2015 review

the dust has now settled on the 2015 bici-almeria training seemingly ages ago in april. many of the group are now reaping the benefit of all those tough kms in the mountains
despite weather that was slightly more unsettled than that we have had in the previous 6 annual visits, we did still manage to ride every day for both of the weeks that guests were with us.

in order to be closer to the big ride climbs featured in cyclist bici-almeria found new accommodation near the village of tabernas – about 20km from our old hq in sorbas.
we really did strike gold on the accommodation front – a magnificent, private selection of re-furbished cottages in their own secure, wooded compound set back 150m from the main road between sorbas and tabernas. please take this in context – main roads in our part of almeria would be considered positively deserted in the uk. casas rurales albardinales are owned by one of almeria’s finest olive oil producers oro del desierto, which is located just across the road. lovingly restored to a magnificent standard the six cottages are named after the six important olive varieties – arbequina, picual, hojiblanca, cornicabra, lechin and blanqueta. these were set in a small, secure, gated wood with lots of outdoor relaxing space, a well used outdoor cooking area, shaded car port and of course, a very big swimming pool. the only real noise was the enormous variety of ornithology that shared the place with us!

Rides this year varied in length, from a 50km cold one that had to be abandoned when the temperature at the top of the first climb (1000m) dropped to just over 5˚C, to the epic velefique and calar alto double header of over 6 hours and 150km. as always all riders got to ride at the pace that suited them, whether it be flying up the climbs or taking it steady and making sure they were able to ride again the next day.

For me particular highlights this years were

• the new climb of alto de ohanes in the foothills of the sierra Nevada

• perversely the fact that we did have some challenging days climatically with wind and cold

• staying somewhere new and the fact that it was self-catering

• finding a local restaurant had some izadi 2001 crianza on list and it was delicious!

• driving to another province in order to get a guest’s bike up a running again

• the parilla (hotplate style barbecue)

• the company of our guests, particularly nice to have 3 ladies on the trip this year

• and finally and best of all was the simply magnificent place that we stayed. Any worries about self-catering, the houses, the location were all laid to rest. casas rurales de tabernas is simply an amazing place for a group of cyclists to stay. we will be going back in 2016

Check out our pics from the 2015 trip HERE

Jersey design

One of the trickiest bits of the bici-almeria annual training camp/holiday trip is creating, designing and sourcing a jersey for each year. Obviously it is only a tiny run in terms of kit orders but for the bici-almeria spring week it is one of the key ingredients to a good group vibe. For the guests it is nice to have a momento of the trip, for me as the proprietor it is exceedingly fulfilling on ‘kit day’ seeing a group resplendent in bici-almeria kit on the magnificent roads of Almeria, it matters not whether there are 3, 6, 10 or 16 riders – the buzz cannot be overstated!

In 2010, following on from a successful inaugural small group trip in ’09 – I decided to kit out the trip for the first time. Gear Club were producing kit for Reading CC at the time so I approached them for a small run of bici-almeria jerseys. We came up with a simple white jersey trimmed with a very Iberian red and yellow theme. Like all subsequent jerseys, the red indalo figure has pride of place. The 2011 jersey was a identical in design but the colour theme moved from red/yellow to a black & grey theme.

jersey 2010 2011 jersey 2010 & 2011 jerseys

In 2012, for what turned out to be the last time, Gear Club again provided the jerseys. This time I went for something quite different. Deciding against a black jersey, my heart was set on something like the classic Caisse d’Epargne / Illes Baleares jersey of the late 2000s, as the Almeria sun really is quite hot even in April. So I took a punt on a grey/silver based jersey, incorporating blue trim and green/white/green bands and collars to represent Andalucia, as well as a very natty Spanish flash on on the rear pocket! Bibshorts were also made to match.

