When you’re planning a cycling camp to do a block of training, picking the right location is vital for getting the most from your time away and ensuring you meet your training goals.
But it’s not always easy to decide where to go.
In this article, we speak to Fiona Smart from Girona Cycling. Fiona and her husband Gareth have been running cycling camps since 2006. They have hosted everyone from Orica Scott to British Triathlon and the Belgian National team.
Fiona takes us on a deep dive about cycling training camps in Spain – from the best areas to train in, to whether to stay in a hotel or a specific training centre and what terrain to look for.
She also shares the essential seven questions cyclists should ask to ensure they pick the training camp that’s right for them and takes us on a behind the scenes tour of Girona Cycling’s training camps.
Part 1: Where to go
1. Why location matters
One of the most fundamental questions to answer when picking a cycling camp is where to go.
Even more than when you’re looking for a pure cycling holiday, location is everything when it comes to finding somewhere that’s going to give you the best possible training outcomes.
You need somewhere with the right weather, ease of access and riding. Ideally you also need somewhere where the locals like and welcome lycra clad cyclists.
2. Why cycle training camps in Spain are a great choice
Spain is the first choice for many pro team cycling camps for a number of reasons.
Variety of options
Spain offers cycle training camp options for all budgets, rider abilities and secondary interests including sustainability.
Spain is used to hosting cyclists and you’ll find pockets of expertise throughout the country. For example in Girona province, where we’re based, we’re used to hosting teams of pro cyclists from across the world. More on that below.
There are cheap flights to get to Spain, with short flight times, as well as sustainable public transport options, including trains. Once you’re in Spain, the motorways are excellent for getting around.
Good road surfaces and driver etiquette
Many of Spain’s roads have been resurfaced in the last ten years. In many parts of Spain the winters aren’t as harsh as in northern Europe, so the road surfaces don’t take such a beating in winter. This makes training camps (and cycling holidays) in Spain a joy for cyclists.
You’ll also find generally good driver etiquette: strict rules and signage require drivers to give 1.5m space when passing. Two cyclists should cycle side by side. Drivers are used to cyclists. Many Spaniards cycle; it is a national sport.
Spain welcomes tourists
Tourism is an integral part of Spain’s economy, so it makes it easy for tourists to travel here.
Spain does everything possible to welcome tourists and even during the pandemic opened its borders (when others were closed) by instead introducing mitigation measures such as obligatory face masks indoors, social distancing, high vaccination rates, a focus on ventilation and increased cleaning.
Spain has been stricter on the movement of its own residents than tourists during the pandemic; international tourists are looked after.
Weather and culture
Spain offers good, healthy, fresh cuisine and good health care. You’ll also find good year-round training weather with dry sunny days even in the winter. This makes pre-season training camps in Spain a very popular option.
3. Best regions for cycling camps in Spain
So if you’ve decided a road cycling training camp in Spain is for you, the next question is: which bit of Spain?!
Popular for winter cycling training camps, but some islands can be windy. Tenerife has the highest mountain in Spain, Mt Teide. Know that these islands are popular with tourists.
Majorca, Balearic Islands
Majorca offers a wide range of accommodation and Mediterranean views on many rides. Be aware that like the Canaries, it’s a tourist island with many beaches.
Costa Blanca, e.g. Denia and Calpe
This part of Spain offers cheap accommodation, mild weather during winter and hilly inland routes. Beware the tourist hot spots on the coast and coastal roads.
Andalucia, inc the Sierra Nevada
Come for the punishing climbing. You’ll find mild winters if you’re by the coast, but snow in the mountains.
Province of Girona
The pros live here year round to benefit from mild winters (though you’ll find snow on the high mountains in winter). They’re also attracted by the fact the region offers the easiest access to the rest of Europe and a huge variety of terrain. It’s less touristy than some of the areas mentioned above, which means less traffic and quiet roads (except in the city of Girona). There’s also award winning cuisine. High altitude training camps are also possible during the summer in Puigcerda/Font Romeu/Andorra.
