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Spain - Cuenca & Albarracin
7th October 2019 - 23rd October 2019 (17 days)
This revived classic tour explores the remote and rugged area east of Madrid. These lands lie on the border between Castile and Aragón and feature rocky mountains, deeply incised gorges, towering crags, weird and wonderful rock formations and two historic World Heritage towns, where there are two rest days. Much of the countryside is covered in mixed woodland, providing a feast of colour in the autumn months. This is the main reason for visiting the area in October, along with the fact that the roads are even quieter than in the summer. Apart from some chilly mornings, the weather is still usually pleasantly warm at this time of year. The fractured nature of the landscape means that there are plenty of hills to climb each day; these tend to be well-graded and hence quite long (up to 8 kilometres), with the highest point reached being around 1,700 metres (5,000 feet).
- Holiday Type Guided
- Tour Manager Tony Gore
- Grade Challenging
- Booking Status Fully Booked
- Accommodation Hotel
- Board Basis Half Board
- Travel Arrangements Land Only
- Road / Off Road Road
- Holiday Style Moving-on
- Vehicle Support Carry Own Luggage
- Holiday Ref 03336
Monday 7th October
Meet at hotel in Álcala de Henares, near Madrid. Stay 1 night.
Tuesday 8th October
Cycle to Almonacid de Zorita via Mondéjar and Almoguera. 64km. Stay 1 night.
Wednesday 9th October
Cycle to Priego via Huete and Olmeda de la Cuesta. 85km. Stay 1 night.
Thursday 10th October
Cycle to Tragacete via Beteta and the source of the River Cuervo. 75km. Stay 1 night.
Friday 11th October
Cycle to Cuenca via the Devil's Window and the Enchanted City. 85km. Stay 2 nights.
Saturday 12th October
Rest day in Cuenca.
Sunday 13th October
Cycle to Cañete via Las Torcas and Valdemoro-Sierra. 85km. Stay 1 night.
Monday 14th October
Cycle to Frías de Albarracín via Valdemeca and the source of the River Tagus. 76km. Stay 1 night.
Tuesday 15th October
Cycle to Albarracín via Terriente and Valdecuenca or via Jabaloyas. 56/76km. Stay 2 nights.
Wednesday 16th October
Rest day in Albarracín; optional short ride to El Rodeño to visit rock paintings. 15km.
Thursday 17th October
Cycle to Orihuela del Tremedal via Villar del Cobo. 56km. Stay 1 night.
Friday 18th October
Cycle to Hoz de la Virgen (Ventosa) via Checa and Molina de Aragón. 67km. Stay 1 night.
Saturday 19th October
Cycle to Fuertescusa via Beteta or via Masegosa. 88/100km. Stay 1 night.
Sunday 20th October
Cycle to Cifuentes via Priego and Peralveche. 82km. Stay 1 night.
Monday 21st October
Cycle to Pastrana via Gualda and Alocén. 78km. Stay 1 night.
Tuesday 22nd October
Cycle to Álcala de Henares via Pozo de Guadalajara. 56km. Stay 1 night.
Wednesday 23rd October
Tour finishes after breakfast.
Accommodation & Meals
Overnight stops will be mainly in family-run 2- and 3-star hotels, in twin or double rooms. Single occupancy may be possible, but this is subject to availability and the payment of a supplement. Breakfast and evening meal will be provided each day, usually in the hotel but occasionally elsewhere. Vegetarians can be catered for if the request is made on the Booking Form, but options may be limited. Non-meat eaters should indicate if they will eat fish.
Please note that you will have to carry your own luggage on all moving on days. There is no luggage transfer or back-up vehicle organised.
Passports, Visa & Health
EU citizens must hold a passport that is still valid on the date of their return to their home country. Holders of non-EU passports are advised to check whether they require a visa. There are no compulsory health related requirements for UK residents, but you are strongly advised to check that your tetanus protection has not expired. You must also carry your European Health Insurance Card.
Our Booking Conditions stipulate that, for holidays outside the UK, travel Insurance is mandatory. Details of the level of cover needed and other conditions you should check are stated in the Booking Conditions. CTC Cycling Holidays & Tours Ltd cannot accept responsibility for any costs that may be incurred due to insufficient insurance cover.
The price of £1,000 is based on a minimum number of 9 people taking part in the holiday; please note Booking Conditions, clause 3. If there are insufficient bookings by 29th July 2019, we will contact you and return all monies paid, although in certain circumstances the holiday may still run at below minimum numbers but at the same price.