Jersey back gear club my sketch  …. and how Gear Club made it happen 2012 back

For the 2013 trip (which was a extended 6 week stay in Spain) I decided that I really wanted a kit that was manufactured in real cycling country rather than the far east or eastern Europe. So I explored various Spanish, Italian, British & Belgian kit suppliers. Then I remembered that I had an old jersey from a trip with Marty Jemison back in 1995 and fished it out from the depths of my kit drawer. Made in Belgium it proudly boasted on the label, plus the condition was still pretty good. So I tried to track down Decca who made the jerseys. Well Decca had obviously changed a bit since 1995, a new logo, Flemish-only website. So I emailed them and they were keen to work with me as they were just launching in the UK. I knew waht I wanted this year. I had decided that from now on each year I would base my jersey on a old pro team design. After much design back and forth we came up with a jersey like that worn by Movistar in 2011. Still a classic and still one of my favourites …

2013 kit 2013 Movistar inspired jersey

In 2014 Decca again supplied the kit, the chosen theme this time was Cervelo Test Team from 2009. Back to a mainly white design that proved popular with the group. We also had custom bibshorts made up by Decca in 2014.

jersey2014  bici-almeria jersey … love it!

So onto 2015 .. plans are in the pipeline … new supplier being sought … looks like we will be using top-end Belgian kit maker Bio-Racer in 2015 and basing the design on a more retro pro team – the Italian Jollj Ceramica  of the 1970s …

Watch this space

UPDATED JANUARY 6th …

Here it is  … hot off the press the 2015 bici-almeria jersey

2015 jersey front 2015 jersey back

Vuelta 2015 for Almeria?

The 2014 Vuelta was, yet again, probably the best of the three grand tours so next years has quite a lot to live up to. The route itself is not announced by Uniplublic until January, so right now there is just a lot of internet/forum speculation. But we do know that it is all kicking off in Marbella on August 22nd, so most likely another hot, hilly week in Andalucia for the peloton as in 2014.

So this makes the possibility of a Vuelta stage or two in Almeria a distinct possibility as they seem to like to throw in at least one big mountain stage early doors – why not Velefique and Calar Alto – making their 4th Vuelta appearance – perhaps a finish up at Calar Alto this time, or a daredevil descent to a finish at the foot of the mountain.
I found at least one post suggesting an Almeria mountain stage.

Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Posts: 193
I hope they do Veleta in the first week. My guess is they will go via Almeria this year and do Calar Alto / Velefique as the early mountain stage.

In addition to the Vuelta – Almeria also hosts its own one day race in the Spring – a UCI 1.1 ranked event – attracting many of the big world-tour teams. This happens on February 14th in 2015 – often featuring bici-almeria’s home roads around our base town of Sorbas. Hopefully the race will come our way again next year after a couple of years to the west of the city, one thing is for sure, with a recent winners list of Sam Bennett, Mark Renshaw, Michael Matthews, Matteo Pellucci, Theo Bos (Cav was 2nd) and Greg Henderson, the race will come down to a sprint finish on the Rambla in Almeria city centre!

3x World Champ Oscar Friere @ Clasica Almeria 2011
3x World Champ Oscar Friere @ Clasica Almeria 2011
His bike

In 2014 the Vuelta a Andalucia paid a somewhat rare visit to Almeria – albeit for a very short Time Trial based around the massive Casi tomato-packing facility (if you didn’t know tomatoes are a really big deal in Almeria, I bet many you will eat between now and the spring come from Almeria!) The event was short and sharp, and resulted in a rare 2014 TT defeat for Brad Wiggins who was beaten into 6th place over 7.3km by Alejandro Valverde!

Team Sky at the tomato loading bay!
Team Sky at the tomato loading bay!

However, it is the non-competition cycling that makes Almeria such a great place to ride. The roads are virtually devoid of traffic, surfaces as good as any (always find a newly resurfaced road whenever I ride somewhere new, this year it was the climb to Benizalon in the Sierra Filabres) and the weather is reliable all year round. These three pictures were taken in October 2013 and New Years Eve 2011.

