Cycling Lagos de Covadonga
Ride 22 kilometers gaining
Vuelta a España mountaintop finish 21 times between 1983-2018.
Climb summary and photos by PJAMM ambassador Stephen Rochford, Longwood Co., Meath.
This is the most iconic climb in Spain. The Angliru may be the one that strikes fear into the hearts of mortals but Los Lagos is the most historically significant and most frequently used mountain top finish in the Vuelta Espana. It was brought into the Vuelta as a climb to rival the Alpe or the Tourmalet and it has proceeded to achieve legendary status in the years since. Winners here include Pedro Delgado, Laurent Jalabert and Nairo Quintana. At 12.5km long and an average of 7%, this is a proper Grand Tour climb.
Starting at the impressive Basilica, site of King Pelayo's famous defeat of the Moorish invaders,the road is quite narrow but the surface is well maintained. Vehicular traffic is restricted to tour busses and motorbikes during peak season.
Straight away we hit 10% gradients for nearly 2km before easing very slightly to 8-9%. This section is well sheltered as we ride through the forest. It holds steadily for about 5km whereupon you go around a tight right hairpin and emerge above the tree line. Now the road kicks up sharply with the next km averaging 12% and hitting a maximum of 15. This area is known as La Huesera (The Boneyard) . Now the views begin to open up, if you have the ability to take it in while hitting double digit gradients. To your right is a low wall with sweeping views back down the valley you have been climbing through. The landscape becomes much more sparse and rocky with occasional meadows . You pass the Mirador De La Reina where you can often see large vultures perched, possibly eyeing you up as you move slowly past them. Now after nearly 9km climbing there is a very brief respite before another tough kilometer and a half often passing cows and goats on the road before finally you pass through a gap and the road sweeps sharply down and around the shore of the stunning Lago Enol. The Vuelta stage ends on the left turn just past the lake. https://www.strava.com/segments/14937054
However, we continue straight on and begin to climb again for another kilometer to reach Lago Ercina. Here there is a small cafe where we can relax and enjoy the views before descending back down again.
Most people climbing Los Lagos will start from the town of Cangas Di Onis where there is a large free car parking area. It is approximately 7km away, with the road gently climbing at 1-2% to the start of the climb.
Winners of the Lakes of Covadonga stage (Wikipedia)