Ride Report - Guadix Gravel Festival 2023

Jorge Padrones has tried all the different forms of gravel events before except for a gravel festival. He thought he should rectify this, so took part in the recent Guadix Gravel Festival held in southern Spain and he sent in this great report of his time at the event. 

The first edition of the Guadix Gravel Festival took place between 12th and 14th of May and I was really excited as this was going to be my first gravel festival! I’d been to races, events, bikepacking routes before but never to a gravel festival. Also, my expectation and my excitement was based in the Guadix area and the Gorafe desert where the big rides will happen – I’d seen them many times in pictures and reports, but I’ve never cycled through them in real life.

On our arrival on there were a couple of social rides, one in the morning and another on the afternoon. Scenic rides in the surroundings of Guadix gave a taste of its beautiful and unique scenery. Social rides are always good starters and a nice way to meet people and chat about gravelling or any other topics and create a sense of community. On Friday there was also a visit to the local cave houses. People in the area have built their houses by digging into the stone and creating caves. The main entrance is the only part of the house exposed to the outside world.

On the early evening we made our registration while there was music drinks and snacks, creating also a good atmosphere, even if all of us were thinking about the challenge we will be facing on Saturday. We had a choice of three distances - 60, 120 and 170 kms all traversing the Gorafe desert.

I went for the long one, the Gorafe Epic, and so it was - long and epic, living up to its name. We started at 8am on the dot in a cool morning with our bearings to the village of Gorafe. The race was on straight away. For the more competitive riders a small pack was pulling at the front. Setting the pace was a group commanded by the Team Amani riders from East Africa. For others the challenge was just to be able to finish a demanding day on the saddle.

Once we got to Gorafe, a short and very steep climb welcomed us to the desert. I have seen many pictures, videos and listened to comments and reports from other cyclist about this area, but anything I can tell you will do it justice. I am short of words to describe not only the landscape but also the feeling of riding through it and I hope is not only because English is not my mother tongue!

The scenery is just mind blowing - like out of this planet. For me it was like riding somewhere else not belonging to the usual catalogue of landscapes. I had the luck, now I know it was luck, of being on my own since the climb in Gorafe. In my case it made me enjoy more the views and concentrate on the feeling of riding on my own in such a beautiful but rough place. More than a ride - I would say it was an experience. The landscape was a succession of badlands and different geological desert landscapes, while the course went up and down, but also through them in some narrow valleys and dried up rivers.

It was a hard but rewarding course. We had five feed stations well stocked with fruits, nuts, and gels. In total 3000 meters were climbed with constant up and downs until the end across a small and beautiful gorge to reach the outskirts of Guadix.

Once we got to the finish line there was all we needed to start the recovery - pasta, paella, tortilla and drinks along some sweets and coffee. We were all set to head for the desired shower and get dressed up, as the day was not finishing there. In the evening took place the awards ceremony, a live band playing while we commented on the day with some drinks with fellow riders. 

On Sunday the organisers had planned an optional ride, around 50 km this time heading north of Guadix, the Guadix Clásica. This time the route went in the direction of Sierra Nevada, so we had the opportunity to see a more mountainous landscape, greener and with some forests. It was also a kind of social ride in which there was not a set time to start. 

Each group took a different pace, a relaxed pace, as the main challenge of the day was at the end - a climbing challenge to the ‘Mirador del Fin del mundo’ - a 1 km steep climb with constant 20% gradients through a water-carved mountain. This was the last test to make sure that those who took the challenge have it all on the weekend and went home with nothing left in their legs. On the top there was also food and drinks and was the place from where we all departed and finished our gravel weekend and festival.

A complete success for a new event that will be a must in the coming years and a good way to socialise while knowing what in my opinion is one of the most beautiful and unique areas for gravelling.

If you would like to follow in Jorge's tyre prints, you can check out his routes here:

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.

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