Monday, May 14, 2018

Selfguided daytrip in Penedes wine region

Roadcycling in Penedes (Barcelona)
Cycling between vineyards and wineries (Picture by Sergi Ros)

Cycling in Penedes is a great experience! And doable if you are in central Barcelona. 
Solitaire roads, great scenery, sunny weather… Wine and cycling...match!

At Montefusco Cycling you can get one of our rental carbon bikes at our shop, including gps device, take the train to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, and start to enjoy the trip! Train station of Sant Andreu Arenal, at just 300 mts of our shop!

We will give you the best tips also for lunch! 
Do not miss the experience!

Roadcycling in Penedes (Barcelona)
Smooth roads, tiny villages, vineyards, great cycling! (Picture by Sergi Ros)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Cathar castles southern France, close to Catalonia

Southern France with Montefusco Cycling
Chateau de Queribus (Picture by Sergi Ros de Mora)
The northern part of the Pyrénées-orientales is little known at cyclist level. From time to time I go there to discover new routes and roads. Never disappoints me. Always find lonely roads, good asphalt, sunny weather, sometimes a little air, vineyards and castles. France is a paradise for cycling, and especially this area which borders Catalonia, a great unknown for many of us.

And yet it has much to offer. This article simply aims to provide some hints, some tips, at the cyclist and cultural level.
Southern France with Montefusco Cycling
Chateau de Peyrepertouse (Picture by Sergi Ros de Mora)
I have always been curious about the Cathar castles. Starting with the farthest Montségur Castle, which stands on top of a rock called Pog, 1207 metres above sea level. Montségur is the most important of the Cathar castles and the mythical place where the year 1244 died 255 Cathars who took refuge there and who preferred to die burned rather than recant their beliefs. The ascent to Montségur can be done for the East side (by Fougax-et-Barrineuf) or on the Northwest slope (Montferrier), both very interesting, with the imposing presence of the Pog rock that seems inaccessible.

Watching the Cathar castles (and not Cathars) on top of impossible cliffs is a constant in the area of Maury. One next to another, it is very easy to design a cycling stage in which you climb them all. Peyrepertouse, Puilaurens and Quéribus, all very close together, are spectacular castles even more impressive when you climb the very hard roads leading to them. Peyrepertouse, 800 meters above sea level, is the most spectacular castle with two fortifications, joined by a few remains of stones, extends more than 300 meters in length. The cliffs that protect the Castle are impressive. Nearby is the castle of Quéribus, again . Its origins go back to the XI S. Quéribus was border between the kingdoms of France and Aragon, and strategic point of control of the area. The castle is very visible, far from the highway D-117 and is perfectly blended with the environment and in the top of a rock, 730 metres above sea level. Puilaurens Castle lies 697 meters above sea level at the top of the Monte Ardu. The ascent to the Castle are 3.5 km at an average of 5%, but in two very different phases. The first very soft, skirting the mountain, and the second part really steep rising towards the parking area, from where you can climb to the castle in about half an hour walk.
Two more Cathars castles, a little farther away, complete the six most famous Cathars castles. This is the castle of Puivert, beside the road and not a great challenge to reach. The second castle is Lastours, which in fact is a medieval ensemble with four castles. Lastours, however, is a little more distant, north of Carcassone (you can see the map enclosed where the most important castles Cathars are).
Southern France with Montefusco Cycling
Citadelles Cathares
 As can be seen in the attached map, there are many more castles, citadels and fortifications that are part of the history of the Cathars (the "Good Men"). In my penultimate visit to the area I visited the interesting and hitherto unknown to me Chateaux D'Aguilar, very close to Tuchan, and step up one of the monsters of the area. One of those typical roads we like so much, with harsh ramps and leading to an antenna. There's not much else. This is the Mont Tauch. Tremendous climb up to 900 meters after 8 kilometres to 9% average gradient, with maximum ramps reaching 20%. Tremendous, for lovers of strong emotions. And with a pretty deteriorated asphalt that we especially noticed on the way back to Tuchan.