New Years Eve Ride 2011 -
October ride 2013
New Years Eve - Puerto de la Virgen 1080m
New Years Eve – Puerto de la Virgen 1080m
Back on terrace after ride - New years Eve 2011
Back on terrace after ride – New years Eve 2011

This is why the likes of Belkin, Lotto-Belisol, Movistar & NetApp Endura have all used Almeria for early season training camps in last few years – we even saw Olympic Champion Samuel Sanchez descending down off Velefique in 2013 during one of our group trips.

Samuel Sanchez coming down Velefique April 2013
Samuel Sanchez coming down Velefique April 2013

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Other Almeria news – Autumn 2014

Other Almeria news

Castillo de Tabernas – having driven past it every time we have arrived in Almeria since 2008 we finally got round to climbing the footpath up to the ruins of the Moorish fortress of Tabernas. Looks much more impressive from the road below than it actually is when you get up there, the views however are magnificent. Sierra de Alhamilla to the south, Sierras de Gador & Nevada to the west and the Sierra de los Filabres to the north, with its Calar Alto telescopes gleaming white at the top!

Castillo de Tabernas panorama
Castillo de Tabernas panorama
Clear skies above Castillo de Tabernas
Clear skies above Castillo de Tabernas

Bodegas Mendez Moya – on a day trip to Guadix I persuaded Lisa to follow a sign to a bodega at a place called Dolar. Having seen the wines of Mendez Moya in a local bread shop I had been intrigued at how wine could be made in such a dustbowl. The 9.5 climb up into the mountains from the A92 motorway gave the answer. The modern winery is located at 1323m (some vines are another 200m up the mountainside) so the punishing heat of the summer is lessened by the effect of the altitude. The wines were delicious, particularly good were the three wines that featured Syrah in the blend! http://www.mendezmoya.com/

Bodega Mendez Moya
Bodega Mendez Moya
Wines of Mendez Moya
Wines of Mendez Moya

Hollywood in the Desierto again! Following Ridley Scott’s Exodus being filmed in the region last year, another epic Claudius is currently shooting in Almeria and Tabernas, starring Joseph Fiennes the region this time features as the backdrop for the might of the Roman Empire!

First snow! Despite toasty temperature during our week in Almeria it was clear that the highest peaks of the nearby Sierra Nevada had already been cold enough for an early dusting of the white stuff!

October Trip post 2

For my second ride of the week, and a non-car assisted one at that, I wanted to check out a road I had heard about and seen from above on a previous trip whilst walking! The closest mountain to my home in Sorbas is the Puerto de la Virgen. Usually tackled from Uleila del Campo and is a favourite of mine, and also many previous guests. However on a recent trip Lisa and I walked from the ‘puerto’ to the summit and the Ermita perched precariously on top. Taking in the stunning 360˚ views I couldn’t help but notice a narrow strip of tarmac snaking its way up towards us from the village of Benizalon in the next valley. I, of course, made a mental note to give it a bash at some stage before April 2015.

The Ermita de Virgen de la Cabeza atop the Sierra de las Filabres
The Ermita de Virgen de la Cabeza atop the Sierra de las Filabres

