According to Lance Armstrong’s fictional autobiography, he was hounded by random drug tests at his home in Nice on the French Riviera and chose to escape to the Spanish city of Girona to the north of Barcelona as his main training base during the winter. Gustavo Velazquez who runs Espana Cycling Vacations described to us a momentous occasion on one of his favourite rides to the sanctuary of Maré de Deu del Mont …. “Back in 2002 I was lucky enough to do this ride in the company of Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, and Matthew White, all members of the former US Postal Cycling Team, an experience of a lifetime. It’s a challenging route of no more then 10 miles with some steep switch backs in the last few miles, but the views from the top make the effort worth while. This is one of the many climbs where the pros test their fitness right before the major Tours.”
Not only is this region popular with the professionals it is also a popular destination for general cycling enthusiasts with routes to cover the whole range of fitness levels. Out in the countryside of Catalonia you’ll discover medieval villages, art, history, spectacular scenery and excellent cuisine, and what better way to do it than from the seat of a bicycle. Experience the smells, sounds and breathtaking views of the Pyrenees Mountains and the emerald blue of the Mediterranean Sea.Girona is believed to have been founded by the Greeks and named Gerunda by the Romans, it is a fascinating city to explore and an ideal starting place for a cycling tour. Steep cobbled streets take you into the labyrinth of the Barri Vell with its centuries old houses. You can visit the Arab Baths, and the Jewish Quarter, or take a stroll along the wall for the best view of the city.
Cycling along the Mediterranean coast, more commonly known as the Costa Brava, you’ll come across steep cliffs which drop sharply to sea; secluded, tightly enclosed coves with small beaches all of which add up to a cyclists heaven. North of Girona on the coast you’ll come across the white village of Cadaqués which was very popular with Salvador Dali. Indeed you can take a route inland from Cadaqués to visit Figueras where the great artist was born and visit the famous Dalí Museum.
Looking for more than a stroll around the coast and the inland villages then get your hearts pumping and appetites open with a ride to the rolling hills at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, it offers the cycle tourist great scenery and a chance to see the extinct volcanoes of Olot in the Garrotxa region, and sample the best sausages in Catalunya among other culinary delights.
Not to be missed, and only an hour train ride away, Barcelona is a must see city. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church, the colorful Ramblas, the Cathedral, the Barri Gotic, and the many Tapas bars, make Barcelona a nice break for those who don’t want to ride every day.