Obviously, the visit to Carcassone (capital of the Aude department) is a must if we are moving around the area. The medieval citadel of Carcassone and its alleys are a true gift for those who enjoy medieval history or simply for those who appreciate ancient beauty. With its 26 towers and two walls for more than 3 kilometres in length, the medieval city of Carcassone was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1997. It is listed as Grand site National, and its castle and ramparts as a historical monument by the French state, being one of the most visited tourist centers of France.

 There is another town that is really curious to visit, very close to Quillan. It is Rennes le Chateaux. This small town has received a lot of tourism, almost always associated with the paranormal and the esoteric, due to a modern legend about the former pastor Berenger Saunière. Thanks to the success of Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code, that interest has only increased since the argument of this novel has many connections with the legend of the parish priest of Rennes. Legend states that the Parson Berenger Saunière (1852-1917) would have found a secret treasure in one of the pillars of the altar of the church while carrying out a reform of it. At the same time that the priest discovered the secret hidden in the church, his standard of living soared, and financed a series of peculiar constructions in the village, such as the Torre Magda-dedicated to Mary Magdalene-as well as the reconstruction of the parish church.

You see that the tourist possibilities are multiple, but also the cycling. Approaching Carcassone offers the opportunity to try the hard climb to the Pic de Nore (1200 meters high, and included in the BIG Challenge). Hard climb with a TV antenna on top, visible from many miles around. South side is 25.5 kilometers long. It is certainly worth it, and also its north face that begins in Mazamet, home town of Jalabert. In the southern approximation of the Pic de Nore is the cave of Cabrespine, another place that is worth stopping.

Another very interesting climb in the area is Mont Sant Louis, characteristic for its tie knot (a curve of 270 degrees with a small tunnel). Include Mont Sant Louis on the route we make in the area of L'Aude guarantees us magnificent views over the Rocky Mountain called Pech de Bugarach. Spectacular.

Southern France with Montefusco Cycling
Gorges de Galamus (Picture by Sergi Ros de Mora)
But if I have to choose only one place in this area I choose the Gorges of Galamus. This is the road that goes from Sain Paul de Fenouillet to Cubieres sur Cinoble. An impressive gorge, fruit of the erosive work of the Agly River. A piece of road just two kilometres away dug in the mountain, with the river next to it, down there. I will not extend myself to explain the feeling when one travels through the gorges of Galamus. Just look at the photos of Sergi and enjoy. Or even better, get to know them by yourself.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Bike tours in Montserrat

Montserrat mountain by bike
Beautiful mountain! Impressive!!

Montserrat is the magical mountain close to Barcelona.
The meaning of Verge de Montserrat for catalan people goes beyond the religious feeling. Visiting the virgin in pilgrimage is the usual thing to do to rengrace for anything that happened.

This is also the reason why visiting the Monastry and the Basilica is better on working days rather than in the week end. Satudays and sundays local people is also visiting, on top of the usual foreign visitors. Then, much better avoiding the week end.
Montserrat mountain by bike
Lighting a candle in Montserrat, a must!
The usual thing to do in Montserrat is touching the virgin (for that you will have to wait in the long queue at right on the Basilica) and also lighting a candel.

Sports in Montserrat are a great experience. No need to say that rock climbing is king in these steep walls. Lots of rock climbers around! Aslo hiking is a great experience in Montserrat. Our recommendation is to get the highest point of the mountain (Miranda de Sant Jeroni, at 1200 mts), from the monastry (at 700 mts). You can do that in just a couple hours (way and back) and the views from the top are stunning! Click here for the detail of the route.

Montserrat mountain by bike
On the left you can see Monestir de Sant Benet
In our cycling tours we will lead you to the best roads around Montserrat. We will take you to tiny roads without any traffic, and will surround the whole mountain. This way you will see the massif walls from all prospectives. This is an amazing trip with great views, do not miss it!

