The ferry had landed at 8am local time in Bilbao. A 2 1/2 hour drive had brought us to Potes in the Liebana valley on the eastern side of the Picos de Europa. We were too early to head to our accommodation so so sort of sports plan was needed. A cup of tea in Potes and we move on up to Fuente Dé where we are accosted by two British cyclists who recommend a route they have done near the village of Brez which lies further down the valley.
So it is back in the car and down the valley. I miss the turning the first time and we have to turn again. The road up to the village is tortuous to say the least and ends at a sort of car park complete with what appears to be a stand for a fairground!
The couple had warned us that the initial ascent out of the village was just about unrideable but through deft ignoring of the map we find a different track out into the hills. This contours around the hill rather than goes over it. The track is pleasantly wooded which shades us from the sun (being pasty northerners). However the gradient soon kicks up and we are faced with a series of short steep climbs separated by level sections.
Eventually the track comes out of the woods and rises around a corner to join the track that we had been told about. Time for a bit of a breather. Ahead is the Canal de las Arredondas which looks as if it could be a bit tricky on a bike. We set off and before too long and not to anyones surprise come to the end of the track. The continuation is obviously footpath: the only way is back.
Back at the track junction we have a look at the map. Just down the track that we came up is another path that leads down to the village of Lon. Off we go! The junction turns up soon enough and we speed away until Angela comes a cropper on a damp rocky bend. She is winded and annoyed rather than seriously hurt but does have a nasty graze on her arm.
The track is muddy and care is needed even on the easy angled sections. Not that there are many of those: we seem to be heading downhill on very steep slopes for a very long time. Eventually the track eases up and swings over the stream before turning a corner into the village. The occasional local looks at us as if we are from another planet. We pass through the village and just before the tarmac starts swing right onto another lane. If we had dropped all that height then we were going to have to gain some back to be able to get back to the car.
The lane swings back over the narrow valley then approaches what appears to be a building site. The track passes above this via a steep climb. The slope soon ends and we swing around through open fields to a short descent. Beyond is another short, steep climb, Steve has gone ahead and shouts back that his water bottle marks his high point. I fail to rise to the challenge: attacking the slope it is both steeper and looser than I thought and I end up having to dismount 20 metres before the taunting item.
Another short sharp climb and the path levels out as it leaves a wooded area. Below us is the valley of the Rio Deva. The level stuff can't last though and all too quickly we join another track that climbs back to Brez. This is hard work and just when you think that it cannot get any harder - it steepens, then at least the surface becomes concreted. But it is no use, I need a breather, Steve continues. That taken I continue, twisting and climbing into the village until I recognise the starting point and swing left and up to the car. I am soaked with the exertion in the heat.
By the time we are all at the car Steve has decided that he will ride down to our accommodation even though he doesn't know where it is! I give him directions and he heads off. The descent to the main road achieves 80 mpg in the car! A bit of a cheat as it is nearly all freewheeling. We catch Steve up on the other side of Potes and guide him to the B&B.
- From Brez, go straight through the village and take the lane that leads northward.
- At the first junction, keep left - the right hand track drops steeply to Lon.
- Follow this track through the woods taking in several steep ascents to a junction, with signpost, amongst bracken. Good views to the west into the Canal.
- It is possible to cycle towards the canal for around 600m but you will have to return to the junction.
- Head back down the track along which you approached for around 100m and take a track to the left. This descends steeply to the stream but does not cross it. Follow the track along the true right bank for several kilometres to Lon. This track is muddy and rutted as well as being steep.
- Go through the village until a lane is seen to the right. Take this lane and cross the valley. Swing left then climb the steep hill through trees.
- Continue on this track until the trees are left behind and it levels out. At the next junction turn right and climb steeply back into Brez. Turn left at the junction in the village.
Macizos Central Y Oriental de Los Picos de Europa 1:25000 scale published by Adrados.
Picos de Europa y El Valle de Liebana by Victor Guerra, published by Desnivel ISBN: 84-87746-27-6 (Spanish text) This does not have this particular route described but parts of other routes cover the same ground.