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Classic Climbs of the Alps - Eat Sleep Cycle

Classic Climbs of the Alps

By | Cycling | No Comments

The Alps have long been a classic destination for those seeking a cycling vacation in Europe. It is, after all the place where the fiercest battles of the Tour are won and lost, where almost every climb is a ‘classic’, the roads are smooth and the terrain is challenging and varied. To that end we have decided we simply must add it to our ever-expanding list of European locations, should you need to be convinced any further as to why the Alps are a must-ride for every cyclist take a look at our run-down of the classic climbs of the Alps!

Alpe d’Huez

By far the most famous Alpine climb Alpe d’Huez is known for it’s 21 hairpins.
It may not be the toughest, steepest, longest or most beautiful of climbs but it provides what must be one of the most iconic stretches of climbing in cycling history. The climb has been used 30 times in the Tour de France so far, usually to dramatic effect. One of the most memorable ascents of Alpe d’Huez was that of 1997 when El Pirata, Marco Pantani, flew past Jan Ullrich on his way to the fastest ever ascent (37 mins 35 seconds). Mere mortals fulled on jam sandwiches and espresso can aim for the hour as being an exceptionally good time.

Alpe d’Huez Stats:

  • 14.45km
  • 8.1% average gradient
  • 11.5% max gradient
  • 1,071m elevation gain
  • 1,850m elevation at the summit

Classic Climbs of the Alps - Alpe d’Huez - Cycling-Tour

Col du Galibier

From St Michel-de-Maurienne
The Galibier is one of the toughest climbs in cycling. Most famously tackled from the northern side it is an epic 34 km long. To reach the pass you must first climb the Col du Télégraphe (12km at 7%). After a 5km descent to the ski town of Valloire the road gets steeper & steeper en route to a mighty summit at 2,642 m.
It is the altitude towards the top combined with the length of the climb which make the Galibier so tough. It is the fourth highest paved pass in France at a (literally) breath-taking 2,642m.

Col du Galibier Stats:

  • 34km
  • 5.5% average gradient
  • 12% max gradient
  • 1,924m elevation gain
  • 2,642m elevation at the summit

Classic Climbs of the Alps - Col du Galibier Alps - Cycling Tour

Col de la Colombière

North from Scionzier
Featured in the 2018 Tour de France and La Course
In the Arve valley near to the town of Cluses, Scionzer is where the Colombière starts proper. The climb can be split into two parts as there is an ‘easier’ point around half way with a plateau. The first section is under the cover of the forest and rises gradually from 3% up to 8% in the last few kilometres before it levels off. After, the road becomes a lot steeper with the gradient rising and rising up to the 10-11% slopes at the top. The rocky landscape gives way to make the summit visible from around 3km to go which can be both a blessing and a curse depending on how long the final few kms feel!

Col de la Colombière Stats:

  • 16.3km
  • 6.8% average gradient
  • 10.2% max gradient
  • 1,108m elevation gain
  • 1,613m elevation at the summit

Classic Climbs of the Alps - Col de la Colombière - Alps Cycling Tour

Col de la Madeleine

South from la Chambre
The Col de la Madeleine is one of the most beautiful climbs in the Alps but it’s also one of the toughest. A brutal 19.2km at an average of 8% with 40 hairpins offers no respite; the saving grace is that the gradient remains pretty constant throughout meaning you can get into a (painful) rhythm.
The climb regularly features in the Tour de France but was last used five years ago in 2013 on Stage 19 between Bourg d’Oisans and Le Grand-Bornand meaning it’s long overdue a visit!

Col de la Madeleine Stats:

  • 19.2km
  • 8% average gradient
  • 12% max gradient
  • 1,529m elevation gain
  • 1,999m elevation at the summit

Classic Climbs of the Alps - Col de la Madeleine - Biking Tour

Col d’Izoard

South from Guillestre
Col d’Izoard is steeped in cycling history, the Tour de France has featured the climb on 35 occasions but surprisingly only one of those was a summit finish. That finish was in 2017 and was won by French rider and polka-dot jersey winner Warren Barguil. On that same day even more history was made as the women’s pro peloton also raced to the summit with Dutch rider Annemiek Van Vleuten taking the win and posting a faster time than all but two male riders that day…
The climb itself has a deceptively low average gradient of 4.3% which is due to the gradual lower slopes, but the climb proper begins after around 15 kilometres whereafter the gradient pushes up to between 7 and 11%. The scenery alone is worth summiting the Izoard for, from the dramatic Casse Déserte to the panoramic Alpine views that can be seen from the top.

Col d’Izoard Climb Stats:

  • 34.4km
  • 4.3% average gradient
  • 11.5% max gradient
  • 1,538m elevation gain
  • 2,361m elevation at the summit

Classic Climbs of the Alps - Col d’Izoard - Biking Tour

Alps Cycling Tour Guides

To set up our Alps tours we enlisted the knowledge of two people who know the Alps like we know Girona – inside out – meet our Alps Tour Leaders.

Ed Greene:
Two years living in the Alps honing his climbing skills while racing means Ed knows the area like the back of his hand. With racing now behind him he frequents France more for the boulangeries than the climbs and cafè and Croissant are now the most frequently used words in his extensive French vocabulary.