This meant that for my ride I had to head from Sorbas north to Uleila then, rather than scale the Puerto de la Virgen, head back south to the base of the climb up into the Sierra de las Filabres to the village of Benizalon. This climb has been missing from our itinerary since 2013 as we found the road surface had gotten too broken and rough (please remember that this in the context of Almeria roads!) However since our last visit in March 2013 the Diputacion de Almeria (local government) had been out with one of their fantastic road building teams and the result is yet another super smooth strip of new tarmac winding its way sinuously up the mountain side. The climb up to Benizalon is quite a tough one in itself, just under 8km from the junction to the summit – the first 2 km are flattish – then it ramps up from 659m to 1020m in 5km (7%). In the 26˚ midday October sun it was pretty tough going even with a silky smooth road under my wheels.
A quick downhill blast brought me into Benizalon, and I nipped into the always busy, Bar Leonora y Jaca for a coke. Even by their standards it was particularly busy today! Then navigating a maze of tiny streets I found the narrow road out of the village towards the Ermita Virgen de la Cabeza, a distant white precipice atop a towering peak looking out over the whole locale. The track, tarmacked beautifully of course, is primarily used for an annual Easter procession, on foot, from Benizalon to the Ermita, carrying a statue of the lady Virgen herself. It is however a great road for us cyclists, After giving up trying to work out where ahead of me it went next, I just carried on climbing, suddenly rounding a bend and finding myself crossing a ridge on the southern edge of the sierra, a sharp drop down to my right but with stunning views over Uleila and extending to Sorbas and even the coast in the heat-hazed distance. The road suddenly darted back round the northern side of the ridge and there was the white pinnacle, the Ermita, ahead once more. I was reminded of Ventoux and how the tower their seems so near and yet so far, seemingly moving with each bend in the road, disappearing from view then suddenly there like some mystical genie of the mountains! A series of hairpins followed and the gradient leapt into double-digit figures maxing out at 14% for a short while! Then under the literal nose of Ermita itself, about 1km from the summit, a travesty! The sudden end of the glorious smooth tarmac, replaced by loose shale-like gravel. Despite my best efforts it was virtually impossible to get any real traction on a road bike, certainly it would be ridiculously difficult to safely descend back down. So, slightly dejected, I turned and headed back down to Benizalon, skimming round the hairpins and then hurtled down the sensational, ribbon-like descent down the mountain, no cars passed me on the way up, I don’t think any came towards me on the way down. Then back to Uleila and home to Sorbas.
Such a shame that the tarmac ends preventing road bikes reaching the white Ermita itself, leaving the rider stranded almost within touching distance of what hundreds of Easter pilgrims reach on foot each spring! Still, like most climbs in Almeria, it is worth it all the same.

October trip Post 1

Great day out on the virtually traffic- free roads of Almeria. Asked Lisa very nicely to go for a day out in the car, checking a few potential new climbs for the April 2015 trips.

We headed past the place we will be staying near Tabernas, on to Gador and along the road we used last year to get to the foot of Calar Alto.

Rather than climb up through Alboloduy, we headed west towards Canjayar where the first of the climbs was. So bike out of car and after a quick whizz back down 2km to the junction with the ‘main road’ I turned and began the climb up to the white village of Ohanes, clinging to the mountain slopes @ 969m up. So I figured it out 8km with about 450m vertical difference. Add in the fact I had just got out the car plus it was 26° – and I realised I was in for a good 35 minutes of hard work.

It was a good one, perfect surface, no traffic, lots of great little switchbacks and some breathtaking scenery. The only negative about the comes just before 2km up, a very smelly chicken farm that fills the senses for about 250m. A few bends further up I passed Lisa sat in the sun by the car, music on, surfing away online, no stopping just a ‘see you in bit’ between increasingly heavy breaths. Then I settled into a nice rhythm as the next 3km were 5-7% with those switchbacks we cyclists love, the ones where you can see the next few above you as you climb. Resisting the urge to stop and take photos, I pressed on still managing to push on at a decent pace on the big ring! Then at about 6.5km I came round a tight bend and the tarmac straightened out in front of me for a good 300 metres and it looks a bit steeper than all I had already done. A quick look down at the computer showed 13% and this was followed by an equally quick shift down on to the 34 and the struggle was lessened. Then the beautiful sight of Ohanes appeared a few bends ahead and after 36 minutes of climbing I reached the village, turned round and punctuated the brilliant descent with those photos I resisted on the way up.

Back at the foot of Ohanes we continued west past the bigger town of Canyajar and onto Bieres to check out the other climb up to Ohanes, or what could be a possible descent. Like the first this had spectacular vistas, a decent road surface but was a more rustic, narrow and much rougher road. Much less fun to descend than the smooth tarmac I had plunged down a few minutes earlier. Most likely any future climb and descent will use the first road. So in 2015 the Alto de Ohanes looks like making its debut on bici-almeria trips in at least one of the weeks, I can’t wait to get back there and climb it again.

