Take a ride on the wild side and discover what makes the Spanish Pyrenees so unique on the Coll de la Creueta.
Words: Jo Clarke
Spain or France? Which you prefer depends on various factors – cuisine, weather, way of life. The Pyrenees is the perfect example of this great divide, with the vast mountain range creating a natural border between the two sides. An adventure playground for cyclists, whichever side you visit you are sure to fall in love with the mythical allure of the region.
That being said, the French Pyrenees may often pip the Spanish Pyrenees to the post if a cyclist needs to ‘pick sides.’ Iconic climbs such as the Tourmalet or Aubisque have long featured in Tour de France history and added to the legendary status and grandeur of the area. But what about the Spanish side and the chance to explore lesser-known passes?
"The paved roads wind their way up the mountain, and it is here that you enter a flow-like state."
Nestled in the beautiful Montgrony National Park in the Spanish Pyrenees, the Coll de la Creueta is an example of a climb that could easily outdo many of its French counterparts in terms of beauty and experience. At 21km long, with an average gradient of 5.4%, this climb deserves a quiet nod of respect and has been the undoing of many professional cyclists during races such as the Vuelta Catalonia. When you combine its length with one of Spain’s notoriously hot days, plus a maximum gradient of 13%, it becomes a long grind to the summit at 1888m if you let yourself enter the red zone too soon.
Pace it correctly however, and this is a climb you will want to do again and again. Don’t get us wrong, whichever way you look at it, it is still one of the hardest climbs in Catalonia but the mental and physical effort is easily outshone by a unique experience that will leave its mark. It is known as the gateway to the Pyrenees from Barcelona, but we say it is the gateway to another world.
Related - The legends: Tourmalet
"The view from your bike is so far-reaching that you feel like you can follow the rivers path through every twist and turn..."
As you leave the medieval town of La Pobla de Lillet and head out through the forest, you will be quick to understand why. The paved roads wind their way up the mountain, and it is here that you enter a flow-like state. The rhythm of each pedal stroke, the slight lean around the meandering corners and a chance to be fully immersed and focused on the kilometres ahead make you feel far removed from life back at sea level.
On roads like these, not only do you feel humbled as you are enveloped by the mountains and rugged natural landscape, but you also become hyper-aware of every noise and every movement around you as you experience nature at its peak. Even if you are at your limit, it is hard to feel truly stressed when you are can hear the sound of the cascading Llobregat river at eight kilometres in, as it makes it way down to the Mediterranean Sea via it 170km course. The view from your bike is so far-reaching that you feel like you can follow the rivers path through every twist and turn, via traditional villages and picturesque landscapes.
Expect the unexpected with this one….
Coll de la Creueta
Highest point: 1888
Average gradient: 5.4%
Max gradient: 13%
The first major climb on the menu for Haute Route Pyrenees in 2021, Coll de la Creueta sets a high bar for this rambling adventure. Find out more about the multi-day race from Girona to Pau on the Haute Route website.