- 16 nights hotel, sharing room, half-board
- CTC Cycling Holidays & Tours costs
Price Does Not Include
- Travel to and from Álcala de Henares, Spain
- Drinks with evening meals
- Lunches or refreshments during the day
- Entry fees at any attractions
- Any other personal expenses
- Travel Insurance
- Single occupancy supplement (£275, subject to availability)
A deposit of £200 per person is payable upon booking, with the final balance of £800 per person to be paid ten weeks prior to departure, by 29th July 2019.
Should you be forced to cancel your booking for any reason you must notify us in writing. Cancellation charges are as follows:
Written notice received:
Before 29th July 2019
From 29th July 2019 through to departure
The Area Covered By The Holiday
The area to the east of Madrid is divided into three main areas:
- The Alcarria lies south of Guadalajara and immediately east of Álcala de Henares, where the tour starts. It features broken hills, fertile valleys and a mixture of intensive cultivation, stunted forest and rough scrubland. In places the steep valley sides have a 'layer-cake' appearance where outcrops of different coloured rocks alternate.
- The Serrania de Cuenca comprises a range of rugged limestone hills to the north and east of the city of the same name. It is fractured by several deeply incised valleys which often narrow into spectacular sheer-sided gorges. The area is also well known for its curious rock formations, such as the bizarre pillars of the Ciudad Encantada ('Enchanted City') and the circular depressions of Las Torcas ('the twists').
- Furthest east, astride the Atlantic/Mediterranian watershed, lie the Montes Universales, a series of distinct ranges such as the Sierra del Tremedal, each with their own character and range of rock types. Thus, the Rodeño forest contains towering red sandstone crags, whereas further north the Upper Tagus Natural Park is full of jagged limestone cliffs and turbulent rapids.
The wiggly route designed will take in the best parts of each of these three zones. As well as those already mentioned, places of interest visited include the medieval Moorish town of Zorita de los Canes; the wicker-producing town of Priego, birthplace of 1973 Tour de France winner Luis Ocaña; the dramatically situated old town of Cuenca, with its 'hanging houses'; the chivalric memorial at the source of the River Tagus; the fortified town of Albarracín on its rock spur on a bend of the River Guadalaviar; the hillside fortifications overlooking Molina de Aragón; and the contrasting but equally impressive Beteta and Priego gorges, both of which you pass through twice (in opposite directions).
Rides & Rest Days
Starting times each day will depend on when the hotel serves breakfast and the distance for that day. Mostly the aim will be to set off around 0930. On the first day the Tour Manager will lead the group on the road to help you navigate your way out of Álcala, and for everyone to gauge their 'fit' within the group. However, the expectation is that people will soon ‘team up’ to ride together in smaller like-minded groups, rather than as a large group or as lone individuals. Given the potential diversity of ability and interests amongst participants, plus the hilly nature of the terrain, it would be unreasonable to expect the group to ride together all day, every day. In this way, faster riders can forge ahead without feeling held back, while those who like to take time to see the sights or take lots of photos can do so without feeling pressurised to keep up. Smaller groups on the road make sense in safety terms too, even where traffic volumes are light. However, the Tour Manager will ensure that no-one is left riding on their own all day, unless that is their preference. Each day there will be cafes and other sites of interest marked on the route sheet where participants can regroup. The Tour Manager will also try to keep tabs on everyone's progress during the day, but remember that, without a support vehicle, there is a limit to what help can be given.
The tour has been designed so that a reasonably fit regular rider should be able to complete the route. Each day's ride will involve some climbing, mostly varying between 800 and 1,200 metres, but in a couple of instances up to 1,700m. If you can cycle 90 kilometres (56 miles), with 1,600 metres (5,000 feet) of climbing, carrying lightly loaded panniers, then you should have no problem with the tour. You will have all day to do the ride, so there will be no rush. And don't forget that there are two rest days offering the opportunity to relax and recover. If you like the look of the tour but are unsure about your ability to undertake it, then please consult with the Tour Manager before booking.
Accommodation & Meals
There are three things to note about meals in Spain. First, evening meals are not usually served until 2000 at the earliest, and in a traditional rural area like this it's more likely to be 2100. For many Britons this is very late and difficult to adjust to. The long wait can be eased by adopting the habit of having a snack in the late afternoon or early evening. This might be from your own provisions or you could go to a bar to try out its tapas. Secondly, it is not always easy to cater for vegetarians in Spain (and even harder for vegans), though it has improved in recent years, and our hosts will be forewarned of the need to provide something suitable. However, it is always useful to know whether or not those requesting vegetarian meals are occasionally prepared to eat fish. Finally, because standard hotel breakfasts tend to be insubstantial (apart from those served as a buffet), all hotels are asked if they can provide something more substantial. As interpretation of this request varies widely, you should make sure you have extra rations with you from the start of the day in case your energy levels need an early boost.
