Ultimate guide to cycling in Girona
Visiting the ‘playground of the pros’? Here are all the best climbs, routes, cafes and more.
When Lance Armstrong moved to Girona in 2000, seeking a quiet haven to train from, the small town just outside Barcelona was unknown in the cycling world. Since then, it’s become the base of pro teams, and the home of much of the pro peloton. Service courses have popped up in the outskirts of the town, various cycling cafes have popped up within the city’s ancient streets, and with every season, more and more riders are heading there. Great roads, great weather, great coffee: this place is made for cyclists.
If you’re wondering how to plan your own trip to Girona, read on. We’ve gathered all the information you need to plan a perfect trip to Catalonia’s cycling hub. We’ll fill you in on when is best to visit, what you should take, where to stay, and, of course, where to ride. Plus, a few extras you definitely don’t want to miss while you’re there.
For the full low-down on all things Girona, make sure to watch our Cycling Heartlands: Girona documentary on GCN+. We sent Mitch Docker back to the city he lived and trained in to uncover the culture and characters that make Girona so unique.
When to visit
The most popular seasons to visit Girona are spring and autumn. Between March and June, and between September and November, the temperature is perfect for riding. In these months, expect highs of about 20-25ºC, and only a few days of rainfall a month.
In the summer, it gets pretty hot: it peaks at about 30ºC in the hottest months of the year, which might take a bit of getting used to. However, with some acclimatisation, these temperatures can be absolutely fine to ride in. Perhaps the biggest turn off for visiting at the height of summer is the increased traffic on the roads. Girona and the Costa Brava are popular for non-cyclists too, so you’ll be sharing the roads with tourist traffic.
Increasingly, pro cyclists are choosing to live in Girona year round, and that’s due in no small part to the good weather even in the depths of winter. Granted, it’s hardly tropical in the colder months: in the winter it can get chilly, and rarely rises above 14ºC, but being Spain, even in winter there’s usually no more than ten days of rainfall a month.
How to get there
One of the reasons that Girona has become so popular with professional cyclists from all over the world is because it’s so easy to get to and from. The city has its own airport only 12.5km away from the centre, which connects with regular direct flights to major European airports during spring, summer and autumn. For even more options for flights, there’s Barcelona airport, which is only 100km away, either by car or taxi, or on the train.
Alternatively, since Girona is on the mainland, you can get there by land - drive there, take the train, or even make a real cycling tour out of it and go by bike.
Where to stay
Stay in the city for the quaint buildings and pro cycling hubbub
The heart of this cycling hub is the old town of Girona itself. This is where you’ll find the bike shops, the cafes and the bars, all of which will be frequented by gaggles of cyclists. When looking for accommodation, the old town is the place to be. Not only is it incredibly beautiful, but it’s the real core of the city, and everything you might need will be accessible within a few minutes walk.
If the city hubbub isn’t your thing, there are loads of accommodation options that are more peaceful and out of the way. An ideal destination for cyclists is Rocacorba Cycling, a cycling-specific serviced accommodation run by top pro Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. Based in an historic farm just north of Girona, Moolman Pasio’s site has everything a cyclist would need, and is only a couple of kilometres from the base of Rocacorba, the most famous climb in the area.
What to take
Whether you bring your own bike or not really is up to you. Since Girona has become a popular destination for cyclists in recent years, a whole host of bike shops, hire shops and guiding companies have sprung up. High-quality bikes for every discipline and every kind of rider are available. Just make sure you book before you set off to secure the right bike in the right size for you. Where to hire a bike in Girona:
No matter how good the hire bikes might be, a lot of us would rather spend our time riding our own steed. If you choose to bring your own, just check that your accommodation is bike friendly before you book, and factor in a bike box when booking taxis and transfers. We’ve gone through everything you need to know about travelling with your bike in this video.
When it comes to packing your cycling kit, the main thing is to check the forecast before you go and pack with that in mind. The weather conditions will vary depending on the time of year. Generally speaking, though, unless you’re heading to Girona in winter, summer cycling kit with some extra layers for cooler mornings or higher altitudes will suffice.
Girona’s iconic climbs
Based in the heart of Catalonia, Girona is surrounded by a whole host of beautiful and enjoyable climbs. Here’s some that you shouldn’t miss if you’re heading over for a visit.
Mitch Docker and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio take on Rococorba
Average gradient: 6%
The most famous climb in the area. A favourite training ride for pros, with beautiful views of the Pyrénées and the surrounding area from the top.
Average gradient: 4%
An varied climb only a few minutes from the city. Twisty, changeable and testing, it weaves through a beautiful forest to the cross that marks the summit.
Mare de Deu del Mont
Average gradient: 5%
A long climb with scenery that opens up as you break from the trees towards the top, giving beautiful views of the valley.
Sant Hilari Sacalm
Average gradient: 2.5%
A gentle climb that’s perfect for power efforts or structured training. It’s a classic training climb for locals.
Our Girona Cycling Heartlands documentary on GCN+ is full of insights about this bucket-list cycling city. Here are some of the places we visited in the documentary that are worth seeking out.
Pont de Pedra
Pont de Petra: the starting point for pro riders' training rides
The classic meeting place of WorldTour pros from days gone by. Whether the ride was going to the coast or to the mountains, in the noughties, this bridge was the starting point. On this bridge, the likes of Lance Armstrong, Christian Vande Velde and Floyd Llandis met up and set off.
Christian Meier’s La Fabrica
La Fabrica is owned and ran by ex-pro cyclist turned coffee aficionado, Christian Meier
Christian Meier is a true Girona veteran. He moved to the town as part of Team Slipstream in 2008, and became one of the first small group of pro riders living and training there. Over time, he saw that the city was becoming a true cycling haven, and decided to set in roots. Christian and his wife opened their first coffee shop, La Fabrica, opened in 2015, and they’ve since opened Espresso Mafia and The Service Course too. The cycling cafe scene in Girona has grown and expanded since then, but La Fabrica is the most famous, so no trip would be complete without a visit.
Secret map of Paris
A nod to one of the most famous destinations in cycling, hidden among Girona's ancient streets
At some point in the 20th century, a shop owner decided to paint a map of Paris onto the ceiling above their shop entrance, near the Eiffel bridge. Years on, this clever bit of marketing has taken on a new significance, as the city has become the home to pros who spend their days dreaming of rolling down the Champs-Élysées. Can you spot it?
Explore our extensive collection of exclusive and original cycling documentaries over on GCN+, linked here.