Whilst I breakfast on bread, ham and cheese and watch the weather forecast on Spanish telly, George is fiddling with allen keys and his crankset. The day before leaving the UK, whilst suffering with a fever and tiredness, he replaced the inner ring and accidentally bolted it on the wrong way round. He spent the whole of yesterday big ringing everything and it made his knees hurt. Today we have the first mountain climb of the trip, up to Lagos de Covadonga, and all of the gears will be needed.
Over 12 kilometres and a height gain of around 1000 metres we climb into the clouds. At times we can only see about 100 metres ahead and we have no idea where the top is until we see a sign for one of the lakes. Unfortunately there is no sign of the lake itself as it is shrouded in fog. We continue to the second lake at the top of the road, which again is hidden from sight.
Having climbed the last five kilometres in cloud we are quite a bit cold and decide to have a coffee at the bar. We then notice it is pretty much lunchtime so opt for the ‘menu del dia’ and load up on carbs and protein (we’ve still got a full day’s riding once we get back down to the bottom), along with a bottle of Rioja mixed with fizzy water (a northern Spanish thing), because obviously half a bottle of red before a 12 kilometre descent makes perfect sense.
When we leave the bar we realise that we can see the other side of the car park and a lake. The cloud has lifted and the views on our way back down the mountain are fantastic, it suddenly becomes apparent how high we had climbed. We pull into one of the viewing points a couple of hundred metres from the top and watch a couple of vultures or eagles circling high over another peak.
The descent is fast and fun, with a few squeally moments going into corners a bit too fast, but we can see far enough ahead to use all the road into the bends. We detour into the Sanctuary of Covadonga to look around before we drop back into the valley to pick up the road to Panes.
Turning onto the valley road we see that we have 50km to Panes, and then maybe another 30km to Potes. Initially we follow the Ríu Güeña before drifted away from this valley over a long steady climb. At the top we stop briefly to look down into the next valley watching the road disappear through a tunnel and around the edge of the gorge. The descent into the Ríu Casañu valley is incredibly fast, and within a few kilometres we pass where the Casañu runs into the Rio Cares and we find ourselves riding a stunning road squeezed between a rock face and the river.
The gorge opens into a valley as we near Panes. The last 50 kilometres have taken longer than expected due to the climb between valleys so we decide to stop for tea and cake in a little bar on the road out towards Potes. The road from Panes is through another gorge, along the Rio Deva, tighter and twistier than the last one. At every corner the view gets more magnificent, sheer cliff walls framing mountain peaks ahead. We feel like we are riding downhill despite riding against the flow of the river. We can’t work it out as we dropped continually into Panes, it makes no sense that we can be descending any further*. Again the gorge opens into a lush valley of meadows and farmland, and the last few kilometres into Potes are quickly covered and only interrupted by a cattle drive along the main highway.
It’s been another long day. Nine hours since we set off this morning, but through beautiful landscapes that seem to change every 25-30 kilometres, from wooded foothills to a bare, rocky mountain top, then two stunning valley roads through narrow gorges. It definitely feels like we’ve arrived in the mountains proper and we are excited to see what the next few days bring.
Picture of me (silver shoes, pink bar tape) by George
Distance: 124 kilometres
Climbing: 3000 metres