Last week we welcomed our lucky ESCape competition winners to Girona for a week of cycling in the winter sun. Here’s how it happened according to Dierdre from Cork.
I felt a mixture of delight and dread landing in Barcelona for the Eat Sleep Cycle January ESCape training camp. The delight very obviously due to the fact that it was January and I was in Spain. The dread well because I’m certainly not the most accomplished cyclist in the world, coming from triathlon I have always thought of cycling as something to be tolerated rather than enjoyed and therefore would often shun the required cycling training for the swimming pool or the running track.
The dread eased somewhat upon being greeted in Barcelona airport by a very easy going Brian. Along came Derry from Kerry, the other prizewinner, and his wife Brigeen and we were off on the short spin to Girona. First stop was to drop off our gear to the Hotel Ultonia in the middle of town where we to be based for the week, The hotel was a real treat, massive beds and great showers, bliss!
After a quick lunch in a lovely place just around the corner it was time to gear up for the first spin. Lee arrived up, every bit as cheery as Brian, with our top quality rental bikes for the week and off we went. I was nervous as we rolled out of town, but after a few minutes in Lee’s company my mind was put at ease. He explained that although I would be challenged throughout the week, no superhuman cycling feats were expected! With that he turned around and asked “fancy going up a climb?” “How big?” I responded. “Ah it’s a bit steep but its not very long” came the shout from Brian, “Go on then….” Well steep it was, short it was not, but I powered on and, after firing an awful lot of abuse in Brian’s direction (I’m not sorry), we reached the summit. Looking around at the view and down at the climb I had managed to pedal up, I felt quite proud of myself, not a bad start.
At 10 am the next morning we headed out into the bright sunshine, Louise was to be my guide today and it was an absolute pleasure. Not only is she an accomplished cyclist she is great fun to be around. The miles just flew by chatting our way along the quiet country roads, and the stories of her tandem honeymoon were the perfect distraction for getting me up a long ascent. After a couple of hours on the bikes we stopped for the obligatory coffee stop in the sun before rolling back into Girona. After the wonderfully quiet roads and the great company I was already looking forward to the next days spin, I was catching the cycling bug.
The next morning I rolled out of town with Brian as the guide towards Banyoles Lake, a haven for rowers and in the summer, triathletes, who swim the clear waters of the lake and then bike the challenging mountains. After the 2 previous days in the saddle things were getting a bit sore but I was soon distracted from this by the open roads and lovely scenery. Also with Brian and I both being from Cork there was plenty to talk about it! Today’s coffee stop was overlooking Banyoles Lake and it involved the best churros and chocolate I have ever eaten!
On the spin home I realised I really was enjoying my cycling for, to be honest, the first time ever. Spending a few days in the saddle had seen my confidence grow, I was no longer shaking at the thought of negotiating roundabouts or upon a seeing a climb in the distance. At this stage I knew I could handle it and that was a great feeling.
As it turns out I was going to need every ounce of my new found confidence the next morning as Louise announced today was the day we would tackle Els Angels. Els Angels is well known for its annual 10.4 km time trial. However today we would be taking it at a slightly easier pace. From the start I felt good, although some of the steeper sections had me looking for more (non-existent gears) I rode on, catching my breath during the few welcome flatter sections. The kilometers ground on and at no point did I want to give up, I knew for a fact I would make the summit. It was worth it, the view from the Els Angels Sanctuary at the top of the climb was spectacular and to be able to share it with Louise and Derry who so clearly loved their cycling was an honour. The descent was hairy to say the least and with some high speed sections and technical bends my nerves (and poor Louise’s nerves from watching me) were pretty wrecked, but after a break at the bottom and one of Brian’s famous filled brioche rolls I was ready to hit the road home.
Friday was our final spin before dropping our bikes back. Whilst Derry headed out on an epic adventure involving pro cyclists and gigantic climbs, I chose a (much) easier spin and a day of sight-seeing in the beautiful old town – it would have been a shame to leave without experiencing the walk along old town walls.
I truly have a new appreciation for cycling after my week with Eat Sleep Cycle, my confidence and motivation for the sport has soared. The week spent with Brian, Louise and Lee was so much fun; they so clearly love their sport it is impossible not to get swept up in it. I can’t thank them enough for the cycling and the laughs.
For the record – Deirdre rode like the complete champion she so clearly is, was spectacular company & we cannot wait to welcome her back. May we never witness an Els Angels descent like that again!!