Euro Surf 'n' Turf

Mountain Biking, Spain

    Photo: Corel

If crisping like a patata frita on the Costa del Sol is not your cup of sangria, why not head 70 miles north to Spain's newly christianed Sierra Nevada National Park? Here you can mountain bike (or hike or climb) the same 11,000-plus-foot Andalusian peaks that World Cub mountain-bike champions descend.

Surrounded by 213,790 acres of high peaks and sprawling forest, riders of all levels can parallel the pros. For beginners, race planners recommend La Ruta Los Neveros 1, an easy 20.3 miles. Starting at the Sierra Nevada ski area, the trail follows wide dirt roads with stunning views of olive groves, cortijos (small stone farmers' cabins), and jagged peaks. Intermediates will enjoy the more challenging Monachil, which runs 14 miles in the shadow of the Sierra's rugged ridgeline and El Lapiz, a towring stone monolith worth a stop. At the end of the road, you can kick back with a cold beverage in the pueblo of Monachil.
La Ruta de Guejar Sierra challenges advanced riders with 12.5 miles of steep, stony trails that rise 3,850 feet. The even more ambitious can embark on the two-day, 30.5-mile tour that starts from the whitewash village of Capileira, perched mountainside among terraced fields cultivated as early as the tenth century. The route climbs 24 miles and more than 1,200 feet, above the sister village of Trevelez, past Laguna la Caldera and the park's highest peaks—Mulhacen, Alcazaba, and Veleta. For 1,500 pesetas (roughly $10), riders receive a one-day guided ride plus a map, bus transport, T-shirt, picnic, and diploma. The two-day trip costs 5,000 pestas (roughly $31). The Sierra Nevada visitor center will rent you a bike for about $6 a day.

Also worth considering is the University of Granada's summer Sierra school. Last year's lineup included Ultimas Tendencias del Mountain Bike, a guided ride and university class with professional mountain-bike trainer Pablo Ruiz, and the more leasurely Flora y Vegetacion del Montana Mediterranea, a course in which students spend class time cycling while exploring the biodiversity of the Sierra Navada.

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