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Josh Reid travels to Tenerife for a bit of volcano bashing

One of my normal training rides is a 90km circuit taking in the Ryal, a steep climb in rural Northumberland. I’m not terribly au fait with geology, but I’m pretty sure this is not a volcano. Mount Teide, on the other hand, is very much a volcano, the world’s third tallest (measured from the sea bed, anyway), and just as the Ryal attracts roadies because of its ramp-like steeps Mount Teide is a magnet for local riders.

Not that I could find any – when I rode up Mount Teide, I did so alone. None of my companions fancied a 90km ride, with 2,300 metres of climbing, on an active volcano that is due to blow any day now. Funny that.

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, and despite it being marooned off the West coast of Africa it’s part of Spain. Most of the five million tourists who arrive on the island each year are here for fun and frolics. Not us. We were there to work. Not (just) on our tans but on our fitness, too.

When tourists are light on the ground there are still plenty of athletes here – the island’s climate means it’s perfect for training. Tenerife is on the same latitude as the Sahara desert and enjoys settled, clear conditions almost all year round. Not for nothing is Tenerife known as the “Island of Eternal Spring”, although in the 15th Century, because of its propensity to be consumed by molten lava, it was known as the Isla del Infierno: Hell's Island)

There's nothing hellish about Tenerife these days though, especially at Tenerife Top Training where we were based. T3 is a sports complex at La Caleta de Adeje on Tenerife’s southern coast, and hosts athletes from a wide variety of sports, including football, volleyball and tennis. With two year-round swimming pools (25m and 50m) T3 also attracts swimmers and triathletes; the complex also has an indoor flume channel, a body of fast-moving water for resistance swim-training with video analytics.

When not wearing high-tech underwater belts for the aqua analytics we spent time riding on the rolling roads close to our hotel, Hovima Jardin CaletaBut these rides were short. I wanted something a little more challenging; something like the dominating, unmissable 3,718m Mount Teide.

I was unable to persuade anyone to ride with me, or even show me the way, so I took a map and set out on my own. I started at La Caleta on the sea front, close to the T3 centre. There are alternating gradients as you wind your way through the urban sprawl before the houses die away and the gradient flattens as you run parallel to the ocean to your left and the volcano veering upwards to your right.

At Guia de Isora you have the option of  turning right and missing out some of the climb, but this is certainly not an easy option: there are gradients of 25 percent and it’s not for the faint-hearted. But I hadn't come all this way to take a short cut so I continued to the right turn at Chio, 5km further on.

The higher you climb the more spectacular the view becomes, with the resort of Las Americas seeming more attractive the further you ride away from it. As you leave the small pockets of civilisation dotted across the mid-section of the volcano you begin to ascend through clumpy forests of pine and juniper amongst the lava fields, the road surfaced with mostly pristine tarmac.

The undergrowth begins to fade the further you climb until you are in an open lunar-like landscape, with clear views down to the sea. Heat-haze ripples add to the other-worldy feel. This is a high-altitude desert – beautiful, but barren. So barren that scientists use the upper slopes of Mount Teide as a test bed for instruments that will get used on Mars.

There’s still some climbing to do before you reach the plateau, which is the crater. Once you see coaches unloading selfie-snapping tourists, you know you’re at the highest point on the road.

The top of a barren volcano isn’t a great place to run out of water. You know, like I did: I’d used all of my two bottles on the climb. One of the good things about Tenerife being a tourist island is that there are shops dotted about, even in the middle of nowhere, so a short way down the mountain I was able to get some water for the long, breezy descent back to sea level.

I may have been alone on the day, but Mount Teide is often teeming with cyclists, including the greats. Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, and Vincenzo Nibali have used the mountain's slopes to hone their fitness and many other top pros regularly train on Tenerife.

T3 also attracts premiership football teams, but its facilities are also available to amateur sports folk. Soon you won't even need to bring a bike – later this year T3 will be adding a bike station equipped with 100 Cannondale road bikes and 50 Cannondale mountain bikes.

T3’s website says “… our athletes can execute their training under optimum conditions and prepare perfectly for their personal goals.”

Especially if one of those goals is climbing a volcano.

Josh Reid travelled to Tenerife with Jet2 holidays

This content has been added by a member of the road.cc staff

21 comments

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Zermattjohn [272 posts] 2 years ago
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Does the island get as affected by wind as Lanzarote? I went there early this year, and it was a pretty much constant 50kph N-S gale all week. I had been warned, and some folks I met there said it was pretty normal, but it did affect the riding enjoyment (apart from when you had it as a tailwind....!).

