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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..

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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 [email protected] and we’ll get back to you asap.
Happy riding!

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

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

Girona cycling news

Vision for a new type of Bike Shop

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It’s just under 4-weeks until the opening of our new Girona Hub and you are all invited! https://www.facebook.com/events/157923644829501/

The Hub, as we are calling it, is the culmination of learning from 2 previous smaller shops in Girona, hours of debate, benchmarking, research and endless sketches by our more creative third, Louise. We love keeping our old sketches and notes, because often, our initial concept which is based on pure imagination and passion, is the one we end up going for. As soon as we start thinking about the cost of rent and reform, persuading the right brands to be there, ideas normally get downscaled and it’s easy to lose the ability to think big. For the Hub we are thinking very BIG.

Everyone at Eat Sleep Cycle is a passionate cyclist and has their own childhood memories of their local bike shop. A place they went to gaze at a bike they couldn’t afford, ask about the latest frame material (oooooh carbon fibre!), or persuade the mechanic that their bike is more important than the other 8 he has to do, to make that weekend race.

What is happening to our poor local bike shops? Just like many other digitised industries, it’s getting harder and harder to make a buck and many are forced to close. The brutal truth is a bike shop can not sell clobber and compete with online retailers. It’s definitely time to rethink the local bike shop, so much so that we´ve come up with a completely different name for ours.

The Eat Sleep Cycle Hub will be an inviting space to hang out, meet your friends for a ride, or chat to us about anything to do with cycling. You can break your legs in our “Pain room” or enjoy a massage in our “Recovery room”. Top class mechanics are on hand to solve any problems with your bike. If you do fancy a new bike, make sure it’s the right fit with our Retul fitting service. Or maybe you just want to try another discipline and rent a gravel or mountain bike for one day. Whether you are a pro, weekend warrior, or just starting out, we want to meet you. This is not an elitist center for the fittest but a place to go if you love cycling.

Plan your dream holiday escape anywhere in Europe with our trip planners. Of course there will be bike clobber, but it will be carefully selected by us so you’ll only see the best and latest stuff on our shelves. It will be like a cycling heaven! Is that thinking big enough?!
Of course we couldn’t deliver all these speciality services without working with other local businesses and experts and that’s what makes the ESC Hub a collaboration with the community. Through our club and mens/ womens race teams we will continue to give back to the community and develop cycling in Girona.

Don’t take my word for it. Come and check it out for yourself! https://www.facebook.com/events/157923644829501/

European Cycling Tours Pyrenees

A brand-new look for Eat Sleep Cycle

By Cycling, News One Comment

It was a key moment in the Eat Sleep Cycle journey when our good friend and web designer Hollie told us that we needed to re-brand. It hurt a little bit knowing that our trusty logo (a collection of triangles and circles mushed together on Microsoft Word to make a mountain and some bicycles) just wasn’t going to cut it as the company grows. She put us in touch with a designer (and cyclist) in Oz and he set to work sprucing us up.

It was a fun and necessary journey, thinking about how we wanted to present ourselves to the world, our core values and our company mission. Eat Sleep Cycle is our mantra and at the core of what we do, that means good food, good rest and, most importantly, damn good rides.

Our signature images are epic landscapes, our natural habitat for our collection of tours. Our logo is our company name and mantra, two orange dots a homage to our two cyclists and a pair of bicycle wheels. Our icon is a mountain, for we would be nothing without them. We Eat, Sleep, Cycle them and then attempt to conquer the next one.

Our colours are not testosterone driven, they are subtle and elegant like the beautiful act of riding a bike. Our overall feel is relaxed, fun, epic and inclusive. For the bicycle is for everyone who wants to join the ride. Our feel is modern and fresh, as the bicycle is our future.

To outgrow our homemade logo in just over a year isn’t a reason to mourn, it’s a reason to pop the corks and celebrate, an excuse to order custom paint jobs for our rental bike fleet and an excuse to order beautiful new cycling kit.

The result? Eat Sleep Cycle is no longer Lee, Lou & Brian, it’s a European Cycling Tour operator with international ambitions and we’re determined to be the best.

