Girona might not be as well-known or popular as cycling hotspots Mallorca or the Canary Islands, but the small medieval town a short drive from Barcelona is on the rise, with more cyclists being won over by its friendly charm, culture and, of course, stunning roads for cycling.
Over the year it has become a base for many professional cyclists which has helped put it on the map for cyclists looking for a training camp or cycling holiday away from the maddening crowds.
Firstly, we have to start with the roads and the quality of riding, because that is the main reason for getting away with your bike. A short ride out of town and you're soon on quiet roads that are well surfaced and maintained, and there are plenty of medium-sized hills to get your teeth into. There's nothing to rival the Alps or the Pyrenees, which on a clear day you can see on the horizon, but you may have heard of Rocacorba?
Named after the 12th Century Santuari de Rocacorba castle at sits near the summit, it's a climb that has gained significant and prominence in recent years as a favoured test for form by the many pros now calling Girona home, including none other than David Millar.
The climb isn't a monster like some other climbs over the border in France or up the road in the Pyrenees, but at 9.9km long, 737m altitude gain and an average gradient of 7% with 15% in places, it's not to be taken lightly. Oh, and upon reaching the top, be prepared to spin round and come back down the same road: it's a one-way road!
You can see the climb in detail on Strava, where the current fastest time is 27 minutes 13 seconds, a time set by James Knox. Never heard of him? He's a young British cyclist in his first year as a professional for Quick Step Floors. So he's a bit handy!
There's more to Girona than just this well-known climb, and there are lots of other really good climbs that are about 8km in length, good for training and preparing for your target events in the summer.
A climb I really enjoyed riding around Girona is Els Angels. It's a nice length at 11.2km and the average gradient of 4% means it's quite a mellow climb and lets you chug along at a nice pace. There's the added bonus of a lovely church at the summit where, if you're into your art history, Salvador Dali was married. It's handily just a few minutes from the city so it's a convenient climb to do if you want a cheeky pre-breakfast spin.
Another climb I'm told is well-worth doing is Sant Hilari. It's about 20km from Girona, so ample time to warm up the legs, and from the bottom to the summit it's 23.74km long with a 3% average gradient, peaking to 7% on the steeper parts. That makes it a really good big ring climb if you're feeling fit and strong, a good place for intervals, or just a really enjoyable climb.
Looking at Strava the fastest time is 42 minutes 57 seconds at an average speed of 33.2kph and 351 watts, a time set by Larry Warbasse, so you can see it's a very rapid climb.
Add up these climbs and the quiet roads, the lovely climate and the chance to bump into other pros (a real possibility any time of the year) as well as easy flight connections across Europe, and it all adds up to make a wonderful experience.
The lovely thing about Girona is that the culture and dining experience is every bit as good as the riding. So when you've had a good day in the saddle you can explore the narrow streets of Girona, taking in the museums, galleries and ancient churches, and it's all walkable so you don't need to worry about getting the bus or taxi.
It's a good place to eat and drink too. Start your ride with a coffee and breakfast at La Fábrica (pictured above) a cycling cafe started by ex-pro Christian Meier, who has made Girona his home since retiring. He also owns Espresso Mafia for a post-ride espresso, and visit his bike shop Service Course where you can get your bike serviced, buy spares and even join led rides. In the old part of the city another ex-pro, Rory Sutherland, has also opened a cafe called Federal. Those and many other independent bars, cafes and restaurants ensure you'll eat and drink well during your visit.
There's always a good time to go, though April through to October typical provide the warmest weather, with highs of 30-degrees in July and August, and reaching 15-degrees in late spring and early autumn. Rainfall is relatively light year-round, but as with most parts of Europe, it can rain - I spent two days in February riding through torrential rain, so always pack an emergency jacket just in case. Best to be prepared.
If you want to take part in some local cycling events, then visit during 11-17th June for the Girona Cycling Festival. It's billed as the perfect opportunity to explore the area and includes the Girona Gran Fondo, with a choice of 125 and 142.6km distances. There's also a cheeky 10.4km Hill Climb event up the famous local climb Els Angels, and rounding things up is a Nocturne Twilight Criterium.
There's lots of choice to suit all budgets in Girona, and because of its small size, you can locate yourself in the city so you are close to all the restaurants and cafes. From Airbnb to lots of bike-friendly hotels, including Casa Cundaro (seen below), Hotel Historic, Hotel Llegendes and Mas Pelegr, there's no shortage of good places to base yourself for a long weekend or week stay. The Llegendes also provides rental bikes, as does Service Course, so you don't even have to take your own bike if you prefer to travel light.
Girona has its own airport but due to its small size there's limited choice of flights from the UK, the other option is to fly to nearby Barcelona as there are lots more fights to choose from, and jump on the train or arrange a transfer to whisk you to Girona.
To ensure your bike is in tip-top condition before you travel, why not book your bike into Bespoke for a service before you go. We'll ensure your gears are working optimally and that the key mechanical parts are in perfect working order before your week of cycling.
To make a booking call us on 020 7796 1263 or email us.
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