This is a lovely ride that encapsulates what cycling in Catalonia is all about: quiet roads take you through the heart of the Penedes mountains and into the depths of the Costa Daurada’s rural countryside. You’ll enjoy spectacular vistas over the coastal plains, pass vineyards and important monuments such as the 12th Century Cistercian monastery of Santes Creus and the unusual Santuari de Montserrat.
In terms of the demands this ride will make on you, yes it’s going to need some base fitness to tackle those 1,100m of climbing, but it should be achievable by most. You get nearly all the climbing done within the first half of the ride – and gradients are almost universally gradual and benevolent.
All metrics in this article are approximate.
The 57 km from Sant Jaume dels Domenys to Albinyana offers top quality riding with good surfaces and varied scenery. As we’re picking favourites, we’d highlight the first big climb of the day up Ventoses from Sant Jaume dels Domenys: it’s a fun climb and the views near the summit are top class.
Also, the descent from Coll de la Torreta sticks out in our mind: you can build up some cheek-rippling speed (take care!).
1. El Vendrell to summit of Ventoses: 0-17 km
This route starts right in the centre of El Vendrell, in front of the mighty Esglesia Parroquial del Vendrell (the main church). We were there on a Sunday and as the bell tolled, latecomers rushed through the huge doors and disappeared inside. On the other side of the church entrance is a sunny square, where those not at prayer were enjoying the morning sunshine and a chat over a cup of coffee.
From El Vendrell you’re onto the TP-2125, an access road that’s not unpleasant and which is in many ways similar to that from Cambrils into the hills. You pass groves of olive and almond trees as well as sporadic urban development, heading onwards to the hills.
The TP-2125 takes you through Sant Jaume dels Domenys and it’s here you notice the road start to rise. From the town to the summit it’s around 7.5 km at an average gradient around 4.5%. You climb out of the town, and it feels like you’re now leaving civilisation and getting to the adventure. You follow the road along a valley before it gets steeper and you’re climbing up tighter turns. As you get higher you get some sustained sections that have outstanding views across the plains.
Enjoy those because the summit itself is unremarkable. We think it’s called Ventoses – but there’s no summit sign.
2. Ventoses summit to Santes Creus: 17 to 42 km
There follows a fun descent, through woods, to the tiny hamlet of El Pla de Manlleu. You cross the river and then it’s a gentle 6 kilometre climb (average gradient 3%) through pine forest, along the valley with craggy peaks to your left.
You turn left onto the larger TV-2441 and the final 3.5 kilometres to the top are lumpy. You also pass the odd bit of strangely incongruous residential housing – which are part of the villages of Bonany and Can Llenas. As you pass the Can Llenas leaving sign, there’s a sign warning you about wildlife in the road for the next kilometre and you’re back on a straight road through countryside until the brown summit sign rises to greet you.
You swoop down the other side in a fantastic, twisty 10km descent down to Santes Creus.
3. Santes Creus to El Vendrell: 42 to 74 km
Santes Creus is home to the region’s famous monastery. It’s a small village whose quiet streets offer a nice place to stop for a rest and a café stop. If you’re with family who like to explore this kind of building, you could always meet them here.
After Santes Creus, the road rises and you get some great views back through the trees to the monastery. Then it’s relatively flat, straight roads passing fields with vivid red soil, ancient towns like Vila-Rodona as well as some unusual modern art statues and the incredible Santuari de Montserrat, a Gaudi-style gem of a chapel.
You climb up back into forest and are then onto narrower roads on the TV-2041. This offers a great descent down past olive groves and vineyards to the pretty village of Bonastre.
From Bonastre you climb on a tiny narrow road that takes you up and over a pass (the last 600m are an out of the saddle job at 8% average). It’s a lovely road in a valley that time forgot, all scrub, squat trees and ramshackle terraces. From the pass there’s another kilometre of lumps and then a great 3km descent down to the village of Albinyana, which is where you finally come back to reality.
You join the main road, the C-51, that rolls you back down into El Vendrell.
In the 30km between Sant Jaume dels Domenys and Santes Creus monastery you pass a few small villages, and could probably divert to a few more, but it is pretty rural. Come prepared.
We enjoyed coffee and fresh orange juice in Santes Creus and from here there are more obviously villages you could refuel at. The ride also passes a Repsol garage at around kilometre 49.
We were based west of El Vendrell, on the coast at Cambrils (you can find out about where we stayed in the accommodation section of our guide to the region). It’s about 53 kilometres from Cambrils to El Vendrell, a 40 minute drive.
Read our tips for cycling the Costa Daurada before you go.
We spotted a bike shop in El Vendrell, Tot’s Bikes. It wasn’t open when we were there on a Sunday so we haven’t been able to check it out, but they may be able to help if you run into any mechanical issues.
If you’re driving to El Vendrell to start the ride, it’s worth knowing that you can’t park your car at the exact start of the ride – it’s the church square and roads in this area are (just about) passable by cars but you couldn’t park here. Instead, you could find a car park a bit further out or park your car at the finish of the ride – we saw some car parking spaces here.
Relative to the area, we saw a lot of other cyclists and many motorbikes on the first climb of the day to Ventoses. That could have been because we were there on a Sunday or it could be because it’s just one of the more popular roads in the region. Take care.
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