Girona is a mecca for pro cyclists. Head there and you’ll be hard pressed not to spot any pros out training.
Today we catch up with Adrià Moreno, a talented cyclist who calls the cycling routes around Girona home. Adrià has lived in this special corner of Catalunya all his life – other than when he’s been away tackling top races like Le Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc, Tour Alsace, and Tour de Yorkshire.
Here Adrià shares the best places to cycle to the northwest of Girona, near Olot.
If you want to get away from the well-worn routes, if you’re looking for the kind of routes currently reserved for locals, you need to read Adrià’s tips. Enjoy!
1. Where in Catalunya are you based and why should cyclists visit?
I am from Olot, a small city between mountains and (dormant) volcanoes, about 50 kilometres north-west of Girona.
Map showing Girona and Olot, Catalunya. For routes closer to Girona, check this guide.
Olot is in the perfect place, at 50 km from the 2,100m high Vallter ski station, and 60 km from the beach.
The small region is called La Garrotxa, and it is very well known in Catalunya for the nature that we have, the colours of the forest in autumn, the flowers fields in spring, and maybe for the the rain… Everybody says that it rains a lot in Olot. I don’t totally agree, but – if it is true – this is the reason why we have green vegetation everywhere.
For cycling, this part of Catalunya is one of the best places you can visit and ride. You can find different kinds of climbs from Olot and you don’t need to ride too many miles to climb all of them. There’s no traffic, smooth tarmac, nice views on the top, and, after the ride, you can find a lot of places for eat and fuel your body with the best regional gastronomy specialities.
2. What’s the most famous cycling climb/route in the area?
When the weather is good, the most popular route is one called Oix-Beget (this is the name of two stone villages). It’s on quiet, narrow roads, with three nice climbs in a row (each climb increases in difficulty). The road crosses through the Natural Park of Alta Garrotxa, there are two small villages between the mountains with beautiful, historical monasteries and there are also restaurants for great coffee and food. Here’s a link to the GPX for the route:
As for climbs, I would say the ski station of Vallter2000 is very famous. It’s at the end of the Volta Catalunya every year. From Olot, it’s around 50 km away, and first you climb Capsacosta, a quiet climb around 5% perfectly for warm up the legs to attack the Vallter climb. The Vallter finishes with ten bends and an incredible views of the eastern Pyreenes. You need to pace yourself well, because you climb from the bottom of Capsacosta to the top of Vallter over 41km at an average gradient of 4.1% – so it is a challenge.
On the way down to Olot, there is a secret climb on a cement road that goes to the moor of Can Plata. It’s really steep and at the top you are riding past green fields, cows, and a nice views of Ripolles and Garrotxa.
3. What’s your favourite cycling climb in the Garrotxa area?
Everyone that knows me knows my absolute favourite climb – it’s known to local cyclists as La Cantina (see map below). In fact, it’s not really the nicest climb around here in the proper sense, but I use it a lot in winter because you climb in the sun over the 12km ascent. Also, when you descend to the bottom you are in Olot, so if you finish your training climbing La Cantina and then bonk, you’re soon home!
In summer I like Santuari del Far (see map below). Most of the climb is shaded by trees, and at the top you can find a restaurant and coffee place with some of the best views of the province of Girona. Really close to the top, if you continue on the main road around 6 kms you arrive in Rupit. It’s a stone village, and I’d 100% recommend a visit.
If I’m preparing for a climbing stage race, I like the La Creueta climb (see map below). It’s around 50 km from Olot. It’s a 20 km climb where the first 10km is on a narrow and quiet road (see the photo below), until you arrive Castellar de n’Hug. If you’re short of energy, you can stop there for the biggest croissants ever! Or you can continue on a big road without trees for the altitude, until the top where you have views from the both sides, one of the Pyrenees and on the other basically half of the north of Catalunya.
4. What’s the best climb/route that not many people know about in your area?
There are some really hard climbs that nobody usually tackles – and for this reason they are hardly known.
I would say Collfred is one of the hardest climbs in Girona: you need a good gear
ratio for this climb. In the first part you can find ramps of 20% – the first kilometre averages 14%! After climbing this quiet and narrow road, you arrive at Santa Maria de Besora. Turn right and you can continue on a cement road for 15 km to a main road that connects Ripoll to Olot and you can climb back over the other
side of Cantina that is just 5km.
It’s really quiet on this route, and it’s one to enjoy and not rush. I have only done it a few times in my life. It’s very hard and it’s extremely tiring to ride on uneven roads that leave your arms shaking!
Map showing the five climbs Adrià mentions in this article. Click on the flag for the name of the climb.
5. What are your best tips for people cycling in your area for the first time?
Make sure you have charged your phone before you set out as you’re bound to take a lot of pictures from the top of the mountains!
Also have patience during the 40 minute to 1 hour long climbs.
Don’t worry about finding water here in summer, there are plenty of natural water taps for drink, during the climbs or in the stone villages.
6. Are there any really good coffee/bar/café stops in your area?
There are a lot of great places to stop for coffee, drinks or eat. One of the best coffee
places in Girona is in Olot: Nabila café makes a really nice coffee and vegan cakes, and the café is very comfortable.
I also like La Cooperativa in La Parcelaria (a place of flat roads close to Olot). It has nice views of the La Garrotxa mountains and you can eat a good pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato) with the best meat products from La Garrotxa.
Also look out for a “bocadillo de tortilla” (omelette sandwich). They’re a big part of the local cycling culture here and help fuel your body with protein.
7. Is there anything that visitors shouldn’t miss?
I’d really recommend taking a hike to Montsacopa volcano. It’s just a short walk, with stairs to the top of a volcano, and you can see from there 360º views of Olot and La Garrotxa. If you can’t bear to be off the bike, you can also climb up by bike – on the other side there is small road, but it’s got a 15% average over 300m!
8. What can non-cycling partners do in your area?
Hiking in la Fageda d’en Jorda is very popular in autumn; it’s an outstanding beech grove forest and in autumn there’s a beautiful mix of browns, orange and yellows that is amazing to see. If you are too lazy to walk, you can go with a horse carriage. Another popular way to see it is to fly with a balloon.
Hiking in the Pyrenees is also popular. In one hour, you can get to the bottom of some 2900m-3000m mountains like Puigmal.
If you visit in summer, visit the small rivers and waterfalls around La Garrotxa for a refreshing dip!
9. What’s the best place to stay?
I would say Hotel Vall de Bas. It’s a high class hotel and from there you can climb all the mountains that I mentioned before. It’s very well connected on the road and quiet, in the middle of the countryside. A lot of teams of different disciplines use this hotel for prepares the season.
10. When’s the best time to visit?
The spring is a pretty time of year to visit, all green and fresh after some short afternoon rain from the day before – but it doesn’t rain every day. Or come in autumn, where the leaves of the trees are turning. Winter is a bit less good, but it is still nice to see the snow on the Pyrenees and summer sometimes is really warm if
a heat wave hits.
I could write thousands of words about routes and places, but I always say, it is better an image or the experience than a million words. Come and visit and see for yourself!
Big thanks to Adriá for sharing his experience of the best cycling routes around Girona. We need to go back!
Want more inspiration for cyling around Girona?
Check out our guides to Girona: our ultimate guide to cycling Girona is the best place to start, but we also have a host of route guides and tips too – all accessible from the ultimate guide.
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