Ever thought of Spain?
by Andy Brown, posted 10 April 2018
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Mallorca? Well, yes, we love it. But there's a new(ish) kid in town. Say hello to cycling's best kept secret: Girona
Ever thought of Spain? Think again. If you like riding bikes then the chances are when you think about Spain you focus on Mallorca. That’s fair enough - it is one of the great cycling destinations in Europe. But Spain has a lot more to offer - particularly the Costa Brava and the immediate Girona area with Catalonia in the countries north west province.
Two events that both share a base in Girona act as a showcase for the wide variety of bike riding options available across the region.
JRtB met with the team behind the Sea Otter Europe event scheduled for the 8, 9 and 10 June. Sea Otter is one of the world’s largest cycling events and is based in Monterey, California. It’s European twin came to Girona for the first time in 2017 attracting 20,000 visitors, 5,000 cyclists and 300 exhibitors to last summer’s inaugural event. This time around Sea Otter Europe Costa Brava-Girona Bike Show will be returning to Girona Devesa Park, just five minutes from the centre of Girona.
If the scale of Sea Otter looks a little daunting but don’t be put off. It literally has something for everyone - from hardened racers of all kinds of bikes to families and kids just wanting to scooter about or take a ride one of the purpose built tracks. It does look like fun - something that puts any UK based cycling event into a proverbial cocked hat (even allowing for the sunshine). It is a real show stopper with some outstanding attractions.
If some of the events and rides at Sea Otter Europe look a bit too competitive, then the atmosphere at the Girona Cycling Festival could be a good alternative. Running immediately after Sea Otter Europe it is now in its fifth year. Organised by Dave Welch and Saskia Welch-van Vuuren, husband and wife team behind Bike Breaks Girona, it is made up of a balance of cycling challenges, organised group rides and social gatherings, ensuring anyone taking part gets a true feel of the local character of Girona, its culture and its world-class cuisine. You can do as much or as little of you want in what is a full week of cycling, but it is a great opportunity for cycle-enthusiasts to hone their skills and test their legs on some of the region’s best roads and climbs.
There is some competition here too, but the whole feel of the Girona Cycling Festival is more relaxed and familiar. It tries to be deliberately a more intimate attempt at introducing bike fans to Spanish culture - with a permanent ‘village’ in the Girona old town.
Dave and Saskia have set up the event with the help of the local tourism team and you have the sense there is a real chance to immerse yourself in the Catalan cycling scene - which really does have something for everyone. With more than 1,879 km of signposted mountain bike trails to be found throughout the province plus a network of mountain bike centres, the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees appeals to more than just tarmac lovers on sleek road machines. If you want a more leisurely bike breaks then there are miles of low gradient greenways – known locally as Vies Verdes – across the region. These include seven routes along old railway lines stretching for 125 km plus dozens of mountain bike trails, making the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees perfectly suited to active families keen to take full advantage of the Mediterranean climate to explore the region’s spectacular scenery and rolling countryside.
It feels like perfect Just Ride the Bike country. Move over Mallorca, it’s hola Costa Brava. To find out more about cycling opportunities around the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees, visit www.costabrava.org.