This is one of the toughest loops there is from Girona, thanks to the notorious Mare de Déu del Mont climb. But what a beautiful climb it is: super quiet, narrow and with fabulous views over the whole region.
Like Rocacorba, the climb is a popular testing ground for the pros and with good reason: from Cabanelles it’s 18km with an average 5.4% gradient and pitches up to 14%. Top Strava times are around 50 minutes – not for the faint-hearted!
Getting to and from the climb is no hardship. It incorporates the sort of quiet, rolling countryside of which every cyclist dreams.
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Mare de Déu del Mont is the undisputed highlight of this ride. It’s quiet, there are spectacular views as you get higher and you get a real sense of achievement from conquering it. The descent is fun too!
1. Girona to Cabanelles: 0-44 km
Once clear of Girona, it’s all quiet lanes and rolling fields dotted with small copses and stone villages. It feels very rural, and there’s little by way of refreshments en route: make sure your water bottles are full, and you have plenty of food before you set out!
The little village of Esponella marks the start of the out and back leg up to Mare de Déu del Mont. There’s a bit of up and down from there until you reach the start of the climb outside the village of Cabanelles, just after you cross over the main road (the N-260).
2. Cabanelles to Cabanelles (via Mare de Déu del Mont): 44-81 km
From the turn off to Mare de Déu del Mont, the road pitches up. Gradients are gentle on average (5.4% overall), but there are steeper sections dotted throughout the climb, particularly in the last few kilometres…
Most of the climb is in pretty forest, but at around kilometre 59, when you’re about 3.5km from the top, you start to get glimpses of far-reaching views through gaps in the trees. You pass the almost hidden Sant Llorenc monastery and a few hundred metres on, you may see the Santuari de la Mare de Déu del Mont looming up above you, like a fortress. It’s a bit of a daunting sight as you speculate how far you still have to climb.
In the last kilometre or so, the trees disappear entirely and you are rewarded with incredible views. Whether you have the energy to enjoy them or not will depend on where you are on the suffer-scale. Gradients in the last 2.5km hit an average of 9.2% with pitches up to 14%.
Once you’re at the top, don’t miss the 360 view from the Santuari Mare de Déu del Mont. There’s a bar too if you’re in need of a rest.
Take care on the descent; it’s steep and narrow.
3. Esponella to Girona: 88-120 km
There are a few steep lumps and a short 2km stretch on a dual carriageway on the return to Girona. But other than those, it’s generally an easy ride home on tiny backroads.
The lake at Banyoles is a particular delight and, if you’re in need of refreshment, one of the lakeside cafés is sure to oblige.
This ride takes you through rural countryside where refreshment opportunities are sporadic.
You don’t want to be riding Mare de Déu del Mont on an empty tank, so hopefully, these suggestions help:
- 37 and 88km: Esponella: Forn de Pa Esteve Bosch Sabater – a small artisan bakery with a long name! It’s just on the right as you turn up the GIP-5121 towards Mare de Déu del Mont.
- 43.5 and 81.5km: Gas Station Cepsa – basic but will provide the refuel you need if you’re flagging.
- 62.5km: Restaurant Bar Hostatgeria Mare de Déu del Mont – at the summit.
- 97km: Banyoles – choose a lakeside café. The Aquarium is David Millar’s café of choice.
We did this ride from our base at Hotel Nord 1901, a family-owned boutique hotel in central Girona. It served us well, and we’d recommend it for this ride.
There are more accommodation suggestions in our pick of the best places for cyclists to stay in Girona/Girona province.
Tips for Mare De Déu Del Mont
We noticed that there is a turnoff two-thirds of the way up Mare de Déu del Mont. It takes you through a town called Beuda and could be an interesting route for the descent/an alternative ascent. We’ll explore it on our next trip. If you’ve done it, let us know!
Read our tips for cycling in Girona before you set out.
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Don’t miss our other ride guides on the area: find them in the related rides section, above.
Check out our complete guide to planning a cycling holiday in Girona and other articles on Girona, below.
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