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!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Game of Thrones and cycling: welcome to Catalonia

Game of Thrones is one of the most popular series on TV, if not the most.

Possibly all of you know that Catalonia is the location of the sixth season of Game of Thrones.
One of the most impressive locations is Santa Florentina Castle, in Canet de Mar. It is also very close to NII, a very popular road for cyclists and triathletes coming from Barcelona. Flat and fast one. Then, it is very easy to get to Canet the Mar from Barcelona, just following that big and nice road.
Game of Thrones and cycling
Castell de Santa Florentina (Canet de Mar)
Of course, another very popular location is Girona Cathedral. The impressive stairs just in front of the main entrance are very famous not just for the series!
As you know, Girona is a very popular cycling destination in Spain (also living town of many professional riders), then cycling around Girona and taking a picture in front of Girona Cathedral is a must!

Will you join us to discover those locations?
Game of Thrones and cycling
Catedral de Girona

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Turó de l'Home, one of the king climbs in Barcelona

Roadcycling in Montseny Barcelona
Tiny cyclists at the top of Turó de l'Home (Picture by @rosdemora)
Montseny mountains are really close to Barcelona. You can reach them in about 50 km. Once in Sant Celoni (the starting point of many of the climbs) then you can choose several roads:

1) Turó de l'Home. This is the king climb in Montseny. Reaching 1700 mts height, the climb is 25 km long with very steep parts, specially arriving to the summit.
Detailed numbers for Turo de l'Home
2) Santa fe del Montseny. Spectacular road also 25 km long reaching 1300 mts. Specially on working days there is no traffic at all, perfect for cycling!

3) Coll Formic. One of my personal favourites. A scenic, sunny road, you can climb it even in winter, reaching 1145 mts. Mild climb most of the 26 km, but last 9 km are a bit steeper. A real first category climb.

4) Coll de Ravell. Between Montseny and Guilleries, this is also one of the solitaire roads you can ride when touching Mounmseny mountains. Really worth!
Roadcycling in Montseny Barcelona
Great views reaching the top of Turó de l'Home (Picture by @rosdemora)
Roadcycling in Montseny Barcelona
Long, steep and beautiful climb. Picture by @rosdemora
No doubt that Turó de l'Home is one of the highlights if you are in Barcelona and you are into cycling. A real challenge!!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Mont Caro, a killer climb in southern Catalonia

Roadcycling in Catalonia with Montefusco Cycling
The sun is always shining at Mont Caro (Picture by @rosdemora)
Mont Caro is one of those long and steep climbs that you should do once in your life. The sunny, and often windy, southern Catalonia offers you this killer climb, with amazing views from the top. Reaching just 1013 mts height, but including some passages over 12 and 13%. A real challenge for mountain lovers.
Roadcycling in Catalonia with Montefusco Cycling
Spectacular view of the switchbacks (Picture by @rosdemora)
Mont Caro has been stage ending in Volta a Catalonia years 1985 (victory for the colombian Alirio Chizabas), 1991 (stage win for the also colombian Lucho Herrera), and 2017 (winner Alejandro Valverde). This is not a pass between valleys, but a road leading to a radio/tv antena, then it has to be stage ending.

Mont Caro profile
The numbers, the gradients, the steepness
Roadcycling in Catalonia with Montefusco Cycling
Last part of the climb in not very good shape! Picture by @rosdemora

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cycling in the dark in Barcelona (winter rides!)

Cycling in Barcelona at night might be an issue if you don't know the right places to ride.

Here we make some suggestions, in order you can cycle safely in the dark hours.

1) The best place to ride at night is the Formula 1 track in Montmeló town. Not away from the city, you can get it by train. The Formula 1 track is open just tuesdays and thursdays from 18,30 to 21,00. The track is not fully lighted, so you will need to have a good light. The length of the track is 5 km so you can make some loops and test yourself. The loop includes an couple of nice climbs.
A ticket for 1 day costs 5 euros. You have to bring your own bike.
More information here:

2) There is a bike lane along river Besos (from Sant Adrià del Besos to Montcada i Reixach) 7 km long which is lighted, also very safe, as there are no cars, just walkers, hikers, some skates and dogs (watch out with unleashed dogs). It is a very good and safe place to cycle in the dark in Barcelona.

3) There is a very nice road to cycle at night which we call "Dummidrome" (Tontódromo). It is the road between Cerdanyola del Vallès and Sant Cugat del Valles. Very easy to get from Barcelona. Wide road with 2 lanes every direction, fully lighted which is also a safe place to cycle at night around Barcelona. The route can be longer including the road to the University (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). This road is used in the very popular Cerdanyola Duathlon, late march.

4) Since the new airport Terminal (T1) was opened, there is a large road from Barcelona to the airport which is also very good for cycling. 2-3 lanes each direction, totally safe. Open traffic but very scarce. To get that part, the best way is to go through the industrial area of Zona Franca.

These are my personal suggestions to cycle at night in and around Barcelona. Probably there are many other options, but these are the ones I would recommend.

Enjoy and keep safe!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Thailand, a different world

Cycling in the Golden Triangle
Thailand has it all: good weather, cheap prices, ancient history, archeological runes, working and friendly people. It's not just about sun and beaches. We already have those in Spain. Thailand is a country plenty of mountains in the North, near Chiang Mai, with amazing climbs that every european cycloclimber would love.

I read in some australian magazine that Chiang Mai will become the asiatic Girona. Good weather guaranteed all year long, tough routes here and there, good roads, amazing landscapes. An ideal location for pro riders, specially in european winter when cold is at its most.

