Alto de la Covatilla

As the Vuelta a España matures into a Grand Tour that is the equal of its older brothers, the Tour and Giro, names like La Covatilla are beginning to strike fear into cyclists around the world.

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One of those marvellous Spanish climbs consisting of a single road up a mountain that finishes in the middle of nowhere, La Covatilla is tailor-made for summit finishes. Most recently, it was the site of Ben King’s second stage victory in the 2018 Vuelta, with the American heroically staying clear of the chasing Bauke Mollema. It has also brought victories for Danilo ‘The Killer’ Di Luca and Dan Martin in recent years.

From the town of Béjar, the climb to the summit of La Covatilla is 17km long at an average gradient of 6%. Don’t be fooled by those stats, however, as the opening kilometres are extremely benign and the bulk of the climbing is kept for the second half. In total you’ll gain more than a thousand metres in altitude, with the summit at almost 2,000m above sea level – easily high enough for the effects of the altitude to kick in.

The Vía de la Plata route to Santiago de Compostela passes through this region, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself sharing the roads with bikepackers on gravel bikes as well as the usual col-conquering roadies.

We’d be lying if we said there were lots going on in Béjar or the towns nearby and if you’re looking to bag a bunch of famous names in a single trip, you’d be better off heading to the northern provinces of Asturias and Cantabria. That being said, there are a great many lovely climbs in the autonomous community of Castile & León – and a week of exploring in the area will bear many rewards. Madrid is only a couple of hours drive to the east.