TriathlonLife: Tackling Tabayesco

One of the iconic climbs on Lanzarote, the challenging Tabayesco climb is a classic part of many training rides on the island.

| February 24, 2017 | TRAINING

The view from the top of Mirador de Haria in Lanzarote.

The view from the top of Mirador de Haria in Lanzarote.

Photo >Iaceo |

The first time I did a training camp here in Lanzarote was in 2004. It was a magical 10 days of training with 14 athletes from Canada. One ride, though, will always stand out - it was one of the last rides we did during the camp and included the famous Tabayesco ascent.

Earlier in the week I had taken the group up the last part of the climb, from the village of Haria up to the top of Mirador de Haria. One of the riders, Dan Sinai, made fun of me for trying to imply that the climb was "tough."

What Dan didn't realize, though, was that he had only completed half of the real climb. When you start from the coast in the village of Arrieta and ride through Tabayesco, you climb for twice as long.

"Bring it on," Dan said when I told him we would take on the climb. "A kid on a tricycle could do that."

My first time up Tabayesco was another unforgettable day. I had done it for the first time the year before, two days after the Ironman event in May. I was out for a long ride with a German pro triathlete named Thomas Braun, a frequent training partner of Thomas Hellreigel.

Braun took me on a spectacular ride that included the ascent (from the other side) of de Haria, the beautiful 479 m climb up Mirador del Rio with the incredible view of La Graciosa and the islet Montaña Clara. Once we had descended all of that back into Arrieta we stopped at a store to refuel.

The Mirador del Rio climb is part of the course at Ironman Lanzarote.

The Mirador del Rio climb is part of the course at Ironman Lanzarote.

Photo >Yulia Belousova |

I watched Braun fill his bottles up with Coke and Red Bull. (At this point I should have realized something was awry, but no one has ever accused me of being too bright.)

"Would you like to try Tabayesco?" Braun asked.

"Sure, I replied," thinking it couldn't be that hard compared to the climbs we had already done.

Braun had been in a crash the week before and told me he was just going to "cruise" up the climb.

"I've done it in 27 minutes," he said. "Thomas Hellriegel has done it in 25. Today, I'm going to do it in about 34 minutes."

I had just watched him fuel up with enough caffeine to wake up a corpse. I should have realized that he wasn't going to go easy.

I did the climb that day somewhere between 28 and 29 minutes ... and Braun was waiting for me, looking like he'd had time to shower and change. If he had ridden 34 minutes, my watch must have stopped for a bit - possibly around the time the guys in the ambulance were yelling "Clear!"

So, needless to say, I didn't have much sympathy for Dan as he belittled the climb that had almost killed me seven months earlier.

Because he was part of my camp, I did have to make sure that Dan made it home alive - "kid-on-a-tricycle" comments or not. On that fateful final day I told the group to work up Tabayesco at their own pace - we would regroup at the top of Haria. I rode up to the top myself, then turned around and rode back down the hill in search of Dan.

He was on the series of switchbacks that signify the final few km of the climb.

"This is my max," he gasped.

"Hang on," I replied. "The kid on the trike looks like he's coming by. You can draft off him."

All kidding aside, if you ever have the opportunity to train (or race) in Lanzarote, you need to jump on it. The stark beauty of the island and the fantastic training opportunities make it an experience every endurance junkie will love.
Just ask Dan.
Parts of this story originally appeared in an IronmanLife column written in 2005.