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Cycling The Highest Road in Europe
Cycling up the Pico de Veleta is something that every cyclist should have on their to do list. It is enough to want to cycle up the highest paved road in Europe, but when the scenery is as stunning as on the Pico de Veleta, it becomes one of the great climbs. Largely because it is not on the tour de France route, Pico de Veleta lacks the notoriety of Tourmalet, Ventoux or Alpe d'Huez; but Veleta is a tougher climbs than all three of those monsters.
The peak is in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains, in Andalcuia (not the United States). The climb itself can be done via several routes, but by far the most common is starting from the historic city of Granada. From there it is a leg churning 2700m climb up to the summit, which is just short of 3400 metres.
However, it is not so easy to get to the very top; most of the year the last kilometres are covered in snow. Even if you go in the summer, the condition of the road deteriorates considerably once you get past the checkpoint at around 2700m.
The total length of the climb is 43 kilometres, which works out an average gradient of 6.5%. Unsurprisingly for such a beast of a climb, it is not a smooth 6.5% the whole way up; the last 8km average over 8%.
The main route takes the A395 road from Granada all the way up to the service point at 2700m, after which the road turns into more of a track (but still passable by road bike).
If, however, you feel that your legs are up to it, there is a more beautiful route through the town of Monachil. The first few kilometres are a lot tougher this way, with sections at 14%, 15% and 17%, but the scenery is fantastic and there is almost no traffic on the road.
When to do it
Although summer is the only time that the top will be guaranteed to be free from snow, it is also repressively hot - especially from mid July to the end of August. During the winter there will definitely be snow at the top; also, during these months, the A395 up to the ski village of Pradollano (at 2100m) can get fairly busy with cars.
May, early June, late September and October are the best months to tackle the climb. There is less traffic and the top should be free from snow - just remember to take a jacket because you can still get cold on a 40km descent even if it seems nice and warm!
You will rarely get the chance to go so high on a bike, so make sure you ignore the pain and enjoy the amazing views - including the city of Granada.