Club Ciclista Eat Sleep Cycle

Eat Sleep Cycle’s 1 year Anniversary

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So much has happened in the first year of Eat Sleep Cycle that for the first time in my life looking back actually slows time down. “Were we really painting the walls of our first shop the night before it opened just one year ago?!” I have never enjoyed reminiscing so much!

Yesterday around 60 cyclists descended on our Girona HQ to celebrate one year delivering amazing cycling experiences: 10 Pyrenees trips, over 30 Girona trips, hundreds if not thousands of bike rentals. But much more than that it was a day to celebrate with friends, loyal clients who have been with us since the start and anyone simply in town who likes riding bikes.

From the very start we set out to create a different type of business. At the core of what we do are the tours and bike rental but Eat Sleep Cycle means much more than that to us and hopefully the people that come and meet the community. The weekly social evenings and rides have brought locals, tourists and even non cyclists together. New international friendships are made, epic bike rides are planned and more people have more fun.

One of the early social nights. These days upwards of 30 people come along!

I’m sure that all new businesses have funny stories about how they got to where they are today. I sometimes wonder how many of those are kept secret and at what point they can be told!

We started with 7 bikes purchased on credit cards and stored in our apartment. When a client was in town they would call me and I would run down to the street, inviting them in and explaining we are new and looking for a shop…

We ran our first trip in August 2016 by recruiting friends. We rented a van, booked the cheapest accommodation we could find and set out into the wilderness. At the time Brian was still a reporter and had to stay back to finish some articles. He’d booked an apartment with one room less so Louise and I spent the night on the floor of the kitchen next to the noisy fridge (He claims this was intentional to prepare us for the first months in business; backs to the wall but staring at the stars!). I was determined not to switch it off to protect the mornings orange juice. The blow-up mattress was completely flat by the morning!

Day one of our very first tour! Girona to Biarritz, August 2016

From our small savings we found a 30m sq shop and got to work painting, drilling and squeezing in 20 bikes. Clients would constantly bump into themselves or our bikes but still seemed to return to us. This first shop was opened on November 11th 2016 and that marked the date of our anniversary yesterday.

Six months later and we opened our HQ just across the road. The shop had been on the market for a long time and it was only the three of us (Louise, Brian and I) who persuaded the lovely gentleman Jordi that we were the reliable people he was looking for. We have now become good friends with Jordi and his lovely wife. We found local superstar Boris; an outstanding mechanic, creative whiz and all around incredible person. Rien from Belgium completed our 2017 team perfectly; mechanic, web designer very strong cyclist.

The opening of the new HQ, June 2017

Between Brian “breaking” into hotels to find coffee for our clients the next day, Lou making a minor error in the route planning meaning an extra Pyrenees climb for our otherwise exhausted clients and me hurtling that first rental van around the switchbacks without strapping the contents down, there have been many challenging moments. One thing I am sure of is not the importance of these mistakes but how we react, deal and learn from them when they are made.

Hopefully this explains how we have come so far in such a short period of time. Our genuine social motivations, continuous improvement and a multi-disciplined team, each person bringing skills and different personality traits; together forming something much bigger than the sum of each of us.

Next year we want the Anniversary ride to be even bigger. We’ll probably need a rolling road closure to do that but we’re already planning that. We’re heading to the Dolomites and Picos mountains on our tours and the Girona bike rental operation is expanding too.

Thank you for being a client, a friend or just reading this blog!

The coffee that ruins all other coffees

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I didn’t really have anything to complain about. I was working as a bike mechanic in a very nice typical Belgian bike shop in my hometown of Antwerp. I had a good boss (it feels a bit odd to call him boss) and a job I enjoyed very much. I spent two winters working and cycling in Gran Canaria; the sunniest part of Europe during winter where it´s summer all year round. There are stunning roads for cycling and I made a lot of friends on that island. But still I felt something was missing. I’m not talking about getting my own place, a girlfriend, kids or a dog. Those are the things that I trust will fall into place over time.

