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Tenerife Times Home arrow Tenerife Sports arrow Cycling in Tenerife arrow Tenerifeís toughest challenge? Teide, Sea to Summit on a cycle!
Tenerifeís toughest challenge? Teide, Sea to Summit on a cycle! PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Michael Hopkins   
Friday, 29 December 2006

Imagine setting yourself one of the toughest challenges on Tenerife, in fact, possibly in the whole of Europe. Well, that’s just what Dr Leslie Brown did when he set out to cycle to the summit of Teide (or as far as he could without a cable car!). Below is an account of how he achieved what many have said was impossible, read it, marvel at not just his physical strength but his inner strength and then visit his web site to learn more about cycling in and around Tenerife.


My first bike ride once I arrived on Tenerife was the ascent to El Portillo (2000 metres altitude) from La Orotava (450 masl). This is a very long climb that you can start from sea level (Puerto de la Cruz) if you’re really keen.

The road passes right by our back door, so finding it was easy enough. I set out eagerly in anticipation. I first discovered that it leads through little rural farms and Spanish bars, one corner after another. And as the road unfolds, there are only a handful of places where the road levels out for about a hundred metres – barely enough time to rest those legs of mine before continuing skyward. I began to heat up fast & soon realised that I had to stop and take off my jacket.

After 9 kilometres of incessant pedalling, I reached the town of Aguamansa at an elevation of 1000 metres. I passed by the last few Spanish bars, already somewhat fatigued, but way too determined to continue straight to the top than to stop and take a decent break... if that makes sense. After all, no hill has ever stopped me before.


From here, it just keeps going up and up and up, relentlessly. The road passes through native pine forrests (where the air is fresh) to rocky outcrops on the high plateau, with low-lying shrubs, and finally along an enormous, ancient volcanic crater with its barren, desolate "moonscape".

After another 10 kilometres of non-stop climbing, I thought it was just ridiculous. I almost began to laugh while pedalling up there, at this persistent 5 % gradient. Sheer lunacy!

My muscles were slowly beginning to complain about the level of exertion they were forced to do. You might wonder: “how can muscles communicate at all?” Well, they first voice their opinion with little quivery, twitchy feelings. If you ignore those subtle warning signs, they follow that up with rather sharp, lengthwise bone-pinging sensations, before ultimately threatening the full-blown cramps. That’s a lesson I’ve learned before, after falling off my bike, writhing on the ground in agony clutching my calf muscle like an idiot. So I stopped to eat a chocolate bar. Although it is the perfect grade for extended climbing, I thought, so I stubbornly kept going ahead after resting a few minutes.

My cousin had previously told me that the climb was 14 km. “Hmmm….. 14 km….. that’s a long way”, I initially thought. I can tell you that at the 14 km mark, there is absolutely no end in sight, in fact you’re not even half way there, and I began to curse. All the hills in Australia are reached well before this point, I thought.

I wanted to keep going and reach the top, but at the 19 km mark, I kept thinking in desperation “F*ck. When is going to end?!!”. Especially when I saw a veritable mountain looming in front of me still to climb. But the thought of my girlfriend kept me strong. That and the thought of being defeated by nothing more than a blasted hill. So with the sight of that mountainous wall approaching, I stopped to eat another one of those chocolate-coated energy bars, and once again continued the upwards journey after a third short break.

You could say that this was my first proper ascent. It was really beginning to show, as I was barely managing to plod along now, my pace having slowed considerably. More of a cycling crawl really. I think the high altitude was also affecting my performance effort at this point. Nevertheless, I’m not a quitter -never have been- so I grit my teeth and kept going. The cramps held off, and not long after the 2 hour mark, a complete stranger gave me the thumbs up somewhere near the summit! That was all the support I needed, and from that moment on, I knew I’d make it.


When I eventually reached the top I was bloody pleased with myself. Having arrived completely under my own power, on a bicycle no less, it’s indescribable. “And Isn’t this feeling way better than limping back to the house defeated?”, I secretly gloated. Looking at my speedometer, I realised that in reality, this arduous climb ascends for well over 28 straight kilometres! (35km from El Puerto). From La Orotava, it took 2 hours and 18 minutes to ascend & 48 minutes coming down. I was glad I took my wind-stopper jacket though, as riding back down was COLD. Most people don’t appreciate how cold the descent actually is. It was the best ride of my life.


I’ve since reduced that time to 1:40 on subsequent rides without even stopping. I’ve received all kinds of encouragement by onlookers at other times. People yell out the name of their favourite cyclist. Or they’ll walk up to me and say “Impresionante” in another language. Or they just just stare. Once, a whole coach-load of tourists clapped & cheered me as I passed by them at one of the lookouts!


I’ve also learned to only attempt it if I’m feeling fresh and I’m certain I can make it. Otherwise Teide always seems to win. Somehow. It’s not a physical limitation but a mental one. For whatever reason, it’s all too easy to make excuses with yourself. When you’re not feeling 100% positive, one or two hours is a long time for all those minor negative thoughts in your head to slowly expand & eat away at your confidence level completely. Your body seems to know: instant relief is only a 180 degree turn away.


For more information about cycling to Teide (and other locations in Tenerife), either guided or self-guided, please contact www.Tenerife–Training.net. Located in La Orotava, we can arrange bicycle tours & quality road bike hire during your stay in Tenerife.


Dr. Leslie Brown.

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Well done that really is some achievement now you have given me the inspiration to attempt the ride myself when I holiday and cycle in golf del sur next Tuesday (11/03/2008). I'm a keen cyclist and ride many hills in my native Yorkshire but this climb is the ultimate-can't wait and thanks for the tips.

Posted by Craig, on 03/07/2008 at 11:26

I've only been up to the cable car station and that was in a car. I can imagine what it was like because I used to cycle across Sheffield and back each week to work, a distance of 12 miles each way. Admittedly, it is not all uphill, but some of the hills in Sheffield are as steep the steepest in Tenerife, plus there is traffic to contend with. Neverthless, well done!

Posted by Mike, on 02/05/2007 at 00:53

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