the Pico veleta
CLIMB DATA - PICO VELETA
Climb Category - HC
Length of climb - 42.2km
Summit elevation - 3,398M
Start elevation - 838M
Elevation gain - 2,700M
Gradient (avg) - 6%
At 3,398 (11,148 ft) metres above sea level the Pico Veleta is Europe's highest paved road and consequently Europe's highest cycling climb. The meaning of the name literally translates as Pico or peak and Veleta meaning "weather vane", the name will perhaps take on a greater resonance as you approach the top.
The climb starts just outside of the city of Granada at 750m and arrives at the summit of 3398m some 43km later. A description of the Pico Veleta by author Daniel Friebe sums up the climb quite well. Put simply the Pico Veleta..
"is taller and tougher than anything on the Tour de France but lacks in kudos what it offers in elevation precisely because of its height... it is, more simply put, too high. Too high for year-round access and too high, perhaps most to the point, to join the upper crust of professional cycling's most noble mountains".
This is precisely why the climb has never actually featured in the Vuelta Espana, it's simply too long, too high and too tough for a Grand Tour. The climb to the Sierra Nevada Ski Station has often featured in the Vuelta, it has never gone beyond the barrier at Hoya de la Mora at some 2,500 metres above sea level.
The barrier at Hoya de la Mora is some 30km into the climb, this is where the professionals turn around and start their descent, but there's still another 13km to go on the climb. This is also where things start to get a little more difficult and one can break the climb into two main points, before the barrier (BB) and after the barrier (AB).
Before the Barrier (BB)
30km to the barrier at Hoya de la Moya at an average gradient of 5.5%
there's also a few places to stop to refill and refuel at some of the gas stations and hotels along the route.
aFTER the Barrier (AB)
Hoya de la Moya is the last place to refuel if you're running low it's advisable that you use the opportunity to refill
Altitude really starts to kick in from here on in
30kms done and it's only another13km to go from here
The final 8km are at an average of 8%
For the last 5km the road deteriorates quite significantly with lots of sharp stones that can damage your sidewall (check your tires before you descend)
There are a few different approaches to take when you tackle the Veleta, but the final 13kms from Hoya de la Mora will be the same for every approach. The main routes are as follows;
Cenes de la Vega - 43km - 2700m - which is the main route that follows the A-395 to Hoya del la Mora (click here)
Pinos Genil - 41.5km - 2747m - much like the Cenes route above. However, it's slightly shorter/steeper and it avoids the main road for much of climb (click here)
Monachil - 37.5km - 2723m - a little more interesting than the two above and throws in an extra climb to make things a little more difficult. (click here)
Güéjar Sierra - 43.2km - 2836m - the route via Güéjar is so tough it will make you question your love for cycling (click here)
When to Ride it
The Veleta is generally possible to ride from the end of May until the last week of October. These dates aren't set in stone and it really depends on when the first snow fall occurs to when the snow clears in the spring. As a point of reference the photos displayed here were taken in early March - it was not possible to go beyond the barrier. Based on the on the past few years it's generally a safe bet from May to the end of October.
The best times to take on the climb are from May and June once the snow has cleared. During the summer months it’s best to start very early to avoid the heat - the city of Granada can frequently reach temperatures above 40c in July and August. September and October are generally the most favourable months to ride the Veleta as the heat has generally subsided, there is less traffic up to the ski station and the top is mostly free from snow.
Veni, vidi, vici
I came, I saw, I conquered... well why not get the Pico Veleta jersey to prove it?! (click here)
rIDE THE VELETA WITH US
From September onwards we offer catered packages and the highlight is taking on the Pico Veleta. Why not join us and let us look after all of the logistics, so you can concentrate on just riding your bike? (Learn more)