6 months after I returned from Gran Canaria, when I was working in Belgium, we had our annual holiday from work. The last two weeks of July are usually pretty quiet so we closed the shop. I strapped a lightweight luggage rack and two pannier bags to my bike – took a train to Charleroi – cycled 180 km to Leon – cycled another 200 km to Paris the next day – took a sleeper train to Cerbere, the last train station in France before the Spanish border – and from there I rode my loaded bike  70 km more to Girona. There I would stay a few days to enjoy the city and the amazing cycling roads (according to the internet).

That’s when I saw the Eat Sleep Cycle HQ for the first time. A tiny shop and a tiny workshop on a tiny square in the middle of a maze of tiny roads in the beautiful old city center of Girona. The only way to find your bearings around this part of Girona is to get lost a few times. The alleys are narrow and there’s small tunnels and overhanging terraces everywere; google maps has no use here because your phone gets confused by the weak and messy satellite signal. The old town, or barri vell, is big enough to get lost but not so big that you won’t find your way around after a few tries.

On the ESC Lazy Lunes ride I met a bunch of people passionate about cycling, half of whom I can call friends now. Cyclists of all levels from all around the world, meet and ride together around what has to be the true cycling heart of the world (I’m sorry Belgium). I met Australians calling Adelaide the Girona  of Australia, Americans saying Boulder is the Girona of the US. Almost all non-European and a lot of European pro cyclists base themselves in this city which suits all their needs during racing season. The people of Girona and Catalunya have a similar mindset to cyclists. They like to enjoy good food, good coffee, an afternoon by the lake relaxing. But they are also concerned about the appearance, health and wellbeing of themselves and the people around them.

I started getting to know the ESC crew. Brian, an Irish guy who I met on the ESC pintxos night (tapas, beer and good company). It takes even the best English speaking person at least 15 minutes to understand his rapid Irish accent, but you can’t do anything but love it once you understand his words and his passion for the things he does. Louise, who was the one who inviting me to the pintxos night. People say she has a heart of gold, but I think the more fiery coloured ruby is a better way to describe her. Boris, the newly hired mechanic, always busy in the workshop when I met him, we got along from the first day. Lee, the first one of the bunch I had a longer conversation with. I rode with him on the front of my first group ride around Girona, trying to say something once in a while in between his never ending banter and shouting things to the rest of the group behind us. I must’ve gotten through to him because a few days later they offered me a job. There was one catch though, they wanted (and needed) me to start working with them as fast as possible.

This put me in a difficult spot. After a few years of looking I had found a nice job in Belgium, with an owner passionate about his work who realised his employees also needed the time and freedom to be able to fully exploit their passion. Happy employees make happy clients. I didn’t want to be ungrateful to him and the chances he gave me by leaving him in a busy time of the season. I told the ESC team I would have to think about it a few days but would have an answer before the end of the month. They were understanding and although they really needed an answer fast, gave me the time I needed. This to me, was another good sign that this company cares, and this was an important factor in my decision. I travelled back to Belgium, hauling my bike and bags on and off 2 trains, a ride around Paris and and a long bus ride from Paris to Antwerp. All the time thinking of the dilemma that had presented itself and thinking I should get a haircut.

I had my last day of work in Belgium the 19th of August and flew to Girona on the evening of the next day. I started working at ESC the day after. I have been working for ESC every day since that first day preparing for three weeks worth of trips across the Pyrenees: 1. Manning the HQ with Lee while the others went on trip, 2. Preparing for trip, 3. Guiding and driving the ESC support van across the Pyrenees, with a bunch of foul mouthed but gold hearted Americans from Chicago, 4. Taking a train from Toulouse to Girona with a backpack, suitcase and two bikes that need go back to Girona (the other bikes stay in Toulouse to go on trip No. 3).

I’m writing this on that train, vineyards on the left, Pyrenees on the right, reflecting on the path I chose and I realise I made the right decision. Technically, I have been working for 18 days in a row. But it doesn’t feel like that in any way. Guiding a bunch of nice people on a Monday morning to the beautiful Banyoles lake for a coffee is part of my job now. I used to take days off from work to cycle across the stunning scenery of the Pyrenees.