4. More on Girona province
So why did we pick Girona for our cycling training base? And why do the pro teams head to Girona province to live and for their bike training camps?
Girona region has a year-round cycling season. Girona region does not tend to get the cold blasts from the east, like Italy and Greece do. It’s kept mild by the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees protect the province from cold, northerly blasts.
The province is usually 5˚C warmer than Perpignan, southern France, in the winter. Prevailing westerly weather has usually run out of rain by the time it has come across Spain and the Pyrenees. So there’s relatively little rain and you’ll find dry sunny days even in the winter.
You’ll find all types here: the high mountains of the Pyrenees and Pyrenees foothills at Cap de Creus on the coast over to Ripoll with El Mont in the middle. There are steep short climbs in the volcanoes or up onto the Collascabra Escarpment past Olot. There’s quiet, beautiful rolling countryside around where we’re based near Lake Banyoles (more on that below). There are flatter coastal route options in Alt Emporda or hillier coastal cycle routes of the Baix Emporda.
There are high speed train links from Girona to all over Europe. For example, Paris is just 5 hours by train.
There are also airports at Barcelona, Girona and Perpignan and great motorway access from France and all over Spain.
This all makes Girona easy and less stressful to get to than a cycling winter training camp in the Balearics or Canary Islands.
Good access to cycling services year around
Because Girona province is so popular with cyclists, it offers a huge range of options for bike shops, bike hire, mechanics, coaches, sports injury treatments and other facilities required for a good cycling camp. You simply can’t assume these things are available on the Spanish islands where there is less demand for such services and where businesses often shut up shop outside high season.
Finally, you’ll find fresh, natural, varied produce, which makes for great and healthy cuisine.
5. Where to go in Girona province?
The exact location that’s best for your road cycling camp will depend on your requirements and training ahead of racing season. If you want all the ride options above it is best to choose somewhere in the middle of Girona province, so you can enjoy all of the routes on offer.
For example we’re based more centrally within Girona province, in the Pla De l’Estany region near Lake Banyoles (and Banyoles town). This is 25km north of the city of Girona.
Part 2: Where to stay
Wherever you decide to go, whether it’s Spain or elsewhere, the tips below will help you decide what kind of accommodation to book: whether to go for a cycling-friendly hotel, a training provider that sets up shop in a “normal” hotel or a dedicated training centre.
6. Cycling hotel v cycling camps
Once you’ve decided where to go, the next question is what kind of camp to book: hotel or rented house/apartment or specific cycling training camp?
What’s the difference between what they offer?
A normal hotel will have a variety of guests and offer what “normal” tourists expect of a hotel.
Due to the fact cycling is so popular here, in the province of Girona you’ll find many hotels have a bike room/store for your precious road bike (though some will just use a meeting room as a store when required). Hotels here will also usually put on a more complete breakfast and may allow an earlier breakfast time such as 8am or earlier rather than starting at 9am.
However there are some hotels that will not allow bikes, will not change meal times or food on offer, so always confirm before you book.
Rental house or apartment
Renting a house or apartment will allow you flexible meal times, and is usually cheaper for a group cycling trip. There are quite a few of these run as specialist cycling rentals and you can arrange for a private chef. They may also have bike tools and route information.
But beware that in Spain, owners need a license to offer a tourist rental and some properties do not have good access.
My tip is to always ask questions: an apartment on the 5th floor without a lift or a damp house 5km along a rutted dirt road are possible tourist rentals that are not going to be good options for a road cyclist.
Cycling training camp
A dedicated cycling training camp can either be achieved by staying at a specialist cycling centre/hotel or joining a camp at a non-specialist centre that’s organised on specific dates by a cycling company which brings all the extra help you need for the training camp.
Emergency back up and help with routes is key when on a self-guided camp and this is possible at a specialist cycling training centre/hotel. Not surprisingly, this is something we offer our guests (details here)!
