Tuesday, May 22, 2007


We first heard of the town of Girona on the 'Lance Chronicles' prior to the 2005 Tour de France. Girona (in the Catalan region of northern Spain) serves as the off-season home for many pro-cyclists. For many years, this was Lance's home-away-from-home and primary training ground. At the close of our first Dutch winter, we were desperately seeking hills and sunny skies, so we decided to kick off our 2007 cycling season with a week of self-directed 'training camp' in Girona.

We took the relatively quick flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona, rented a van large enough to fit our bike cases, and headed north along the Mediterranean for a couple hours. Our first impression of Girona was honestly that of disappointment. It's not a small village, but a real city with a combination of industry, sprawl, barred-windows, and mid-evil remnants that surprised and confused us. Once we discovered the interior of the city though, our impressions quickly changed. From within the city walls, Girona is very charming: cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, and a 'feel' that's hard to describe (it just draws you in, sets you back many centuries, and encourages you to stroll for hours, even in the rain).

Aside from our time enjoying tranquil walks through Girona and local Catalan wine, we were on our bikes, exploring the foothills of the Pyrenees and the coastal mountains along the Med. Notable moments include a run-in with a sleet storm on what the locals refer to as Lance's favorite training route. We were in a fairly remote area about an hour into a climb and before we knew it, the rain turned into ice pellets that turned the road surface white. We made a painfully slow descent until we found an abandoned brick structure that we could take shelter in. We were very wet and very cold, so I cut apart an old couch to make some extra insulation to stuff in our jackets. This helped us descend in a tiny bit more comfort to the nearest village where a couple of espressos and a Cognac lit the remaining internal fire and made the final rainy descent possible. It was a near-epic ride, yet those make the best memories! Fortunately, the weather improved later in the week and we returned to finish the climb and several others in that area. Now we know why any cyclist would place this area on their list of the best-- beautiful views, no traffic, and endless climbs and descents!

Our favorite ride of the week though took us from Girona to the coast and back. We biked a section along the Mediterranean known for its 360 curves. Of course, the scenery was so stunning (and the weather so perfect) that we had to "add-on", so we made it a 540-curver with a mid-coast exit that took us up a steep, rock-strewn road further into the mountains. It's just so hard to say no to a stretch of pavement that goes up! The pay-off was breath-taking views of the Mediterranean (thanks to no guard rails!) and a long and thrilling descent back toward Girona.

Check out our photo gallery for more pictures of Girona and our rides in the surrounding area. All in all, it was a great week of cycling and absorbing the local atmosphere. We look forward to returning, but hope that we've paid our dues with enduring the ice once and will have only sunny sky visits in the future!


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