Treat Yourself to Girona

While planning a treat yourself themed and intentionally non-cycling related trip to Spain I realized that while in Spain I might want to do some cycling. In order to satisfy my desire I reached deep into Tenspeed Hero’s top-secret network of worldwide cycling connections and googled “road bike rental Girona.” Now sure, there are plenty of “results” in our worldwide network but with a Hero’s eye and keywords like TOP-OF–THE-LINE, CARBON, TEAM, and PRO I stumbled on Bikecat Cycling Tours. At first it was a shining fleet of former Garmin team bikes that caught my eye, but after a few email exchanges with Bikecat’s owner Jaume, (pronounced with an English sounding J if you are not up on your Catalan) I realized I just might end up treating myself to a fine day in Girona.

Although the bulk of Jaume’s business is in big tours he graciously agreed to rent me a bike and give a quick and deeply knowledgeable run of the mythical landscape that is Girona and its surrounding Catalonian countryside. Girona has vast and breathtaking rides in all directions, but because I was not the only one treating myself on this trip my time was limited to a short loop affectionately known as the warm down ride for every professional cyclist that lives and trains in Girona (this loop has also been named after a certain professional cyclist who once lived in Girona and won* some Tours de France). We will call it the *loop, and it includes, among other things, the Els Angels climb, the Hincapié climb and a picturesque valley filled with rolling hills, smoothly paved roads free of cars, medieval villages, surrealist castles, villas and pork chop sandwiches.

Jaume’s shop is next to Girona’s massive Cathedral of St Mary. Bikecat has been in business about eight years, and the cathedral has been there for about 800 years. The contents of his shop are pointed directly towards devoted roadies. There is, among other things, an espresso machine, a beer-stocked fridge, a sofa, a full shop, star wars paraphernalia, and a few bikes.

If you every wonder what Jonathan Vaughters does with all of his bikes, look no further. Jaume hosts an impressive collection of bikes from every Garmin team you’ve ever heard of. They come in all shapes and sizes and retain the label of the man who once got paid to ride them – this will offer immediate cred on twitter.

I was kindly setup on David Millar’s Cervelo S5. I came to discover a Cervelo S5 is not the most nimble machine to climb a mountain on, but it’s perfect for high speed flat stretches and leaning over your bars TT style yelling, “DAVID MILLAAAAR!” in a thick Scottish accent.

All rides start with a quick cobbled decent from Jaume’s shop off Plaça dels Lledoners hi atop Girona. This winds down through one of the oldest preserved Jewish quarters in Europe and across doorsteps of various domiciles of Heroes* past (post forthcoming). You also get to climb this on the way back, dodging tourists and imagining you are Philippe Gilbert.

From here our route took us promptly up to Els Angles. This is where Jaume taught me how to climb –sorry but I cannot share my secrets. What I can say is that this was the first glimpse I got of Jaume’s Hero behaviors. After dropping me on the climb, he calmly gave some pointers, told some stories, and photographed his bike.

In the valley below The Angels we found ourselves ducking into stone alleys and cart paths of various medieval villages, connected by seemingly perfect roads. Of note are grooves worn in stone from centuries of wooden wheels, and rolling through the town of Púbol, where Salvador Dalí purchased a castle for his wife, which gave him some cred with his wife, but later earned Dalí the Spanish noble title “Marqués de Dalí de Púbol.”

The midway point in this ride was a small cafe attached to what appeared to be a town dancehall (a bit different from your typical euro cafe). Jaume informed me it is a famous stopping point mostly owed to the owner’s homemade cakes, which certain cyclists like to indulge in. There are no images of said cakes, because we did not even go there. Where we did go was from Jaume telling me he was having a ham sandwich to indulging in a small Spanish omelet (tapa), a coke on ice, and a thin-sliced pile of pork and cheese on a baguette (notice it’s inability to fit properly on its plate). Should have stuck with the cake. This cafe also has “homemade breakfasts” (esmorzars casolans, if you are not up on your Catalan).

After our various stops we left the mythic valley via the Hincapié climb. I was pressed to figure out why it has this name but it turns out Hincapié is written on the road all the way up. Big George used to ride it a lot too. We took this at a brisk pace, and descended for what seemed to be the entire way back down to Girona. Only once was there a large cement truck on the other side of a blind curve.

Following our final climb back to the Plaça we returned to have a cold beer and watch the Giro on a 60″ HD screen. By most accounts this is near impossible to do in the United States, thus further questioning the believability of this day. I would like to think some network execs are watching out for us Americanos; high viz at this resolution is dangerous.

And finally, this is Jaume. He is the hitherto shadowy figure shown and the man responsible for Bikecat. He is a small Catalonian climber, a former Chemist, is likely of noble descent, and is DEFINITELY a Hero. He runs Bikecat with his wife Debbie and a small crew where needed. I would like to thank Jaume and Debbie immensely. The entire experience was incredible and if you find yourself in Spain I highly recommend you treat yourself to it. 
I would also like to thank my wife Michelle immensely for letting me ride my bike on our honeymoon -she is a definitely a Hero too.

Words by Todd Simeone.

Photos by Todd and Jaume Cabruja.