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NON-STOP FROM THE PYRENEES TO THE SEA
A GRAVEL TOUR WITH JOSÉ HERMIDA
The freedom a bicycle gives you never stops amazing me. After many years of riding and racing, it’s something I still keep discovering. During the long lockdown in Spain, I knew that when I could finally ride outdoors again, only a proper adventure would do to celebrate, so I planned a 200 km trip from my home in the mountains to the sea, exploring the side roads and dirt trails I’d never ridden before. While training schedules and a racing calendar dominated my professional career, my ‘retirement’ has given me many opportunities to dive into little adventures and just ride for fun. I still ride a lot and can’t properly shake a training regime (old habits die hard) and I still enjoy long days in the saddle. But what certainly has changed is that I appreciate far more today, what freedom a bike can give you.
06:00 | HOME TOWN IN THE PYRENEES
THE LAST PREPARATIONS BEFORE THE FUN STARTS
The first lockdown in Spain was long and tough, with outside exercise being heavily restricted. But when the summer came, and things loosened up, I was super keen to exploit that freedom and combine a big day in the saddle with exploring the trail unknown. What better bike could I have in my arsenal than the Silex, which combines fast and comfortable rolling on tarmac with impressive trail capabilities, when taken off-road? While planning my ‘big day out’ I looked at lots of options and eventually settled on riding my bike from my home town in the Pyrenees all the way to the coastal town of Sant Feliu de Guixols (Tossa de Mar) at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.
As I had ridden the route on my Scultura road bikes many times before, I had a good idea of the basic layout, but doing it on the Silex gave me the chance to divert off the tarmac whenever possible. Whenever I did it on asphalt, I always noticed smaller roads, trails and cycle lanes that run parallel, which made me dream of doing the same route but adding these exciting off-road elements. I am a mountain biker, after all. While the pure road route is already breathtakingly beautiful, adding these diversions would let me dive into the landscape even more. I was excited to discover all these little pockets, which I never paid much attention to in the past when I was completely focused on percentages, watts, cadence and interval times.
07:45 | EL RIPOLLES
GETTING INTO THE SWING OF THINGS - LEAVING THE PYRENEES MOUNTAINS BEHIND
The days before my trip, I fitted a saddle pack and a frame bag to the Silex which allowed me to take sufficient food, clothing, lights and everything else you need for a non-stop 200 km+ ride. I knew that I had to have an early start to have plenty of daylight on my side to cover the 221 km long route. An early night was needed, and with the excitement of my ‘cycling adventure’ looming, it felt similar to the days when I was nervously getting ready for a big race. The morning came, and I hit the road. A crisp summer morning required an extra layer, but after the legs started warming up, I felt super excited that the ‘big day out’ had finally begun. The initial kilometres flew by, and I quickly found my rhythm, which gave me the chance to take in the variety and beauty of the passing countryside.
It wasn’t long before I crossed the historic Gothic-style bridge from the year 1138 in the town of Sant Joan de les Abadesse which is located on the very edge of the Pyrenees. This gave me the feeling that I had covered some ground already and that one of my ‘checkpoints’ was now behind me. Rolling out of town, I found myself in the central area of the province of Girona, which is famous for its natural beauty and volcanoes, near the town of Olot. Doing the route on the Silex gave me the opportunity to get more into the culture and the hidden detail of the towns. It also allowed me to discover paths as interesting as the Via Verda Lane, a gravel route that takes you towards the coast through some breathtaking countryside. The route used to be a railway line which was used to transport textiles from the industries that were located in the valleys of the Pyrenees to the coast.
17:00 | GIRONA
COFFEE, HISTORY AND THE ICONIC TOSSA DE MAR COAST ROAD PERFECTLY COMBINED
Using the Via Verda made me discover the magnificent and well-known cycling city of Girona, a real highlight of my trip. It left a lasting impression dominated by its historic cathedral, its historical centre, the many restaurants and coffee shops and the vibrant cycling culture. Entering the final stage of my trip, I started to feel a sense of accomplishment, which once again reminded me of my racing days. Linking the Pyrenees with the Mediterranean Sea and finally dipping your toes into the saltwater, is one of the most enriching and accessible things that can be done. The exact route details of my trip were: distance 221 km, 147 km flat, 30 km of climbing, 44 km of descending, a mix of asphalt and gravel roads as well as the Via Verda which is compacted sand. The overall trip time, which included a few coffee breaks was 9 h 25 mins, with a riding time 7 h 45 mins. I hope this might inspire you to plan your own little or big cycling adventure and discover the experience of seeing the world around you from the saddle of your bike.
19:30 | SANT FELIU DE GUIXOLS (MEDITERRANEAN SEA)
CROSSING THE FINISH LINE TO DIP MY TOES INTO TH SEA