By Michael Barry
Photography by Michael Barry, Jaume Cabruja, Jordi Cantal and Albert Pages
Girona has become a European base for many pro cyclists—a recent count figured they were roughly 90 male and female professional cyclists living in the Catalan town. Most of those who have settled there are foreigners, as the weather and the countryside are ideal for cycling and the city is vibrant, yet small enough that it is easy to navigate on a bicycle. Not only are there quiet roads that lead to the Mediterranean coast, but because the town is in the foothills of the Pyrenees, there are also serene routes that wind through farmland up into the mountains. While living in Girona during my racing career, I fell in love with the city and environment. It was a place my family considered home. Now, living back in Toronto, it is a pleasure to return the area with Mariposa tour guests to show them what makes the place so wonderful.
The most recent trip, La Ruta Mar i Muntanya, was based in Girona. From the city centre we rode into the mountains, towards the Pyrenees on several days and to the coast on the others. Each day we stopped for lunch en route to taste some of the unique Catalan dishes and in the evenings ate everything from Michelin starred cuisine to Catalan country food. The ingredients in almost all of the food we ate and drank is grown, fished or raised locally in Catalonia making the food is rich in flavour. And, after a long day of riding, it all tasted even better.
One the final day, we climbed up Rocacorba, a mountain just outside of Girona, and toasted the effort at the top with cava and a picnic before we descended into the town of Banyoles for a swim in the thermal lake.
The three guides on the trip from BikeCat, who are all Catalans, are not only good friends of Mariposa, but also experienced cyclists who are knowledgable about their homeland. Their guidance, organization and passion for their country and culture only make the experience richer. I felt fortunate to have been able to share a little of what makes Girona so great with our guests. It was also enjoyable to watch them gain confidence in the mountains on their bikes, to have new experiences, and enjoy a week of riding in the Catalan countryside.
2017 Mariposa Cycling Tour dates will be announced in October. We also organize custom cycling tours for private groups. Please contact us for more information and to be placed on our mailing list at [email protected]