7. Questions before booking a cycling hotel or cycling training camp
I’d recommend you always consider and get answers on the questions below before booking a cycling camp. I’ve answered these for our Girona Cycling camp below!
What’s their location (and does it work for your training)?
Inland or coastal?
The exact location that you stay in any area defines your possible routes with respect to the distance of your rides. For example, staying on the coast limits your ride direction by 180˚; you can’t ride in the sea.
You get more routes from a location where you can ride in every direction: think of somewhere that is based at the centre of a star. Another analogy is a base that’s at the centre of a flower, with routes coming out like petals of a flower.
City or country?
Are they located in a city or the countryside? Staying in a city means you will always have a slow start and finish to your ride, with busy streets and traffic lights. Plus there may well be more pollution, affecting your lungs.
Does the terrain match your training requirements? Your training plan dictates the terrain required – for example do you need long hill climbs or rolling routes?
If you need to train on long mountain climbs and it is a 60km ride from your training camp to the start of the climb, you are not going to be doing your planned training.
Is there a variety of routes? More variety stimulates you, as a new route each day helps you get out there and ride. A positive, happy mind gives you motivation.
Do they offer GPS files for Strava, Kamoot, Wikiloc? Are there real maps for those that like that kind of thing?!
Are there coaches to help you plan your ride routes to fit your training plan?
Will you get good sleep and relaxation?
Look into the detail of the accommodation arrangements. For example, is every room en suite? Are they near any noisy roads? What is the mattress quality like?
Is the cycling camp in a quiet location so you can get the best possible rest?
What facilities do they have? Are they at an additional cost?
Are coaching, sports massage, injury therapy and a bike fitting available?
Is there any emergency support available if you have a problem out training?
Is there a gym for stretching and rollering?
Is there a pool and/or sauna for post ride recovery and relaxation?
Are guides/group rides available? If so, what level of fitness is required? Are there daily rides? At what ride levels?
When are meals served and what are they? You’ll want good healthy food available when you need it, large breakfasts, three course evening dinners and perhaps picnic lunches.
Where are bikes stored? Is it secure?
What tools are available? Are there charging points for Di2?
Is there an on-site mechanic? Can you buy spare inner tubes and simple spares? Bike shops may only be open normal hours and not on Sundays and you want to be out riding not waiting for them to open.
What if your bike arrives damaged? Are there extra bikes available for rental if your bike arrives damaged? If your bike is damaged, will they help with getting it fixed?
Best time to come?
You likely want to coincide your camp with somewhere that’s got great cycling weather when you’re there. It’s therefore a good idea to ask the training centre on the ground what the weather will be like. That’s because online weather data averages can be really misleading; they’re often measured some distance away from the place you’ll stay and weather can be hugely affected by local conditions.
What is the food like?
You’ll probably be looking for fresh, healthy cuisine. Buffets tend to be cheap but are more likely to be poor quality, reheated food with more chances of food poisoning to ruin your training camp.
Is it combined as a holiday with food, drink and culture or is the main focus the cycling? Does this match with what you are looking for?
Many travel insurance policies now cover cancellation due to Covid or you having to quarantine but not due to a lock down. Check your travel insurance policy and what the cycling camp provider’s policy is if you’re not able to travel due to a local down in your own country or similar reasons.
How do you get to the cycling hotel/camp?
It’s important to know whether you’ll need to hire a car before you book, as this will add to the cost of your trip. If there are public transport or transfer options that can cope with your bike box, these are good to know about.
Part 3: Routes
Check out our comments on the importance of choosing the right terrain to match your training, above.
However, it’s worth repeating that coastal areas can be limiting because you have less directions you can head out in.
Finding somewhere with a great variety of terrain is ideal, including flat, rolling, short climbs and long climbs. That’s the beauty of our location in Girona province.