The end of our cycling tours is, obviously, the monastry. The steep final climb is, in words of one of our customers, a mistic experience, fighting the road and the slopes!

Montserrat mountain by bike
Tiny roads without any traffic in our way to Montserrat

Friday, March 16, 2018

Volta a Catalunya 2018 edition

Map of 2018 Volta a Catalunya
Next week will take place the main professional cycling race in Catalonia: Volta a Catalunya.
More information and details here:

Volta a Catalunya is one of the first races in the season with the main riders participating. This year we will have Valverde, Quintana and the recent winner of Paris Nice Marc Soler in Movistar team, Daniel Martin, Rigoberto Uran, Fabio Aru, Sergio Henao, David de la Cruz, Van Garderen, Kruiswijk, Thibaut Pinot, Warren Barguil, etc.

The route is demanding, including several very important climbs as Vallter 200 and La Creueta. Stage 3, finishing at Vallter 2000 is, no doubt the queen stage. Following stage ending at La Molina includes also some very long and steep climb, as La Creueta.

Stage 1 Calella-Calella (medium mountain)

Stage 2 Mataró-Valls (medium mountain)

Stage 3 Sant Cugat del Vallès-Vallter 2000 (high mountain)

Stage 4 Llanars La Molina (high mountain)

Stage 5 Llivia-Viella (high mountain)

Stage 6 Viella-Torrefarrera (medium mountain)

Stage 7: Barcelona Barcelona (medium mountain)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Mare de Deu del Mont, such a climb!

Mare de Deu del Mont Girona cycling
Great views to Canigou from the top!

Mare de Deu del Mont is an iconic climb in Girona province. The mountain is visible in the distance, a shap peak with a building on top, with the road snaking to get there. It has spectacular views over Canigou mountain in Pyrenees, but also to the Roses bay and the Empordà region.

The road is in quite good shape, very narrow at some points. No problem at all when climbing, specially because it is a very solitaire road with no traffic at all (specially on working days), but the descent should be taken carefully...

Mare de Deu del Mont Girona cycling
Close to the top!
At the top of the climb your get an unasphalted parking area, but it is absolutely worth to go a bit further and reach de Sanctuary and the restaurant. Views are spectacular! You can also find a statue of Mossen Cinto Verdaguer, one of the most important writers in catalan language.

You can see the numbers in the joined profile. Very long climb (almost 19 km at a 5% average gradient), but with very steep sections up to 14%... Worth a try!!

Mare de Deu del Mont Girona cycling
A real challenge!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Portugal, a growing cycling destination

Maybe because it is so close to Spain, or just because it is direct competition of our cycling offer, Portugal has never been a very popular destination for Spanish cyclists (especially for the Catalans). And yet it's a very attractive cycling destination especially in winter, when we have to look for the sun and good weather that we need in the north of iberian peninsula.

Not just for the cycling, but historically and culturally, Lisbon is a world-class destination.
The amount of attractions that Lisbon has to offer is enormous, the Belem Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery, the monument to the discoverers or the the Alfama district are just some of the attractions that we cannot miss. The fact that the metropolitan area of Lisbon, with 4 million inhabitants, represents 20% of the total population of Portugal, gives an idea of the concentration of population in the metropolis and depopulation of much of the rural Portuguese territory.

The food is, of course, another great incentive. Not just the Bacalhau (cod, of course), but also the caldo portugues, the francesinha, all this is a guarantee that it is a great destination for foodies! The wines are also an undeniable quality: Albariño, wine Alentejo in the South or green wine in the North.

The weather is mild even in winter. We had 4-5 ideal days for the tourism and sports activities. Only one day we found rain and some of wind (it might be a problem). In January, for example, the average temperature is 10 °, which is not bad. The proximity of sea makes the climate usually soft. Regarding to the weather in the summer, it would be advisable to avoid the hottest months, not only because of the heat but also for the traffic that is increased significantly.

