Caffeine and Cycliste-Girona -Sant Hilari part 1

The Catalonian city of Girona is situated 100km northeast of Barcelona.The city is enriched in cultural history.The first inhabitants of this regions were the Iberians in 79 BC.Later the Romans came and built a citadel there which was given the name Gerunda.

Girona might not be on the top of your cycling list for places to visit.Compared to the popular places like the islands of Mallorca,Tenerife or Lanzarotte,don't be mistaken this place is a haven for cyclists.Girona is a hub where most of the pros call home throughout the year.The roads out of the city are smooth and silky. It has glorious weather for most of the year and situated conveniently to travel around Europe. We were fortunate enough to have a professional cyclist take us round and show us this absolutely stunning city.With the old town situated over the river Onyar,its endless maze of cobbled backstreets take you back in time.

Girona was our base for the week as we were doing a photoshoot.But if I'm going to be honest,it was just an excuse to escape the hustle and bustle of normal life. I then joined a few friends to go on an amazing adventure and experience of the city.

We arrived late on our first evening and arranged to meet in the old town square which comes alive at night. It is like an amphitheatre of colours and noises, buzzing with people in cafes and bars. A perfect setting for us to grab a drink and discuss the next day's ride.

The next morning we were up at 5am even before the sun had graced us with its presence.We rolled down the cobbled streets and met at the patisserie,to the smell of freshly baked croissants.After a few espressos,we headed out to join the Katusha ride,50km loop through the countryside.Two kilometres out of the city, you are greeted by luscious green surroundings.It's a paradise to explore on these smooth country roads.Through the trees you see fellow cyclists out exploring on the gravel roads,which takes you away from civilisation into 100's of kilometers of Girona's gravel roads.

This was just supposed to be a 50km spin joining Katusha before we headed out scouting for photoshoot locations.Our photographer convinced us to go for a little spin afterwards up a well known climb called Sant Hilari.So off we went through the stunning countryside with the sun beating down on us.As we got closer to the bottom of the climb,our photographer told us we still had 26 more kilometres to get to the top of the climb.So much for a short spin up a local climb.Honestly, myself and the guys weren't prepared for a 160km ride with a 26km climb.We only had one water bottle each, no food and the next cafe was at the top of the climb.It was going to be a churn to the top.So we decided to stick together to pace ourselves.

In typical fashion, sticking together only lasted 10km before the fireworks was ignited.Our tight knit group exploded across the climb.Unlike other climbs where you are in the baking heat, Sant Hilari is a gradual climb averaging 2.6% shrouded by acres of forests.It incases you in this indigenous cocoon.There are no cars,the only sound you hear is your deep breathing and the wind whispering through the trees, and the calming sound of a river flowing down the mountain.Eight kilometres to go,the inevitable happens.That feeling we've all experienced hitting 'The Wall'.You start to run on just fumes as the reserve tank slowly empties and all you can think of is the cafe stop.The reward at the end,devouring enough food to feed a small country,inhaled with gallons of Origina and Haribo's.Come on,we've all been in this position motivating ourselves.

As you drift up the climb, you are greeted by ruins on the side of the road overgrown by moss.I'm always fascinated by the historical architecture.With a few kilometres to go,I get a glimpse of the town.The first sign of civilisation in almost 24km. We've ridden 120km on one bottle of water,a croissant and 2 espressos's. The tank is depleted.Up ahead,I spot some of my friends at the cafe near the end of the road.Finally we can demolish whatever is available on the menu.I settle on huevo y queso quesadilla while waiting for the rest of our mates to arrive.We all made sure we were fully fuelled, ready for our 45km ride home.Ahead was a lovely winding decent, one short climb and a very fast run into Girona's old town for beers as we watch the sun set over the Onyar river.