Alto de Ohanes ... wow!
Alto de Ohanes … wow!

2015 trip planning

so here we go again, planning the two 2015 bici-almeria week long trips begins. 2015 promises to be our biggest and best ever after the fantastic coverage given to almeria by the big ride feature in issue 23 of cyclist magazine. lots of new riders ready to experience what they read about back in june, and ride what i still believe are the quietest and best cycling roads in europe.

in order to be closer to the big ride climbs featured in cyclist bici-almeria has spent the past 3 months visiting accommodation near the village of tabernas – about 20km from our hq in sorbas.

i think we have struck gold on the accommodation front – a magnificent, private selection of re-furbished cottages in their own secure, wooded compound set back 150m from the main road between sorbas and tabernas. please take this in context – main roads in our part of almeria would be considered positively deserted in the uk. casas rurales albardinales are owned by one of almeria’s finest olive oil producers oro del desierto, which is located just across the road. lovingly restored to a magnificent standard the six cottages are named after the six important olive varieties – arbequina, picual, hojiblanca, cornicabra, lechin and blanqueta. these are set in a small, secure, gated wood with lots of outdoor relaxing space, outdoor cooking areas, shaded car port and of course, a very big swimming pool.

each cottage sleeps 4 in two twin rooms and has two bathrooms, a dining room, lounge area, fully fitted kitchen and an outside terrace area. there is also a laundry room and storage room for bike boxes. the cottages are plenty big enough to store bikes inside with you! the setting is truly idyllic and just the place to unwind, relax and socialise after another great day in the saddle. preparing evening meals can be done either in you own kitchen or on the communal parilla – in effect a giant barbeque, indeed there is even an outside bar complete with pump for cerveza (not provided but can be sourced I am sure!)

breakfast is included in the 2015 trips and will be served daily at the restaurant across the road at oro del desierto, also included in the price is a daily cleaning service for all cottages and use of the laundry facilities.

the accomodation for 2015 is located just 30 minutes drive from almeria airport and 5 minutes from tabernas, which has a couple of decent size supermarkets, farmacia (chemist), pescaderia (fishmonger), panaderias (bakers), carniceria (butcher), fruteria (fruit & veg) as well as many small shops and a plethora of bars, cafes and restaurants. this makes the choice of whether eat in or out no problem whatsover, and there is some pretty good olive oil available very locally!

finally bici-almeria will be staying at one of the small cottages for the trips this year so will be on hand pretty much 24/7 as well as a member of the owner’s staff who has a house on site, he also speaks excellent english.

feel free to give me a call or drop me an email for any further details – details can be found at bici-almeria.com

2013 trips reflection

Well the dust has finally settled on the 2013 bici-almeria tours, a total of 31 riders joined me for the spring training camps between late feb and mid april. Many returning for second or third time, but a good number for whom this was their first bici-almeria experience

Just as the autumn kicks in here in the UK, bear in mind it is well still into the 20s everyday in Sorbas in October and November, I thought I’d better update the website and start thinking about 2014s trips. trying to keep it fresh and exciting I am offering a chance to explore a couple of other great regions of Spain – Asturias and Girona – in 2014 – more about that later, but preliminary details can be found on 2014 page on the website.

So 2013 tours were are great success, first arrivals were from Banbury Star in February and judging by their riding this summer it seems like the work they put in on Almeria’s climbs has worked for them …. hope to see Banbury Star members again in 2014

Good friend John H then arrived from Reading for the duration of the 2013 tours and put in some sterling efforts and rode like the legend that he is … it was his first experience of Almeria and I think he was hooked!

A small party from Amersham then arrived in March and brought with them the real spring weather to Almeria the chilly north winds had finally gone and warm days in the mountains were enjoyed by all.