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Marauder [275 posts] 2 years ago
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Great write-up, thanks.

It looks like the ride I am planning on doing in a few weeks’ time is in the opposite direction, out of Las Americas up the mountain and then down through Chio.

I was concerned there might not be shops to get water but it sounds like I should be OK.

And like Zermattjohn I am concerned with the winds (if any) as I have also experienced the winds on Lanzarote.

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sm [409 posts] 2 years ago
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I was going to head this year but read about the winds too. The strong breeze might make Froome and co suffer but this is meant to be a little enjoyable! Plus you only have the one climb. I think Majorca is the better option. More varied scenery too.

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rjfrussell [480 posts] 2 years ago
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does anyone have a link to the gradient profiles of the various ascent routes?

We're going to Tenerife in october, but at the moment I am being chicken.

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Zermattjohn [272 posts] 2 years ago
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sm wrote:

I was going to head this year but read about the winds too. The strong breeze might make Froome and co suffer but this is meant to be a little enjoyable! Plus you only have the one climb. I think Majorca is the better option. More varied scenery too.

Having been to both Mallorca and Lanzarote I'd agree. A day or 2 of barren treeless desert and you're hankering for a piece of greenery...Overall the road surfaces are better on Mallorca too, and maybe Tenerife is different but there's less feeling of a cycle-culture on Lanzarote than on Mallorca.

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gabriel959 [16 posts] 2 years ago
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I would say Gran Canaria is better than Tenerife or Lanzarote. Why would anyone go to Lanzarote for riding a bike is a bit strange.

Don't understand the adulation for Mallorca, it is a very busy place and not a patch on Costa Blanca (north of Alicante) or Granada IMO. It is cheaper in those places too.

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gabriel959 [16 posts] 2 years ago
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The north of Spain has also got some amazing roads and climbs and the weather in the summer is mostly good.

I am spanish btw, born in Tenerife, lived in Alicante and Granada and been to the Balearics, etc...

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fukawitribe [2446 posts] 2 years ago
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gabriel959 wrote:

The north of Spain has also got some amazing roads and climbs and the weather in the summer is mostly good.

Anyway in particular come to mind (coming from the UK) ? If it's nearish Santiago de Compostela even better.

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barkingfishes [28 posts] 2 years ago
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Done Mt Teide last year going up the T21 route which was a great challange. Classed as an HC climb in MapMyRide - which was nice. Done Lazrarote in July there and was as windy as hell. 50kph+ head and side winds made for slow careful progress. Climb up past Tabayesco takes you to the highest accessible road (apparantly) and is a Cat1 climb. Holiday + Bike Hire = Fun

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Marauder [275 posts] 2 years ago
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"does anyone have a link to the gradient profiles of the various ascent routes?

We're going to Tenerife in october, but at the moment I am being chicken."

I am unable to upload the route I am planning onto the website as it is in the wrong format.

If you want to send me your email address then I can provide a TCX route for you.

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bfslxo [143 posts] 2 years ago
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If you look for Club Activo on the web & Facebook they have profiles of most of the usual suspects, I can't pin the link for the climbs down at the minute but their pages are

http://clubactivocycling.com/
https://www.facebook.com/clubactivo

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RTB [194 posts] 2 years ago
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Nice article Josh although you omitted to mention it is 'Europe's' longest climb. I climbed El Teide earlier this year after sneaking a day out from a family hol. Hadn't planned to until the bike hire shop suggested it so off I went.

My advice don't think about it too much, just do it, assuming your bike fitness passes muster. Be prepared for 3 hours (unless you are David Lopez who passed me on the upper section with an 'ola') on a ramp (there is no flat) and resist the temptation to stop for a coffee at Vilaflor and keep going. Non-stop I convinced myself is the only way.

The upper section has long stretches of 9/10% (actually I think it is all 9/10%) but is the most picturesque. The drop down to the crater after you top the climb is a joy just to feel wind on your crusty face again. Finish up at the base of the gondola station and then return to sea level after taking it all in for a while.

[one tip: pack plenty of gels/bars - I had just three, one banana and some dry biccies - not enough and I hit the wall a bit on the upper section]

On the climb back out of the crater a rather svelte Wiggo gave me a one-hand wave (a polite one!), no doubt he was on his way back to the Team Sky hotel for the daily rub-down, a delight I was definitely not going to get.

