Cycling Barcelona to Girona: A CycloCat Adventure

By January 26, 2019 March 8th, 2019 No Comments

Sunday 22nd January 2019 saw the third annual edition of the Ladies & Gentlemen’s Barcelona to Girona Gravel Ride. The ride was desgined & organised by CycloCat, a non-profit organisation on a mission to map all the off-road, safe cycling routes in Catalunya.

When CycloCat approached Eat Sleep Cycle looking for a venue in Girona to host the finish we jumped at the chance to get invovled in this unique event.

Naturally Eat Sleep Cycle sent a team to take part and check out the route. DS Brian pulled together a squad made up of Eat Sleep Cycle riders Lee, Lou & Boris with guests David Millar of CHPT3 & Miguel, local brompton-riding legend. With over 300 riders on the start sheet it was set to be one hell of a ride.

The Gravel Adventure Begins

An already damp team met at a wet Girona train station to catch the 07:04 train to Barcelona. It hadn’t rained for months but the team were in cheery-ish spirits with the promise of an epic day on the bike ahead.

7 hours and one deluge of mud, sweat, broken brakes & hardcore river crossing later we caught up with the riders of the ‘Paulaner Express’ to capture their impressions of the 140 km route.

Lee: Ex-Engineer, Eat Sleep Cycle Partner

Describe your ride in one word:

Best moment?
When Boris repaired Miguel’s brakes, which meant we would make the ride.

Darkest moment? 
Riding to the start in the cold, wet & rain.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
Wish I was wearing what David had on (CHPT3)

Will you ride again next year?
Most definitley but only if Brian does it.


David: Founder of clothing brand CHPT3, ex-Pro Cyclist

Describe your ride in one word:

Best moment?
Getting all my shit ready the day before, I hadn’t done that in years.

Darkest moment? 
Catching a glimpse of the blue AVE autoroute bridge 4hrs after we’d started and realizing we were still miles away.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
All of it. LSWBL Baselayer, J/J Jacket, K61 Jacket, Nanoflex tights – I stayed completely dry and correct body temp the whole time, which even I was impressed with.

Will you ride again next year?
If Brian does I might.

Boris: Bearded, Eat Sleep Cycle Mechanic

Describe your ride in one word:

Best moment?
Finding my pace after finding myself doing a solo effort.

Darkest moment? 
Realising I was not in Llagostera but Tordera.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
I would say water, but since I forgot that, I’m going to say my Assos winter bibs.

Will you ride again next year?
Next year I’ll ride it on a  Brompton

Louise: Tiny person, Eat Sleep Cycle founder

Describe your ride in one word:

Best moment?
That sweet sweet coffee in Caldes de Malavella. The team had scattered but home was in sight.

Darkest moment? 
When we hit gravel 10 km out of Barcelona and saw a disturbed rider coming back the other way shouting ‘molt aigua’.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
I nearly died. I needed actual winter kit. CHPT3 for women, David?

Will you ride again next year?
err. If Silvia does it.

Miguel: Girona local, Brompton lover

Describe your ride in one word:
The river crossing!

Best moment?
Personally, I had the feeling ‘nothing could stop me’…!

Darkest moment? 
That we were called the Paulaner team and only had coffee at the end.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
No comment.

Will you ride again next year?
Perhaps. It was a great #7hrGravelChallenge

Hat’s off to the team. Out of 300 riders who signed on around 80 started the ride and around half completed it without the aid of a train. Thanks also to the Eat Sleep Cycle Hub team and the kind bakery’s & cafes who welcomed and fed some extremely dirty cyclists along the route.

CycloCat & the Origin’s of the Gravel Ride

Whilst bang on the current trend for riders to get off road, organiser & founder of CycloCat, Joan Calvera, reveals the origins of the ride in the 1940’s. We sat down with Joan after the event to learn more about the Ladies & Gentlemen’s ride and to find out more about Joan’s motivation & vision for CycloCat.

What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Joan Calvera Porta. I was born and raised in Sant Andreu del Palomar, Barcelona, so my first kilometers on MTB were on the mytical Collserola mountain. After Barcelona I lived in Girona, Brussels, England and South-Tyrol (so I can speak 5 languages!)

Tell me about how and why you started CycloCat?
We (together with my wife Anna) started CycloCat after coming back to Catalonia and realising that there was no information about cycling paths connecting urban centres. We checked how other systems worked in places like Belgium & Italy and then we created our Catalan version of that.

What inspired you to start the Ladies & Gentlemen’s Barcelona to Girona event?
When I started racing on MTB at 16 years old, my Grandpa told me that he was also a cyclist. He was able to ride from Barcelona to Girona on a single speed, wooden wheeled bike. No helmet, no culotte, no jersey. So, when we had completed mapping all the safe cycling tracks from Barcelona to Girona then we decided to recreate this ancient route. In fact, now it’s more difficult than in the 40’s, as my Grandpa rode on the N-II (not totally asphalted, a lot of cobbled sections) and the easiest route from Barcelona to Griona. But, nevertheless, today’s route is so nice because it sneaks between small vilages and green fields with very few cars at any time. Even being a cyclist, we all tend to think as a car driver, and when somebody asks you how to reach certain village we all think first how to get there by car, without considering slopes, for example.

You rode the event – how was it?
Yes I rode. Well, I understand it could be hard for some people especially at the begining. But if you have good clothes and certain experience of riding under the rain, it was a very nice journey. After 3 hours riding in the rain, good clothes get dry. Once we were in Sant Celoni (less than half of the route) we were already dry. I like the course very much, especially the changes from tarmac to dirt or to single track. Gravel bikes give you that freedom to go fast on road and manage the mud on single-tracks.

What is your favorite gravel ride in Catalunya?
I use to train close to Girona (when I have a chance): Vidreres, Llagostera, Caldes. La Selva and Gironès are very good for training and have good gravel tracks. Then Osona and Urgell are also amazing places to ride. I use to train a lot around Vallès, but it’s mid mountain and sometimes there’s too many cars due to the proximity to the big city of Barcelona.

What’s next for CycloCat?
As you know, CycloCat is a private non-profit organisation that documents and classifies the safest cycling routes in Catalonia. Out criteria is our moto as well: “minimum slope, maximum safety”. We have already documented 1300 Km that join the 4 main capital cities in Catalonia.

In the next month we are going to release the tracks to reach Lleida (an amazing gravel area through Urgell) and we are trying to develop software together with Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona that allows us to create the routes in a easier way.

Thanks to the brave photographer Gonzalo Rodríguez from Fotos Cursa who risked hypothermia to capture the event –  check out the full album from the event on the Foto Cursa facebook page.

Thank you to Joan & Anna at CycloCat for organising a great day out on the bike and for continuing to build an incredible resource of bike routes for everyone to enjoy. Check out the CycloCat website to see the maps.

For anyone with kit-envy or planning a suitably wintery excursion it’s worth checking out David Millar’s CHPT3 winter range. Seriously good kit.

Experience your own Gravel Cycling Adventure in Catalunya

If you want to explore the network of gravel roads in Catalunya check out our Girona Gravel Adventure, or why not hire a gravel bike & bags and head off on your own bike-packing extravaganza on the Pirinexus Trail. The sun does normally shine, promise! Give us a call on +34 972 649 131 or contact us online for more info!

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

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