9. Road network
The quality of the roads is really important to a great riding experience, whether you’re on a camp or cycling holiday. We cyclists are all looking for that perfect combination of silky smooth surfaces, low traffic and beautiful vistas!
It’s also important to have enough roads; in some parts of the world, particularly islands, you can find yourself having to plough up and down the same roads time and again, which can get repetitive and boring. Fortunately that’s rarely a problem in mainland Spain where there are loads of small towns and villages, which means a good system of roads.
The question is then – which are the best roads to ride. Which leads us on to…
10. Cycling Camps Should Help With Route Planning
In the list of questions you should check with your cycling camp above, we’ve mentioned route variety and the fact they’ll supply GPS routes. This is a key part of what you’re paying for: their expertise in ensuring you get the right routes for the training you need to do.
We have a library of 150 routes from our base that we share with cyclists that stay us (more on that here).
Part 4: Girona Cycling training camps (at Hotel Mas Pelegri)
11. What do we offer?
Our Girona Cycling camps are based at our hotel and training centre, Hotel Mas Pelegri.
We rebuilt Mas Pelegri and opened in 2006 as a cycling centre and hotel focused on looking after teams, individuals, families and small groups. We’re a Spanish 4* hotel standard, but are listed as 3* to be internationally correct. We’re very proud of the fact we run at a fraction of the carbon footprint most hotels run at – but, importantly, that most guests have no idea!
We have been running continuously since 2006 (Covid permitting though training camps still ran in 2020 and 2021). As long as you can get here we will run your training camp!
Pro team base
Professional teams and national teams have been training at Hotel Mas Pelegri since we opened. These include, Orica Scott, Cervelo-Bigla, Raleigh, Leopard, Plussbank Cervelo and Endura. National teams include Scotland Cycling Triathlon & MTB, Belgium Cycling and Triathlon, Austria Triathlon, Abu Dhabi Cycling, South Africa Cycling, British Triathlon and USA triathlon.
Multiple Olympic and World champions have stayed with us.
We have also helped young riders find their way here in the province of Girona.
Cycling teams say they pick us because of the quality and variability of our training routes, our healthy food, mattresses, tranquility and privacy, support and space to look after the bikes.
What’s our location (and does it work for your training)?
Hotel Mas Pelegri is two kilometres from the small town of Serinya, which is home to one of the most important set of prehistoric caves in Europe. We are seven kilometres (five miles) from both beautiful Lake Banyoles and medieval Besalu, which is a historic gem. We are 25 kilometres from the city of Girona.
Our location lets us access all of the best routes of the province of Girona. You can choose which direction to go in depending on the weather and your training, so you always get the training you require.
We are only 80km from the 2,000m ski station Val Ter, 40km from the Mediterranean coast and 10km from foot of both of the major 1,000m pro test climbs (Rocacorba to the south and El Mont to the north).
Access to the routes
The best Girona cycling routes are right from our door. You can enjoy the full range of terrain and distances the province has to offer. We provide GPS routes, route maps, smart phone app routes and emergency backup in every stay.
We also provide help with designing your week’s training by qualified coaches.
Our location offers the best access to good year round weather, without the possible high winds on the coast or the fog banks further south around the city of Girona.
The area is still warmed by the Mediterranean so does not suffer from the colder temperatures of the higher altitudes to the west of the province in the winter.
We are close enough to local towns to have a great road network and good restaurants on your doorstep without 30 minutes of city traffic on each ride.
Many people talk about going to Girona, but end up staying in the city rather than in the midst of the province of Girona and therefore missing out on what are, in my opinion, the best rides and best weather.
Will guests get good sleep and relaxation?
Yes! Just take a look at the glowing testimonials on TripAdvisor!
What facilities do you have?
Our cycling hotel offers 17 en-suite rooms and suites. The suites have fridges as well as BBQ and cooking facilities.
We offer large breakfasts, three course evening dinners and picnic lunches. Special diets are catered for. You can also get sports nutrition meal plans.