Christian Vaughan:
Christian feels very at home in the Alps and considers it his second home. He loves the variation of the small and massive climbs that reward with those fantastic ‘top of the world’ views. Top that off with the fabulous descents and there is no better way to spend a day on the bike. Experience is key in the mountains to ensure that you get the best from the route and weather.  High points—Col d’Izoard, Col de Sarenne, Col du Galibier. Christian also has extensive experience as an athlete, mechanic and coach.

Cycling Vacation of the Classic Climbs of the Alps

Cycling Tour of the Classic Climbs of the Alps

If the these classic climbs of the Alps have peaked your interest then make sure to get in touch with us today! Take on all of these epic climbs and more guided by our expert leaders on our Classic Climbs of the Alps tour. Give us a call on +34 972 649 131 or contact us online for more info.

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Top European Winter Cycling Destinations To Avoid The Cold - Eat Sleep Cycle

Top European Winter Cycling Destinations To Avoid The Cold!

By | Cycling, Cycling in Spain, Girona, Gran Canaria, South Spain | No Comments

Winter is coming… but imagine you could avoid donning those woolly overshoes and rain jacket and chase the summer around the world, where would you go? Here are some of the top European winter cycling destinations for some winter sun in 2018/19!

Autumn/Early Spring Cycling Destinations

The first cycling destinations that we’re going to look at are the ones which are most suitable for Autumn or Early Spring. They are still perfectly acceptable destinations for deep winter, but you might need a few extra layers!

Best European Winter Cycling Destinations

Girona – The Pros’ Home

Maybe we’re biased but we think that Girona provides an amazing base for year-round riding. Autumn and early spring are key times of year as Northern Europe is under a chill but Girona’s climate remains temperate with very little rain. September – November is the perfect time to extend late summer by taking a cycling trip to the Catalan city and explore the place that so many pros call home. Girona also enjoys warmer weather from as early as February and March making it a perfect European winter cycling destination for when winter feels never-ending at home.

The golden combination of city, coast and mountains in Girona means that you can explore a plethora of terrain in one single ride. In addition, unlike many tourist locations it doesn’t completely shut up shop during winter as there are many locals and students living there. Take the perfect post-ride stroll through the old town to see the stunning Cathedral or visit one of the many excellent restaurants and cafes on offer. Access to Girona is also incredibly easy with the nearest airport a mere 12km away and the next closest, in Barcelona, is an hour’s train ride away.

Where to stay: in the old town, Hotel Ultonia, Hotel Historic.

Mallorca – The Original Cycling Mecca

The original cycling mecca, Mallorca has long seen sun-seeking cyclists making a pilgrimage to the island. Like Girona the best time to make a winter-sun getaway is September-November and February-March. In line with it’s Catalan counterpart Mallorca boasts a combination between coast and mountains meaning that the landscape is varied. Few riders will find the Mallorcan roads too challenging, there is a combination of flat and mountainous terrain alike meaning that riders of all abilities can enjoy what the largest of the Balearic islands has to offer.

One of the most popular rides on the island is to the Cap de Fortmentor lighthouse – the most northern point of the island, for nothing else if not a photo opportunity.  An ascent of the sinewy climb of Sa Colabra, by far the most famous climb on the island and one of the most well-known in the world is also essential. Off the bike there is plenty to see and do including visiting the capital, Palma.

Where to stay: Sóller, Pollença

Southern Portugal – The Same But Different

It’s no surprise that Portugal is growing in popularity as a location for cyclists considering the warm climate, rich history and excellent riding, not dissimilar to the already well-established Spanish locations in terms of climate, culture and cuisine. Those who are looking for something the same but different will love what Portugal has to offer.

In the past year the country has been awarded numerous tourism accolades and has firmly established itself as a European holiday destination. For cycling over the winter months the southern part of the island is the place to travel to for the warmer weather. Head to the Algarve coast in the south-west for a combination of flat coastal riding and in-land mountains. Away from the riding Portugal has many ancient medieval villages to explore as well as a rich variety of wine and seafood to taste.

Where to stay: Alentejo, Algarve

All Winter Cycling Destinations

The following destinations are ready to be explored all throughout the winter months without a leg-warmer in sight! The go-to locations for a mid-winter getaway or epic training camp these are the fail-safe, tried and tested all-winter cycling destinations.

Gran Canaria – Cycling Heaven

More than just a beach holiday destination, a visit to Gran Canaria by bike will leave you wondering if the island was actually designed by cyclists. Year-round temperatures of between 22 and 25 degrees, a mere 148mm of rainfall on average over 12 months, plenty of climbing and some of the smoothest tarmac you’ll ever ride on make it a cycling haven.

Likely due to this winning combination Gran Canaria has been a winter camp favourite of many a pro team in recent years. The landscape of Gran Canaria is uniquely stunning and diverse ranging from sparse and volcanic to lively and green. The climbs here can be steeper than the neighbouring Canary Islands meaning the riding is somewhat more challenging and varied – perfect training terrain. Those who aren’t all about pushing their limits on a cycling getaway can take advantage of recovery time on the many beautiful beaches the island has to offer.