Lisbon will always be for the spaniards the magical place of Freire's second World Championship, with the ascent to Sefarina and with a fairly hard circuit, a must in Lisbon, the other city of the seven hills, where there isn't much flat, except on the riverside of the Tagus River, perfect for a more relaxed cycling. Lisbon was also the start point the of the Vuelta a España in 1997 (to promote the 1998 Universal Exhibition in Lisbon. They were three stages in Portugal (Lisbon-Estoril circuit, Evora-Vilamoura and Loule-Huelva). By the way, the winner that year was the Swiss Alex Zulle.

But cycling in Portugal equals to Agostinho, the most known Portuguese cyclist with a premature death, still on the bike (he fell in a turn in the Algarve on May 1st 1984, dying 10 days later after not being able to overcome the coma). Cycling in Portugal is also the Volta a Portugal (la Grande) with very hot weather in August.

The first cycling day we went to Sintra, declared world heritage by UNESCO in 1995. Depart from Cascais and following the coastline, passed by the famous Guincho Beach (where surfing is very popular) before we went into the Sintra area with some very interesting ascents (tough ones!) which highlight was the curious and multicolored Palacio da Pena. A very interesting area, with narrow roads and many palaces and monuments aside the road (Palacio de Seteais, Monserrate Park). The highlight of the route we did, as well as Sintra, was Cape da Roca, the westernmost point of the European continent.

The second cycling day had to be Montejunto, that we included together with the nearby Obidos, starting at the hometown of Agostinho, Torres Vedras, where the legendary cyclist have dedicated a couple of monuments (see picture).

The second real day of bike meant to discover the wonderful Serra de Arrabida. A wonderful coastal road with a magnificent view and where is located the monastery da Arrábida. There are 3 interesting sides, the closer to Lisbon (Azeitão), the ascent from Setúbal and finally perhaps the hardest from the beach of Galapinhos. The highest point of the road is 491 m, with magnificent views over the sea and the Troia peninsula (to the other side of the Bay). By the way, one of the most popular sportives in Portugal in the so-named Troia-Sogres, with almost 200 km along the coast southwards to the most southern point in Portugal Atlantic coast.

At cycling level Portugal is very hard competitor to the Spanish offer. Specifically the Algarve area is developing pretty much and in that area takes place the Volta ao Algarve in February (category 2.1 Europe tour), and also has its touring version, disputed February 17, 2018 from Tavira.

Sportives and Granfondos are developing quickly in Portugal. In particular this year will be held the Granfondo Lisbon of April 22, 2018, with 136 km away

Also the Gran Fondo New York has arrived to Portugal, and will be held on September 9, 2018 from Cascais, with 160 km and more than 2,000 meters elevation, with a similar route to the Granfondo Lisbon, via Sintra and up the Atlantic coast. It is no coincidence that also in Cascais will take place the Ironman 70.3 on September 30, 2018, in a cycling route getting through the Formula 1 track of Estoril. Great destination Cascais for cyclists and triathletes!

In short, the bike is a great excuse to travel to Portugal and rediscover all the monuments and the history of this nice country. The golden age of the 16th century when his navigators discovered half the world. Its food and wines. Fado. Does not need to be an exclusively cycling destination in our getaway, but always can take time for a pair of outputs on a bike, don't you think?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Rat Penat, the steepest climb in Catalonia?

Roadcycling with Montefusco Cycling
Great views over the coast!
Rat Penat (translation from catalan language: bat) is one of the inconic climbs for cyclists in southern Barcelona.
Also known as Plana Novella (the urbanised area nearby) and also know for the Buddhist Monastry on top. Belonging to Massis del Garraf (Garraf range of mountains), Rat Penat is a real challenge for every cyclist. Here you have the Strava segment for this climb:

If you would like to discover this climb we can rent and deliver carbon road bikes in Castelldefels and Gavà, then let's go for Rat Penat climb! Steep, very steep, with some parts over 23%! Rat Penat was included in Vuelta a España route years 2010 and 2013. See the profile attached.

Roadcycling in Barcelona with Montefusco Cycling
That's a climb!