I hadn’t heard of La Covatilla prior to coming to Spain despite this climb featuring in the 2011 Vuelta a España.
Bejar and the Sierra de Bejar is only a short drive from Avíla and Piedrahíta, where we had ridden the previous day. We parked our motorhome in front of Aldi in Bejar, changed into cycling gear, and before we even knew it, we were climbing. It was a short dash up the mountain and back down, only a 33km ride.
We started climbing straight out of Bejar, even though the actual La Covatilla doesn’t start for another 7.5 km pass the township. It was Vuelta a España time, and we had been following the previous few stages on TV. Watching Contador attack Rodriguez time after time again was impressive.
Think of Contador what you want but he is beautiful to watch riding uphill, out of the saddle, straight back, head held up high, shoulders and upper body snaking over his bike. And Purito, similar style but with a rounded back and just as beautiful in his responses, did not allow Contador to get away, at least not in these stages that we watched.
Inspired and in a playful mood, I had my fun with La Covatilla.
I was a marionette, suspended over my bike, with a string holding my head high and two strings lifting my shoulders up, dangling myself on top of my bike just like Contador when he climbs.
And then I attacked. Alberto was Purito. I was Contador. It was the Vuelta a España. Alberto laughed, and let me go, only to ride pass me a few seconds later again. It was so easy for him to catch me, he might as well have made the “smoking cigar” hand movement with which Rodriguez gained his nick name. Whenever the road kicked up to 11% or more, I attacked. And it steepened a lot. It was so much fun, I felt so good, so strong, so child-like.
I started experimenting even more. One minute I’d be trying to make myself as tall and light as possible, the next I would be all over the handlebar, stomping on the pedals – Cadel Evans’ style. And then I would relax again whenever my Garmin showed a comfortable 7-9% gradient, allowing my body to ride it’s own comfortable, less graceful, style.
Before I knew it, I rolled over the finish line, disappointed that the climb had been short. We had a quick look around the car park and weather station, rolled up to the few houses that are the ski resort, took a couple of photos and turned around. Everything was deserted in the midst of summer.
There was not much to see or do up there, except a Toro Bravo, and only later I realised that there hadn’t been any fence between him and us. The descend was as much fun as the ascent. The clear views back down to Bejar with the viaduct stretching across the valley were stunning, and the only grudge I hold against this ride is that it was way too short.