Where to stay: Maspalomas, Cruz de Tejeda, central locations.

Southern Spain/Calpe – Sun & Smooth Tarmac

The Southern regions of Spain are a long-held favourite location of leisure cyclists and World-Tour teams alike. It’s no surprise that so many fly south for winter; Andalucía enjoys more than 320 days of sunshine a year and only 40 days of rain on average. Calpe and the surrounding area boasts a similarly temperate climate and is swarming with cyclists engaging in some winter training during the colder months.

The cycling in Southern Spain is like most good training locations – the area is very hilly, several climbs over 2,000m, good road surfaces and sparse traffic. The Calpe/Alicante area is known in summer as a haven for those seeking sun-soaked partying but in winter it attracts a very different kind of clientele who mix with the stalwart mahogany ex-pats. Cyclists flock to the region in search of sun and smooth tarmac, which they receive in abundance. As with the rest of Spain the draw is not only the fantastic riding but also the laid-back lifestyle and delicious food and drink on offer, re-fuelling with some delicious tapas and a cerveza is a must.

Where to stay: Mojacar, Calpe, Almería

European Winter Cycling Locations from Eat Sleep Cycle

Inspiring Winter Cycling Spots

Inspired? Each of the 5 winter cycling spots above give you the ability to indulge in a cycling tour or training session when it should be too cold to be enjoyable! Take a look at our winter camps to see how you can enjoy some cycling in the sun this winter. For more information or to find out about how we can tailor a winter trip to your needs email us on info@eatsleepcycle.com or contact us online!

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Let Down By Rapha Travel Cancellation - We Have A Solution For You - Eat Sleep Cycle

Let Down By Rapha Travel Cancellation? We Have A Solution For You..

By | Cycling | No Comments

Have you had your 2019 Rapha Travel tour cancelled? At Eat Sleep Cycle we see ourselves as part of a wider global cycling community united by a shared passion for the freedom of riding. We understand what these bucket-list trips mean to hard-working cyclists all over the world who look forward to visiting some of the most famous cycling destinations. That’s why we’re extending a €100 discount on all 2019 tours to guests who have had a Rapha Travel trip cancelled*.

Cycling Tours Similar to Rapha Travel

We provide tours in most of the same European destinations as Rapha Travel and we also hold ourselves to the same high standards; hotels are 3 and 4 stars and our expert and experienced staff are always on hand to assist with your every need, trips are full board with breakfast and dinner served in hotels and a roadside lunch provided to fuel your ride.

European Cycling Tours for 2019

So, before you spend that Rapha Travel refund on another new bike why not take a look at some of 2019 tours and avoid missing out on an amazing cycling experience:

Alps
New for 2019 is our Classic Climbs of the Alps tour: 7 days of fully supported guiding, stay in the best hotels and guesthouses in the region & sample delicious Alpine food. Highlights include the legendary Alpe d’Huez, Col du Galibier, and the beautiful lake Annecy.

Italy
Tackle the giants of the Giro in the Dolomites and Italian Alps on our Trans Dolomites cycling tour covering all of the classic history-soaked climbs including the Passo Dello Stelvio and the Zoncolan and of course, plenty of pizza!

Pyrenees
The Pyrenees are right in the back yard of our Girona base and provide some of the most varied and exciting terrain for cycling there is. Our Trans Pyrenees cycling tour is an epic adventure from our Hub in Girona to the beautiful coastal town of San Sebastian across some of the most stunning Pyrenean landscapes and including some classic Tour de France climbs such as the Tourmalet and Aubisque. Other tours we offer in the Pyrenees include our Womens’ Pyrenees, and Tour de France Experience.

North Spain
Asturias, Cantabria the Basque country & Galicia offer quiet roads, lush green landscapes, beautiful routes along the Costa Verde and hardcore stage finishes for the Vuelta España. The people of Northern Spain are open and friendly, the food hearty and delicious, making this unique region perfect for a cycling tour. We offer two tours in this region: Trans Asturias from Cangas de Onis to the Angliru, and Trans-Picos de Europa from Cantabria to Asturias.

South Spain
Southern Spain is the perfect destination for a winter getaway, when the rest of Europe is still stuck in the depths of winter look no further than Andalucia for some sunshine. Our Andalucia Experience cycling tour is all about discovering the region, it’s culture, food and of course, fantastic roads to ride! Alternatively, Trans Andalucia takes you from Grenada via the highest paved road in Europe, Pico de Veleta, through the Costa del Sol and to the coastal town of Nerja.

Girona
The heartland of Eat Sleep Cycle and a hotbed of cycling, Girona has become a classic holiday destination for cyclists looking to find out what makes the pros flock here from far and wide. Discover it for yourself on our Girona Cycling Experience tour and uncover the unique charms of Girona and it’s fantastic riding.

European Cycling Tours for 2019 - Eat Sleep Cycle

A Rapha Travel Alternative

If you’ve been let down by a Rapha Travel cancellation then don’t fret, with our European cycling tours we’ve got you covered! For our full selection of 2019 tours visit our European Cycling Tours page for more details. For more information or to request a brochure contact us online or email us at info@eatsleepcycle.com and we’ll get back to you asap.
Happy riding!