There’s a gym/yoga studio, sauna and a 25m long pool.
Secure bike storage
There’s a proper bike room inside the main building on the ground floor. It’s possible to lock your bikes inside it and there’s a keypad entry system. There’s also a bike tool case, track pumps and power points for charging. There’s a bike wash and cleaning area and bike rental.
Coaches and support team
We have been coaching everyone of all ages and abilities since 2006.
Gareth has been coaching since 1997. He is a USA Cycling trained expert level cycling coach, bike fitter and mechanic.
I am a neurophysiologist with a PhD from the University of Cambridge. I am also a trained sports injury therapist and sport masseur and have worked with many pro cyclists and other athletes. I am a yoga and yoga trapeze instructor and specialise in strength, flexibility and breathing for cycling.
We offer coaches or guides by the hour, half day, full day or full week. Self guided includes emergency back up should you have a problem out training.
Or you can book a guided or coached camp. We also have discounted small group Girona cycling camps on specific dates.
Guests are all like minded so many people meet up and ride together.
Other activities available for the non-cycling partner or children or family
We have quite a few guests whose partner prefers activities like horse riding or hiking. They can all enjoy a fantastic trip with us. Our goal is to help people get healthy, fit and happy in the outdoors in a sustainable way.
Best time to come?
Our region is fantastic all year round.
Winter has dry sunny days with amazing views of the snowy mountains. In the past we have had 21˚C on the 1st of January! There can be a frost first thing, but by 10am the sun is up and everything warms up.
February or March are great months for an early season training camps and you can still ride up to the ski station at Val Ter.
In March you can enjoy the Volta Catalunya, one of the oldest stage races or come and enjoy the famous Spring calcotadas, a local organic speciality straight from the fields.
April and May are great for warmer spring training camps and there are local cyclotourist events.
June through August is warmer but we do not get the 40˚C temperatures you might find further south in Spain. You can ride out early in the coolest part of the day at about 20˚C. It shouldn’t be up into the 30’s until around 4pm. So make sure you are back in our 25m pool by 2pm to cool off!
Autumn is beautiful with the changing colours, the food festivals and warm sunny days with the Med and lake still warm enough for swimming up until mid November, when full Autumn/Winter set in with a wet few days.
Mid November to Christmas are usually the cloudiest and coldest six weeks as the days are at their shortest.
What is the food like?
The Province of Girona is a foodies paradise. You’ll find Michelin star restaurants, tapas and local rural hearty cuisine. There are also local organic providers so we can source fantastic local produce.
Here at Mas Pelegri, we are all about freshly cooked authentic Mediterranean cuisine, with vegan and vegetarian options available. We offer a large breakfast with fresh local eggs, yoghurts, cereals, oats, fresh home cooked bread and freshly squeezed juice and fruits. Three course evening dinners are offered using in-season kilometre zero produce were possible. Everything is freshly cooked onsite from individual ingredients. This means special diets are absolutely no problem.
You’ll find espresso coffee, teas, oat milk, bottled water, local wines and artisan beers. Also enjoy picking the figs, mandarines, plums, pomegranates from the onsite trees.
At the time of booking everyone should take out travel insurance to include Covid protection. For a small additional sum extra on a yearly policy, most policies now cover cancellation due to Covid or quarantine if you get Covid.
Lock downs are not covered by our cancellation policy, but we let our guests change dates due to a lock down. 25% deposit taken at booking with the final sum at the end of your stay. Find out more on our website (under Terms and Conditions)
How do you get to us?
Guests sometimes drive but more often take public transport or pre book a transfer with us from a local airport or train station. We have our own nine seater vehicle with a bike trailer and we work with a local company for large group airport transfers.
12. Example Girona cycling routes routes from Hotel Mas Pelegri
At Girona Cycling camps we have 150 routes planned and available for our guests to use.
