“Girona is a unique place for the bike,” says retired cyclist Christian Meier while roasting coffee at Espresso Mafia, a coffee shop in the city’s Barri Vell. Thirteen years after his arrival, the Canadian is one of more than 150 professional runners who live in the outskirts of the capital of the Catalan province, where the mountains and the Costa Brava merge through numerous greenways and roads with little traffic. What was the home of the defenestrated Lance Armstrong in his years of relentless winner del Tour already has a place in the main pages about cycling, and the city has begun to adorn itself by opening cafes and other places with this theme. “Here it is not like the south of France or Tuscany. You do not come to Catalonia to bike, you come to Girona to bike ”, says Meier.
The possible routes for cycling enthusiasts are endless, and various agencies organize excursions of different duration and price, as well as having hourly bike rental. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to experience the natural and cultural heritage of a province that already hosts the Sea Otter Europe international cycling festival. The tourist office and the Vies Verdes website offer maps, accommodation resources and material for the more independent traveler.
Landscapes for all levels
To go on your own, one of the trails for all audiences is the Carrilet Olot-Girona Route, which can be done in both directions. During the journey of almost 60 kilometers along greenways that follow old railway routes, one is captivated by the volcanic landscape of the Garrotxa natural park, fairytale enclaves such as the Vall d’en Bas or the modernist building of the Bescanó hydroelectric plant , by the architect Joan Roca i Pinet.
Those who wish to exercise on the most demanding roads and do not mind getting up early to travel about 145 kilometers at a good pace, can dare to take the route known by those most versed in the field as Les Tres Antenes. It starts in Girona and, after passing through the municipalities of Banyoles, Esponellà and Cabanelles, ascends to the Mare de Déu del Mont sanctuary, from which there are views of the Pyrenees only reserved for those who climb more than a thousand meters. The journey continues through the mythical mountains of Rocacorba and Els Àngels, a mountain that connects with the Sant Daniel de Girona valley, which soon changes the road through the cobbled streets of the historic center of the city.
The Els Àngels road is just the starting point for one of the most enjoyable excursions in the province: the route of medieval villages. This 52-kilometer circular itinerary crosses the towns of Madremanya, Púbol, La Pera, Flaçà and Bordils, which stand out for their Romanesque architecture and that tranquility that only small towns can provide. Art regulars have an appointment with the Púbol castle that the painter Salvador Dalí gave to his wife, Gala, in 1969, one of the three points of the Dalinian Triangle of Girona. Since 1996, the complex has been open as a museum, where some of the works of the genius, who resided there sporadically in the seventies, are exhibited.
If you prefer to take advantage of the last mild temperatures of the year by approaching the Costa Brava, nothing better than leaving Figueres (half an hour by train from Girona) towards El Port de la Selva, a town of white houses with a fishing port and coves that do not they have been invaded by sun loungers, whose urban nucleus is a stone’s throw from the Sant Pere de Rodes monastery. This monumental complex of Romanesque style is located within the limits of the Cap de Creus natural park, one of the wildest places in Catalonia, where the Mediterranean breaks with the mountainous cape driven by the north wind, a spectacle that is well worth the 75 kilometers of pedaling.
But if you prefer to leave from Girona itself to the sea, an option that is not abundant in the typical tours It is the 50-kilometer route that crosses the Congost de Sant Julià de Ramis to Gola del Ter, a virgin beach where the river of the same name flows and from which you can see the Medes Islands, something that makes it a unique place on the coast Catalan.
To regain strength
Girona begins little by little to earn the stripes that recognize the capitals of recreational cycling. Just six years ago, Amber, a partner of the aforementioned Meier corridor, opened La Fábrica, the first cyclist-themed cafe in the city. It has parking bike and tire inflator, and bet on freshly roasted coffee and very elaborate bowls. “When we started there was nothing like it here, the risk was high, but we knew there were cyclists and that the concept could work”, explains Amber in this crowded local with stone walls in Barri Vell, “although it is not a cafeteria only for the that we go by bike ”, he clarifies. It turned out to be a triumph and, following his example, the old town already has other establishments bike friendly, like the Federal Café, owned by cyclist Rory Sutherland, or La Comuna, a small hotel and cafeteria with vaulted ceilings recently opened by the Olympic triathlete Jan Frodeno.
Those who at the end of the day are looking for a dinner without abandoning the motivation of the trip cannot ignore the Hors Catégorie, a restaurant “with healthy food” and little presence of meat that owes its name to the classification of mountain passes with thorny ascents, such as the Tourmalet. Decorated with velodrome and road bikes, the great attraction of this two-storey premises, in operation for three years, is its spirit of a small museum, a place where it is also possible to buy technical clothing.
With two wheels increasingly occupying the landscape of Girona, there are already many who predict a promising future as a cycling city in southern Europe.
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