One bend later and we are definitively out of the town and among the many splendid summer houses that line the first part of the climb.

Cyclists on the climb to la Bola de Cullera, Valencia, Spain
Summer houses lining the climb to la Bola de Cullera

After a little under a kilometre, mostly climbing at around 9%, we come to a second junction, where the road splits between the route on the left to Cullera Castle, and the route on the right up to the summit of la Bola.

Junctions of the roads to Cullera Castle and la Bola, Valencia, Spain
Junction of the roads to Cullera Castle and la Bola

If you have the time and the inclination to first take the road to the Al-Andalus-period castle you will not be disappointed, above all for the magnificent views of the Gulf of Valencia to the south and of the fortress itself.

View of Cullera, its castle and the Gulf of Valencia to the south
View of Cullera, its castle and the Gulf of Valencia to the south

The ride from the junction to the castle, which lies a little less than a kilometre away, rises at a much easier gradient of around 3%.

View south from Cullera Castle over the city, with el Montgó in the distance
View south from Cullera Castle over the city, with el Montgó in the distance

The castle itself can be visited and, in normal circumstances, has a cafeteria open to the public.

Winding road to la Bola in Cullera, Valencia
The winding road ahead

Once back on the climb to la Bola, the landscape undergoes a drastic change, with now only a few buildings dotting the mountainside and the walled road winding up ahead of us.

As always with roads offering little to zero shade, care should be taken when tackling the climb during the summer months, and especially during the hours of peak sunlight.

Mediterranean Sea seen from the climb to La Bola in Cullera, Spain
There are spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea from the climb

For the next kilometre or so the road winds back and forth across the mountainside at a gradient of around 9-10%, offering spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea and the town below.

Cyclist climbing with Mediterranean Sea in background
@trinibarca making his way up to la Bola de Cullera

With little to zero traffic on the climb most days, we are free to enjoy the fantastic views of the horizon without much concern beyond the effort of moving our bike.


Signpost indicating the Cullera Meteorological Radar station in Valencia, Spain
Signpost indicating the Cullera Meteorological Radar station
Around 2/3 of the way up the climb we come to a signposted fork in the road, with our destination indicated to the right, and the gradient suddenly easy up considerably as we ride through a section known locally as "los toboganes".


It's shortly after this sign, around a kilometre from the summit and on a section where the road widens a little, that we come to the point used in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in recent years as a finish line
 
The spot has undoubtedly been chosen due to the impossibility of setting up a finish line at the summit itself, given the lack of space for the necessary paraphernalia, and for the same reason is also likely to be used as the finish on Stage 6 of the 2021 edition of the Vuelta a España.

View of the summit of la Bola de Cullera, Valencia, Spain
View of the summit of la Bola de Cullera

After this point, the road swings round to the north for the final kilometre to the radar station which sits squarely in front of us.


Final climb to the summit of la Bola de Cullera, Valencia, Spain
Final climb to the summit of la Bola de Cullera
And so al that is left is the final climb, with its stretches at a teeth-gnashing +20%. On the positive side, it's relatively short, if that helps........
 
Cyclist climbing the final metres of the climb to La Bola in Cullera, Valencia, Spain
@trinibarca tackling the final metres of the climb to La Bola in Cullera
As seemingly happens so often on out of the way climbs, it's the last few metres that are worst, as if the engineers and road builders, tired of labouring away up the hillside, had given up all other pretensions and simply chosen the shortest route to the summit.

The Cullera Meteorological Radar Station, known as la Bola
The Cullera Meteorological Radar Station, known as la Bola

Once at the summit itself, with the radar installation before us, it's quite clear to see why neither the Volta nor the Vuelta have chosen to end stages here: there simply isn't room for racing cyclists, never mind finish lines.


View north from la Bola de Cullera across the Albufera rice fields towards the city of Valencia
View north from la Bola de Cullera across the Albufera rice fields towards the city of Valencia

What there are, however, are magnificent views to the north, across the Albufera Natural Park and its ricefields, the true cradle of paella, to the west across the Júcar river, to the east out across the Mediterranean Sea and to the south towards the Montgó and the province of Alicante.

View south from la Bola de Cullera towards el Montgó and the province of Alicante
View south from la Bola de Cullera towards el Montgó and the province of Alicante

As mentioned, the only descent by road bike is back down the way we came to the town of Cullera below.

Once at the foot of the climb, Gandia lies 30 pan-flat kilometres to the south, with the town of Denia - and its ferry service to Ibiza - a further 30 kilometres distant. The city of Valencia is around 45 kilometres to the north, as indicated already, while to the west we can follow the banks of the River Júcar some 25 kilometres upstream to the town of Alzira, which is connected to Valencia by train.

Further information

Cullera Tourism Department: VisitCullera

Cullera Tourism Department: Cullera Castle (Spanish)

Onyour.bike Routes in Valencia: Ribera del Xúquer

Route of Stage 6, Vuelta a España 2021 - Requena - Alto de Cullera

Michael Dixon

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