We headed east out of Xalo along the CV-750 into Alcalali where we joined the CV-720 to Parcent. Although rolling, most of the road so far had been gently uphill with a handful of steeper sections thrown in. At Parcent we turned left onto the CV-715 signposted Tarbena and were pretty much immediately on the climb to Coll de Rates. The Coll de Rates isn’t the biggest climb in the world with 5% average for 6.5-km, but the reward in sweeping views is out of proportion to the climb involved. After an initial straight drag the road started snaking up through roads at first flanked by pine forest and then opening out to give a wonderful panorama towards the Costa Blanca and Denia to the east.
All too soon, it seemed, we reached the top where a quiet restaurant was not yet open for business (well, it was early) and immediately headed down the other side into a stunningly beautiful valley of terraces and almond groves that was like entering a lost and quiet world. With uncountable numbers of terraces on pretty much every surface, it felt a little like looking back into an Incan Empire scene, especially with the Serra Bernia ridge rising in the background.
I’ve already described the road names, so I’ll just add that this felt like the more challenging direction. That ‘fast homeward descent’ into Parcent becomes a 20-km dragging climb towards Castell de Castells, followed by some 10% + sections up to the Puerto de Sa Creueta. Then, after generally descending to Tarbena and into that lush, ‘Incan’ valley, you still have to climb several kilometres back up to the Coll de Rates before the final cruise downhill back to Parcent and onwards to Xalo.
That said, both directions are equally beautiful and I’d happily do either direction again in a heartbeat. Happy riding.