Very few places in the world match Girona for its cycling appeal. Since professionals started flocking to the Spanish city to train over 30 years ago, it has created a remarkably defined niche for the cycling community. But it wasn’t this thoughtfully constructed culture that first attracted the hoards of professionals to the city. It was the roads.
Words: Ashleigh Maxwell
A lot has happened since Johnny Weltz, a former professional cyclist with Fagor and later technical director at US Postal, chose the Costa Brava as the place to train in 1986. Weltz was one of the pioneers, but the tipping point came when Lance Armstrong set up camp in Girona. Since then, this region has quickly consolidated itself as a leading sports destination. From accommodation geared to meet the needs of cyclists, to a simply outrageous number of cycling cafes, there are few places in the world that have this level of specialisation - and we’ve been to quite a few.
But it wasn’t the cycling culture that first drew the throngs of professionals to this mecca. It was the roads.
The Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees region has endless miles of world-class roads, including a vast network of quiet routes that offer a remarkable variety of scenery. Bringing together mediterranean coves, medieval villages nestled among volcanoes, and high Pyrenean mountain passes in a single ride is a unique experience. And there’s no other place on the planet that does this quite like the Costa Brava.
So we’ve teamed up with Girona to bring together some of the finest loops in the region to add to your bucket list.
Photo: Jase Wilson
"A hugely popular ascent for local professional cyclists thanks to its consistent gradient and breathtaking views over Gavarres Natural Park to the sea."
62km / 980m+
Over the years this loop has come to be known as the "Hincapie Loop"in honour of George Hincapie, one of the many professional cyclists who helped give Girona it’s cycling fame. The route takes Girona's most famous ascent, Els Àngels, as well as the stunning climb to Santa Pellaia; a hugely popular ascent for local professional cyclists thanks to its consistent gradient and breathtaking views over Gavarres Natural Park to the sea.
Related - The best climbs you’ve never heard of: Col du Sanetsch
Photo: Jase Wilson
"The the real show-stopper is the coastal road towering over the crystal waters of the Balearic"
TOSSA DE MAR TO SANT FELIU DI GÍXOLS COASTAL ROAD
95km / 1600m+
Leave Girona and head for the sea to experience some of the best coastal roads the Costa Brava has to offer. Following quiet country roads out of Girona, you’ll pass through tiny hamlets and quaint villages, before starting a gentle ascent into the mountains. But the real show-stopper is the coastal road towering over the crystal waters of the Balearic. This is a picture perfect loop you won’t quickly forget.
GIRONA TO SANT HILARI
102km / 2000m+
The long climb from Angéles to Sant Hilari Sacalm, has become an absolute classic for Girona locals and visitors, and for very good reason. This popular pro climb is a little over 25km from bottom to top with a soothing average gradient of 2.6%. Stunning, smooth and never too steep, this beauty is a must.
Photo: Daniel Hughes
BANYOLES, ROCACORBA AND MARE DE DÉU DEL MONT
105km / 2500m+
This classic route starting from Banyoles, 20km north of Girona, brings together two classic Costa Brava climbs. Boasting wonderful rolling flats combined with the stunning vistas and remarkable sanctuaries of both Mare de Déu del Mont and Rocacorba summits, this is one to remember.
THE CLASSIC LOOP TO VALLTER 2000
123Km / 2600m+
This must-do loop brings together some of the best cycling in the Catalonia region, including the highest point that can be reached by road. The highest of only four climbs that reach 2000m in the region, the Vallter 2000 is a true Spanish bucket list ascent. The ride to the start of the big ascent from Setcases is a feat in of itself, but the 7.8% gradient of the climb to Vallter 2000 will keep you on your toes.
Photo: Jase Wilson
As the starting point of the 2021 Haute Route Pyrenees event, this is the perfect opportunity to explore what made Girona a world-famous cycling destination. Find out more about Girona at the city website and contact Haute Route for more information about the event or extending your adventure.
Cover photo: ©Batista Sans