We’d heard about the Puerto de la Virgen climb from pro riders who use it as pre-season test of fitness (much like say a Rocacorba) - it's one of the best known climbs in the Costa Almeria area, and it had been on our to-do list for a long time.
It didn’t disappoint.
Starting from Uleila del Campo you climb on quiet, superb quality roads through the quaint villages of Benizalon and Benitglia. By the time you reach Chercos Viejo most of the climbing, apart from the Virgen, has been done, so you get to enjoy ten or so kilometres of descent down towards the Valley of the Blocks (get your camera ready for an unusual photo opportunity) before the main ascent of the day.
The Virgen is one of those climbs which seems daunting at first but the longer you are on the climb, the more comfortable you seem to feel. The gradient is not severe and there is a section around two kilometres from the top where you can actually get the bike into the big ring and make some real progress. The ride down the other side was well worth all the day’s efforts.
Written by John Vicars
Route map and profile
Distance: 55 km
Elevation Gain: 1,320 m
Max Grade: 17 %
All metrics in this guide are approximate
The highlight was certainly the Puerto de la Virgen from Cobdar.
We had heard a lot about it from professional riders who use it in pre-season as a training climb to test their fitness. It was every bit as good as we expected. Never too steep, but still demanding of effort, the ascent snaked its way from the north side of the ridge back to the south. Like most climbs in the area, we had the road to ourselves and the descent back to Uleila del Campo was a joy.
Fast, great road surface and (when we rode it, anyway!) virtually traffic free.
1. Uleila del Campo to Alcudia de Monteagud (0 to 21 km)
To get deeper and higher into the Sierra Filabres, this ride starts and finishes in Uleila del Campo, which is about one hour's drive from Mojácar.
You head out of town through relatively flat and barren terrain on the A1100. After seven km and a right hand turn onto the AL 5101, the road starts to go uphill on a climb known locally as the Alto Benizalon. This is another traffic-free ascent on near perfect roads (5 km at 7%) as it meanders towards the village of Benizalon, which sits towards the top of the mountain ridge. We are not exaggerating when we say that during the length of the climb we did not see one car! For most of the day it was like riding on closed roads.
Leaving Benizalon it’s a steady descent, then a kick up that takes you to the picturesque village of Benitglia (there is a small social club here if you need water etc).
After Benitiglia the road starts to climb again, but there’s nothing too steep and you eventually come to the outskirts of Alcudia de Monteagud. Here it’s a sharp left hand turn on a road signposted to Chercos.
2. Alcudia de Monteagud to Cobdar (22 to 33 km)
This road is undulating and for a few kilometres not to the same standard as most others in the area - that said, we found it perfectly okay!
Hugging the right hand side of the hill you climb steadily until you the see the small settlement of Chercos Viejo on the valley floor to the right of you.
From here you start to descend and eventually turn right towards Cobdar. Just before the village of Cobdar there is a huge quarry on the left hand side of the road, which is apparently responsible for producing and distributing marble all over the world. At what has become known locally as the Valley of the Blocks they cut giant cubes from the cliff face and leave them on site and at the side of the road. This provides quite a spectacle and an unusual photo opportunity for passing cyclists!
3. Cobdar to Uleila del Campo (34 to 55 km)
While the Valley of the Blocks provides a good photo, the real highlight of the day is still to come.
After climbing out of Cobdar, you find yourself at the bottom of a 10 km climb (average of 4%) up the north side of the Puerto de la Virgen. This is a really nice climb, not too long or steep and near the top you can actually get into the big ring for a kilometre or two.
You can see why the professionals use this climb as a training test. For them it’s a 20 - 25 minute effort which is not too severe and one which they can virtually do in time trial mode from bottom to top.
In keeping with most Spanish climbs, there is a distinct lack of fanfare at the top - just a modest sign indicating the name and relevant elevation. You can tell that the commercial machine that is the Tour de France has not been to these parts!
From the summit you then enjoy a superb 10 km twisting descent all the way back down to Uleila del Campo - this was an absolute joy, especially knowing that we had completed the climbing for the day. We saw three cars and a motorcycle during this part of the ride - again it was like riding on closed roads and can be best described as cycling with a permanent smile on your face!
We had a quick coffee at Café Los Arcos in the market square of the village of Uleila del Campo at the start of the ride.
However, once en route, we didn't stop at any cafés because we didn't see any!
Make sure you have plenty of food and drink with you for the duration.
We were staying in Mojácar, about an hour's drive from the start of this ride. We stayed at the Paradores de Mojácar next to the beach in Mojácar - you can find out all about it in our ultimate guide to Almeria, here.
Read our tips for cycling in Almeria before you set out.
Click here for our complete guide to planning a cycling trip to Almeria.
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