Ride Report: Jorge Padrones - II Deserts

Posted By Gravel Union On 9 July 2020

Jorge Padrones sent us in this great ride report from the recent Il Deserts event in Spain.

With that suggestive name, this gravel and bikepacking event was born in which, as its name suggests, its objective is to cross two desert areas in a two-day circular route. The Monegros desert and Las Bardenas reales with their incredible and unreal landscape are the definite highlights of this gravel route, which is located in the north-east area of Spain.

The total route was 300 kilometers in length, divided into two stages, leaving from and returning to Zaragoza. On this route the elevation was not a problem since it barely accumulated 1400 meters in those 300 kms, although there were some steep hills along the way. Some of these climbs were a real challenge to try and ride rather than having to resort to walking to get to the top.

For the first stage, we left at 8 in the morning from a central hotel in Zaragoza. We had just over 180 kms of gravel ahead of us and we knew it was going to be a long and hard day ahead. The first kilometers were spent trying to get away from the urban center of. As we got closer to the Monegros we could see the transition of the landscape and how the vegetation was decreasing, making the view more and more desert-like.

The first stop was in Leciñena at the entrance to the heart of the Monegros. We topped up our water and grabbed some refreshment before setting off again to cross the desert. These are always one of the best moments of gravel events, not only because of having some food and refreshments, because it is the moment when people interact and get to know their fellow riders. The atmosphere of these gravel events is very different from other types of races, since what prevails is the spirit of enjoyment and sharing the passion for gravel riding, so the predisposition to meet people seems much higher than in other events.

Once we had recovered our strength, we faced the first desert of the day where we were accompanied by one of the ingredients that cannot be missing in any desert route - the wind. In this case we were moving against it, which made the route a bit harder. We rode on linking tracks and some sections next to a channel that led to a reservoir that, like an oasis, announced the end of the Monegros . From here we rode on to get to Ejea de los Caballeros where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch and some short connecting sections of trail, we arrived at the main attraction of the weekend, the park of the Bardenas Reales, which left us with no words when crossing it. This region has an extraterrestrial and irreal beauty and a landscape that seems to be taken from a science fiction movie – it is highly recommended!

We stopped for night to sleep in Tudela where our friends at Xplore Experiences had found us fantastic accommodation and prepared dinner so that we could regain strength after riding more than 180 kms.

The next day, our way back to Zaragoza was a very fast route following the Canal Imperial de Aragón to the outskirts of Zaragoza. The route was almost entirely flat – we accumulated just 80m of ascent in 110kms - something that is normally hard to find in this area. On arrival back in Zaragoza, we made an obligatory group photo in Plaza del Pilar, outside the city’s Cathedral and one of the Spanish symbols, as the culmination of our ride.

It was a unique gravel weekend, during which we had the opportunity to share kilometers with former pro road racers Alberto Losada and Joan Horrach. Without a doubt, the highlight was the great atmosphere that was experienced by a group of gravel enthusiasts that made us all enjoy the incredible route.

All photos courtesy of Ibai Fradejas

Jorge Padrones

Jorge is based in Spain and is a regular on the start-line of different gravel events across Europe and further afield too.