There is no travel included in this tour, thus it is very important that you note that neither your Tour Manager nor CTC Holidays & Tours are responsible for you in any way until the appointed time at the designated meeting point. Should you fail to arrive at the appointed time for whatever reason, we will not be responsible for any additional expenses you may incur in order to meet up with the tour group. Before finalising travel arrangements to meet the tour, you should ensure that you have read and understood our booking conditions. Should this tour not attract sufficient bookings to reach the minimum operating size, we may cancel the tour at any time up to 10 weeks before departure. It is therefore recommended that you book fully flexible and refundable transport and accommodation or wait until you have been informed that the tour is going ahead, as in the event of the tour being cancelled, we will not be responsible for any losses incurred.
Various national and low cost airlines offer flights to and from Madrid from several UK airports on the start and finish dates of the tour. These include Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester and Stansted. When booking, remember to include your bike bag or case in the hold baggage requirements. You will be charged a supplement for this to be carried on the plane. The start-and-finish hotel in Álcala de Henares is around 30 kilometres from the airport, with regular bus and train connections and reasonably priced taxis. There will be a secure space for bike boxes and cases to be left here during the tour.
The maximum number of participants will be 15 excluding the Tour Manager.
Weather & Clothing
The weather in this part of Spain in early autumn can be quite variable. It can be sunny and warm one day, but rainy and cold on another. Many of the hotels are at fairly high altitudes, so it can be a little chilly in the evenings and early mornings. However, on previous visits the bad days have been few and far between, and daytime temperatures have in general been pleasantly warm. In view of the likely variety, you should carry a range of clothing (including an effective set of waterproofs, gloves and an appropriate base layer) to help you stay warm if the conditions are bad but don't overheat when the sun is out. Even in October the sun can still be powerful in these parts, so a high factor sun cream is strongly recommended. A windproof jacket or gilet might be useful in case of windy conditions. A set of cosy 'off the bike' clothes for the evening and on rest days will also be required. It is also a good idea to bring some comfortable shoes and a small rucksack for carrying essential bits and pieces for the times you'll be exploring on foot.
Cycles & Equipment
A touring, expedition or adapted cyclocross bike is most suitable for this tour, with hard-wearing tyres of at least 28mm (or equivalent). The vast majority of the route is on tarmac roads, with a few short stretches of flags, cobbles and occasionally concrete in towns and villages. A bottom gear of between 25” and 30” (small chainring in front smaller (or no larger) than large cog in the rear) is recommended, to make the climbs less of a strain. Bikes should have mudguards to protect both yourself and others in the group, as well as a secure pannier rack. Before departure your bike should be given a full check-up and service to ensure that it is roadworthy and in sound mechanical order. You should also test ride your cycle fully laden before the tour to ensure that it handles as you would wish. You should not need lights, though having them with you is always useful in case of emergency. Each participant will be expected to carry sufficient spares and tools to deal with punctures and minor repairs.
Spanish law requires cyclists to wear helmets when riding on the road. However, there are exceptions where this does not apply, although these remain unclear and open to interpretation. Therefore, you should bring a helmet and be prepared to wear it if requested by traffic police or Guardia Civil. Otherwise, they are entitled to impose an on-the-spot fine of 90 Euros or to confiscate your front wheel if you are unable or unwilling to pay.
It is now also a legal requirement for cyclists in Spain to wear a 'hi-viz' yellow top when cycling at night, but it may be that rainwear with reflective trim is sufficient. However, as we are unlikely to be still on the road after dark, this rule should not pose a problem.
Maps & Guides
Although detailed route cards (and a link to download GPS files) will be provided, you should also bring a suitable map (or maps) with you in case you lose your way or become separated from the group. The main ones that cover all or part of the route are:
Michelin 1:400,000 Regional Map series No. 576 - Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha, Madrid
CNIG 1:200,000 series Nos. 17 - Cuenca Province; 20 - Guadalajara Province; and 43 - Teruel Province.
These are all available online.
Travel Insurance & Advice
In addition to travel insurance, EU nationals should carry a European Health Insurance Card, obtainable from www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/. This enables you to take advantage of emergency medical services free or at a discount under a reciprocal provision that exists between EU member states. Your travel insurer may refuse to meet the extra costs of medical treatment if you do not carry this card.
Before booking you should check the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice or on 0845 850 2829.