The original plan for today was to ride up to Fuente De in the morning before returning to Potes for the ride to Riaño. However the last couple of days have been quite hard and the riding time is longer than expected, and I know there is a lot of climbing yet to come this week. Therefore I’ve decided to skip this morning’s climb and have a shorter easier day.
So whilst George gets up early and heads out for the 45km round trip to Fuente De, I have a lie in and then stroll to the supermarket to buy breakfast. Over breakfast I peruse the map and notice there is a small road into the hills just outside Potes, which leads to a viewing point. I decide to pootle out to this to warm up the legs, aiming to be back at the apartment for when George expects to be back from his excursion up the mountain. Just as I’m leaving George appears back from his early climb and decides to join me on the short climb to a small chapel just past the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana.
On our way back through town we snatch a quick caffeine break in a small bar before heading to the apartment to get sorted for the ride to Riaño. As we check out I read the detailed contour map on the office wall. The owner asks where we are heading, George says “Riaño”, he replies “I hope you’ve been training, you have to get over the San Glorio pass!” with a knowing laugh. Just at this moment I notice the number on the isopleth next to the road – 1600 metres! We’re currently at around 250 metres. Oh. So much for an easier day. On the plus side it’s only 56km to Riaño.
A few kilometres from Potes we pass through the town of La Vega where the Arroyo de Prado Rio and Rio Quinnesa merge, and the road starts to rise as we spot a sign that says ‘Pto. de San Glorio 18km’. The next 18 kilometres is the most stunning road we’ve ridden so far (and the climb to Covadonga, and two gorges, yesterday were pretty spectacular). The bottom section of the climb is gradual rise away from the river bank through meadows, before a couple of hairpins lift us high away from the river. The gradient stays pretty steady for the next 16 kilometres as we climb through wooded corners and switchbacks above the tree line and towards the snow. We know we’re nearing the top as red and white snow poles stand like sentries every few metres along the road side. Every time we look up we can see barriers higher on the mountain side but can’t quite figure where the pass will be in the landscape ahead. We climb higher and higher as the road turns back and forth.
Finally the road straightens and the pass is visible ahead, the signs silhouetted against the sky. Over the top the wind whistles and the cold starts to bite. Until now we’ve been exerting enough effort to not notice the cold now we are up in the snow. We carb up on the chorizo and cheese I find in my bag as I extract my merino sweater, an additional later to wear under the gilet and jacket. George tucks the empty cheese and chorizo packets down his gilet as an extra windbreak. It really is quite cold. We’re at 1600 metres and the wind howls over the pass.
The next 25 kilomteres pass with little effort as they are all downhill, except maybe the last few around the edge of the lake at Riaño. It’s not quite as effortless as we’d like as we’re also riding into a headwind that is blowing straight up the valley. We stop for a coffee and cake in a small bar in a little village on the descent, as apart from the snack at the summit we’ve not eaten since breakfast. Once in Riaño we dump the bikes and get changed to stroll around the town, which is absolutely deserted out of season. There’s no supermarket, just a Spar cornershop, and it’s shut. All the restaurants seem to be closed too. We end up having a couple of beers in one of the two open hotels in town, snacking on olives and crisps but we really need a meal. We manage to find a burger in a small bar but this simply satisfies our hunger for a short period until we can find a serving of fabada back in the hotel we first had the beers in. At last our appetites are satisfied and we fall asleep contented.
Distance: 63 kilometres
Climbing: 2550 metres