Monday, 1 August 2016

La Vuelta 2016 Race Favourites for the General Classification

Over the last few years, La Vuelta has been the year`s most exciting Grand Tour and the 2016 edition promises more of the same! Without doubt it is the most mountainous race which always produces fantastic attacks and never allows the GC leader to relax. In fact, the race can be won and lost at so many points due to the steep and sometimes long summit finishes that the Vuelta has become famous for.  
At the time of writing (1 August 2016), there are number of key GC contenders. On paper, Chris Froome (Team Sky) has to be regarded as the number 1 favourite. His Tour de France performance was immaculate and no one could match his strength, tactical cycling and sheer determination (running up hills?!).

Of course, historically the winner of the Tour de France finds the challenge of another Grand Tour a tough challenge due to the physical fatigue. Only the incredible Frenchmen Bernaud Hinault (1978) and Jacques Anquetil (1963) have managed the Tour and Vuelta double. With Froome also gunning for Time Trial gold at the Rio Olympics only just before the start of La Vuelta, it would be an amazing achievement to win his first Vuelta.

Having abandoned the Tour de France in the first week Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) will be the freshest out of all his main rivals for the Vuelta. This will be a huge advantage. Having won La Vuelta 3 times previously, and desperate to show his home fans he still has what it takes after a poor year, El Pistolero will be fired up. His outspoken team owner Oleg Tinkov will be hoping for a grand tour win, being his last year in the industry before the team disbands. One thing is for sure, Contador will fight and attack to the end.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is another GC rider to watch. It would be fair to say that Quintana did not perform to his full potential in the Tour de France, even though he podiumed. Nobody knew why (maybe ill?) that he could not challenge Froome on the climbs, or of course Team Sky and Froome were so strong and fast that the challenge was neutralised. Quintana will be hoping to win his first Vuelta, and has skipped the Olympics to keep fresh for the challenge. He could have the support of super domestique and previous Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde (who may ride – to be announced after the Olympics).

Other notable contenders include the talented Columbian Estaban Chaves (Orica BikeExchange) who has the climbing skills and now experience to win the race. His performance last year was breathtaking and he showed well in the Giro this year. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), the Dutch rider, could also be a contender after a strong year and nearly winning the Giro before crashing.  And let’s not forget the Spaniard Mikel Landa of Team Sky. If Froome cannot hit the form of the Tour de France, Landa could step and lead the team himself to victory. Others to mention are Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo).

We will be at the Vuelta 2016 as an Official Operator - Keep up to date with all the latest news and photos with our Instagram and Twitter Feed @CyclingCountry

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Cycle Andalucia!

Already have the February blahs?
Lift your Spirits - Cycle Spain!
Is the daily grind getting in the way of living the dream?
Simple fix, you are only a bike ride away from a good mood!
Check out Cycling Country´s Enchanted Andalucia Bike Tour and share with those feeling blue!

Monday, 23 November 2015

Coast to Coast

Travelling from Spain´s South to North, shows its great diversity 

Traditional Traje de Luces (bullfighting attire)
“Throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover!” Mark Twain once wrote. He could have literally been referring to the ferry trip across the Bay of Biscay from Northern Spain, for it is a fascinating and relaxing alternative to speedy air travel. That is if you want to actually board the departing boat after discovering what Spain has to offer the traveller who makes their way northwards to the port. It is this journey, that Twain celebrates, and one that gives a glimpse to the diversity Spain contains.
Bullfighting a firm favourite in Andalucia
Give me a good boat ride any day and this ferry trip makes an especially good alternative to the cramped charter flight scenario that you find going from Spain to other European cities. Thus if you have time and feel a bit adventurous, the 900 km ride (13 hours straight through if you’re a masochist) from the Costa del Sol to the port of Bilbao is just like cracking open a travel guide book for the country, allowing you to experience some of Spain’s finest foods, wines and landscape.