The first thing I will do when I get back to Girona before I unpack the bikes I’m carrying will be crossing the street from the ESC shop to get an Espresso. They say the coffee from Christian & Amber Meier’s Espresso Mafia will ruin any other coffee for you. Handpicked coffee beans, roasted in their own laboratory and a brewing process that’s timed to perfection. All steps closely guarded by the man himself make for a coffee that tastes like an angel pissing on your tongue (as we would say in Belgium). After you’ve had this coffee, all future coffees will be enjoyed less and even the best coffee you’ve had so far won’t ever be as good as it was on that particular day. Of course in the right circumstances a decent coffee can be enjoyable, but in the back of your head you’ll know the coffee could be better. The Espresso is like the job, thanks for hiring me ESC!

After the coffee, I do need to get myself a haircut!

Pizza boxes, plastic bags, the Purito and the power of NOW!

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By Brian Canty

We´ve just come back to Girona after a weekend away in Andorra where we took part in a mass-cycling event dubbed the toughest sportive in Europe, La Purito.

The stats that matter are 145 kilometres and 5,200 metres of climbing and in there are seven categorised climbs; the Beixalis after 18km (cat. 1), Ordino at 41k (cat. 1), Rabassa at 79k (cat. 1), Gallina at 106k (Especial – Hors Categorie), Comella at 127k (cat. 2), Encamp at 135k and Cortals at 145k (cat. 1).

Anyone with a passing interest in cycling will know that more and more professional riders are calling Andorra home and two of the more standout names in the sport who love to train there are Dan Martin and George Bennett (who we met).

The beauty of La Purito lies in the fact that it´s as much a mental test as a physical one and as a reasonably fit racing cyclist, it took every ounce of energy I had to finish it – and that took me over seven hours.

Granted, there were a few stops for punctures and mechanicals as well as food but it was one of the most surreal tests of endurance I´ve ever had to withstand.

The Gallina, for example, is an absolutely tortuous climb that drags on for 12 kilometres and only for a very (very) short downhill section, the gentlest pitch is 12% and the worst is 18%. That is almost an hour of pushing the easiest gear on a featherweight carbon bike after five hours already. 

I opted for a 28 cassette on the back and my vastly experienced business partner Lee who rode the course some months ago insisted I needed bigger. 

Through ignorance and pride I stuck to my 28 but to my absolute horror I inexplicably lost the use of it after five kilometres. I had two punctures inside 10 kilometres (front and back) and of the 1,500 or so I started with, I was at the very back of the group.

Naturally, I wanted to catch up so I rode the first climb very hard in my now lightest gear – the 27.

To summarise, I had 18 kilometres done. I was above threshold for most of the climb to the top – and I had a long, long way to go.

WIthout giving a blow-by-blow account of the madness that followed, here are 10 things I saw/heard/witnessed/experienced/learnt.

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  1. There is no flat in Andorra. Period

Imagine a course without a single metre of flat road. Imagine an event where you´re either crawling up or hurtling down? This is the La Purito in a nutshell.

Suffice to say, if you plan on coming next year you´d better have good brake blocks because you´re going to need them!

The reason La Purito has such a high attrition rate is because the gradients are just so steep. Think 4 kilometres at 15% on the first climb, 6 kilometres at the same pitch after 106 kilometres and 5 kilometres at an average of 10% on the final ramp of the day.

 

  1. These guys know how to organise major events

Andorra is definitely not designed for 2,000 cyclists on open roads but that doesn´t stop the organisers making a damn good effort at creating a safe event where the cyclist comes first.

It can be a bottleneck in the urban areas but those deployed to run the event are simply outstanding.

From the way the registration is set up to make sign-on easy and efficient, to the course layout, to the road signage and the lead cars/outriders they deserve huge credit for making this possible.

I have done a lot of sportives over the years but few where they keep the numbers down and where money is definitely not at the core of why they do it.

  1. La Purito is very much every man and woman for themselves

Some Gran Fondos/Sportives are not hard or long. They don´t require much training or sacrifice and they are easily completed.

