I´ve just come to the end of a fantastic week with a client who has long since become a friend and has just completed her 4th trip with me in as many years. Birgit, from Germany first booked a few days of guided mountain biking back in 2012 as a beginner. Since then, she´s returned each year for a full week of guided XC mountain biking, has formed a regular group of bikers in Germany, has recently bought her second bike and is now an experienced and accomplished mountain biker.
A few months ago, we discussed the possibilities for this year´s trip. She wanted some slightly more demanding routes, maybe to see a new area, surely to spend a day or two in the beautiful Sierra de Espadan (a remote mountainous region north of Valencia) and to stay in rural or semi-rural locations.
So, with all of that in mind I set out to design a bespoke trip that would hopefully exceed expectations. A few emails later and we had a plan :
Day 1 – Arrive Valencia airport and travel to the historical town of Xativa, where Birgit would stay in the lovingly restored Casa Aldomar guest house for the first 3 nights.
Day 2 – An acclimatisation ride from Xativa, providing the opportunity to adjust to the heat and conditions.
Day 3 – A more demanding ride in a “new” area not far from Xativa.
Day 4 – Move from Xativa to the lovely hill town of Segorbe, nestled between the mountain ranges of the Sierra de Calderona and Sierra de Espadan. Then a longer ride with some big climbs. Birgit would then stay in the charming guest house El Patio de las Cebollas in the historical quarter of Segorbe for the following nights.
Day 5 – A rest day.
Day 6 – A shorter ride, in the Sierra de Calderona.
Day 7 – A long ride, albeit technically less challenging as a way to bring the week to a close.
Day 8 – Return to Valencia airport.
This was how the week developed………..
Ride 1 – Acclimatisation Route from Xativa – 47kms & 900m of ascent.
As Birgit had opted to bring her own bike, we spent a little time assembling and checking it before heading out on the trails from Xativa. We deliberately stuck to relatively simple terrain although there were a couple of substantial climbs involved. After a picnic in a small farming village, we climbed the day´s biggest ascent through an area of forested mountains before dropping into the Albaida Valley.
A lovely stretch of riverside trail took us back into Xativa.
Ironically our first day, which was supposed to be an acclimatisation exercise turned out to be the hottest day of the week, with temperatures in excess of 35 degrees C!
Ride 2 – Rocky Mountain Trails of the Valencian Ribera – 41kms & 1070m of ascent.
The day dawned bright but much fresher than yesterday, with perfect temperatures for biking. Today´s ride was in an area that I´ve only recently begun to explore. It´s a region of high mountain plateau that gives a real sense of remoteness, despite it´s close proximity to Valencia.
The terrain was tougher than yesterday´s ride, and involved some rocky ascents and a few challenging descents. It also included one long, sustained climb up onto a ridge that rewarded our hard work with far reaching views over the Valencian mountains and coast.
We were also fortunate to see some birds of prey, including a Honey Buzzard and a Short Toed Eagle.
Ride 3 – Long XC Route in the Sierra de Espadan – 55kms & 1600m of ascent.
Birgit took the train from Xativa to Valencia where I met her at the station before travelling the short distance to the enchanting village of Navajas in the Sierra de Espadan. We knew that today was going to be a long and tough day so we´d packed extra food and ensured that we were properly hydrated before we began.
The ride was extremely varied, the first half taking us up into the high forested peaks of the region and including a long, hard climb on rocky terrain. The second half was technically easier albeit still quite demanding and took us through some of the region´s remote hill villages on tracks that we originally designed to link the olive farms.
After a welcome rest in the shady square of a small village, we ate a few sweets, drank plenty of water and gathered our remaining strength for the final 8kms….most of which seemed like they were uphill! We arrived back in Navajas extremely tired but with the satisfaction that comes with completing a long XC route.
Ride 4 – Sierra de Calderona – 33kms & 800m of ascent.
In between rides 3 and 4 Birgit had enjoyed a rest day during which she´d relaxed on the terrace of the guest house and enjoyed a stroll around the old town of Segorbe and a visit to the olive museum. Today´s ride was purposely designed to provide a route that was relatively short, but explored some of the lesser known corners of the Sierra de Calderona. The route only had one relatively hard climb and that was on superb rocky trails.
We arrived back in Segorbe by mid afternoon, so spent a couple of hours discussing and practicing emergency bike repairs before bringing the day to an end with a coffee in the shade of the terrace.
Ride 5 – Final Ride – 45kms & 1200m of ascent.
To make the most of the final day, we opted for a long route that climbed out of the ancient village of Jerica. It was a beautiful day, with perfect temperatures and only a slight breeze. We made good progress on our outward leg of the route, so over lunch we discussed the options for our return.
We were doing well for time, so we opted to take a more challenging route back. This proved to be a huge success as the trails were absolutely superb, and the scenery amazing. The spring flowers that were all in full bloom added to the experience, as did the brightly coloured butterflies, one of which actually landed on Birgit´s handlbars for a while. After quite a long climb on a semi-surfaced road, we returned to the trails and followed these through some extremely pretty forests before dropping back into Jerica.
It had been a fitting end to a fantastic week. The whole experience had been a pleasure for me, especially so having seen the fabulous progress that Birgit has made over the past few years. We´d enjoyed a total distance of over 220kms and had climbed in excess of 5,500 metres during the trip.
Written by Dave Warrington.
Mountain Bike Guide & Instructor at Mountain Biking Valencia.