The minor tour of the ports of La Ribagorzana begins at the town of Graus beside the Joaquín Costa roundabout. The route draws out two rings on the terrain, both starting off at Graus: the first and shortest route surrounds the small sierra of Castell de Laguarres and the second and longer one circles the sierra of Esdolomada using the main passages of the Ésera and the Isábena.
And so the race begins across the Ésera bridge and continues along the Valle de Arán street to leave the town and head towards Capella on the A-1605 following the valley of the Isábena river. After a few kilometres we cross the town of Capella which stands out for its magnificent seven-eyed bridge. The route goes deep into the wide valley until it reaches the crossing. Here it detours towards the A-1606. We leave the valley and climb to the port of Castillo de Laguarres (1,060 m). After several uphill stretches that go on for eight kilometres we finally reach the port. The Pyrenean skyline fills up the whole of the northern landscape which sinks away behind us as we take the road down to Benabarre. We pass this town quickly as we soon encounter a better quality of asphalt on the N-123. When we reach Torres del Obispo we leave the main road to the right and take the N-123A leading back to Graus. The road skims past the Barasona reservoir, crosses it at en end and leads to the A-139 at the town entrance.
It continues along the urban road, passes a starting point and maintains its northerly direction leading to Benasque along the 139 up the valley of the Ésera river. Little towns such as Perarrúa, Besians and Santa Liestra located by the river keep us company during our easy ride. The Ésera valley becomes narrower where the rough waters attract water sports aficionados in the summer season. The regional road joins the N-260 coming from Ainsa and, after going through the tunnel of Morillo, reaches the town of Campo. It turns right to link up with the HU-V-9601 and leads away from the valley. The route is set among the southern foothills of the Turbón massif, the magic mountain par excellence in the Ribagorza region. The road becomes more difficult as it ascends the port of Serrate (1,070 m). The route reaches the port on the Serrate crossing. After passing Egea, the slope becomes flatter and swiftly descends to Torre la Ribera and Villacarlí. Further down, the road meets the A-1605 which extends along the whole of the Isábena gulley.
The return to Graus is made following the A-1605 where we have just arrived. The road stays close to the sides of the Isábena valley, leaving behind little towns like Serraduy or La Puebla de Roda. The cathedral town of Roda de Isábena can be seen at a towering height. The route descends the valley until it reaches the crossing of Laguarres where we will recognise the first kilometres that we cycled at the beginning of the race.
Points along the route:
Roda de Isábena. Nowadays this little town set on a small hill in the Isábena valley is home for less than a hundred people. But a thousand years ago it was the capital of the Ribagorza county as well as an Episcopal See. Its small cathedral, built twice (X-XI) due to the destruction it suffered at the hands of the son of Almanzor, features an underground crypt with the sarcophagus of Saint Ramón, its discrete cloister and a number of wall paintings. Part of its treasure was stolen in 1979 by Erik the Belgian. The items included the chair of Saint Ramón, a unique Spanish wooden furniture piece dating from the X-XI century -it was later returned, though partly destroyed..
The Turbón massif. Much has been written and told about this emblematic Ribagorzan mountain -with a summit of 2,492 m- and about its castle: a harbinger of storms, conclave of witches, a watcher of peoples and their folk… True or not the Turbón is unquestionably the magic mountain of the Pyrenees. The enigmatic and mysterious aura of this petrified giant is shrouded in legends, myths and old wives’ tales inspired by its solitary and detached poise compared to the more axially located Pyrenees mountains. Its sullen and storm-battered appearance strengthens the personality of this limestone massif, which towers above in the heart of the Ribagorza region.
Benabarre. The modern-day castle is the result of a series of consecutive transformations caused by the quirks of history for centuries. Its origins seem to be Islamic but it was not until the conquest by Ramiro I (11th century) that the medieval castle and afterwards the Romanesque church were built. The castle became a county residence and the Romanesque church was transformed into an important Gothic temple. The successive wars that followed -secession, independence and the Carlist wars- eventually transformed and adapted it to suit the conflict situations of each moment.
The bridge of Capella is one of the best exponents of hydraulic engineering in medieval Spain. Its origin apparently dates back to the 13th century and it also stands out for the mastery achieved in the composition of its large dimensions; almost 100 metres in length. It is comprised of seven arches set between reinforced pillars with triangular cutwaters supporting a humpback platform. It is not the only medieval bridge to be seen along the way. There are other examples of minor size that we may find along the Ésera, comprised mainly of a single central arch such as the bridges of Besians and Perrarúa or further upstream on the Isábena itself at Roda de Isábena and Beranuy.