Sierra de Moratalla
A stunning circuit of the mountains protecting Moratalla, the fortress town in the north-west of the province of Murcia, Spain. This circuit of the headwaters of the Rio Segura takes in the eastern foothills of the Sierras de Segura, with challenging climbs, swooping descents and grand vistas across the peaks of Murcia, Andalucia and Castilla-La Mancha.
Distance: 170km Total Ascent: 3,000m +
Over a 1000 participants stream from the start line and immediately face the first climb, 10km and 550m of ascent. The road is closed as the entire climb is kerb to kerb with a 1,000 cyclists puffing and grunting up this local legend. Its appeared in the Vuelta, several times, and many hope to dance up this climb with the speed and panache of a Pantani, alas most are dashed by its relentless nature come the 5k mark and resolve to just survive to the summit.
The climb serves to split the peloton pretty quickly and summiting the climb reveals clusters of riders spread along the road through the high pastures. From here, the route "rolls" through vibrant green pastures and into the high Pine and Oak scrubbery that covers these karstic peaks. There are few population centres out here, the odd pocket of semi-abandoned villages, home to a few die hard shepherds and the weekend refuges of wealthy urbanites from Madrid. The tranquility and isolation, the subdued olive and terracotta tones, are in stark contrast to the vibrant artificial fluorescence and the stream of dazzling technology on display in these ancient primal landscapes.
The long decline from the heights of Nerpio encourages fast groups to form and short lived staccato banter to flow, a short respite before the looming tragedy that is to come. From the low of 530m at Socovos to the high of 1,160m above Benizar, theres 20km of non-stop climbing, not so bad an as overall stat, pretty grim when the last 5k covers 300m of ascent. The climb is a series of short steep ramps, with much needed respites to get some air in the lungs. A pretty tough climb on the best of days, but after 120km in your legs at event pace, its a bugger.
Its little consolation that this is the last major climb, as now the riding is fast and furious to make up for lost time on the climbs. Everyone hits the descent into Campo de San Juan with determination and renewed vigour, most going too strong too soon. The last two hills sap the remaining energy and many are left at the side of the road, spent and rapacious. The descent back to Moratalla is no gift either. A very fast, steep descent, on narrow roads with blind corners.
The same hill, a completely different experience. The adrenalin of the descent, mixed with the euphoria of achievement, the ticking of the clock, and the loonies speeding past, make this a very dodgy decent requiring full concentration, difficult when all you can think of is the finish line.
The Cicloturista Internacional "Sierras de Moratalla" is a great sportive, full of challenges and rewards with great scenery in undiscovered Spain. Its
well run, with plenty of food stops, water stops, mechanical assistance and plenty of marshalling. The post-ride services include pasta and drinks, free massages in the local sports hall, goody bag with t-shirts and medal. The weather has always been great, "guaranteed" sun, so if attending, hydration and sun block are ignored at your peril.
If you fancy entering, its usually the last weekend in May...drop us a line if you fancy something different.