Earlier this year we teamed up with Bike Breaks Girona to give one RoadCyclingUK reader the chance to win a week-long cycling holiday in the Spanish city which is home to countless professional riders. Jon Morgan reports back following his trip in October.
An early morning flight out of Bournemouth Airport on Sunday morning proved an easy start to our trip, arriving in Girona at around 10am local time into glorious warm sunshine, a far cry from the storm that was about to batter south west Britain on the Sunday night and Monday morning.
As with all smaller regional airports – both domestic and international – picking up checked baggage and getting out to the bus stop took all of 30 minutes and we were standing waiting for the hourly shuttle bus into Girona with time to spare.
Speaking no Spanish at all made for some interesting ‘conversations’ but politeness, Google translate and hand waving gets you there in the end. The single fair is around €3 and takes 25-30 minutes into the bus station- easy peasy.
What we didn’t realise when we arrived was that half term week in October is Festival in Girona and the city was buzzing throughout our week-long stay with local produce and craft markets, art shows, concerts, fairs and a real sense of fun and community.
I can see why people – both cyclists and non-cyclists – move there and settle in. It was friendly, with a great atmosphere, amazing history and architecture, fine foods and great bars.
But enough of the tourist talk, on the Monday morning we made our way down to Bike Breaks to pick up the bikes: a Cannondale SuperSix with a triple chainset. Dave and Saskia, who own and run the shop were out, however Annie, who helped us, was welcoming, friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
As part of the package I got the Cannondale, basic maintenance kit, helmet, a couple of water bottles, route guides (more on these in a minute), and a guided ride. All I needed was to take shoes and peddles, though I also took my own helmet because we were taking checked luggage and I had room to spare.
The route guides provided by Bike Breaks are brilliant. I was wondering how lost I was going to get if I simply went out and followed my nose and basic map reading skills but the route guides sorted this out for me. I got four and each offered a different route, with information on the distance, total climb, estimated ride time, route style (road/off road), technical sections and illustrated turn-by-turn directions which were easy to follow, as well as a brief narrative on the route, recommended rest stops, hints and tips.
On the Monday afternoon I did a shorter 38km route to Vall De Llemena in 28-degree heat and this was fantastic a perfect way to get the legs turning and learn a bit about riding on the Continent, which was new to me.
On the Tuesday I did the Sant Hilari ride, which was 104km with a beautify 25km climb up to the village of Sant Hilari at 900m. The gradient was a gentle three per cent, up through the trees and in the sunshine – perfect.
On Thursday I joined the Bike Breaks shop ride. it was Halloween and Dave and Saskia had suggested fancy dress so pumpkin horns were worn by all. This was a great opportunity to meet and chat to an eclectic mix of people from all over the world. The ride was very social, with a coffee stop and sensible pace over 75km. Our local guide was able to take us to some stunning local villages with deserted roads and beautiful scenery.
This was the first time that I had visited Girona and ridden in Spain, or France for that matter and it was a great experience. Generally the roads are quieter and in a far better state than in the UK, particularly in Surrey where I typically ride. The weather was still warm and although it cooled during the week it was still shorts and arm warmers – much more pleasant than a late October day commuting to work!
Dave and Saskia were brilliant throughout the trip, able to advise and help with whatever queries I had and their enthusiasm and passion for Girona and cycling was infectious. It was a memorable week and one I hope to be able to replicate again before too long.
RoadCyclingUK reader Jon Morgan won a week-long holiday for two with Bike Breaks Girona, including accommodation in the historic city centre, rental bikes from Cannondale, routes and maps, and a day’s guided riding.