Then there are other events like La Purito which demand huge amounts of resolve and toughness to get through.

The thought crossed my mind yesterday as we were riding around that just how eerily quiet the event was and I can only surmise that everyone was suffering from the very first kilometre.

You simply cannot ride up seven mountains in a day if you are not fit and even those who proclaim to be kept their energy very much to themselves.

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  1. Always respect the support crew

This is a big bugbear of mine: cyclists having a sense of self-entitlement because we are being sooooooo badass.

It kills me to see cyclists breaking the rules, hammering through red lights, not respecting pedestrian crossings and disobeying the very people who are here to keep us safe.

But one thing that struck me about the Purito is the respect given and taken by those in fluoro jackets.

These guys are real heroes and gave up their Sunday to do monotonous yet essential tasks over and over again. They stop oncoming traffic, they block side roads, they offer encouragement, they are there long before we arrive and long after they leave.

And if they get disrespected, well then we can all say farewell to these types of events.

  1. And the old Basque guys on Orbeas…

These guys…All I can say is hope I am like them when I´m older. They all ride Orbeas because Orbeas are the bike of choice for the firecely-proud Basques.

The old guys are all tanned and lean and wear either the orange of the now defunct Euskaltel-Euskadi team or green/red/white of the many club teams in the region.

There were quite a few from the Aldro team also, very distinctive in purple and orange.

They all seemed to ride in groups, with the elder statesman at the front and centre like Bernard Hinault in his prime. There´s women here too, all riding custom paint job Orbeas and it´s in these clusters where I lodge myself for much of the day.

Why? Well, they can all ride and there is something quite magical about climbing with a fleet of rail thin Basque grimpeurs.

  1. You must improvise by any means necessary

So, to my actual day…

Riding an event in high mountains that´ll take most of the day demands lots of consideration, most notably what to wear. A mandatory pre-event debate ALWAYS takes place and goes along the lines of the following:

“What´s the weather like for today?” “Not sure but there will be rain so bring a jacket”….”Will it be cold?” “Yes, always cold on descents if there´s been rain.” “What about arm warmers and leg warmers?” “No harm to pack them”. “You could be too hot on the climbs and too cold on the descents”. “I always say ´better to be looking at it than for it´”. It´s a free-for-all now. “Accuweather says a thunderstorm at 5.” “BBC says 30 degrees all day”.

In the chaos, I decide a base layer, short-sleeve jersey, gilet, fingerless gloves, skull cap and overshoes will do me. Two hours later and I am rummaging in a skip, tearing an empty pizza box in half to stuff under my jersey for the descent. A plastic bag with some paper makes a lovely buff for around my neck.

And when the sun comes out later I can discard both in a bin and ride the sun-scorched final climbs with arms out and not weighed down by heavy jackets. Bliss.

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  1. Remember there is always someone worse than you

So, we all have to give ourselves a slap in the head sometimes when we ride because guess what? Others are hurting too. And many others are hurting a lot worse than you. I thought I was having it rough yesterday until I rode up alongside a guy in a recumbent bike, pedalling for all his worth up a 17% hill.

I was doing 9kph. He was probably doing 5 at best. And we had 5 kilometres to go. So, next time you are hurting and you´re getting it rough in a race, or in training, or in a Gran Fondo remember there are others in a far worse state.

Just suck it up and keep riding!

  1. The power of NOW!

One of my favourite cycling mantras. If you are cold, get warm NOW. If you are hungry, get food NOW. If you are thirsty, drink NOW. I was parched as we appraoched the first feed yesterday but seeing as there were so many people there I decided to truck onto the next one, 25 kilometres away.

What I didnt know was what terrain that would be…and yes, it was half up and the other half down.

When you´re hydrated, climbing 12 kilometres is NOT easy. When you´re dehydrated, it´s hell. So while I ´saved´two minutes by skipping the first feed, I ´lost´ 15 by crawling up to the next one. I won´t dare pass a feed zone with just 200 ml again…

  1. Never, ever get too cocky

I felt great yesterday because I prepared well and rested in the days approaching it. I knew I was on a good day when I cruised up the outside of the bunch as we rolled out of Sant Julia de Loria without any bother.