Certainly, after leaving southern Andalusia’s sunny olive groves, strains of Gypsy flamenco guitar, its Moorish towers and snowy Sierra Nevada, an exciting measure of travel is leaving the white washed towns and villages behind and cresting the dividing line of the rocky Sierra Morena and begin to see the creaking windmills of Don Quijote fame dotting Castilla la Mancha’s flattened countryside. Celebrating this fictional character’s 400th birthday in 2005, every shop window featured this windmill chasing romantic and his sidekick Sancho. Cervantes, his creator, would possibly have been shocked to see Quijote’s form on everything from quince jelly to curtains. Despite all this marketing hype, Consuegra makes a fine lunchtime stop to see these 16th century beacons that wind away time. 

Saffron for sale in Granada
The village also supports thriving saffron plantations and if fortunate you may see the fields abloom and join in the party at their autumn saffron festival. Here, the painstaking work of plucking the fine hairs of the crocus flower’s stigma takes place each year in the area, with 80,000 flowers making only one pound of saffron. A mainstay in the Moorish cuisine (that dominated Spain for 700 years), it has survived in Spanish kitchens and now permeates and brightly colours such favourites as the famous rice dish paella.
There we are already to the centre of the country!  Take a breather,  one more cold cerveza and enjoy this beautiful area before heading into the northern reaches of the country tomorrow.

View of the Alhambra Palace in Granada

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Andalucian Lurking Dangers!

Our Road Bike Lakes, Mountains and Sea tour, which ends in Almuñecar, on the warm and sunny Costa Tropical, is where you can find this most potent and somewhat evil plant. 

When I walked by one the other day, I couldn´t believe the overwhelming intoxicating smell but if ingested or drunk in a tea (more common than you would think!), woah, watch out, really dreadful spasms, horrific hallucinations, paralysis, trances, and even cases of insanity.  Called ironically “Angel´s Trumpets” it was used in ancient rituals throughout South and Central America where it is native, and is rumoured to be a main component in Haitian “zombie” making.  Australia even tried banning some of the species of this plant.
There are many around the district here and while really unique and beautiful perhaps best to stick to Tetleys tea??

Monday, 22 June 2015


1)      Official Operator status means unrivalled access.  We work with La Vuelta organization to ensure you have VIP access at the stage finish, depart villages and podium tours. Importantly our vans are accredited to drive the route on race day giving our riders total support. Unlike other tour companies, we can allow you to ride right across the stage finish line only hours before the peloton.

2)      Local Tour Company, based in Spain – Need we say more? Our experienced road cycling guides are bilingual and live permanently in Spain with a blend of Spanish and ex-pat guides.  We all ride these roads and love them!

3)      We reccy the Routes in full.  All our stages are pre-planned so you get to ride the best bits and get to be in the right place at the right time.  We pride ourselves on knowing all the stages. This allows you to ride with the group or at your own pace and enjoy the special atmosphere of riding on race day.

4)      Experience – we´ve been running La Vuelta tours for the last 7 years and have the knowledge and know how to run a fun and successful trip. Ask for references from our past riders from around the world.

5)      Passionate about cycling and racing.  All of us are cyclists and we love being at La Vuelta and showing you the race and Spain.  It is the highlight of your and our year.
6)      Ok, we couldn´t resist, #6, Value and Quality – check our prices with others, plus our amazing hotels (historic monument hotels, 4 stars and Paradors) plus Trek Madone carbon bikes to ride. We will not be beaten on price and guarantee you a fantastic experience.

Saturday, 20 June 2015


This year’s race is again looking to be an intriguing contest over the mountains of Spain. We highlight the route, main contenders and 5 reasons why you should be here to see the action LIVE!

La Vuelta 2015 (22nd August to 13th September) looks, once again, the most spectacular and interesting route out of the 3 Grand Tours this year.  Simply put, the intensity of the mountain stages and the abundance of new and innovative climbs make it a race that leaves no room for predictability.  Never before has a Grand Tour had so many undiscovered finishes – the Spanish epic seems to specialise in creating nail biting mano-o-mano cycling, just like last year’s battle between between Contador and Froome, with Contador taking the honours.

