Sunday, 25 December 2011

The verdict

So, what is the final verdict about Tenerife cycling?

I recommend it. I'd give it a 4 out of 5. There are some world class climbs, like the obvious Puerto Cruz to Teide. Just five cycling days (if you climb mostly) will make a wonder of your legs and general fitness. Drivers are friendly and people are helpful and easy going ... ehm, with the exception of sellers of electronic equipment. Puerto Cruz has a lot of spots if you want to relax or party at the end of the day. The slight downside would only be that there are not much different routes to take. To explore the island further it might be wise to change the base every five days. Also, the traffic is denser then I'd like. Judging from the exhaust fumes, some local cars seem to run on wood, so I suggest to take a bandana to cover the mouth until you get high enough out of the traffic zone.

On the way up from Aguamansa.
Near Santiago del Teide.
Looking down to the sea from 2000 m.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Sixth day

The plan for the last day was not particularly original - the usual climb up to Teide, a bit further down to the junction toward Vilaflor and back the same way. If the plan was not original, it's quite spectacular: 45 km non stop climb, then 20 km of a breather, then a 45 km downhill. Since I've climbed Teide on the first day, the last day's climb made a perfect symmetry of this cycling week.

Among volcanic rocks.

Near the junction to Vilaflor.

And back to Puerto Cruz for the last evening.

Day 6: 114 km, +2740 m.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Fifth day

Today I made 82 km along the north coast eastward to Punta del Hidalgo and back. Nothing special happened, just a nice sunny day with the usual amount of ups and downs. I felt very confident of my legs, only four days of cycling the Tenerife climbs had made a miracle of my fitness.

East of Puerto Cruz.

Uninhabited rocks east of Punta Hidalgo.

Day 5: 82 km, +1590 m.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Fourth day

Here we go again - up there.
In the morning, as usual, I first stuffed myself with buffet breakfast. The plan for today was to climb again toward Teide, and then to turn left and make a loop back through La Esperanza. It was a "Wow, what a day!" day. This time I climbed to NP Teide non-stop. Surprisingly, cyclists don't seem to prefer this most obvious climb on the island. On my three days up to Teide I saw only two of them. They are more numerous on the costal strip, and if even that is too hard, you can put a bike on a bus to Teide and enjoy the downhill. The road from Teide to Esperanza was a pleasant surprise. It climbs some more to the astronomical observatory Izana, then follows a windy ridge before sloping down into the pine woods of Corona Forestal and winding long way down to Esperanza through quiet, misty and damp forests. After Esperanza I come out of the cloud layer and navigate small sunny roads of hillside villages, then descend the costal strip toward Puerto Cruz where I greet a bigger number of training cyclists.

Near Teide again.

Corona Forestal.

Through the mist.

Steep roads through hillside villages.

Day 4: 104 km, +2620 m.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Third day

Two hard days had left marks on my legs and blisters on my back side, so the third day I took a rest. I went to see Loro parque, "the must of Tenerife". The park started out as a nursing place for the endangered species of parrots, but that obviously didn't gain much profit, so the enlightened managers added some crowd-drawing features, like the white tiger, gorillas, aquariums and most of all today's big attraction - orcas, dolphin and sea lion shows. The parrots became now days more of a nuisance, occupying narrow cages along the paths where tourists are hurrying not to miss the start of the shows.

The orca show.

A stairway of fishes.

Day 3: 0 km.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Second day

Looking toward the west.
Yesterday's big climb left some strains in my legs, so for today I planned a regenerative ride, the loop over the west along the cost to Garachico, a lesser climb to Santiago del Teide, a drop through Masca to Buenavista del Norte and back to Puerto Cruz along the cost. That was the plan, but it had some surprises. First, the "coast road" doesn't actually follow the cost but involves over 750 m of climbing over 30 km, with some really ridiculously steep sections, one of them I had to push. Then, the descent to Masca is a steep one, but the road is very bad, so there’s a bit of deception after you put the effort to climb to Santiago del Teide. Moreover, a descent to Masca is preceded by an unexpected steep climb and after Masca, there are another two bitch climbs before you can enjoy your hard earned descent to Buenavista. All of this resulted in a day that was as hard as the day before, over 2500 m of climbing in 110 km. But that's why we came here to Tenerife: to climb and to develop those sexy looking quadriceps, isn't it?

From the climb above Garachico.

Swichbacks toward Masca.

Masca Picchu.

Landslide in El Palmar.
Day 2: 111 km, +2439 m.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

First day

Starting from Puerto Cruz at sea level.
My first impression of the island, looking through the window of a bus leading me to my base at Puerto de la Cruz, was not encouraging. I was looking at the labyrinth of highways with huge amount of traffic. I had the impression I'd arrived in the middle of Shanghai or Detroit.

Next morning I calmed my frustrations by taking triple servings from a buffet breakfast. In the time of distress, food always provides a great source of consolation. After the breakfast I went to the cycle shop to get the bike that I'd reserved for the next 6 days. It was an aluminium road bike with compact double 105 group and - as I noted few days later - 25 teeth cassette, which was rather high gearing for the steep gradients on the island. The uninspiring white-red design didn't result in love on the first sight, but that was OK - it wouldn't be a good steal material either. Right from the bat I started with the big climb to El Teide. It's one of the world greatest climbs: 45 km from the sea level up to 2350 m altitude at the base of the 3718 m high volcano, the climb that practically never levels out. I don't think there is a bigger climb in Europe.

Volcano El Teide.

At the base of El Teide (2350 m)
The traffic that looked so daunting last night was actually quite benign. The traffic volume was high up to the last village at Aguamansa, but the drivers were more then considerate. They would wait behind you indefinitely, following you at 8 km/h as you struggled up the 12 % grade, without slightest hint of nervousness - they were embarrassingly polite. On the way up I stopped a few times, but no worries, I had 5 more days to honey the climbing technique to perfection. On the way down I was a bit cautious, I haven't had experience with these kind of tires and I had the feeling that the bike was floating when cornering. There was also some fog on the way down. The cloud layer follows a peculiar formation on the island. When there are clouds, they tend to occupy the middle portion of the altitude - from about 1000 m to 1600 m. Under and above that it's sunshine and about 20 degrees C, but when you enter the clouds it drops down to under 10. The cold made me stop a few times on the way down, which was a pity as it would otherwise be a once-in-a-lifetime 45 km non-stop descent.

Sinking back into the clouds at 1600 m.
Day 1: 101 km, +2535 m.

Friday, 16 December 2011


At the end of the year, when the winter grips Europe with cold, fog and damp, the European "wannabe" racing cyclists start to panic. The hard work throughout the year and investment in developing muscles and superior VO2 is lost in just a few weeks of non activity. At that time their sad eyes turn to the south, to warm inviting places where the sun still provides much needed training, enabling that essential tenth of a second of advantage over their opponents on a club ride in the spring next year. For Europeans, Canary Islands are a perfect winter training place: warm and dry, big climbs, low fare airlines, Spain's subvention of the islands resulting in under average cost of accommodation and living. I'm not too ashamed to admit that I myself had fallen to the fashion this December - I went for a week of cycling in Tenerife.