Access to our routes
We are a small centre run by cyclists for cyclists. This means we have the time to chat with people before they come or at breakfast or evening dinner about what type of routes they would like to do. Some people like to decide on the day while others have their whole camp designed in advance. Sending all the files in advance is the quickest option, but equally training by feel is also important.
We ask people before they come what length and terrain of routes they require and we send them the files in advance. We can email a file or link to a route or we can upload directly to their devices when they are here. Guests who prefer to be more autonomous can access our two Strava accounts, or our RideWithGPS account.
We also have a map folder were guests can take a copy of A4 printouts and we have large maps for people to use.
Seven routes below
Below we have given a small selection of possible routes, to try to give the idea of the different terrain that you can cover from Mas Pelegri and also as a possible plan for a one week camp of mixed routes.
As you’ll see, a range of different route lengths and climbing are available, all with beautiful scenery and great coffee shops and restaurants.
1. Galliners route
Terrain: Rolling countryside
This makes for a great shake down ride at the start of the camp, to make sure the bike is ready.
Allows you to loosen up after travel.
2. Volcanoes 8 route
Terrain: Rolling countryside
Could be used as an active recovery ride. It takes in the gentle hills of the famous Garroxta volcanic national park, great scenery and little traffic.
Or add on Rocacorba to make a 92km ride with 1,800m of climbing.
3. El Mont route
Terrain: Includes steep 1,000m climb
The focus of this route is El Mont, a long testing pro climb.
There’s a 9km warm up and then 21km climb summiting at over 1,000m with amazing views from the top along the Pyrenees across the province of Girona to the Med.
There’s a monastery and restaurant at the top of the climb.
4. Els Angels Girona
Terrain: rolling country into the city (and back)
Rolling countryside into the city, enjoy a specialty coffee with local tapas in one of the famous cycling coffee shops.
5. Cap de Creus route
Terrain: Foothills to coast
Foothills of the Pyrenees to the coast, visit Dali country and enjoy an amazing paella or pizza over looking Cadeques Bay.
6. Val Ter route
Terrain: High Pyrenees
This route makes great Etape du Tour or sportive preparation.
Lots of climbing on good quality, quiet roads with small mountain villages and hearty cuisine.
7. Pyrenees loop into France
Terrain: High Pyrenees
The massive day!
Cross the High Pyrenees into France, descend into a river valley for a quick French baguette lunch in a fortified village before the 13km 750m climb up over the Pyrenees and back over into Catalonia, Spain.
Part 5: Other tips for cycling camps in Spain
To help ensure you get the most from your cycling camp, here are my top tips:
Rest in the week before coming
Try not to have a manic last few days of work and stress before coming away. Do not try to get fitter for the camp in the week before going.
Have a plan
Plan a training schedule for your season working towards your key events or just planning to get fit ready to make the most of your week away. Periodised and planned training.
Get your bike serviced
Make sure your bike is serviced by you or a mechanic at least a week or so before, then ride it again before coming away.
Pack your bike well assuming it will be handled poorly. When you arrive, build your bike and go on a short shake down ride to check everything works well.
If you have a special derailleur hanger, then bring a spare. Sometimes these can get bent or broken in transit.
In many European countries bike shops are shut on a Sunday. Also Covid has caused well-publicised issues with supply chains so it is difficult for shops to get so many bike parts. Going somewhere that has a spare bike just in case something happens means you still get a week of training in. Pros will always train whatever the bike as long as it is safe to ride and is a good fit.
Adjust the training to what works best for you in terms of training. Many training centres have coaches on hand to help you devise the best plan for you for the camp. But also be sensible. If it looks like there will be a gale on a mountain on one planned long ride day, adjust, change the day or change the ride route. Staying accident and injury free is crucial for your long-term training goals.
A big thank you to Fiona for sharing so many valuable insights and tips on planning a bike training camp both generally and specifically in Spain. We hope it inspires you to get planning!
Where will you head for your Spring cycling training camp?
Let us know in the comments below!
Got a question for Fiona?
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