2017, Year of Cycling & Sustainability
With the Costa Brava Girona Tourist Board’s initiative to make 2017 the Year of Cycling and Sustainability throughout the Costa Brava and the Girona Pyrenees plenty of arguments have emerged to highlight the virtues of the province of Girona. It is indeed a paradise on earth for cycle touring fans and mountain and road bike lovers alike, thanks to its mild climate, the varied relief and the wealth of different scenery in the area, stretching from the Pyrenees to the coast, and to the wide range of cycle-friendly services to be found at the destination.
Country lanes, forest tracks, greenways, mountain bike trails and minor roads provide mile after mile of options for visitors wishing to experience adventures on two wheels in contact with nature, the region and its people. The large number of local cyclists throughout the province means that cycle routes are safe and respect for cyclists is standard practice.
Cycle touring on the Costa Brava and in the Girona Pyrenees enables the visitor to combine sport with other interests connected with the multiple cultural, natural and architectural features to be found at this destination, with its essentially Mediterranean character and proximity to the metropolis of Barcelona.
The province of Girona is currently a prime destination for cycle touring because it has the specific infrastructure —companies providing biker-friendly activities, transport and services— to ensure this type of tourism. All the cycle touring itineraries in the province can be adapted to suit the amount of time cyclists have available —whether a few hours or several days to complete a route in stages— and their level of fitness —from beginner to expert, including even riders with limited mobility.
There are numerous companies providing accommodation and biker-friendly activities as well as incoming travel agencies working in the sector that offer comprehensive products, ranging from tailor-made trips to group package holidays, to suit everyone interested in pedalling their way to pure enjoyment of the destination without any other worries along the way. It should also be mentioned that the companies in the province are making a considerable effort to gain relevant certifications and quality labels, such as Bed&Bike and Bikefriendly, so as to be more competitive.
At present the province of Girona comprises seven sections of Greenways —former narrow-gauge railway tracks reopened as cycle paths—, four of which have been run by the Girona Greenways Board for the last fifteen years. These routes are safe, sustainable paths which are used exclusively by cyclists and hikers and which also provide services such as information centres, bike-rental companies (including handbikes), specialist repair shops, accommodation and restaurants. The most popular Girona greenways include the Narrow-Gauge Railway Route from Olot to Sant Feliu de Guíxols via Girona, the Iron and Coal Route, the “Little Train” Route and the Thermal Greenway. Besides the greenways, there is also the Pirinexus route, a 353-km circular bike network across borders that passes through eight different counties and combines sections of greenways with other cycle routes, such as country lanes or low-traffic roads, with frequent stretches of gravel surfaces.
Throughout the Costa Brava and the Girona Pyrenees mountain bike (MTB) enthusiasts find specially designed circuits for this type of cycling. From the toughest tracks to the easiest trails, there is a wide choice of options for each level of difficulty provided by the six BTT Catalunya Mountain Bike Centres and the more than 1,879 km of signposted trails to be found in the province. The network of BTT Catalunya Mountain Bike Centres provides the enthusiast with all the information and assistance needed to fully enjoy both cycling and the itinerary.
The destination also boasts numerous famous routes in stages for mountain bikes, such as Cerdanya 360º (230 km), Trinxat BTT (298 km), Tracks de Cerdanya (228 km), Tracks dels Volcans (260 km), Pedals de les Gavarres (184 km), Raids al Vent (274 km) and Gran Volta a l’Empordà (188 km), to name but a few. Most of these routes have now become a tourist product and have their own information websites.
At the moment, the star cycling speciality in the province of Girona is road cycling. For fans of tarmac, the network of roads and paved country lanes for riding a road bike is never-ending. Over the last few years, about a hundred professional cyclists and several professional teams, including Orica-BikeExchange and Cannondale, have chosen the city of Girona as their base camp for training in preparation for the international races they take part in. It is therefore a habitual sight to see racers such as Rory Sutherland, Ryder Hesjedal and Alex Howes riding along Girona’s roads. The crowds of professional cyclists flocking to the province have also brought about the creation of alternative venues, such as cafés and bookshops, where they can meet and share their experiences and leisure time.
Cyclists are advised to plan their routes along minor roads so as to enjoy the scenery and indeed the sport itself safely. Among the options recommended for road cyclists there are five routes representative of the province proposed by the Costa Brava Girona Tourist Board in collaboration with the specialist magazine Volata.
A special mention should be made of the events connected with the world of cycling. Take for instance the first edition of the Sea Otter Europe Costa Brava-Girona Bike Show, to be held in Girona from 2nd to 4th June, which will attract some 20,000 enthusiasts. Equipped with exhibition and display areas, the festival boasts a wide range of sporting events ranging from competitions, like the Copa Catalana BTT Internacional Biking Point or the SCOTT Marathon BTT by Taymory, to cycle touring races, like Pirinexus 360 Challenge and the Marathon BTT.
The province’s top-ranking races, in terms of being challenging and attractive, include the Transpyr Gran Raid MTB, a 780-km stage route run over seven days which links the Mediterranean and the Atlantic by crossing the Pyrenees mountain range; the Girona Gran Fondo race; the Terra de Remences cycle tour; the Girona MTB Challenge; the Sealight – Camí de Llum cycle tour; the 250/4000 Challenge; the Cerdanya Cycle Tour and La Tramun MTB race.
The province also hosts a stage of the Volta a Catalunya every year, and stages of La Vuelta and even the Tour de France have been held here on several occasions.
It is virtually impossible to enumerate the natural settings and cultural heritage that cyclists can come across in the province of Girona. Pedal-powered visitors can ride through the destination’s eight natural parks, follow the course of the main rivers that crisscross the province, trace the coastline of the Costa Brava, take a leisurely ride through the plain of the Empordà… and climb the valleys of Camprodon, Ribes de Freser and Cerdanya to reach the peaks of the Girona Pyrenees, while at the same time soaking up the province’s omnipresent cultural and architectural heritage, which dates back over two thousand years.
Another important factor that attracts visitors when cycling through the Costa Brava and the Girona Pyrenees is the excellent and varied range of gastronomy and local food and wine produce available in the province, along with the fact that it can be tasted in both traditional and avant-garde Michelin-starred restaurants alike. “Sea and Mountain” dishes, with their combination of ingredients from the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees, are the flagship of Girona’s cuisine, the fusion of the terroir with our unique character and way of doing things. It is a cuisine of substance and strong identity, a way of eating and drinking that is also a way of life. Such is the extent of its popularity with visitors that it has turned into a tourist product.
At the same time, the province is essentially a holiday area with over 225,000 regulated tourist accommodation places distributed among all kinds of hotels, guesthouses and inns, campsites, holiday apartments, country lodgings, hostels, holiday camps and mountain refuges.
Most of the different types of accommodation are small and medium-size, family-run businesses where visitors can expect a warm welcome and personal attention. These comfortable lodgings offer services and prices in accordance with the category to which they belong.
In short, the Costa Brava and the Girona Pyrenees are a highly privileged destination, which is safe for cyclists and provides the biker-friendly services required to enjoy the sport of cycling all the year round while at the same time discovering the area as you do so.