*Proof of booking & cancellation with Rapha must be presented to claim discount.

Girona Cycling Climbs

Classic Climbs of Girona #4: Mare de Déu del Mont

By | Cycling, Girona | No Comments

Girona is renowned as a cyclist’s paradise for a reason: the city provides the perfect base from which to explore the myriad climbs of the surrounding area as well as being home to a plethora of cafes and restaurants – and as we know, cyclists love coffee and food just as much as riding bikes! This is the first of a forthcoming series of blogs on the cycling highlights of the Girona area, and what better way to start than with one of the most iconic local climbs and a real favourite: Mare de Déu Del Mont.

Let us first dispense with the problematic mouthful that is its name: Mare de Déu Del Mont literally translated, means ‘mother of God of the mountain’ and is actually the name of the shrine located at the top. A HC behemoth and one of the longest climbs in the area you would be forgiven for issuing forth a ‘Mare de Déu!’ of your own upon tackling the gradients of it’s upper slopes.

There are two ways to take on Mare de Déu, the ‘easier’ route is from Cabanelles: 18.54km with an avg grade of 5%. The gradient is more constant and less gruelling on this side but there are also short descents and flats in places, which do provide welcome breaks but can mess up your rhythm (this is true of both sides). The bottom slopes are surrounded by woodland so there’s nothing much to look at but your own stem or whoever happens to be in front. As you gain elevation, however, the trees give way to some of the most stunning views around which coincides nicely with the most painful part of the climb so you can concentrate on picking out where you just climbed from instead of your burning legs. Indeed, one of the draws of climbing Mare de Déu del Mont is the spectacular scenery from the very top of its 1,093m summit which include panoramic vistas of the surrounding area including the Pyrenees in the distance, Banyoles Lake and, on a clear day, the Costa Brava coastline.

The second route is through the Medieval town of Besalú, the charms of which make it worthy of its own blog, and I would recommend posing for the obligatory photos with the 12th century Romanesque bridge before Mare de Déu leaves you looking sweaty and knackered. From this side it’s 20km in length and the average gradient is still 5% although much of that comes from the flatter bottom section. After taking a right turn in Besalú the road edges upwards slightly before you reach the tiny town of Beuda where the climb begins proper. From there you need to choose your gear selection wisely as the narrow road can go from a descent to a 10%+ slope in a matter of one corner. After a few kilometres of this and a series of hairpins comes a junction – it will be very tempting to take a right and descend the other side down to Cabanelles but that won’t get you any glory or kudos from your mates so take the left and continue the climb following the same road as the Cabanelles side for the remaining 6.6km of 7-10% gradient to the top.

It’s worth adding that, once you’ve enjoyed your fill of the scenery on offer from the top, the descent should be treated with great respect and care as the roads are narrow, steep, and twisty and there may be oncoming traffic.

High Mountain Cycling Tour

How to prepare for your cycling tour in the high mountains

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Have you signed up to an epic cycling tour in the high mountains this summer? Use this 6-step guide to prepare for your trip.

1. Training & Recovery

When you signed up for the tour you probably had an ambitious training plan which would get you to an optimum fitness level. Often, work, family and life in general all get in the way of this.

First things first, do not worry. The most important step is acceptance of your state of fitness because it is possible to enjoy a tour in the high mountains with any fitness level.

You must travel to the tour well rested. Do not attempt to cram in last minute training because there will be no physiological benefit in this short time frame. Continue to spin the legs and do your normal social/weekend rides.
Any intense block training programs should end 1-2 weeks before the tour to allow you to recover and rest.

2. Bike set-up

The bike you use for the tour should be treated to a full race service. Although you will not be racing, conditions in the high mountains are harsh on your bike, equivalent to a race. Descending large descents wears out brake pads and heats up rims, rough roads and rain can result in punctures if your tyres and tubes are not serviced/replaced, bearings are very hard to replace remotely and you don’t want that creak for 2 hours climbing each mountain, do you?! It’s money well invested on your own bike, or go for a rental bike which will be set-up and serviced perfectly for the conditions.

3. Bike components

Gearing is the most common mistake in the high mountains. You will always want more gears, so go for the maximum: Compact crankset (50-34) and large cassette (11-32).

Carbon rims should be used only by experienced riders, who can give the rims adequate time to cool down. Disc brakes can be safer in wet conditions.

Think about your contact points: saddle and shoes. Use what has worked best for you in the past and don’t make any last minute changes or upgrades. If you rent a bike, bring your own saddle and pedals.

4. Nutrition

Related closely to training and recovery, your diet influences how you perform and your enjoyment of the tour. “You are what you eat” has never been a truer statement.

Try not to drink too much alcohol on the run-up to the tour and keep your diet consistent to what you know works well.

On the tour stick to nutrition that you have tried and tested. It’s fine to reach for a gel at a time of need but if you don’t normally use them, do not start the day with them. Eat as much normal food as possible and only reach for the sugary treats when you have to.

