One spring afternoon I decided to take the new gravel bike out and do a route I've done many times with the mountain bike, the one we always refer to in Quesa as “the Ludey loop”. This time, the plan was to do it anti-clockwise, to avoid the steep climbs going up to El Planil. The route takes me a short distance into the Caroche (or Caroig) massif and allows me to get a glimpse of the immense size of this region.
I leave from Hotel La Rocha and take the CV-580 local road to Bicorp. I start the climb up to the pass but on the first bend. At km 4, I turn left onto a concrete track which turns into dirt after less than one kilometre and runs alongside the Escalona river.
About 2 km further on I turn left, onto a concrete track once more. This is the start of a long 6 km climb known in the Quesa cycling community as “Ludey hill”. At first it's a gentle gradient, between 2% and 4%. I gradually leave the river behind and I can hardly hear the sound of water. When I cross the Ludey river, which appears on the left, the second part of the climb begins, this time with a gradient of between 6% and 8%, going up the south east side instead of the north side of the mountain. The track surface is very good, it's tarmac but the sort that's made by spreading loose chippings, much nicer to ride on with a gravel bike than the black kind they use on roads. The views get better the higher I climb. I need to remember to keep a steady pace as the climb is a long one. At km 10 I reach a flat layby that my legs are very grateful for, and this is where the final section starts. The gradient remains the same but the route changes to the north west side and the surface soon changes to dirt. The landscape is spectacular, I can't stop looking at the Caroche summit to my right, while I try to stay on the gentle pace I've set myself but that's actually starting to hurt.
At km 11.9 I reach the top, I stop to take a look around and have a drink of water. I continue along the flat track for just 1 km until I get to the vantage point, from where I can see the ravine of Las Arenas, the Ludy river ravine and Caroche to the west. I stop once again, it's inevitable in this landscape.
At last the track starts to descend. After only 1 km I have to climb a few metres to the left to get over the col of Las Arenas and into the Ludey river ravine.
Sadly, after 1 km the descent stops and turns into a steep slope, which luckily evens out a bit over the rest of the climb to El Planil. Just where the slope ends there's a water tank for firefighting that's fed by the spring of Las Tortugas. It's difficult to find the spring because of the way the terrain changed after the tank was built, but if I had been hot I could have had a dip in Las Tortugas pool.
I continue climbing, passing the Cubillas pool, and at km 16 I reach El Planil. Except for a small climb, the place lives up to its name. I go onto the drops and enjoy the flat track, which at this point really ought to be called a forest “race track”. In some places I can see the Mediterranean sea through the pines.
At km 18.5, on the way down, I'm still enjoying the good track surface, allowing me to lift my gaze and try to guess which villages I can spot down below. At km 20 I reach the tarmac road and I have to tackle steep sections with tight bends and gravel, so I need to stay alert.
The steep descent levels out after the junction leading to the Los Charcos recreational area. I continue my gradual descent round the bends in the road until I cross the Grande river after a sharp downhill section. I start the 1.5 km climb at a lively pace because I know it's the last one. As I reach the top I can see Quesa, I cruise along the flat for a while to ease out the muscles and when I get to the descent I can reach the town without a single pedal stroke.
Note: Keep a bit of energy for the steep section up to the hotel, that's the price you pay for good views.