Girona - More Than Just Roca

 


 

I’m trying to steer people away from it. The climb isn’t the best around here and the descent is really sketchy. There are loads of nicer climbs”. Those were the words of Dave the owner of Bike Breaks. Of course we didn’t heed his words. One of the joys of being a cyclist is that you can ride and measure yourself against the pros on the same roads. With Girona being home to a plethora of pros, who use Rocacorba for training, it’s become a mini iconic climb. Not in the same league as Ventoux or Alpe d’huez but nevertheless a draw.

By Jason Smith

Tuesday 12th April 2019

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The ride out to Roca is a rolling affair. We were planning a 120km loop into the Parc Natural De La Zona Volcànica De La Garrotxa national park. As we would be going through Banyoles, it seemed almost rude not to take the deviation up Roca.

It was 5km into the climb before we even realised we were on it. The initial slopes lull you into a false sense of security. You can pay the price for going hard here. The road soon ramps up as it meanders it’s way up through the forest. There are moments to catch your breath before going again. It’s not long before you can see the iconic masts but this also provides some despair of how long you’ve still got left. The last section is a slog, with the road crumbling away in parts. Past the shrine of Maria and the final ramp beckons.

There’s not much there, other than some crazy hang gliders and some equally crazy cyclists. However, the view is to die for. As for the descent, well Dave was right. Narrow, with tight switchbacks and the occasional tourist car.

After tackling the climb, a perfect spot for lunch is beside the lake in Banyoles. You’ll need to refuel, as the next section is almost a continuous climb to the outskirts of Olot. Nothing steep just a long grind. It’s worth it though for the fast and straight descent into Olot. From Olot we headed south east and found ourselves in what can only be described as a bowl - hemmed in by towering ridges. Fortunately there is an exit via Saint Esteve d’en Bas that doesn’t require a Herculean climb.

 

Oh...that’s a great route. The views as you drop down from Massis de la Cadiretes are spectacular. Ah...nice up to Sant Antoni de Calonge. You must stop at Monells for a coffee. It’s an old medieval town. Beautiful”. Wise words indeed from a local guide I’d just happened to bump into at the hotel whilst waiting for the boys. Day 2 was a 122km round trip to the coast. A pretty serene ride until we hit the slopes of the Massis de la Cadiretes. It’s a long quiet climb through the Cork Oak, Holm Oak and Pine trees before revealing the Costa Brava coast. Not just the coast but the most amazing road that threads like a ribbon down the cliff side into Salionc. The road conditions are awful which is good because it should be mandatory to make frequent stops to savour the views. They are simply stunning. Even when you’re down on the coast road, the 10km stretch north along the coast is equally jaw dropping. The only drawback is it’s a honeypot for motorcyclists, who like us love the hairpins and winding roads.

Lunch has to be at S’Agaro right next to the beach. Something light though because there’s still a lot more climbing to come in the afternoon.

Heading in land you’ll hit the non descript town of Corza. Hang a left and ride the 2km to Monells. The small medieval village is nestled in a small hillock on the left hand side. Venture into the tiny cobbled alleys before emerging into the most exquisite square. Grab a coffee and take some moments to soak up the atmosphere & wander back in time.

If you really want to ride in the tyres of the pros, there is no better route than the 61km circuit out to Els Angels, Monells and back via Santa Pellaia. It’s a perfect recovery ride for fatigued legs. The Els Angels climb follows pretty quickly after leaving Girona, but what a climb. A quiet sunlit dappled winding road takes you up through the trees to the hilltop Santuari dels Àngels, the chapel where Salvador Dali got married. If you climb up the steps to the terrace by the church, you’re rewarded with fantastic panoramic views. The descent down to Monells is pretty special with wide turns and views over the plain. One of the nicest climbs I think I’ve ever done.

Dave was right. Girona is way more than just Roca. Be warned though, she holds her secrets close. You’ll need more than a brief flirtatious fling for her to reveal all. 

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