Straight after your ride try to take in a protein shake or snack straight away. This is when your body needs it most and is essential to effective recovery for the next day.

5. Kit

Our favorite saying is; “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. Weather in the high mountains can change quickly and forecasts are not that reliable. Even if your tour takes place in the middle of summer, at the top of the Stelvio pass (2,800 m elevation) it is cold all year round.

Pack cycling kit for all conditions, including shoe covers, long fingered gloves, a buff and a very good waterproof jacket. Laundry is normally done every other night on tours so bring at least 2 of everything.

Your daily ride bag (for the support vehicle) should contain a full-set of kit which you will cherish after a downpour.

6. Know your ride

Effective pacing on a long hard ride can be the difference between finishing the day on the bike or ending it in the van. You will often see the key climbs written on the top of a professional riders crossbar so he/she knows when to get in the right position or just when the suffering will end!

If the ride involves 3 climbs then its best to leave the all-out effort to the last one. If you know your threshold power or heart-rate, you should be staying below this to ensure you do not burnout too quickly. Don´t let other riders tempt you into the red too early, know your limit and ride within it.

We hope these 6 points help you to enjoy your epic mountain cycling tour this summer!

8 household items you’ll be glad of on your cycling holiday…

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Take care of your bike on holiday and don’t jeopardise the trip! Following our simple tips should help you get the most out of it.

We’ve just returned from a week-long cycling trip around Lake Como in Italy with 8 guests from the US.

We travelled over land and sea during the trip, had all kinds of weather and different terrain each day, so naturally, delivering these trips presents logistical and practical challenges.

However, with careful planning – and some household items we often take for granted, your trip can be greatly enhanced.

Here is a list of things you should always pack before heading away on a cycling holiday…and why

Bungee cords

Why? No support car driver likes anything moving around in the back and if you respect your bike, you should never allow anything hard come into contact with any part of it! There is no uglier mark on a bike than a pedal scraping the chainstay or seat stay, and it can all be avoided by packing everything neatly and tightly together. The best way to achieve this is bringing some bungee cords!

Bubble wrap and/or cardboard

You can’t even imagine the horror of what your bike goes through on some flights and some transfers so eliminate the risk of damage by bringing your own packing material. 9 metres of bubble wrap will set you back about €4 and this will protect your precious frame from being scratched. Bubble wrap+bungee cords = happy bike.

Baby wipes

Your hands will get sticky when that energy gel bursts, when you need to remount a dropped chain and when you’ve reached into your pocket for a mushy energy bar. You’ll get chainring marks on your right leg and probably your shoes too. Your face will be covered in chocolate – and your bidons too, so keep yourself neat and tidy with a simple baby wipe.

Masking tape

Does it even need an explanation? This week alone we found masking tape useful when building a cardboard bike box for shipping, for taping cardboard and bubble wrap to frames pre-flight and pre-transfers. We taped the day’s profile to each rider’s stem, we taped the route profile to the dashboard and we taped gels to bidons to hand out at the feed zone. Genius!

Newspaper

Is there anything worse than descending a climb in the cold with your chest taking those icy gales? Yes there is….stepping into a pair of wet cycling shoes you forgot to dry out after yesterday’s  ride. Thankfully, a newspaper forms a brilliant wind protector and it can be very neatly tucked under the straps of your bib shorts. Simply bin it at the bottom and you’ve perhaps avoided picking up a nasty cold. As for the shoes, stuff a sheet of paper towards the top of each and have bone dry feet the next day!

Lights

Tunnels are common in Europe, especially in the French Alps and Italy. Many have ways around them but some are unavoidable. They can be scary places as there’s often no hard shoulder. Solution? Front and back lights. They weigh nothing, cost a pittance, and could save your life!

Adaptor

Is there anything more frustrating than running out of charge on your bike or worse, your computer dies six hours into a seven-hour day? Don’t expect hotels to supply the adaptor so bring your own.

Sandwich bags

Keys, cards, cash, phone and map. Keep them dry and keep them together by using a sandwich bag.

Tin foil

Keep those feet warm and dry on icy cold days by packing some tin foil into the top of your shoes, over your socks. Yes, the Galibier and the Stelvio can be freezing, even in July, so take no chances!

Gravel Cycling Girona Ridley Ignite Bike

5 reasons why you should consider Gravel Cycling

By | Cycling, ESC Explore, Girona, Gravel | No Comments

Let’s face it, once a roadie always a roadie. Or not? Read on to see why you should seriously consider gravel cycling as a new discipline to add to your repertoire of excuses to ride and reasons to go to new places.

