Any discussion whether Ötztal Glacier Road or Col de la Bonette is the highest rideable spot in Europe is actually superfluous: The Pico del Veleta in the Spanish Sierra Nevada/Andalusia is definitely the highest rideable mountain road in Europe!Click here for some further information on the highest passes and mountain roads of each of the continents.
Start: Granada 738m
Altitude difference: 2,673m
Distance to summit: 51km
Elevation profile including return way
Tour starts in Granada following Rio Genil and the signs showing the direction to "Sierra Nevada". The ski area beginning in the village of Pradollano up to Pico del Veleta is meant by that signs. Just below the summit the last cable car lift is located and the road is paved up to this point. This provides the unique opportunity to ride this route up to 900m before the summit with a road bike.
Road A-395 leads from Granada up to Pico del Veleta. However, you will find the reference to the Veleta actually nowhere on the entire route. In Cenes de la Vega one finds upper junction. Here you should straightly ride A-4026 via Pinos Genil and afterwards divert towards A-395. This part of the trip is significantly more pleasant than the high-speed autobahn-like lower part of A-395.
Approx. at 2,000m altitude you can find this amazing first view of the peak of Pico del Veleta and the observatory located at some 3,000m altitude. However, it is recommended to ride previously at 1,800m (where the only gas station on the entire route provides some liquids and food) the nicer scenic and less crowded route A-7903 leading to A-395 only above the village of Pradollano.
Distance to Veleta from here has still some 1,400m of altitude difference and 25km.
Pradollano is a ski resort at approx. 2,400m consisting only of thousand of hotel beds. In late summer the place is only a shabby site and no hotels or supermarkets are opened. The ski area begins here and leads directly to the ascent up to the Veleta. At the end of September you can only find some Mercedes prototype models obviously from Stuttgart/Germany testing on the deserted road.
At 2,600m this barrier represents the end for public motor traffic. The road conditions up to this barrier are excellent as the entire route from Granada has apparently been newly asphalted in late summer 2007 and thus provide a paradise for road bikers. However, behind the barrier the conditions will then significantly become worse. Pot holes and rock slides do not significantly impede on the ascent but constitute problems on downhill ride.
Behind the barrier several serpentines with a 6% grade wind up the road. Amazing view in direction North to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Here you are actually at an altitude which can be reached in the Alps on only very few roads.
Financial Times Deutschland reporting on the Veleta, 12 February 2010 - using above picture.
At an altiude of some 3,000m Pico del Veleta seems to be near. However, the summit is still far away and road conditions become significantly worse. After a few kilometers the pass road diverts to the South but that part is only rideable with a mountain bike.
Last mast of the skilift is located at 3,250m. Very similar to the Alps weather conditions can become worse within only few minutes. Suddenly rain clouds appear behind the Pico and temperature decreases more than 20 degrees Celsius down to only few above freezing point.
The altimeter shows 3,267m when the road conditions do no longer allow to ride the route with a race bike. Due to the altitude and the approaching bad weather one should not risk a flat tyre. Thus, you have to push your bicycle the last 900m. On last 10m you even have to shoulder the bike.
Top of Europe - summit of Pico del Veleta at 3,394m above sea level
After the tour a visit of the Alhambra in Granada is strongly recommended.
The Nasrid palace within the Alhambra