Then disaster struck with two punctures and as I lost 10 minutes there, I was keen to get back up to the front as soon as I could.

That meant riding way harder than I´d budgeted for and as I was determined to race up the timed section of the course this was hardly ideal.

But we cyclists are a proud lot and I´m no different. That early effort followed by racing up the timed section left me in a pretty dark place with four climbs still to go.

The thing about these long events is you can feel good for a time and push on, only to realise later that this was a baaaad idea.

And in time-honoured fashion I am a shell on the final climb up to Cortals. I simply had to sit on the back wheel of a rider twice my age and have him drag me up.

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A final word to salute the efforts of the 8 clients we had with us this weekend. Hollie, Peter, Brendan, JoAnn, Amy (pictured left), Barry, Todd and Francesc, you are all my heroes.

And to the one and only Berta of Gabinet Medic in Girona for doing the million jobs only a woman like her could do.

 

 

The wonder of Carrer de la Rutlla (Roo-ee-ya!)

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By Brian Canty

Next month I’ll be celebrating three years in Girona and I’m just amazed at how quickly the time has gone.

I still have the most vivid memories of those early days and weeks of arriving on 94/96 Carrer de la Rutlla, a street that meant absolutely nothing to me back in late August 2014 when I touched down.

Nowadays I call the street by a different name: my street. Though ‘my’ street is actually Carrer de la Creu, it’s Carrer de la Rutlla I like to call my own because it was where I first lived in Girona – and I simply love it.

Why? Well, where to start…

I love the old guy about halfway up between C/Ultonia and C/Creu who works in a dimply lit dungeon sharpening knives and scissors and other bits and pieces.

He’s always busy, never (ever) lifts his head to see what’s going on outside and is just consumed in his trade. I often wonder is it actually just a robot in there.

There’s another guy, rather robust looking, who stands outside the 24h shop and never seems to do anything aside from be there, scanning left and right like someone in the crowd during Wimbledon.

My favourite people are the four (three men and a lady) who work in the American-themed joint Kruskat Burger, just opposite where I used to live on Rutlla.

I love them because they were the first to welcome me to Girona and that meant allowing me type stories using their Wi-Fi as I sipped green tea or an agua amb gas for two hours.

Their burgers were – and still are, sensational and the American rock anthems blasting out no less so. The tracks repeated themselves but that was okay and on my Spotify playlist ‘Canty Favourites’ I have at least 10 songs they used play here. For fear of being chastised, I will keep the songs private.

I get my haircut on Rutlla as there are five barbers within 300 metres of each other.

I have spent thousands on bread, eggs, ham, cheese, chorizo, milk, bananas and wine in Novavenda. The girls in the shop always greet me and tell me take my bag off my back and leave it at the door like everyone else.

I enquire about house prices every so often in the two letting agents on Rutlla. I get my NIE laminated in the photocopying shop when it gets tatty.

I buy outrageously expensive healthy food in BioNefre though I swore I wouldn’t come back when the lady didn’t allow me take a trolley home once.

I always say I don’t want a customer loyalty card as a kind of mini-revenge.

There is a dog groomers where I stop and stare at the dogs getting their hair done inside the window. They look back at me and I’m sure they smile and think, ‘fuck yeah!’

I cycle down this one-way street the wrong way every day and smile at everyone because I know I’m at fault. I see the same people at the same time every day and I think they’ve just accepted this is how it’s going to be. I kill them with over-the-top waves and smiles.

There’s a pizza place (Tele Pizza) I’ve only eaten in once. It mainly attracts kids who play keepy-uppy and skateboard in the small square outside.

I just love the street and everyone on it! Cars take forever to get into the underground spaces and I am often held up…but that’s okay because I piss them off as well.

The place just warms me and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Lee and Louise don’t like it and we’ve had some discussion about me moving closer to town.

You see, they are ‘townies’ who do not know anything but the Old Town. When I invite them over for dinner Lee moans it’s too far – and for a man who enjoys food, that is quite something.