  1. Gravel cycling can be really fast. If you are a roadie you are probably a speed junkie – hurtling down descents at uncontrollable speeds and trying to do the same up-hill. On the right gravel tracks, and with the right set-up you can pull upwards of 30 Km/ hr. The gravel bike you’ll want in this instance is basically a road bike with disc brakes and wider tyres, so you can still get aero, tuck into the drops for descents and lean into the corners, with the added joy of keeping those tyres the right way up!
  2. Zero traffic. This has to be experienced to be appreciated. Imagine a road training ride without a single car, lorry, even pedestrian. Only the tweeting of birds and that lovely mechanical sound from your bike. Not only does it make for a far more enjoyable ride, it’s far safer too. You get points with your better half because you are partaking in a safer style of cycling.
  3. Many more routes and combinations. Have you run out of roads to ride? Come on, we all get tired of the same road leaving town or slog back home. Imagine taking away the need for your route to be tarmacked. Having wheels on your bike to enable you to jump up on the curb and skip through a park or around that dodgy roundabout (put your posh carbon rims to one side for once). You will see where you ride in a completely different light. From our Hub in Girona, we ride the gravel paths around Rocacorba, a famous road climb in the area. On road, there is one way up and one way down. You see the mountain from the same angle every time. On the gravel bike, you can duck and dive around the beautiful landscape taking it in from every angle. It’s unreal!
  4. You may not actually need a new bike. We all love a new bike and we hate to break the n+1 rule but we will. Around Girona, we ride many of the gravel routes on our Ridley road bikes. The trend in road already is wider rims and wider tyres. With a 28mm rim and nice wide tyre, setting the pressure right will have you hurtling down gravel paths like they are a road. For the more technical ascents and descents you may need more clearance for a wider wheel, so why not have a through axle set-up that you can change from road to gravel wheels. BOOM – 2 bikes in one!
  5. You can still ride in a group. One of the drawbacks of mountain biking is it takes away the social aspect of riding together, which we love on the road. 2 abreast is not possible on a technical trail if you’re going up or down. But on many gravel trails, it is still possible. In Girona, large groups take to the gravel trails for their Sunday social rides.

We’re sure that if you try you too will get the gravel bug! In Girona, we have gravel bikes for rent and can show you the best trails. Watch this space for exciting gravel tours over Europe coming soon!

Cycling in Spain Top Destinations

Top 10 Must Ride Cycling Destinations in Spain

By | Cycling, ESC Explore, Girona, Picos de Europa, Pyrenees, South Spain | No Comments

There’s much more to cycling in mainland Spain than sunshine and smooth roads. From the highest paved road in Europe (Pico de Veleta in the Sierra Nevadas) to the green countryside of the País Vasco, Spain’s vast and diverse landscape will have you begging for new adventures. Be sure to tick off these cycling destinations from your bucket list.

1. Girona

There is no doubt that Girona is the cycling capital of Europe. Home to hundreds of professionals, the old town has a charm that is hard to not fall in love with. Riding is the perfect mix of flat, rolling countryside and some challenging climbs in the foothills of the Pyrenees. If you want character, culture and good food alongside high-quality cycling, look no further than Girona.

2. Andalucia

South Spaniards are very laid back (and who can blame them in the roasting temperatures of the Summer). But visit Andalucia from October through to May and you’ll have a spring in your pedal stroke. The rustic towns of Antequera & Ronda both provide a great base to ride from and are easily accessed from Málaga airport.

3. ‎Picos de Europa

Hugely underrated, the Picos de Europa or “Peaks of Europe” were named by Columbus for being the first mountains he saw on his return from America. They are beautiful rock formations comparable to the Dolomites. Don’t miss Lagos de Covadonga, a stunning series of lakes over 1,000 m up in the sky. Puerto de San Gloria is a hidden gem of a climb that will leave you wanting to find more “off the radar” climbs and there are plenty of those in the area.

4. ‎Cantabria

Los Machucos was the climb which sparked rider protests in the 2017 Vuelta España. It’s brutal kicks are rewarded by stunning rural views all the way up. Cantabria is home to many other feature climbs of the Vuelta such as the Peña de Carbaga and Puertos Alisas & Ason. There’s no wonder that when the Vuelta reaches Cantabria things get exciting.  Close proximity to Santander & Bilbao is helpful for logistics but you are better off avoiding the big cities and staying out in the lovely countryside.

5. ‎Sierra Nevada’s

You are just as likely to see a skier in the Sierra Nevadas as you are a cyclist. Often used for altitude training by professional cyclists, you’ll need your climbing legs on because it’s up or down with not much flat! There are plenty of authenticly Spanish places to choose to stay in the region, from the cultural hub of Granada to tiny villages in the mountains.

6. ‎Asturias

Oviedo is a bustling city with all the culture of Asturias and its wonderful food, friendly people and interesting architecture. Ride for just 5 km south and you meet what can only be described as a theme park for cyclists. Scores of short steep climbs scattered over several valleys, the Big One being the Angliru. Often stated as the hardest climb in cycling its something every cyclist should do, but just once.

7. ‎Basque country

With its own language and Spanish-Basque and French-Basque regions, the Basque country is a mixing pot of cultures which creates the best food in the world. Rolling green hills line the distance with characteristic white and red chalets. It’s a treat on the eyes and lushness that of course warrants some occasional rainfall, typical of the north Spain area. Whilst the climbs are not long, some are steep so you can easily rack up plenty of climbing metres over a days ride.

