Girona has three classic climbs – Els Angels (made famous by a certain Lance Armstrong and location of the annual Girona Gran Fondo Hill Climb), Rocacorba (the training peak of the pro’s – this one had it’s name stolen by David Millar to christen his exclusive cycling club) and, my favourite, Mare de Déu del Mont.
I love this mountain for these three reasons:
- Me and Lee got engaged up it (see my proposal post)
- The ride out and back is gorgeous
- The climb is beautiful
On this particular ride the group was made up of me, Doris, Lucy and Josep. Josep knows the roads like the back of his hand and he showed us a beautiful route to the foot of the mountain. The peak was visible most of the time on the way out – an ominous reminder of the effort to come.
The climb is 19 km up a narrow but well surfaced lane. At this time of year cars are a rarity and people are scarce. The view unfolds as you climb until you are above the clouds. To the left you can see Banyoles lake and Rocacorba, and, as you round the final hairpin the Pyrenees come into view. On a clear day you can see the sea (although I’m yet to ride up in on one of those).
Doris pedaled off into the distance early on, leaving me, Josep and Lucy to ride a comfortable pace up. Josep shared stories of his long distance cycle adventures in the Basque country and the Alps to keep us going. At the top Lucy beat me in the sprint finish (never again!), we took some photos, looked anxiously at a couple of men planning to jump off the peak attached to some flimsy looking hang gliders, and then headed back down before we got too cold.
Josep suggested a coffee stop and led us to a lovely little bakery. I couldn’t resist temptation (and was feeling justifiably peckish after the climb) and ordered a Xuixos (pronounced ‘shoe-shoe’). It’s a fried pastry stuffed with crema catalana, originates from Girona, and is utterly delicious. Josep warned me that you have to be very careful about the pronunciation. Say it wrong and you’d be ordering something very different…
Climbing to over 1000 meters in the middle of December and not getting hypothermia on the way down is a bit of a miracle; add in a Xuixos break, good company and a sunny day and I felt like I was in an article out of The Cyclist.