To reach Thailand we have 18 hours trip, including a quick stop in Moscow. Plus 6 hours time difference, you get 24 hours, 1 whole day and we got to Bangkok, Thailand capital.

I left Spain under cold January. Pure winter. When I got Bangkok it is 30 degrees. Back to summer. This is the best time to travel to Thailand, winter, dry season. From april to July this is summer, with hotter temperatures, and from August to November it is rainy season, when they get water for the whole year. Once in Bangkok, another flight to the north to get Chiang Mai, the second most crowded city in Thailand, after Bangkok with over 12 milions inhabitatnts.

Communications in Thailand are.. different. Motorbikes with 3 people, no helmet, the famous tuk-tuk.... Renting a car there is complicated because of the language (unintelligible road signals!) and permanent traffic jam. Traffic in Bangkok is absolutely chaotic, but in the north it is much better. The roads I rode were perfectly asphalted. Just be aware of riding on your left...

In Thailand, food is always present. There are countless street restaurants where you can eat by derisory prices a dish of rice vermicelli or bean noodles, with balls of meat or seafood, or the typical rice, basis of Thai cuisine. Even in the smallest towns there are places to eat, stalls where to buy fruit, chicken or pork kebabs, shops where you can buy bottled water (not even locals drink tap water). The only caution with food is that thai food is very hot and spicy!

Cycling in Thailand with Montefusco Cycling
I don't understand a word...
Buddah and the King are the most important things in Thailand. Buddism is the main religion in 95% of population and its motto is “Sanuk, Sabai y Saduak” meaning” Be happy, stay calm, be thankful for what life is offering you”. Driving in thai roads mean passing by huge Buddah statues and temples (wat) dedicated to. Entering a wat, which is always open to people, means remove your shoes and pray anytime of the day, no need to be sunday. Buddhist monks, dressed with skinheads and their skimpy dresses saffron coloured, are part of the urban and rural landscape across the country. As for the monarchy, the King of Thailand (Rama IX, Bhumibol Adulyadej) is revered by his people. He was proclaimed King in 1946, and today, with 82 years, and with a delicate health remains the great reference of a country honouring the monarchy and which does not allow the slightest disrespect to their King. Unfortunately, his son the Prince does not enjoy the same reputation as the King.

Thailand is a friendly country filled with smiling people. You don't feel threatened or unsafe never. It is a country that knows that depends on tourism and understands how to treat their visitors. You do not perceive an extreme poverty, perceive humble people, but with a good education. All children are uniformed, you see children from schools doing activities, visiting temples...

Everything I expected of a trip like this falls short against what I lived. I fell in love with the country and people. This time the bike was not the main purpose of the trip, it was just a way to know places that otherwise would have not been able to discover. Thanks to the bike I have reached hidden and remote places. There is no better way to know a country that upon a bicycle.

10 thai cycling climbs not to be missed

Doi Inthanon: The highest mountain in Thailand at 2565 mts. The king climb you must do when you travel to Northern Thailand. There is a yearly cyclosportive climbing up there in February. The steepest parts are at the end, it means that the 40 km climbing from Chom Tong become a real challenge, with 2250 elevation! A must for cycloclimbers. What are you waiting for?

Doi Suthep. A very famous climb beside Chiang Mai. In 11 kilometers you will reach 1535 mts height. If you hear about Doi Pui, this is a twin climb in the same mountain, very close one to the other.

Cycling in Thailand with Montefusco Cycling
Samoeng Forent
Doi Samoeng. This is a climb you can include in a spectacular 90 km loop from Chiang Mai. Absolutely recommendable. Solitaire roads, well surfaced, and amazing landscapes. Top is at 1,146 meters.
Roadcycling in Thailand
Doi Tung, great climb!
Doi Tung. 1389 mts height. The mountain of Doi Tung is an outcrop of impressive limestone rock that dominates the plains flooded by river Mekong, near Mae Sai. Doi Tung means “Flag summit”. 12,9 km to gain 552 mts, what means 4% average. Doi Tung is the summer residence of the King.

Cycling in Thailand with Montefusco Cycling
Phi Chi Fa: The finger pointing the sky
Phu Chi Fa. Literally, the finger pointing to the sky. A beautiful, very special place with a panoramic view you will not forget. Last kilometres are really tough, to get to the border with Laos. At the top you can see a tremendous drop on the neighboring country. 1442 mts height.
Doi Mae Salong. Very tough. A real challenge to get to the top. Highlight of this climb are 3'3 km at 12% average gradient! Former opium fields that dominated the area have become vast fields where tea is cultivated now. The city of Mae salong was founded by the Chinese army in 1962 and became the base of the exiled Chinese soldiers. Currently there is a temple at the top of the mountain.
Doi Chaang: Meaning Elephant mountain, because of the shape, looking like an elephant's head. This mountain is known for coffee plantations (Said to be the best coffee in the world? In Thailand?). For cycling, this is a climb 14,4 km long, average gradient 5%, total elevation 780 metros. The summit is at 1.288 mts.
Tha Ton. An impressive huge white Buddah dominates Tha Ton mountain. 3 km at 10% bring to the the top, where temple Wat Tha Ton is, with panoramic views over Chiang Rai and the surrounding areas. 
Mon Cham. Another interesting climb around Chiang Mai with 14 km at 6% average.
Doi Ang Khan. In the border with Burma, this is a climb in Chiang Mai province, 22 km long to reach 1928 mts height.