Our 2 VIP bike tours this year focus on the best part of this race in the South with particular attention paid to these new and inspiring mountain finishes in this rugged but picturesque region of Spain. Highlights no doubt include the Grand Depart Time Trial in Marbella (which you can ride on race day) and the stage finishes of Andalucia, where the Caminito Del Rey and the heights of the Alpujarras, the foothills of our local Sierra Nevada, are not to be missed.

Then we head to the North where the race will be won and lost with some classic high mountain finishes. Stage 15 looks like one of the most beautiful routes ever devised by La Vuelta with the special El Torno pass to get over before the glorious category 1 climb and grand finale in the steep little village of Sotres in the Picos de Europa. Not to be outdone, Stage 16 is a crazy day of climbing in Asturias, culminating in the new and somewhat sinister (6 km but with an average gradient of 11% and ramps at 20%) Hermitage of Elba climb. Swords will be crossed.

La Vuelta Favourites
Writing at his time of year is always difficult to name for certain the roster and the team leaders.  One thing for sure is that contenders for La Vuelta 2015 title will be a high quality field. Plus it is always the last chance for a rider to salvage their season if there has been a withdrawal or bad form within the Grand Tour season this year.

Chris Froome
 The No. 1 favourite as it stands has to be Chris Froome, leader of Team Sky, having just seen him impressively win the Dauphiné and also the early season opener of the Ruta del Sol (Tour of Andalucia) against Contador.  The parcours seem to have been made especially for him as there features some incredibly tough climbs but importantly there is also a long Time Trial Stage in Burgos. Being the supreme all rounder which he is, he will be keen to keep with the best of them in the high mountains and on a good day, leave his nearest rival trailing. But he will be assured of gaining some important seconds on the T.T. over his main rivals if he performs to his potential. If Froome doesn´t win this year´s Tour de France, he will be going all out, guns blazing to capture his first Vuelta Victory.

Nairo Quintana
Froome´s main rival, on paper at least, would seem to be Nairo Quintana of Team Movistar.  Quintana has the ability to put in a blistering attack in the mountains and with the support of an incredibly strong Movistar team with probably ex Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde as a super domestique, he will be looking to make up for his disappointing withdrawal from last year´s Vuelta due to a crash. The diminutive Columbian, if at his best, will set this Vuelta alight.

Joaquim Rodriguez
The man who is yet to win a Grand Tour and is desperately due a big, big win is perennial home favourite, Joaquim Rodriguez of Team Katusha.  Purito is a real class act having podiumed at La Vuelta previously and won the UCI´s World Tour Rider of the Year.  A huge advantage he has over his rivals are the 3 mountain stages, including the Queen Stage, in his backyard in Andorra where he lives and trains and he´ll be wanting to put on a great show for the home fans. The Queen stage of the La Vuelta this year takes in an incredible 5,238m of climbing in just 138km – perfect for Rodriguez to show his talents.

Vincenzo Nibali
The Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Team Astana), Vuelta winner 2013, has to be one of the pre race favourites .  Never one to be phased by any type of parcours thrown at him, this winner of all Grand tours has the pedigree and proven ability to win this race.  Again a lot really depends on this year´s TdF and his showing there but one can be assured that if he is at the start in Marbella he will be the main man to beat with Froome.

The others
Other riders to watch will be the Scilian Fabian Aru (also Team Astana) who gave Contador a good run for his money in this year´s Giro.  Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) will be looking to mark his name on this year´s Vuelta as well.  And let´s not forget Jurgen Van den Broeck of Team Lotto-Soudal who always seems to be there or thereabouts.  Irish rider Dan Martin, Canadian Ryder Hesjadal and American Andrew Talansky of Cannonadale Garmin could also make good or even pull off the win. And finally, the French resurgence of Thibault Pinot (Team FDJ) and team mates Peraud and Bardet of AG2R-La Mondiale are certainly in the mix.

Alberto Contador
One rider who I omitted so far is last year´s winner Alberto Contador.  As it stands, Contador has already won the Giro and has his sights set on winning the TdF double. So at the moment he has said he isn´t defending his Vuelta title. But a withdrawl or poor showing in the Tour could of course change that – plus pressure from the maverick team owner Oleg Tinkov to ride. It would be no surprise to see him line up at the grand depart in Marbella this August 22nd.

