Alicante, the province of beaches, has plenty of unevenness. “People come here and don’t look back,” shouted a group of athletes on Sunday as they started warming up for one of the most explosive challenges, a vertical kilometer. The Unió Europea square in Finestrat does not lie; at the foot of Puig Campana the channel to ascend can be observed, with some infernal data, warns the speaker: 1,020 meters of altitude in 3.6 kilometers of length. It is an alpine climb at the foot of the Mediterranean that rewards the effort with a viewpoint that dwarfs the skyscrapers of Benidorm.
The Puig Campana has mystique. The hill that serves as an antechamber resembles a bell, but its structure has a window-shaped cut, an anomaly that has given rise to legends such as that of Roldán, a giant who kicked off that piece to let the sun pass. and give his beloved, who would inevitably die at his setting, a few more minutes of life. Thus emerged, says the legend, the island of Benidorm.
The fashion of mountain races is in the ultra distance. “Today, if you don’t run a hundred kilometers, you’re nobody”, emphasizes the technical director of Costa Blanca Trails, Romualdo Domenech. The proof is that the vertical, with 175 participants, has ten times less demand than its longest format, which is close to 2,000. “They are specialists, but very faithful, we see their faces one year after another.” The only consolation offered by the vertical format is the neutralized section from the town to the Font del Molí. From there the timed climb starts: one runner every thirty seconds. This lack of references is an added bonus. Adil Moussaoui (39m12s) and Ana Tauste (50m05s) were the fastest.
the threshold of trail It is in the percentages: up to what slope you are able to run up. That is where some classes differ from others. It is not about running at any pace, because one of the rules is not to run if you walk faster. The first kilometer, protected by the trees, offers many consolations, even lukewarm descents, until reaching the channel, a place that if it were at 3,000 meters would be a delight for climbers. A quarry that never ends and is avoided on the right flank. For efficiency and to protect a terrain that was used for the ‘skiers’ to slide down. The prize for overcoming it is an ‘easy’ half kilometer around the pass towards the main peak.
There, at 1,406 meters, there is a gun that reads the number and puts an end to the agony. The time trial ends, but not the race: the regulations require a more sedate descent of eight kilometers along the north face and cross the finish line of the town to verify that no one has gotten lost in the mountains. While other races design the most diabolical plan possible to add unevenness through sometimes artificial nooks, the magic of Puig Campana is that its climb is natural, the original access road. “There was no need to invent anything.” The descent connects with a path marked at the beginning of the century.
With 14 editions, it was one of the pioneering verticals in Spain and hosted a World Cup. “In the Valencian Community, except for error or omission, there is no other mountain that has these characteristics. To find similar unevenness, you have to go to the Pyrenees or Picos de Europa”. The microclimate of the bay of Benidorm guarantees “spectacular weather 90% of the days”, an incentive for neophytes. “As a result of the pandemic, the influx is spectacular. These days beaconing we will have found 200 or 300 people”. Happy to make way for those crazy verticals.
Hotel Bali, a climb of 924 stairs
The vertical double of Benidorm raises the same weekend the vertical to Puig Campana on Sunday and the Climb to the Gran Hotel Bali, which serves on Saturday in advance. It is a time trial through the 52 floors of the skyscraper for 180 meters of unevenness and 924 steps of 17 centimeters. The organizer, Miquel Tortosa, recognizes the “idea of a firefighter”, his profession. There are three categories: firefighters, who go up with all the equipment (about 20 kilos), an elite and another open for a broader public. It is allowed to use the railing for a very specialized test in which everyone has their own style. “It’s for the typical short runner with strong quads, because you get to the top with them on fire.” More than fifteen volunteers monitor the landings so that no guest – the hotel was full – spoiled the party. The fastest were Soh Wai Ching (4m33s) and Kamila Chomanicova (5m53s). At the top of Puig Campana more than one lamented the heat of the day before.
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