As the 2011 Tour de France draws to a close in Paris, why not challenge yourself to some of the training loops around Girona, used for many years as the preparation ground for the US team and past home to Lance Armstrong, arguably the greatest cyclist ever?
The spectacular diversity of cycling terrain in the region around PGA Catalunya first attracted the US Postal Service professional team in 1997 when Marty Jemison, Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie decided to move here for training purposes.
Regularly meeting for rides at the Pont de Pedra, the team was joined in 2001 by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, a move that began a revolution as more and more of the world’s English-speaking professional cyclists relocated to the city.
With the likes of Greg Henderson, Matt Wilson, Bradley Wiggins and Brett Lancaster now calling Girona home, it has become firmly established as the place to be for English-speaking pro riders.
To experience their home training ground, how about trying the famous “Armstrong loop”, a 58-kilometre round trip which takes in the Els Angels and ‘Hincapie’ climbs, the latter of which George Hincapie famously uses to test his form ahead of the Tour de France? Another professional favourite is the ascent to the sanctuary of Maré de Deu del Mont, offering panoramic views from the summit.
The diverse, challenging landscape of Catalonia also makes it perfectly suited to mountain biking and riders of all abilities will enjoy the dedicated “Via Verde” (green paths) along a network of old railway lines.
Ride along an off-road track through beautiful undulating farmland and pine forests to the pretty coastal town of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, where you can reward yourself with a dip in the sea and a restorative plate of calamari. Otherwise, take the strenuous 54-kilometre route along an old railway line to Olot, passing volcanoes, riverbeds, monasteries and the beautiful Hostoles Castle.
15 BTT Centres are located across Catalonia offering numerous services to mountain bikers including maps, bike hire and information on the 203 available routes across the region.
From the majestic snow-capped Pyrenees to the royal blue of the Mediterranean, it is not hard to see why Girona has become such a mecca for cyclists, or “Nirvana on Two Wheels” quoting the New York Times.
For more information on all itineraries, have a look at the Tourism Catalunya website.