The descent is amazing and the bike hire guy recommended taking a left at Vilaflor as the road is less busy (in fact just one car) and a smoother surface. I was only a smidgen off a top speed of 60mph which the guy was surprised at so I'll happily take that one!

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jstone1 [24 posts] 2 years ago
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Agree RTB - makes me want to go back! : https://www.strava.com/activities/101697825

(edit - bailed at Vilaflor, plenty of climbing missing above but was feeling the altitude and lack of oxygen. Descent down the TF21 to Granadilla pretty epic.

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JR151 [1 post] 2 years ago
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It depends on where you go if you travel to the south east of the island to El Médano it does have strong winds and is popular for windsurfing. However, I found that riding along the north west of Tenerife to Los Gigantes the wind had little affect.

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Carlton Reid [147 posts] 2 years ago
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JR151 is Josh, author of the story (and my son). He might have mentioned that ...

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Al__S [1288 posts] 2 years ago
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on the day I completed the climb (from Las Americas) there was little wind- indeed, it was lovely, pleasantly cool through the forest above Villaflor in the cloud and mild in the sunshine up top

Two days earlier it had been foul.

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jaxf [15 posts] 2 years ago
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I have been going to Tenerife for several years now, once the Alps get a bit marginal. I have not experienced wind yet.
I am 52kg, so definitely notice windy conditions.
The scenery in Tenerife is amazing - I have never experienced anything that changes so dramatically every couple of hundred metres of climbing. The ancient arborial forest was a surprise, the outstanding rock formations less so.
The roads are challenging in that there are essentially 3 ring roads at different altitudes, and so one makes a bit of a choice each day as to where and how high to go up and down, but I do most of my cycling in the Vanoise and Aosta, and there is certainly a week's worth of variety in Tenerife - almost as much as there is hacking up Les Arcs or Col de l'Iseran every day. And there, I pretty much have a choice of up and then down, no scope for along.

I grew up in Mallorca, but I guess a bike with stabilisers doesn't count as a comparitor  3

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jaxf [15 posts] 2 years ago
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I have been going to Tenerife for several years now, once the Alps get a bit marginal. I have not experienced wind yet.
I am 52kg, so definitely notice windy conditions.
The scenery in Tenerife is amazing - I have never experienced anything that changes so dramatically every couple of hundred metres of climbing. The ancient arborial forest was a surprise, the outstanding rock formations less so.
The roads are challenging in that there are essentially 3 ring roads at different altitudes, and so one makes a bit of a choice each day as to where and how high to go up and down, but I do most of my cycling in the Vanoise and Aosta, and there is certainly a week's worth of variety in Tenerife - almost as much as there is hacking up Les Arcs or Col de l'Iseran every day. And there, I pretty much have a choice of up and then down, no scope for along.

I grew up in Mallorca, but I guess a bike with stabilisers doesn't count as a comparitor  3

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CXR94Di2 [2117 posts] 2 years ago
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I am sat opposite the T3 training centre having a nice family holiday. I popped into the complex to see if I could use their gym for a little cycling each day (the hotel exercise bike is broken) I turned down their offer of €45 a day to use the gym, gulp.

Don't get me wrong it's a nice facility but unless you're top class sports person it's prohibitive.

So here I am using a hotel cycle stuck on near maximum resistance, and only capable of 60rpm and 11 mph! I didn't know it had mount Teide setting  1

I am hoping to come back in the winter to tackle the little volcano  4

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rjfrussell [480 posts] 2 years ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:

I am sat opposite the T3 training centre having a nice family holiday. I popped into the complex to see if I could use their gym for a little cycling each day (the hotel exercise bike is broken) I turned down their offer of €45 a day to use the gym, gulp.

Don't get me wrong it's a nice facility but unless you're top class sports person it's prohibitive.

So here I am using a hotel cycle stuck on near maximum resistance, and only capable of 60rpm and 11 mph! I didn't know it had mount Teide setting  1

I am hoping to come back in the winter to tackle the little volcano  4

surely there must be somewhere that will hire you a bike?

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CXR94Di2 [2117 posts] 2 years ago
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surely there must be somewhere that will hire you a bike?

I only wanted to use a turbo type bike for some speed work as I had a time trial the day after I got back from holiday. Tenerife is either up or down, also I didn't want to do speed work on unfamiliar roads/traffic. Training didn't pan out but my TT was satisfactory.