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Discovering Rocacorba: Girona’s Hidden Gem for Cyclists

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Nestled within the stunning landscapes of Costa Brava and the Pyrénées, Girona stands as a serene sanctuary for professional cyclists. For nearly two decades, its tranquil roads and ideal temperatures have made it a prime spot for those looking to hone their skills. This medieval town is more than just a picturesque location; it’s a haven for cycling enthusiasts.

Rocacorba literally means “folded rock,” and you’ll get that same sensation if you push too hard up the early parts of this climb!

Europe’s Pro Havens: A Comparative Overview

Girona is part of an elite group of European “pro havens,” each with its unique test grounds. Nice is famous for the Col de la Madone, and Lucca for the Monte Serra. Girona, however, offers something different with its hidden gem, the Rocacorba climb.

The Allure of Santuari de Rocacorba

Just 20 kilometers north of Girona’s old town lies the 12th-century Santuari de Rocacorba, near the summit of a less renowned but equally enchanting climb. Its historical and cultural significance adds to its allure, making it a cherished route for many cyclists.

Setting Off from Banyoles

The journey to Rocacorba begins in the peaceful lakeside town of Banyoles. The Aquarium cafe, a frequent spot for David Millar and other cyclists, marks the start of this memorable climb. Banyoles is most famous for the Lake of Banyoles, a natural lake renown for fishing.

This is the best place to top off before or after the climb.

The Journey Begins: Pujarnol to Matamors River

From Banyoles, the route heads towards Pujarnol, where the first sign for Rocacorba can be spotted. The climb officially starts after crossing the Matamors river, marking the beginning of a challenging ascent.

Are you ready?

Mastering Rocacorba’s Shifting Gradients

The climb spans 13.8 kilometers with an average gradient of 6.5%. The key to mastering Rocacorba lies in strategically attacking the easier sections while conserving energy for the steeper parts.

Reaching the Summit: The Final Push

As you near the summit, the sight of radio masts signals the end of the climb. The effort is rewarded with spectacular views, a testament to the climb’s allure and challenge.

Rocacorbas Climbing Video

Accommodations and Rest Stops in Girona

Girona, a haven for cyclists, is not just famous for its challenging routes and scenic beauty but also for its welcoming accommodations and rest stops that cater specifically to the needs of cycling enthusiasts. Whether you’re in town for a few days of intensive training or a leisurely exploration of the region’s roads and trails, finding the right place to stay and rest is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Here’s a guide to some of the best cyclist-friendly accommodations and rest stops in Girona:

1. Bike Breaks Girona Cycle Centre

Located in the heart of Girona, Bike Breaks Girona Cycle Centre is more than just a hotel. It’s a hub for cyclists, offering not only accommodation but also bike rentals, guided tours, and a well-equipped workshop. The rooms are comfortable and tailored to meet the needs of cyclists, including secure bike storage and a laundry service for cycling gear.

2. Hotel Nord 1901

This elegant hotel is a perfect blend of luxury and cyclist-friendly amenities. Situated close to Girona’s historic center, it offers easy access to popular cycling routes. Hotel Nord 1901 provides spacious rooms, a relaxing garden terrace, and a swimming pool to unwind after a long day of riding.

3. La Bruguera de Púbol

For those looking for a more secluded retreat, La Bruguera de Púbol is an excellent choice. Nestled in the countryside, this eco-resort offers a tranquil environment, ideal for relaxation and recovery. They provide tailored nutrition for athletes, massage services, and guided mindfulness sessions for a holistic cycling holiday.

4. Els Angels Hotel & Restaurant

Els Angels, located just a few kilometers from Girona, offers a unique blend of comfort and rustic charm. Known for its excellent restaurant, this hotel is a great spot for cyclists looking to refuel with delicious local cuisine. The hotel also offers bike storage and a workshop space.

5. Can Cocollona B&B

Can Cocollona is a charming bed and breakfast known for its friendly atmosphere and artistic flair. It’s a budget-friendly option that doesn’t compromise on comfort, providing secure bike storage, a communal kitchen, and a cozy lounge area.

Rest Stops and Cafes

  • The Service Course: A well-known cafe and bike shop, ideal for a coffee break and a quick bike check-up.
  • Federal Café Girona: Offers a relaxed atmosphere and a menu packed with healthy, energy-boosting options.
  • Café Le Bistrot: Located in the old town, this cafe is a favorite among local cyclists for its ambiance and excellent pastries.

Local Bike Shops for Quick Repairs

  • Girona Cycle Centre: Offers comprehensive bike repair services and a wide range of cycling accessories.
  • CicloTurisme: They provide not only repair services but also bike rentals and guided tours.

Rocacorba Cycling: FAQs

What is the best time of year to cycle Rocacorba?

The ideal time to cycle Rocacorba is during spring (March to June) and autumn (September to November). During these months, the weather in Girona is mild and pleasant, offering comfortable cycling conditions. The summer months can be quite hot, making the climb more challenging, while winter might see colder temperatures and occasional rain.

How does Rocacorba compare to other climbs in Europe?

Rocacorba is a unique climb in Europe, offering a blend of challenging gradients and breathtaking views. While it may not have the same fame as climbs like Mont Ventoux or the Stelvio Pass, it’s a favorite among professional cyclists for its quiet roads and consistent gradients. Its 13.8 kilometers length with an average gradient of 6.5% presents a formidable challenge, comparable to some of the more renowned climbs in Europe.

What preparation is required for tackling Rocacorba?

Preparation for Rocacorba should include both physical training and mental readiness. Physically, focus on building endurance and climbing skills. Interval training and hill repeats can be particularly beneficial. Mentally, prepare for the climb’s challenging sections and have a strategy for pacing yourself. Also, ensure your bike is in good condition, and consider bringing nutrition and hydration for the ride.

Can beginners attempt the Rocacorba climb?

Yes, beginners can attempt the Rocacorba climb, but it’s important to approach it with realistic expectations. It’s a challenging ascent, so beginners should focus on pacing themselves and enjoying the experience rather than pushing for speed. It’s recommended to have a solid base of cycling fitness and some experience with hill climbing.

What are the must-visit spots in Girona for cyclists?

For cyclists, Girona offers several must-visit spots:

  • The Old Town: With its historic charm, it’s a great place to explore post-ride.
  • The Walls of Girona: Offering panoramic views of the city.
  • Café Le Bistrot: A popular spot among cyclists for a coffee or meal.
  • The Service Course: A cyclist hub for community and bike services.
  • River Ter: Riding along this river provides scenic routes and a tranquil experience.

Are there any cycling groups in Girona to join?

Yes, there are several cycling groups in Girona that welcome both local and visiting cyclists. These include:

  • Girona Cycling Club: Offers group rides and events.
  • Velo Club Rocacorba: Founded by David Millar, suitable for a range of abilities.
  • Bike Breaks Girona Cycle Centre: Organizes weekly group rides and cycling events. Joining these groups can provide a social aspect to your cycling experience in Girona, along with valuable local insights.

Conclusion: Embracing the Journey Up Rocacorba

The Rocacorba climb in Girona is not just a cycling route; it’s a journey that tests your limits and rewards you with unique experiences. Embrace this adventure, savor each moment, and let the enchanting town of Girona leave a lasting impression on your cyclist’s heart.

ps: here’s some reading research you can do!

David Millar, with a professional cycling career spanning 18 years, has become synonymous with Rocacorba. His books “Racing Through the Dark” and “The Racer” chronicle his journey, highlighting his deep connection to this climb and the creation of Velo Club Rocacorba.