During the last week of February a few things fell into place that enabled me and fellow club member Mark to fly over to Girona for a weeks cycling.
I was pretty excited about this as it is a place where a lot of English speaking pro cyclists base themselves. Having only got my new ride in January and having minimal use of it I dont think I was quite ready for the type of riding we were to encounter out there.
My main reason for writing the post was because of the weather of late. The good weekend has already faded to some hammering rain. We dodged a week of snow before and rain after to have perfect weather for our time out there. It was sunny and warm, though the nature of the riding meant that we had to keep well covered still. This resulted in me getting a pretty funny hands and sunglasses tan. Still we were comparatively underdressed to most of the locals we saw on the road. The Catalans love a good snood.
Where we actually stayed was just outside of Girona, in a small place called Serinya with the kindly folk of Girona Cycling. Gareth and Fiona are top people and the quality and knowledge we were provided with for the routes was top notch. I will certainly be looking to go back at some point.
I will try not to bore you (not that they were boring) with the details of every route we did but just pick out some notable moments / climbs.
First would be to say how inspiring it was to see pro cyclists every day. Swein Tuft, Greenedges resident hard man / Canadian TT / Road champion was staying in the same villa as us. We got to have a BBQ with the guy and a young canadian pro called Spencer. They were super chilled out and Swein told a great story about how at Flanders all you can smell is stale beer breath. He is far from your conventional pro athlete, this article is well worth a read.
The entire Greenedge team was also in town. We saw them out motorpacing scooters a couple of times. We returned home one night to find the doping controllers had flown in from Switzerland to test Swein as well. All crazy stuff to see first hand.
On our last day we also went for a cafe stop where we bumped in to and had a quick chat with Dan Martin and Michel Kreder. They had some pretty fly Cervelo training bikes and were out for a recovery ride after racing the previous day. More inspiring stuff. Anyway, enough of the people and more on to the climbing / scenery which was absolutely unbeleivable.
Our first day we rode down to Banyoles (were the rowing was during the Barcelona olympics) and then swung out into the volcanic national park, climbing up to Santa Pau. The scenery was incredible and it was a great way to start the trip off.
I went into it extremely naively and blatted straight into the red. We stormed past a couple of people from the University of Maastricht team. I then proceeded to go to the darkest place I have ever been in cycling. Dehydrated and having not eaten enough I watched Mark dance off into the distance and I totally bonked. It became all about survival in the smallest gear I had. The climb has markers ‘helpfully’ informing you of the average % of the impending km and how far is left;
I swear the cow I passed on one hairpin was laughing at me. One of the Dutch guys effortlessly pedaled up to me and began to engage in conversation. I think he saw the suffering in my eyes pretty quickly and spun off. I cramped 3 times and came to a grinding halt. I did get to the top in the end but it was a learn the hard way thing for sure, climbing would be a completely different kettle of fish here. The views at the top were incredible and worth the suffering.
The experience defintely served a purpose though, no more attitude and sort myself out in terms of hydration and fuel.
After riding a long but flat day to the coast (I say flat, I just mean comparatively flat) we took on the real big day of our trip.
A ride to just below the French border to the ski resort of Valter 2000. It was to have over 10,000 ft of climbing in the 170 k route, essentailly climbing for 80 k from the door of the villa up to the summit. Taking in the glorious Coll de Capsacosta on the way up. From Camprodon to the summit of Valter was 20.2 k averaging 5.2%, decent. This lasted nearly an hour and 20 minutes and was such a surreal feeling, as I neared the top I could see the base of the ski lift and put a spurt on, only to be greeted by a bunch of hairpins to the true summit;
you get some funny looks from people when you rock up to a ski resort in lycra. This was an altogether more enjoyable day then Rocacorba, respect the climbs and they will treat you well. Some of the shorter climbs on the return leg felt about five times the length after the monster had taken so much out of us. When we returned Fiona recomended we get in the pool as it would be perfect ice bath temperature. Ice baths are ruddy painful;
I have to say I felt fresh as a daisy the day after fully expecting to feel mullered after the days exertions. A chilled loop was on the cards just to keep the legs turning over and we watched Sep Vanmarcke ride a tactically perfect race in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, great highlights here.
The next day we headed out to the coast again but with a bit more climbing, ascending what proved to be my favourite climb of the trip to Sant Pere de Rodes monastery in the Cap de Creus natural park. The scenery was something else, and it was bloody windy up there;
Our final day we finished by ascending the classic Els Angels climb, one of Lances favourites. Gareth was kind enough to guide us to the base of climb. I felt really strong up it and Mark kept trying to break away up it, making for a fairly rapid pace. The climb has a slight descending section in it which is fairly twisty, made for an awesome sensation flicking around on it. The picture of me at the top has me looking the most relaxed I have ever been (despite the effort that just proceeded it) and really sums up the awesomeness of the holiday for me.
Cycling every day in dry conditions , in the sun, in a beautiful part of the world. It was good for the soul, thats for sure.