8. Costa Brava

The Costa Brava runs from France down to Blanes (a town just northeast of Barcelona). It’s one of the most unspoilt coastlines in Spain, with no billboards or high rises to distract from the jaw-dropping views. Easily accessible from Girona and coastal towns like Begur and the more popular Tossa de Mar, the winding and hilly road that hugs the coastline provides hours of sun-kissed enjoyment. Whilst traffic is never that bad, in the winter you’ll be lucky to stumble across other cyclists, let alone cars.

9. ‎Calpe

Whilst Calpe is not the most charismatic cycling location in Spain, it makes it onto the top ten list due to its popularity for training camps with professional teams. Miles in the sun on smooth roads are sometimes all people look for and this is a good place for that, with affordable hotels plentiful. Test your legs on the likes of the Cumbre del Sol and the Col de Rates.

10. Andorra

In at number 10 (because it’s technically its own country and not actually in Spain) the tax haven of Andorra is packed with slopes to delight the most hardened of cyclists. Every year Andorra hosts La Purito, the toughest sportive in Europe, and thousands flock to attempt 5,200 meters of elevation in one painful ride. Andorra is best enjoyed over 2 or 3 days (or 1 if you’re feeling sadistic). Must ride climbs are La Gallina, Collada de Beixalis, Col D’Ordino, La Rabassa and Els Cortals D’Encamp.

Years in the making, a potential finally being reached

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Knowing the guy a little, he’ll probably hate reading this. He’ll probably say it’s pointless, unnecessary and way over the top. In his eyes, it’s just bike racing. It’s not war, or death or famine. Or the All Blacks in a Test match.

Paddy Bevin is the guy who crashed in the opening minutes of his first Tour de France last year and slammed into a steel barrier so hard that he broke his foot – though the fracture may have occurred as he skittered along the slick tarmac before coming to a shuddering halt.

An eerie silence followed a rapturous applause as he picked himself up and trundled to the finish among the last finishers.

It was sickening to watch and it could have very easily ended his career. Over three weeks later he hobbled into my house for some well-deserved burgers and post-race beers.

In each hand were crutches, his fingers holding the race number he promised he’d bring back for our shop in Girona. ‘Bevin 183’. He didn’t care much for the numbers.

“Mate, I’m not that tough. It was fine,” when a few of us asked how the hell do you finish the Tour with a broken foot.

Paddy Bevin most definitely is not Phil Gaimon.

“How the f*** do you get bottles for Uran? How the hell do you sprint? How is it possible to wake up after two weeks and face a Pyrenean stage knowing your foot is fucked and Contador is going to go bonkers from the gun?”

“Honestly, it wasn’t that bad; you just suck it up and get through it. How’s all at Eat Sleep Cycle?” he says in one unbroken sentence.

I should have punched the guy.

Paddy doesn’t jaw about on social media like others do. He won’t use three words if two will do. Hence his Instagram description of BMC winning the opening team time-trial at Tirreno-Adriatico yesterday. ‘Get on bike. Pedal fast. Win race’.

Humble to a fault is how I’d best describe him.

He’s right on one thing, though. It’s just bike racing, but today he took the leader’s jersey in Tirreno after he finished fifth in the sprint and such was his high-placing that he deposed the two teammates who were before him across the line yesterday. And THAT is a result he has been a lifetime chasing.

OUCH: Bevin picks himself up off the floor after an horrific high-speed crash on the opening stage of the Tour de France last year. 

 

His last day as leader of a GC race was the 2.2-ranked An Post Rás in Ireland four years ago. There might not be a next time.

“It’s a nice feeling,” he told reporters today. “It’s a really weird feeling to take a jersey off a teammate, especially one that’s here to lead the race. I don’t mind babysitting it for a day, but as we hit tomorrow nothing changes.”

There’s that humility again.

He’s a guy I first came across at the aforementioned Rás in 2014 riding for the New Zealand national team. There, he won a brutal stage two from four chasers by almost two minutes, despite a furious chase.

There were sizeable groups four, ten and twenty-five minutes down by the finish.

I recall the time gaps we got in the press car that day from when he attacked on his own with 40 kilometres to go – and the category one climb of Doonagore still to come.

I just thought ‘this isn’t normal’ but neither was the way he won another stage a couple of days later, chasing down a breakaway with just two teammates for help after the two others became ill.

Nobody else was willing, or able, to assist but that didn’t stop Bevin doing much of the driving over the 10 climbs that day, leading out the sprint into Caherciveen and then blitzing it.

That he didn’t win the race outright – or even finish in the top 10, did little to sway my thinking that the guy was simply world class and had to be at a higher level.

It took a year of mopping up wins for Avant Racing in Australia to really get noticed but fast forward a couple years and he’s at the Vuelta, riding for Cannondale and dying under a scorching Spanish sun.

For 10 and a half days he hauled himself around the country, only to climb off with illness on stage 11.

A day later I received a message, “You in town bro?”. The Vuelta had spat him out and he was back in Girona with his tail between his legs.

Sitting down to dinner that night he struggled for words, yet to his enormous credit, didn´t touch a drop or any of the sweet things I´d laid on. A weaker man would have folded and devoured the lot.