But I make no apologies. Carrer de la Rutlla is Girona in a nutshell!

The rock and roll lifestyle of a bike tour guide in the Pyrenees

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I won’t thank my new editor Lee Comerford for tasking me with the most general of all assignments; ‘a blog on the last week’, or something like that, would be great. Tonight.

How can one sum up in words what it feels like to ride across the Pyrenees for work? How impossible is it to summarise 600 incredible kilometres in a few photos?

We can only try and I guess one way of doing it is retelling the words that spill out of my mouth when people enquire, ‘oh how was your trip in the Pyrenees?’.

I’ll say it was great fun. I’ll say the group were reeeealllly nice. I’ll say we had rough weather at times but we all got on great. I’ll say we’re hopeful they’ll be back again and we’re looking forward to our next trip. After that, well, do others who weren’t there reeeealllly care?

For those that do I’ll tell with passion and energy of driving almost 500 kilometres from Girona on a Monday afternoon via Perpignan, Narbonne, Toulouse and Lourdes, stopping just once for a leak and surviving on peaches and Deff Leppard’s greatest hits.

I’ll tell of reaching our start point and sourcing ride food, searching for quality and value in a tiny town where the average age must have been close to 70.

It’s basic stuff this, but it just felt right and I definitely think I brightened up the shop assistant’s day with the most over-the-top merci beaucoup she ever heard after selling 8 baguettes, 24 bananas and around 4 packets of ham.

I’ll recall the silence of that grey Monday evening in Arrens-Marsous and going for a late evening core session in a field to pass the time, washing in a freezing cold fountain for the sheer hell of it (and the guesthouse wasn’t yet open!).

I’ll never forget the tick-tacking with Lee on the road from San Sebastien after completing a trip the week before and Louise back in the control tower pulling the strings.

Lee’s buddy Chris helped us on this trip and he was in the Basque country getting a rack attached to the roof of our new van as Lee was guiding clients.

An old housemate of Lee’s who volunteered to come along, Chris sat in a bar in Tolosa on a Monday evening at 5pm while the rack was being welded on. And he looked damn happy with himself in the selfie he sent on.

Our other hired help Peter got a bit of a raw deal from Mother Nature, or at least someone with a fraction of his positivity would believe.

He guided for four days and it rained a LOT. He rode as a back-marker in hail storms and sat in the saddle for seven hours on one particular day. Afterwards, he thanked us for giving him the opportunity to do it.

All he wanted in return was enough food – which is not an easy task with this guy.

Nobody who likes money and working more than eight hours a day would do this job of a bike tour guide.

Nobody with less than a love for cycling could do it. But this week, it became very clear to us that there’s very little else we’d wanna do.

Chris and Peter have brains to burn and it’s just as well because our demands on them this week were many. Yet their only complaint by the end was the trip was over.

Maybe the reason we – and they, love it and do it is because it’s so utterly humbling to see the difference it makes to people’s lives.

We had 12 clients this week from Ireland and the UK and to say they were a pretty accomplished bunch would be unfair to them. In cycling parlance, they were hitters.

There were guys who worked in finance, medicine, insurance, property and construction and they were all very VERY good at what they did.

We had some truly woeful weather, however, no more so than on day one when we headed for the Aubisque in appalling conditions.

Yet wild horses would not have stopped the boys from reaching the top and their upbeat outlook was truly inspiring. The descent of the Tourmalet on Wednesday was similarly bad, yet they all rode down it like demons and wore wide smiles when we convened at the bottom.

As one of them put it to us one evening over dinner, “I work with people over the age of 65 years of age. I’m up at 6 most mornings getting four girls up for school and I mightn’t be back before 6 in the evening. This is my week with the lads and I’ll maximise every minute of it.”

His story was one we’ve heard over and over since we started the company so for that very reason we’ve strived to help people get the absolute best experience they can in the time they have with us.

