Friday, December 2, 2016

The best road all over Catalonia

Cycling Costa Brava (Spain)
Yes, this road is real: Costa Brava.
If I were to invite a friend to know how is cycling in Catalunya, it wouldn't be difficult to find the best place to stay and show him how privileged catalans we are. We have sea, mountains, good weather throughout the year, a cyclist paradise. We have so many choices, medieval villages, thermal villas, challenging mountains as Montseny and Montserrat, but there is a place I would take him for sure: the road from Tossa de Mar to Sant Feliu de Guixols.

I don't know if it is really the most beautiful road all over Catalunya. It is a subjective opinion, but in my opinion if not the best, it would be very close to that. Costa Brava is a magical place. On that road we can enjoy 25 kilometres of coastline, steep sections with stunning views over the normally calm Mediterranean Sea. Two factors play in favour: you can roll there throughout the year (something cannot be said about the catalan Pyrenees mountain roads) and traffic is very scarce. More? The asphalt is perfect and the guardrails along the highway are made of wood, matching the environment. It is a very special road. Even on windy days you can enjoy better the atmosphere of clear sea and views on. Did you notice I like this road?

Cycling Costa Brava (Spain)
Time to enjoy
The touristic massification fortunately has not arrived there, the tourist tour operation and the massive construction of hotels and apartments is concentrated in Lloret de mar. Tossa de Mar is different, more peaceful, familiar, I love its castle and beaches. And suddenly, in Tossa de Mar starts the road leading to Sant Feliu of Guixols. The overcrowding is converted in quietness, pure air,  Mediterranean pines next to the cliff. 25 kilometres of curves and bends with the sea aside, you can see small hidden caves from the viewpoints. This part of the Costa Brava is protected. There are some constructions, but nothing compared with the massification we left behind. This is cyclist heaven.

I am not so close to this road, I have to drive every time I want to get there and feel privileged.
In addition, I always do this direction, leading north with the sea on your right, closer to the cliffs. This is the right way to do it.

Cycling Costa Brava (Spain)
Stunning views
Suddenly, in Sant Feliu de Guíxols returns overcrowding, then continues through Platja d'Aro and continues heading north. Dream is over. We are back to reality. To be honest, this is just in summer that riding around these touristic towns can be uncomfortable. In autumn, winter and spring it is still possible to ride without much traffic. But the road along the cliffs is over. Pity.

Doing a loop including this road is easy, even from Girona, one of the leading cycling destinations all over the world, but it is easy to get Les Gavarres range of mountains with mild climbs as La Ganga or Santa Pellaia. Even the steeper Romanyà de la Selva. A true oasis of good roads and little traffic even in midsummer. Roads are narrow and winding, surrounded by forest.

Do you like better challenging roads? No problem, you can also combine the most beautiful road all over Catalonia with some first category passes as Ermita de Sant Grau, linking this road with  Llagostera. Do you need still tougher challenges? Here we have them also. Did you know that the steepest kilometer in Catalonia is located just beside? Alt of Mas Nou, a narrow road from Platja d'Aro leading to a Golf club. Volta a Catalunya pro race got there in the 70s and 80s. You just need to know the winners at the top of that climb to realize what kind of climb it is: 1974 Bernard Thévenet, 1975 (Giovanni Battaglin), 1976 (José Enrique Cima) 1977 (Johan de Muynck), 1978 (Francesco Moser), 1979 (Jourdan), 1980 (Johan Van de Velde) and 1997 (Fernando Escartin).
1,4 km to an average of 14.2 per cent, and the steepest kilometer averages 15.2% with a maximum slope of 24%. Here you have a climb to test yourself!

A sunny day, scarce traffic, tough climbs and the best road all over Catalonia. What else?