Late march saw the arrival of the largest group – an ecletic mix from Reading, East Englia and the USA. Many of these were back for more in 2013 but there were also a few newbies in this fantastic group, we even had the first ever bici-almeria time trial on our ‘rest day’ up the short but testing Alto de El Chive outside Lubrin. I expect to see most of these guys again in 2014 either in Almeria or on one of the summer’s trips north!

The final group came after Easter and got the best of the weather, mostly from reading but with a few friends from other parts of the UK the group bonded really well and enjoyed riding climbs familiar to some, new to others and a couple that were new to everybody!

So thoughts on 2013 – well it is tough riding almost everyday for 7 weeks, the groups were great and the weather much better than the terrible spring UK I luckily missed. it clearly showed me that Almeria is beyond doubt a brilliant place for spring training camps and I hope to run a similar programme again in years to come. reliable weather, great roads, low traffic, mountains to ride …. miss it already!!!!

September visit

Going to start blogging a little bit about Almeria and some of the great rides that we have ridden with our visiting groups and also some that I have recce’d while out there on my own ….
I am going to start with one I did last month in the last week of the summer school holidays – I’m going to call it Alto de Nijar & the Campo
As with most rides in Almeria in late summer it was scorching hot from about ten minutes after sunrise to well after sunset on Friday 6 September. As I love riding in heat I set off just after 10am – very soon I was riding into the warm hairdryer headwind along the N340 west to the turn for Lucainena. The first little rise up through the eucalyptus trees is perhaps one of my favourite stretches of road, nice and steady for about 1.5km knowing that you have a good long climb coming up whether it be south to Nijar or west towards Turillas and Colativi.
On this occasion I was heading through Lucainena, climbing parallel but up and away from the ancient railway track now a via verde cycle path. The road surface is of course immaculate as most in the area are, and after passing one of Europe’s largest solar farms,which looks almost reptilian as it clings to the hillside, I reach the summit of what I call Alto de Nijar, 635m after 23km. What follows is an exhillarating 15km plunge down to the pueblo of Nijar, great sweeping bends with magnificent vistas out towards the Cabo de Gata and the Med. On the way up I passed one cyclist and met one car, on the way down I had the road to myself, only sign of life was the occasional local harvesting almonds either by hand or using what look like mechanised upside-down umbrellas. I got up to 60kmh but have done well over 80 down here before – in the Clasica Almeria a few years back the pros were over 100kmh!
Deciding to make it a non stop ride on this occasion I skipped the temptation of tostado and coffee in Nijar and dropped down to the Campo with it’s vast expanses of plasticos, the ‘greenhouses’ that ensure us folk in northern europe are well supplied with tomatoes, peppers and such like in the middle of winter. I decided to see if there was a way of following a service road alongside the A92 motorway rather than heading towards the coast and Fernan Perez as normal when out this way. So after skirting Campohermoso I found the service road on the north of the motorway to be a perfectly fine piece of road to ride on and covered 20km in next to no time. Riding alongside a motorway is never the most exhillarating experience but when you have 1000m mountains to your left and a smaller sierra and the coast to your right it ain’t so bad after all.
Soon I was back on familiar roads, having stopped at a service station to top up depleted water bottles, the AL-140 gorgeous road up through a dried up gorge, I marvelled at the white elephant that is the partially completed high-speed railway between Murcia and Almeria. A remarkable feat of engineering, bridges, tunnels and cuttings galore, but with no apparent sign of completion any time soon. In fact they have recently put tarmac down, perhaps it will become a modern via verde!?! Going back under the motorway I began the double dip climb that makes up the last 10km back to Sorbas, past derelict old cortijos, entrance to marble quarries and more ubiquitous olive groves. Can’t believe I haven’t mentioned these already, they are everywhere! A quick snake like descent into Rios Aguas and back up the steep almost alpine switchbacks, complete with those concrete block barriers and then the final dash back into Sorbas. From the town it is just 3km back to my house, however as with all good rides there is a sting in this particular tail, a 18% sting, what I call the Muro de Sorbas …. that is another blog for another day.
http://app.strava.com/activities/80752129