The life of a bike tour guide is a very privileged one and it offers absolutely everything a man or woman could want in a working life…except time off, a routine and riches.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

2009, Bedoin and the start of a beautiful love affair

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By Brian Canty

The Tour de France is like no other event in the world of professional sport and it´s a race I hold very, very dear. 

My first experience of it was on a balmy July evening in 2009, a couple of months  after I´d finished college in Galway.

Without much money or cycling experience I planned a trip to France with a good friend which involved the cheapest flight possible from Shannon to Paris-Beauvais, a bus into the city centre, the TGV down to Avignon, a hitch-hike to Orange where we rented bikes and the last 30 kilometres chasing the sunset to Bedoin.

I´ve cycled many kilometres in my life but few as blissful as that 20-mile team time-trial to the base town of Mont Ventoux.

I recall the majesty of the little French villages we rode through, my belly crying for food and my tongue desperate for water. I remember having no lights on the bikes and us pedalling for our lives to get to Bedoin.

There were all manner and make of vehicle on the same road, all making the same pilgrimage to the bike race. Buggies and bikes were strapped to cars while those with a little more had wide-berth campers with barbecues.

Richie and I had maybe a set of kit each, a sleeping bag (each!) and not a whole lot else. In fact, my sleeping arrangement that night was an empty wine bottle wrapped in a jumper and the roof over my head was the underside of a camper which a Norwegian family kindly allowed me seek refuge under.

The journey there was just magic, jumping in behind campers to take advantage of the slightest draft they´d provide. The brief moment where we were sucked along was perfect but all too short.

We made Bedoin before dark and because we were two young guys eager for adventure we decided to actually ride up to the top of Ventoux for the hell of it. 

Ditching our limited belongings and grabbing a quick beer and sandwich, we set off up the murderous ascent, one of us (ah em) reaching it around an hour later as the other (ah em) had enough by Chalet Raynard.

Cresting the summit and scanning the endless lavender fields of Provence is an image still firmly etched in my brain and to quote the late Michele Scarponi “when I ride my bike, life seems light”.

It was one of those evenings you wish would never end.

I hadn´t much to my name that year after finishing college and less of a clue of where I´d go in life, but there was something sublime about where I was at that moment and I made a pact that I´d return to the Tour every year to get that feeling again. 

Eight years on and I´ve stayed true to it – with the latest installment of my Tour career just over two weeks away.

People say, ´don´t you just see the riders for like 10 seconds and that´s it?

In some cases, that is what happens but there is so much more to seeing the Tour than that. There´s the fanfare that fills the morning long before the riders arrive, the banter with fans from all over the world, the atmosphere along the route, the delicious baguettes that only the French can do, the long lazy evenings spent chatting in cafes in the most obscure places, the lounging around in cycling kit after conquering one too many climbs.

I´ve been at the race as a fan and a journalist, so I´ve seen the race through different lenses.

And this year, for the first time, I will take a group as part of a Tour de France package we are organising – and there is no other thing in the world I would rather be doing than cycling in the Pyrenees or the Alps in mid-July.

Warning, you may fall in love too.

 

 

Girona food cycling tour

A blissful union of food & cycling on our first Gourmet Tour

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Warning!! Contains images of food and cycling!!

The Gourmet Tour of Catalunya is an itinerary inspired by all our favourite rides and all our favourite places to eat and drink in the Girona region. Here´s a taster…

Wine tasting in the Emporda region is a must for any self respecting Gourmet Tour. The ride takes our cyclists through idylic country lanes to the only bodega in Catalunya that still uses traditional wine making methods. The results are divine.

A visit to the Costa Brava and a taste of seafood from the Mediterranean is yet another treat for body, soul and stomach. We ride from Girona through farmland and small villages before tackling the climb up to San Grau. From there riders enjoy a spectacular descent and work up an appetite for the 3-course extravaganza that awaits.

We enjoyed the first Gourmet Tour so much that we´re running two more for 2017 and more dates will soon be released for 2018. Join us for a true Eat, Sleep, Cycle experience.

Thanks go to Tristan Cardew for the fab videos and to Colleen, Gil & Harriet for making our first Gourmet Tour extra delicious and to our fabulous hosts on the ride.