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RIDING SA CALOBRA


In cycling, our roads are our stadiums. Winding Alpine ascents are the theatre for the sport's greatest battles, but they're not exclusive to elite riders - in cycling, everyone gets to play at Wembley, to race at Monaco, to fight it out at Madison Square Gardens. Fine roads are to be appreciated, and exquisite roads celebrated.

9.5 kilometres long with an average of 7%, Sa Calobra doesn't need a Grand Tour to make it a stadium - because for years, it's drawn the best riders in the world to it's slopes, to dig deep and set their benchmark for the season. This road isn't so much a stadium, but a colosseum.

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Pitching over the Coll dels Reis, the rocks separate to reveal a narrow gorge, and a road that meanders every which way, but always sloping down to the blue of the Mediterranean. The very first corner, a sweeping ark that circles itself tells you all you need to know about the next 9 kilometres of descending.



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Technical, tricky, and potentially slippy, the smooth surface of Sa Calobra is what makes it a dream to climb, but what can render it a precarious descent. After rain, this coastal climb becomes glass like - but in the heat of summer, it's a symphony of apexes, tight turns, and sheer drops.

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At the bottom of the climb is the small beach resort for which the road takes it's name. After dipping your wheel in the water and sipping yourself a coffee, you're about ready to take on of cycling's most loved climbs.

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The first 3km of the climb are fairly steep - but wind out from the bay and through trees. You're assured of some shade on this lower section - it's not until the road passes through the rock chasm that you really leave the shade behind.

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Gradually, from the tight turns of the lower slopes, the road opens up. To drop someone on Calobra is to show them your rear wheel for a fair while - and to give them a marker to pace themselves back on.

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As you approach the upper section, hairpins become more common, and the summit becomes more evident. Having climbed from sea-level, a rider tackling Calobra will ascend 700 metres in pure elevation at a sapping 7% average - but you'll almost certainly have a smile on your face.

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This photography on this ride was captured by Chris Auld. You can find a selection of his work on Instagram at @cauldphoto.