I´ve just come to the end of an absolutely fantastic week with a client from Ireland. We had communicated by email over the past couple of months and together had designed a tailor-made break for him.
As John was travelling alone and wanted a mountain biking holiday in Valencia, he had opted to stay in the heart of the historic quarter of the city, choosing one of the many self-catering apartments that are available there.
The plan for the holiday was to begin with a 2-day skills course that also included a session on bike set-up and emergency repairs. This was to be followed by a day of guided cross country mountain biking, then a rest day. Following the rest day, we then had a further 3 days of guided cross country mountain biking. Our philosophy of never mixing groups meant that the entire week was solely for John, with a instructor : client ratio of 1:1 throughout.
Day 1 – Skills Course
In order to provide a holiday in which John could also see different areas of the Valencian region, we made the short journey to the beautiful old town of Xativa on our first day.
The first day of the course is always about going back to basics, and focussing on best practice before moving onto specific skills. Mental approach, confidence building, safety and concentration always feature heavily too. We spent the rest of the day on a superb trail that includes great sections for developing many of the key skills of XC-mountain biking.
Day 2 – Bike set-up and emergency repairs
For the second day we travelled to the Albufera de Valencia Natural Park where it was possible to combine the course with an element of local history and culture, particularly the rice growing agriculture of Valencia.
The session began with bike set-up, focussing on comfortable and efficient riding positions and placement of saddle and gear and brake levers etc. We then spent time covering routine maintenance before focussing on what one should carry when out cross-country mountain biking, and how to make emergency repairs whilst out on the trail.
Day 3 – Guided XC Mountain Biking
For our first full day of guided XC mountain biking, we made the short trip to the south west corner of the Sierra de Calderona Natural Park, an area of mountains and Mediterranean forest just 35 minutes from Valencia.
Valencia and indeed Spain in general was in a cold-spell the likes of which hadn´t been seen for years! However, our area was forecast to be dry although with very low temperatures for the next few days. With this in mind, we dressed accordingly and set out into the sierra.
The route included a short section of wooded singletrack with some rocky steps before taking to some of the area´s higher trails. The far reaching views were as always fabulous, and despite the cold it felt great to be up so high, overlooking the mountains and further towards the coast. After a long and sustained rocky climb we enjoyed a super flowing descent into a small village where we enjoyed a coffee in the square.
Day 4 – Rest Day
This was purposely built-in to the week to allow for some rest and recovery. John spent the day exploring the beautiful city of Valencia. It´s a very easy city to visit as most of the key sights are within easy walking distance. The historic quarter is enchanting, but Valencia also boasts a beautiful park that was once the course of the river Turia.
After a devastating flood in 1957, the river was re-routed away from the city. The space that was left was subsequently converted into what is now wonderful parkland that snakes through the city, and can be followed almost right to the golden sands of Valencia´s beach and waterfront.
Day 5 – Guided XC Mountain Biking
After a day of rest, day 5 was designed to include a longer, tougher route towards the northern side of the Sierra de Calderona. The day dawned bright and sunny but temperatures were still very low, so we once again dressed in winter gear before heading up high into the mountains where we began our route.
This route is one of my favourites in this area due to its variation. It begins with a short climb before a wonderful steep, long descent through fabulous scenery. At the half-way point is a small village where we re-filled water bottles and enjoyed lunch.
The route then took us back into the mountains before we had to tackle the sting-in-the-tail : a climb of 5 kms that took us back to our start point. With clear skies and high pressure, the hard work was rewarded with some excellent views across the surrounding mountains.
Day 6 – Guided XC Mountain Biking
After yesterday´s tough ride, we opted for a shorter route for day 6, especially bearing in mind that tomorrow was to be the last day and was to include a much more demanding route. Again, to take in a different area we travelled south west from Valencia to the Sierra de Agulles. After a morning coffee, we headed up through orange groves to the trail-head before putting in some effort to climb into a hidden and little known hanging valley between mountain ridges.
We followed the trail through the entire length of the valley before enjoying a long and very steep descent to the ancient village of Simat de Valldigna where we stopped for lunch.
The return route was gentle and relaxed and took us through some of the area´s famous orange groves back to our starting point.
Day 7 – Guided XC Mountain Biking
Our final day saw us back in the Sierra de Calderona. Today´s route was a tough one and was a fabulous ride to end the holiday on. After a superb start on a rocky climb through a very pretty wood, we emerged onto a rocky trail that took us up higher into the sierra.
A narrower trail then took us into some of the more remote valleys of the area before a steep and quite technical descent followed by a steep although short climb put us up high, and gave superb views of the coastline. A lunch stop in a small mountain village was followed by the day´s last climb.
After a brief rest, we prepared ourselves for the long and quite demanding descent that took us back to valley level. A flowing section of trail through a wood took us to the end of our ride, and the end of a wonderful week.
John had performed superbly well throughout the week, and had increased in fitness and ability day after day. He´d given 100% to all that we did, and it had been an absolute pleasure for me to spend the week with him.
We finished the trip with a cold beer before packing the bikes and gear into the van and returning to Valencia.
Written by David Warrington.
Mountain Bike Guide and Instructor at Mountain Biking Valencia.