Great Cycling Climbs of Andalucia - Hornos to Pontones
A wide open "alpine" climb with panoramic views its entire length, if you can take your eyes off your front wheel long enough...
Avg Grade: 5%
Until only a few years ago, this was a dirt road. A hard pack trail for 4x4, John Deeres and Burros. And then some tourism investment money came along and boom...one of the best climbs in Europe.. no kidding, its that rewarding.
The road is a near perfect cycling surface, smooth, wide, tacky... It hugs the northern slopes of a wide, forested valley and as you climb its flanks the views south across the park become wider and ever more expansive, like a Sergio Leone movie, you become humbled by insignificance.
Starting from Hornos, a short descent bring you to the small cluster of dwellings at Hornos el Viejo (which considering Hornos is ancient makes you wonder how old "old Hornos" actually is!). From here, the road takes an immediate ramp up. The first 3k lift you 300m, via some serious ramps, rarely do any sections drop into single digits and most of the riding is in the high teens, with some nasty 24%+ leg busters. However the road gives you some respite as you reach a plateau at about 1,000m, here a decent flattish stretch lets you recover, wash some acid from the legs and throw some gels down before the next stage.
From this wide veranda the road crests a ridge and presents you with a swooping high speed drop, fast and exhilarating, if somewhat marred by the fact that the altitude gained has just been lost, and now you can see how much more of the climb is still left to do. This small trough marks about the half-way mark, from here its relentless climbing for another 6km. The ramps keep coming, and are steep, sustained and short of switchbacks. No taking a wide line here.
These higher slopes have the benefit of being a little chillier, much needed when attempting these in summer temperatures. The wind heads down the valley and helps evaporate the sweat from the brow and wraps a cool breeze around the torso. The tall pines gently sway and the silence is only broken by the occasional distant burr of olive farmers tending their crops.
A few high hamlets dot the landscape up here, mostly abandoned, but some still harbour signs of life as weekend retreats for the rich, or simple shelter for the Shephards.
The last ramparts climb past high limestone walls and as the pines give way to high tundra and scrub, the views across the valley stretch to the snow capped Nevadas to the south and the hazy Maginas to the west. The climb summits at a small cross roads, where a short descent will bring you to the small town of Pontones for deserved refreshments.
A great climb.