173 kilometers, six mountain passes and a total elevation gain of 3,100 meters. That's the challenge that Orbea has in store for all cycling enthusiasts as a tribute to Basque fans.
Orbea's history is linked to cycling and the Basque Country, where this sport means passion, suffering and Herculean effort. A group of fans fill the roadside traveling as a group to the toughest mountain passes in the Pyrenees or the Alps. They were once referred to as the Orange Tide. These fans have witnessed climbs to mythical mountain passes, such as Tourmalet, Aubisque and Hautacam. They have been thrilled by the victories of Roberto Laiseka, Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve.
Orbea has always participated in this cycling experience. Now for the first time, as a tribute to its fans Orbea would like to contribute all its experience and knowledge by organizing a local Gran Fondo in the Basque Country. This race is for them and for anyone who wants to share this passion with us.
Orbea Gran Fondo
More than 1,200 people have already registered for the Orbea Gran Fondo, which will be held on May 28. The route will pass through vineyards and wineries in the Rioja Alavesa region enjoying its pleasant mild climate. But not to worry…along its 173 kilometers there is also plenty of room for suffering and excitement with its six mountain passes: one first category (Herrera), three second category (Rivas, Bernedo and La Aldea) and two third category (Vitoria and Zaldiaran), which account for 3,100 meters of elevation gain.
This is a mid-mountain stage worthy of the grand tours, such as the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España or the Vuelta al País Vasco.
Three mountain time trials
This event will have an equal share of fun and competition since there will be no general ranking during the race, but personal times and marks will be kept for those who wish to challenge themselves a bit more by fighting for the Mountain Stage Maillot worn by the winner of the time trials at three mountain passes.
For these participants, the organization will record the time it takes them to climb the most attractive mountain passes of the race: Rivas (2nd category), Herrera (1st category) and Bernedo (2nd category). This will allow the most competitive and most daring riders (or those who have made bets with their friends) to test their strength in three of the most challenging points of the Orbea Gran Fondo.
Kilometer by kilometer
This event will begin at 8 am near the Mendizorrotza parking lot in Vitoria/Gasteiz. After pedaling a few kilometers through the Green Capital the Orbea Gran Fondo heads up the first ramps of the Vitoria mountain pass.
This third-category climb takes place on asphalt in very good condition. This is the pass where the leaders of the pack are sure to climb at a steady pace in a hard gear while the rest enjoy the climb, which is not very difficult. That being said, the group is sure to begin to stretch out and the asphalt will put everyone in their place.
Once the Vitoria mountain pass has been conquered we head down to Ventas de Armetia to continue on towards Peñacerrada. Along the way touring cyclists will encounter four climbs, some with a grade of as much as 13%. Which means that natural selection will continue to reign in the pack before reaching this town in the Rioja Alavesa, where the first mountain time trial takes place up to the Rivas de Tereso mountain pass.
The ascent in the midst of beech forests to this second category pass is very pretty. It is the end that is the toughest part of the pass with a slope of 6.5%. At its peak we leave the Basque Country behind to enter La Rioja. Here the landscape changes and we transition from green forests to an area with a Mediterranean climate from where we can see Toloño, the tallest peak of the Cantabrian Mountains.
And in the distance is the Demanda Range with its imposing Mt. San Lorenzo and Urbión Peaks. Extra caution is necessary on the way back down from the mountain pass. It is a very winding descent with a couple of curves that require special attention.
Herrera: prepare to suffer.
Five kilometers after reaching Rivas de Tereso we find the first refreshment station right before connecting to the A-131 motorway. This is the section where we need to be the most mindful of the traffic just before taking on the third and most difficult climb up to Herrera, the mythical first-category pass that will also be timed for those who wish.
We will go up its most arduous slope, so be prepared for 13-15% ramps. It is a long, strenuous climb that, once completed, gives way to a descent of a couple of kilometers, after which we will take a detour to the town of Pipaón. This time we need to pay close attention because the asphalt in the descent is rough.
Double helping of Bernedo
Upon finishing our descent we pass through the towns of Villaverde and Villafría before reaching Bernedo where there will be another refreshment station. Next, the third and last timed climb begins to the Bernedo Mountain Pass. This is another climb in the middle of beech forests with everything Izki Natural Park has to offer and spectacular views at our feet. After reaching the top we have a nearly 18-kilometer descent to the town of Oion through vineyards and wineries.
Shortly afterwards and after cruising for a few more kilometers we find ourselves once again at the Bernedo Mountain Pass. This time we're on the southern slope where we can see the entire Cantabrian Mountain Range once again. It is a very drawn out climb, but one that will prove to be difficult due to the number of kilometers that we can already feel in our legs.
One last effort
After the descent we reach Bernedo for the last time and take the detour to Treviño where the last climb to the Zaldiaran Mountain Pass begins. It is known to be a very windy area which will make the ascent all the more difficult. At the peak there are only 9 kilometers ahead of us before reaching the finish line located at exact point from which we departed. There participants will have locker rooms, showers, physical therapy services and more. And of course there is the classic Bike Party where riders will share their stories of the race.
At your service
And of course like at every event we organize Orbea will be by your side pampering you throughout the race by providing different services: six refreshment stands, amateur radio operators who will monitor the riders as they pass by, motorcycles that will ensure everyone's safety, mechanical service and auxiliary vehicles that will provide necessary support to the participants.
In short, it will be a terrific Gran Fondo that was created to honor a unique group of fans and to call attention to the Basque Country as the land where cycling is…Passion.
Care to join us?