In short…the tarmac!!
May is a funny month here in the French Alps. The weather is very changeable (it rains a lot!), there is still far too much snow on the high mountain passes for the roads to be open, and most of the shops shut! So it’s a perfect time to head to new roads to get some cycling miles in my legs.
I have been to Provence three times, Corsica once and now Girona twice in the month of May. Corsica is still my favourite out of the three, but it’s more of an adventure location rather than a cycle training camp, as many people wouldn’t be as tolerant of the ‘interesting’ road conditions as perhaps I was.
So what does Girona have to offer? Having never been to Majorca, the mecca of pre-season cycle training grounds, because it just sounds way to busy. I was pleasantly surprised that a friend I was cycling with when I was in Girona, who had been cycling in Majorca many times, said the two places just didn’t compare. Girona came out on top for two main reasons. Firstly the road surface quality, and secondly the traffic. Girona also offers you Mountain Roads, Coastal Roads, Forest Roads and even Gravel Roads, who could want for more.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to describe the roads around Girona to have ‘Tarmac of the Gods’. Just smooth tarmac on wide roads, bliss. Then to top it off, no traffic!! Getting in an out of the city of Girona is fairly busy, but once out of the suburbs, you would be lucky to see a car. You can just ride two abreast for hours on end chatting away. If you do meet traffic then they are the most courteous of cyclists I have ever seen. Living in France you quickly take for granted how much more tolerant drivers are of cyclists there than in the UK. But Spain was another level again. Wow. Particularly lorries and coaches, they seemed happy to wait and then gave you tonnes of room when they did pass.
My Top Rides
I have tried to ride different routes across the two weeks I have spent cycling in Girona, and below are my four favourites so far. Although I am sure there is still many more I am yet to discover.
My favourite ride, although only short, is out of Girona and up Els Angels (from Girona side) down to Monells then right and back on the GI-664 over Santa Pellaia. Just two climbs that aren’t very long, and have a super easy gradient, but they are perfectly smooth empty roads in the most beautiful of countryside.
Parc Natural del Cap de Creus – From Girona, it’s a long ride 180km ish, but if you have a car you could head a little closer before jumping on the bike. The bit really worth riding, is up the GIP-6041 from Vilajuiga to el Port de la Selva, then the GI-613 from El Port de la Selva up and over the beautiful port of Cadaqués. Then back out of Cadaqués and down the GI-614. It is stunning!
My third favourite was the long gentle climb up to El Far, such a view from the top!
Then there is the coastal road between Tossa de Mar and Sant Feliu de Guixols on the GI-682. This ride I have done twice because it is just so darn beautiful.
I should probably mention the Rocacorba climb, as it’s iconic with cycling and Girona. It is recognised as a key training climb for Pro riders to test their form on, and therefore it will be no surprise if I say it’s tough! It is pretty steep in sections with a good proportion of the 13.8km climb at a gradient of 10%-15%. Personally, I don’t think it’s a particularly scenic climb, and though there is a view from the top, other climbs had views a lot better. So if you are going to ride the Rocacorba, then I really think it should be to test yourself against the clock! Annoyingly for me, I didn’t know we were even on the climb until there was only 8km left to go (the point the gradient ramps up). At which point I stopped gassing to my friends and started putting in a bit of effort. Having sauntered along unknowingly the first 5.8km of the climb, my strava segment is far from what I would have hoped… which probably means I will go and ride it again some time!
The weather was predominantly warm and sunny, but the landscape isn’t lush and green for no reason! The proximity to the Pyrenees and the hills surrounding Girona do mean a thunderstorm might bubble up. We had 6 days of dry blue skies, but one day we got caught completely off guard. After 3 hours of riding in downpours, we were unable to control our shaking any further and were bordering on hypothermia. My teeth were chattering uncontrollably, they, in turn, caused my body to shake and then the bike, magnifying in vibrations as they moved down my body. My bike was wobbling so badly I had become very unsafe on the road, particularly descending. We stopped after 120km, 40km short of where we were staying and called in a collection! In May it is still too cold to be riding in the hills drenched to the skin for hours on end. Pack layers accordingly!
Other things worth mentioning
I would also highly recommend a visit to Llafranc on the coast for a seafood lunch. If you want to eat some amazing food then I would recommend the restaurant of Nu in the centre of Girona, oh and a cycling holiday wouldn’t be complete without at least one pre or post cycle breakfast at La Fabrica.
Thanks Girona, I had a blast.
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