It looks a mouth-watering race and once again you could there with us riding some of these epic stages and cheering on the main GC contenders.

#lavuelta #lavuelta2015 #biketour #Spain #cycling #Froome #Contador #Quintana #Nibali #VIP

Monday, 16 February 2015

Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucia 2015 - Stages of the Ruta del Sol

The best cyclists in the world are coming to Andalucia
 Come & Ride it for yourself!

Alberto Contador kickstarts his season in Andalucia

The 61st edition of our very local race La Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucia (Tour of Andalusia), begins this Wednesday and just so happens to be packed full of the best cyclists in the world. Alberto Contador (Team Tinkoff-Saxo), winner of La Vuelta 2014 crosses swords for the first time this season with his biggest rival, Chris Froome (Team Sky), winner of the Tour de France 2013. The race, also known as the Ruta del Sol, has never had the current 2 best grand tour riders in the world here and the international media attention is gathering pace. Incredibly enough, the stakes were even higher up until a week ago when the Columbian Nairo Quintana (Movistar), winner of the Giro in 2014, pulled out with injury. All of us at Cycling Country will be out watching the race as it streams through our local area.

Impressive scenery from the Puerto de Cabra
Impressive Mountain Scenery - Puerto de Cabra
The designers of the race have obviously thought long and hard about providing us fans with something special as the route is quite spectacular for a mini-tour of 5 stages. After the flatter first 2 stages and Time Trial, all eyes will be on the queen stage (Friday 20 February 2015) from Motril to Hazallanas which passes by our regular ride from our office in Alhama de Granada, Lake Bermejales, and features 3 classified climbs. In fact the first climb up from the Mediterranean Coast, called the Puerto de Cabra, is probably one of the most beautiful cycling routes in Europe – every cyclist we have taken there on our Lakes, Mountains and Sea tour are blown away by the stunning mountain scenery.

As the race heads inland towards Granada, the peloton is in for a leg burner as they have to climb the short (5km) but steep (about 2km of it averages around 15%) category 1 climb of Hazallanas in the Sierra Nevada. This was the climb used for the first time in La Vuelta a España 2013, when Chris Horner decided it was time to surprise everyone and drop Vincenzo Nibali and go on to claim the overall GC. Our cyclists on our Vuelta España VIP Tour that year will no doubt remember struggling up the narrow and painful ascent to be greeted with great views down of the zig-zagging hairpin road to Guejar Sierra. If you ever fancy riding this beast, we have the option on our Granada and Sierra Nevada road cycling tour.
22% maximum gradient - ouch!

For the past three years, the world number 1 cyclist (UCI World Tour) Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), has won the race, putting on a great show for his local fans from Murcia. Not being here this year, a new name winner is guaranteed. Other top names include Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), three times third previously, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2R La Mondiale), runner up in last year`s TdF, and the Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory). If the Hazallanas stage doesn`t produce the overall winner, then the next stage will. A rolling stage begins from Maracena, Granada with three category 3 climbs through some of our favourite areas of Alcala La Real and Jaen province to keep the peloton alert, before the route finishes at the cat 1 of to the alto de Allanados. Not as tough as Hazallanas, but again a finish where the leaders can put time into their rivals. The scenery is beautiful and you can ride these roads on our challenging Signature Climbs Series which highlights the best climbs used in La Vuelta a Andalucia and Vuelta a Espana.
Chris Horner celebrates his win on Hazallanas - La Vuelta '13
The final stage 5 begins in the famous sherry growing town of Montilla and ventures through the heart of olive oil country. The race heads south through the picturesque gorge and lake area and uses the same roads as our White Villages self guided tour. With only 1 third category climb to tackle it is a downhill finish to the coast near Malaga in Alhaurin de la Torre (a stage depart town for La Vuelta 2015) where a bunch sprint is the likely outcome.

So stay tuned for this year’s route which showcases some of the best roads in the area, and therefore not surprisingly used on many of our bike tours in Andalucia. Watch the race action and great scenery from your home with Eurosport's
 live coverage or stream the stages on the internet.
Get inspired to come and cycle Andalucia for yourself