The following route is very well-known in our region. It offers virtually no chance to rest and includes one of the most classic mountain passes in the whole province: Xorret de Catí (Category 1). It's not for nothing that this pass has been the setting for the last stage in the Vuelta a España five different times, in the years 1998, 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2010. The day that José María Jiménez, aka "El Chava", won here in 1998 is engraved in the minds of all cycling fans, due to the spectacular nature of the stage and the charisma that the Avila-born cyclist projected when competing. That was the time when this mountain pass first became famous for both national and international bikers.
We'll start our route at the town of
Castalla, the capital of the historic subregion of La Foia de Castalla. The very beginning of the ride takes us through the charming streets of the old town, going around the mountain that its magnificent castle stands on. Not long after, we'll take the CV-811 road that goes from
Sax. At the 6th kilometre of the route, we'll cross the
Sax - Castalla motorway using an overpass and, after 2 km, we'll turn onto the CV-799 road to start the climb to
Biar's mountain pass (Category 3).
Even though this is a short pass, we recommend taking it easy, since we'll have just begun the route and we'll need to save most of our strength for the climb to Xorret de Catí. Once we reach the top of
Biar's mountain pass (Category 3), we'll begin the descent to the town that the pass is named after.
The first thing we'll spot on our way down is
Biar's castle, and then we'll go around this town's old quarter before taking the CV-804 road that leads to
Banyeres de Mariola. We recommend stopping for a while at the 15th kilometer of the route, on the CV-795 road, to check out
Biar's outline, with the Roman aqueduct at the forefront and the beautiful silhouette of the medieval quarter, with the castle at the top. We suggest stopping again at the town of
Banyeres de Mariola to take a look at the third castle on our route.
It's also a good idea to fill up our water bottles at the drinking fountain we'll find at the 29th kilometre of the route: "La Font del Sapo", well known by the locals due to the high quality of its water. This is quite a good spot to rest and enjoy the view of the first metres of the Vinalopó River and the Sierra de Mariola mountain range in the distance, just before beginning the ascent to the Alto de las Revueltas (Category 3).
We'll start our way up through a very steep slope and we won't leave the CV-795 road until we get to the top of the Sotorrón mountain. After this, we'll begin a quick descent down to the 38th kilometre of the route, where we'll turn right onto the CV-801 and we'll face the climb to the Alto de Las Revueltas (Category 3). We'll reach the top of this pass on the 41st kilometre of the route and at an altitude of 940 metres. The way down is full of S-curves (which is the actual meaning of "Revueltas") and offers an amazing panoramic view of the whole Foia de Castalla, with the town of
Ibi at the forefront and
Castalla and its castle at the back, reminding us of the main goal of the route: El Xorret de Catí (Category 1).
We'll take a little detour that will lead us all the way through the valley of the Monnegre River (also called
Río Verde, "the green river"), between the Peña Mitjorn hill and the Maigmó mountain range. We'll take the eastern side of the valley first, in order to get to the town of
Tibi through the CV-798 road. One of
Ibi's main attractions is its dam, which receives water from the Monnegre River and used to be the most important dam in the whole of Europe. Its height, over 40 metres, made it the highest one in the world back in the 16th century, and it kept this status until the Enlightenment brought along the building of higher dams. This dam, together with the terraced mountainsides that are used for almond and olive fields, are proof of the wide knowledge of local farmers regarding the use of water from torrential rains, very characteristic of this area.
Once we've reached the highest point of the Monnegre River itself, after a quick descent and a correspondingly thrilling climb, we'll take the CV-805 road for just a few metres to get to the CV-815 road towards
Castalla, which runs along the western side of the Monnegre valley. From there, we'll have 6 km left to try to eat and drink something before we face the real challenge: El Xorret de Catí (1ªCat).
The total elevation gain of this mountain pass reaches a total of 437 metres in a distance of just 4 kilometres. With an average gradient of over 11%, which includes parts that go over 22%, this pass is not within everyone's reach. In fact, quite a few professional cyclists have had to put their foot down when going up these slopes. After reaching the top, we'll rest for a while before starting the descent to the town of
Petrer, where we'll have the chance to see the cyclist statue standing next to the recreation area. We'll then go uphill again before resuming the way down to
Castalla. Even though the pavement on this part of the road is in very good conditions, the steep slopes make it quite a dangerous one, so we will have to exercise caution there.
By the time we've finished the route, we'll definitely understand why the technical team of the Vuelta a España consider Xorret de Catí (Category 1) one of the most interesting climbs when planning the race.
Alfàs del Pi (L')
Alicante / Alacant
Villajoyosa/Vila Joiosa (La)
What to see
The best-known attractions in Castalla are its castle, the Parish Church, the "Ermita de la Sang" church, the Franciscan convent and the Town.
What to eat
The most traditional dish in Castalla is the gazpacho sensato or gaspatxo. It's a variety of the Manchegan gazpacho made with a sort of flatbread, mushrooms, snails, chicken and rabbit meat, fried tomato and onions. The way locals have their gaspatxo is basically like a ritual: first, they pour it onto the flatbread over some oven embers; then, they eat it accompanied with some red wine and alioli; and finally, they finish the meal off with some cake with honey and some wild thyme tea.
Apart from Gaspatxo, there are some other nice traditional dishes like the borreta de bacallar (cod and potato stew), the arròs amb conill (rice with rabbit meat), the putxero de fassedures (meatball stew) or the arròs de la muntanya (rice with meat and vegetables).
Another of Castalla's specialties are the artisan pastries, such as the sequillos (glazed biscuits), the pastissets de moniato (sweet potato pies), tonyes (a sort of sweet bun), liquor rolls, wine rolls, mantecados (almond biscuits) and almond muffins. They can be found in any of the multiple bakeries in town, most of which have a traditional oven in the back room.
Did you know?
Mid-May every year since 1992, Castalla holds a fair to honour Saint Isidore, with more than 70.000 m2 for industrial machinery exhibitions, artisan workshops, local food, a medieval market and a bazaar.
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