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L'Andalousie a déroulé ses plus beaux paysages à l'Echappée Belge 2019.

Daring to get away from the beaches of the Costa del Sol to test Andalusia by bike

(This article is the result of a press trip organized by the program Le Beau Vélo de RaVel, RTBF)

Adrien Joveneau took the Échappée Belge 2019 cycling tour in the immense protected natural heritage of Andalusia.

The project is ambitious: Andalusia is vast, three times Belgium, and has 8 provinces, each of which bears a name that resonates like an imperative invitation to travel: who does not dream of a week in Seville, of a mild winter like spring in Malaga?

A daring project as well. The south of the Iberian Peninsula is more than 50% covered by mountain ranges, including 46 peaks over 1000m. The Sierra Nevada and its highest peaks, the Mulhacén and the Veleta, culminate at 3500m. The six cycling stages will have to marry these great reliefs, under the dazzling sun at the end of September. But it is above all a paradise that Adrien Joveneau introduced to the 13 winners of the Beaux Vélos de Ravel: an unknown, agricultural and wild hinterland, full of resources, gourmet surprises, authenticity and hospitality, grandiose spaces and marked paths, winding roads, deep canyons and sublime ridges. And so some unevenness awaited Les Échappés.

It is on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada that the Échappée began, in Bubion, a typical Andalusian village, white and tight, with its innumerable chimneys, perched at an altitude of 1400m. Cyclists in red T-shirts started the adventure with a first climb to Trevelez (1700m) and its delicious Serrano hams drying, followed by a descent at full speed to the Almecijar valley. The second stage allowed them to discover canyons, oases and eggplant fields in the hollows of valleys that can obviously only be reached by bicycle, to go up to the assault of the stage village, white and perched of Albrucena.

Olive tree embroidery

On the third day, the group of new friends found themselves on more familiar ground, starting two and a half days on the vias verdes, railways transformed into cycle routes. The pace of the peloton was significantly accelerated and made us forget the painful 8 km / hour average imposed on them by the endless climbs of the previous days.

The landscape of the Alpujarras (southern Sierra Nevada) of the first two days has given way to vast undulations covered with a veritable embroidery of thousands of olive trees, whose cultivation extends over a vast territory of the provinces of Jaen and from Cordoba. Spain produces 40% of the world’s olive oil, and Spanish olive trees number in the hundreds of millions.

The towns of Guadix, Alcaudete, Lucena, Luque, Antequera, Olvera, Grazalema cannot be crossed without tasting their hospitality: pleasant evening on the ocher sand of an arena, picnic of tasty local products … ‘stopping there enhances the days spent pedaling.

Finally, the Echappés peloton ended their hike not without having visited a bull farm (at Rafael Tejeda’s, Ronda) the very ones who will only meet the man face to face only for the first time, in the arena. The bravest fighters are sometimes pardoned. As a consolation, contemplating these pure and wild beauties, running in a cloud of golden dust.

The sweetness of figs

Ronda, a charming historic town, will see the end of this Spanish itinerary. At the edge of its vertiginous cliff more than 100m high, in front of the breathtaking view that opens onto the fields, the fincas and their gardens below and in the distance the sawtooths of the Sierra de las Nieves, this Andalusian adventure will end.

Amazed, cyclists never tire of contemplating this Spain which has unfolded for them its most beautiful landscapes, its sierras of all colors, its flowers, its fruits, its ripe figs marauded along the roads … Attractive facets of an Andalusia outside beaten paths, common places and crowded seaside.

This trip that their little queen (obviously Spanish, thank you Orbea) allowed them to complete was fascinating, mixing history, nature, varied routes and adventure companions.

As a bonus, an exceptional sherpa, the very one who cultivates the subtle art of tending his microphone to pick up an emotion on the spot: Adrien Joveneau.

How hard it is to leave each other already: the only word that has come to everyone’s mind, at the edge of the incredible setting of Ronda, is “thank you”.

Thank you to Andalusia for being so beautiful, so amazing; thank you to Spain for its generous hospitality; thank you to Adrien Joveneau and Les Beaux Vélos for daring the 2019 Belgian Escapade!

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