sunnuntai 4. maaliskuuta 2018

N-340 in Costa Tropical: rolling hills and great views

The coastal N-340 must be the Spanish equivalent for the American Route66, or the Australian Great Ocean Road.

N-340 takes you all the way from Jerez to Barcelona, about 1200 km by the Mediterranean sea. What a challenge it would be to cycle it all the way!

I tasted it a mere 80 km around Nerja. I fell in love especially with the section East of Nerja, or Costa Tropical.

The road has a very different nature depending on whether you ride it West or East of Nerja.

The Western section to Torre del Mar is flat and straight. Between Nerja and Torrox Costa it felt like on a time trial course. The more one goes West after Torrox Costa, the more there are tourist resorts and traffic. Many cyclists are doing their recovery or leisure ride on this "promenade", though.

N-340 is worth a blog post of its own for the winding, undulating part between Nerja and Salobreña. Little traffic, smooth road surface, great views to desolated beaches and the Mediterranean – and, most importantly, a route profile that suits for many kinds of riding.

I recommend the extra 100 m climb to the highway roundabout and back. (Above: 56-59 km)
Fast downhill towards La Herradura.

As the maximum altitude stays below 200 metres, climbs are short, typically less than a kilometre long. The road profile is for heavy traffic too, so it is never very steep. It stays practically all the time under 8% but there's flat nowhere between Nerja and Salobreña.

If you want to combine mountains to your N-340 experience, turn to A-4050 towards Otivar in Almuñecar. I did that on one ride but, as it started raining and I didn't feel comfortable descending in the mountains on wet roads, I quit and returned to N-340 soon. 

I also remembered too well the puncture on my first ride to Cómpeta, and how I destroyed the spare inner tyre while changing, and how difficult (and costly) it was to get a taxi. When wet, sand and gravel stick to tyres and cause punctures easier than on dry.

So, there are interesting roads leading up, between Sierras de Tejeda and Sierra Nevada. They will provide an endless combination for different kinds of rides.

The lowland section around Motril is a bit monotonous. On my ride there was some headwind. Luckily the local cyclists had the end sprint of their club ride. First I joined their group, and we chatted some while riding. Then there were breakaway moves. I found another rider to collaborate with, and we did the final breakaway, pushing quite hard and sharing the work in the wind. As a result, I had my highest heart rate during this flat and easy section. ¡Muy bien!

Double puncture in the mountains.

Turning point of my first N-340 ride.

The Motril beach café – my original destination – was closed, and as I realized I didn't have any money with me anyway, I had to skip other cafés too. The banana and the biscuit in my pocket helped to maintain healthy energy levels in the muscles.

On my second ride along N-340 riding back to Nerja, I found a section from Los Girasoles to Maro particularly nice and suitable for FTP or near-FTP training. The way you ride the uphills (pace, cadence, in saddle / out of saddle) determine the average level. The downhills can be used either to stay as high power/HR as possible, or to take breath.

Even if you stay in Torre del Mar area, you really should head your front wheel to Nerja and go further East. Here's a short video showing how different the road is from the Costa del Sol part:

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