Then, life showed it wasn´t so much unfair as mean when an update on TV gave breaking news of a massive earthquake in Gisborne on New Zealand´s North Island – exactly where Bevin´s parents were at the time. He tried to contact them to no avail, but they were fine.

Still, an ugly moment where a man was kicked while already on the floor.

 

HANDS IN THE AIR: Bevin celebrates winning the fourth stage of An Post Ras in Ireland in 2014.

 

Every rider goes through misery but for a rider whose career was really only taking off, Bevin fell off a cliff and that month was a real slap in the face. His DNF at Eneco Tour a month later no less of a blow.

There have been many setbacks in the interim; injuries at the worst possible time – such as before the nationals this year when he was a banker to win the time-trial, the Tour de Suisse in 2016 was a disaster, riding on bikes clearly not up to the mark would crack any rider, missing an entire Classics season last year (except Paris Roubaix where he finished outside the time limit) to name but a few.

So, at the end of two years, aside from an amazing ride in the Paris Nice prologue (3rd), a few sniffs of victory at the Tour de Suisse, winning the NZ nationals, his only win was in a TTT in the Czech Tour, the latter NOT coming in contract year and in a field stacked with low-budget conti teams.

Hardly a CV you’d go to an interview sure of landing the job.

This is what makes today special for Bevin and anyone who knows him. Cycling is a puzzle that takes figuring out and because the pro game has become so specialised, that only specialists can really win on the big days.

Bevin is not a climber, or a sprinter, or a tester, but he can hang with the very best on his day.

He has been hammering on the door for years now and not had a huge amount to sing about.

Today, that all changed, and if he loses the jersey tomorrow, the day after or the day after, at least he can look at himself and say ‘today, I realised my potential’.

And isn’t that all any of us want to do with our cycling?

 

I went off coffee for 3 months. Here is what happened…

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This blog has been a while ´brewing´ but I wanted to see for certain whether abstaining from drinking coffee in Girona for three months throughout winter would make any difference to my life, hence waiting a month to write anything.

So, the idea was to completely go off coffee from November 1st, 2017 until January 31st, 2018 and compare my mood, concentration, behaviour and performance (sporting!) from before to after. 

Briefly, I´ve been drinking coffee solid ever since I first sipped a mug of that magic juice in summer of 2005 while living in the US.

At my best/worst I would have five cups a day, that period of excess coming during my years working a night shift in a newspaper between 2010-2014.

I guess you could say I was addicted because I couldn´t start the day without coffee and I fell into an all-too-lazy attitude of believing if I wasn´t productive or useful I could gulp coffee and everything would be okay.

I think we´ve all been guilty of saying “I neeeeed a coffee” on more than a thousand occasions.

So, for this abstention, I wanted a challenge as much as anything and going off the stuff when the finest coffee I´ve ever tasted is brewed across the street from us (at Espresso Mafia) in Girona, was a fair enough test.

So on November 1st I quit. Period. I didn´t even drink decaf because I´ve been suspicious about that in the past and when I discovered the process of how beans are decaffeinated I swayed further away from it and went back to my roots, tea.

Initially, the hardest thing to get used to was the actual ritual involved with making coffee. I liked setting the alarm a little earlier, I enjoyed grinding the beans and I even revelled in the high-pitched crashing and crunching sound the grinder makes.

I thrived in the whole process of brewing coffee from a French cafetiere; listening to the water bubble up from below, through the percolator and into the holding area above which the most wonderful scent filled the crisp morning air.

Coffee is a love affair, and I´m no different, but we went on a break for three months and here is what happened.

The big thing I learned was that I don´t “have to have coffee”. I just let the moment pass and when I came through the craving or the tiredness, I was okay. My brain wasn´t being fooled into thinking I´m not tired by a quick blast of caffeine. No, I just slept if I was tired.

Gradually, the cravings and tiredness subsided and before I knew it, they were a thing of the past.

I worked long days up to 16 hours on 5-6 hours of sleep. This was longer than I´ve ever done before.

I sometimes stayed up until 3am answering emails or writing a blog or speaking on the phone to someone in a different time zone.

I didn´t have spikes or dips in energy during the day and aside from the first week to 10 days, I did not have any headache during the afternoon.

I saved around €250 over the three months which went on the most beautiful Specialized cycling shoes you´ve ever seen.

And that´s pretty much it. It was a LOT easier than  I thought it would be and now, four weeks into returning to coffee, I feel indifferent towards it. I don´t need it, but I enjoy it. I´ve found it´s not necessary AT ALL to be productive.

However, in the last month I discovered just how powerful coffee is and for the first couple of weeks I was struggling to sleep at night and this was probably down to the coffee I had during the day.

I now drink one a day and I think that is how it will stay for the foreseeable future. Coffee is fun, it´s trendy, it´s a sociable drink…but so is tea!

Now, sporting performance? Well, I had hoped to be race fit come February 1st but a combination of a hectic winter and not enough time to train meant any perceived benefits would be negligible.

So we´ll have to adjourn the verdict on that.

And for my next challenge? I´m going off ALL chocolate until June 1st! Yep, dark chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate ice-cream, chocolate croissants…the lot!!!

Now THIS will be a real test!

 

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