On our escape from town, dust plumed from our wheels as we pedaled down the gravel alley.  The path tucked behind the subdivisions of Girona, Spain, and followed the Ter River through Devesa Park.  Residents tended garden plots, planting and pulling.  With their heads to the soil, tugging out weeds or unearthing potatoes, they looked up as we passed.  The rising sun cut through the rows of plantain trees, which stood tall in rows, like soldiers standing guard of the Roman town.

The early morning autumn air had a bite to it. ¬†A thick fog hung over the Barri Vell, the old quarter. ¬†From years of riding in the countryside, I knew that at the edge of the city the fog would dissipate, and the sun would warm us. ¬†The racing season had ended, I had just retired from professional cycling, and I was off on an adventure with my good friend Jordi, who is a local fireman, and my wife, Dede. ¬†We’d dropped our children at school across the street from our home and the day was now ours. ¬†We would ride all day, find a secluded Catalan lunch spot in the mountains and then return home in time to pick up the kids.

Our ride started in the old town of Girona, where we had met at a bar in the Placa Independencia, a cobbled central square. ¬†In its middle, where the town festivities and political protests often take place, stood a large statue marking Spain’s triumph over Napoleon’s armies in 1809. ¬†As delivery men unloaded their goods at the bar’s doorstep, we looked over maps and discussed the route. ¬†Friends in their business suits sipped coffees and munched on croissants before they left for their offices, wishing us a good day, with a smirk of jealousy.

From the city, we would ride west into the lower slopes of the Pyrenees and up the gravel mountain roads.

An excerpt from Shimano’s Beyond Journal by Michael Barry. ¬†Photography by Tomas Montes. ¬†To continue, please stop by the¬†Bicycle Specialties – Mariposa Bicycles¬†workshop, as we have a limited number of¬†a copies available. Or download the digital version of Beyond at ¬†Shimano Gravel and register to win a free Shimano GRX group set.

If you are interested in gravel or road cycling tours in Girona and the Pyrenees, please contact us at i[email protected]