Spelga Dam, Newry and Mourne
As climbs go, this has a touch of everything about it. Decent road surface? Yep. A steep S bend? Yes! An epic view? Yep. This was this year's Queen climb in the Gran Fondo NI and we took it head on!
The presence of this climb hits you early. The Mournes open up to let you see the road snake off into the distance. The River Bann flows down from the dam carving it's way through the valley. The locals know this climb as the S (well that's what the father in law calls it!) and although it's the hairpin which will catch you out (this was climbed on a closed road circuit so hitting the inside of the bend is tough going with the gradient in the high teens if not 20%), the climb grinds all the way up until you hit 400m above sea level which is double than most Surrey climbs.
On this occasion, we had a riding partner in the form of our good buddy Ali who wanted to in his words 'smash it'. I knew of the road well as my other half was a local so I knew where to hold off. Ali powered up and kept a good pace. Us, well we held back after the S bend to make sure we wasn't pushing squares and then began to reel him in. The road snakes through the valley and only a low cobbled wall on the far side prevents anything from tipping over the edge.
The gradient rarely drops below 10% in this section and it rises slightly just as you reach the dam. The view though back down is spectacular and is one of our soft spots in the world. The climb continues on though all the way up until the junction at a reasonable gradient and you can either turn left for a mega long descent into Newcastle or bear right and descend into Kilkeel to follow the Mourne route back round to Newry.
Spelga Dam, Newry and Mourne, NI
Average Gradient: 5.5%
Max. Gradient: 13%
NITP PB: 18.22
NITP Torture Score: 8/10
NITP Pedal Point: Tactically, this is a difficult climb to pinpoint a strategy as it has a bit of everything. Definitely save something for the S bend especially if you take it from the inside. Even then, it's a grind all the way to the tip of the dam. And even then, you're still climbing all the way to the end of the road. Just think of the silver lining, an ultra long descent to find an Ulster fry!