I like to profile some of my more memorable rides on this blog, and my summer trip to Spain and France was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my year. I recently became aware of the fact that I had only documented a single ride in 2013 and instead of letting these rides go unremembered, I decided that I would do a few posts as a cycling year in review.
This past July, I met up with a friend of mine from my cycling club, Silas, and we decided to explore the cycling outside of Girona, Spain. I had read various articles over the years profiling Girona as a hub for professional cyclists to live and train during the months surrounding the European cycling calendar. Already having plans to travel to the French Alps for the Tour was a great excuse to take a small excursion to Basque country to see what kind of cycling Spain has to offer.
The riding did not disappoint. On day one, we took a train about an hour outside of Barcelona where we rode through the Spanish countryside pacelining on the shoulder of rural highways, meandering through small farm roads, and taking several gravel roads in our pursuit of the Mediterranean. We tried to navigate based off of screenshots of routes Silas had found online, and based off of my Strava upload, you can clearly see that we had no idea where we were going most of the day. Nonetheless, the riding was so much fun. Our ride took us to a beach town called Sant Feliu de Guíxols, where we ordered a couple of blended cocktails and gave our feet a soak in the cool Mediterranean.
On day two, we were determined to find some of the climbing that famously surrounds Girona. I had heard stories of professional cyclists using these mountains to train for the Grand Tour events, and Silas and I figured we better test our legs for the French Alps and the week following. We took the train from Barcelona to Girona again and headed in the direction of Salt. Just past Salt, we began to see trails alongside the pavement and many mountain bikers. It felt like a significant contrast to the day before when we only saw the seldom road cyclist racing along the highway shoulders.
Without much planning or any clear idea of where we were headed, Silas and I took a turn off of the main road at what appeared to be a municipal building. The road followed the Riu Ter for a while with a gentle incline and we continued to see more and more cyclists which was very comforting. As we made our way up the river, we began to notice that the climbing that lay ahead would be very substantial. Around one bend, we came upon a group of five Catalan cyclists who were fixing a flat. We offered them help in Spanish, “Ustedes necesitan ayuda?” of which they kindly declined. After the first pitch of the climb, we were atop a several-hundred-foot tall dam and we decided to ride the road that connected the two sides. After that little diversion, we began to leapfrog the group of cyclists we happened upon earlier since some of them were faster and some slower than our pace.
They soon became very friendly with us and began to chat and joke around in Catalan while we tried our best to communicate back in Spanish. From some of what I could vaguely decipher from the words that sounded similar in Spanish and the body gesturing, I had the impression that they thought we were young, strong, and fast. We continued to ride as a pack at that point and the climbing just continued. After roughly 3,500 feet of climbing, the group pulled off at what I can imagine as one of the loneliest restaurants atop a Spanish Col. Silas and I continued up a dirt and gravel road so we could truly see the top, but as it turns out, the restaurant had the best vantage point.
We descended back to the restaurant to be greeted by the same group of boisterous cyclist, now merrily eating regional cuisine and sipping wine from a very peculiar, but elegant looking vessel. They quickly yelled a bunch of greeting in Catalan and waved us over to a couple of empty seats at their table. Then they proceeded to teach us the proper way to drink wine in Catalonia. The vessel had one large opening like the opening of a carafe and another small pointy opening that narrowed to about the size of an eye dropper. Wine was poured from the the smaller opening straight into the mouth and the arm was extended as far as possible. Then everyone cheered.