"It's all enormous. It's all incredible. In the end we managed to win finals. We won this one after suffering a lot and now it's time to celebrate."

--Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso.
This fits. The only thing that I'd add is that suffering on a bike is cause for celebration.

The Plan

Hola mes amis. That's right, Spanish and French in the same sentence.

Once again this summer Selena and I are off on another adventure. This time we've got three weeks in France and Spain planned. Should be great!

The plan goes like this:
>fly into Barcelona on Saturday, July 18
>rent a car and travel to the Hautes-Pyrénées in France on July 19 where we will be camping by the roadside for 3 nights
>catch Stage 16 (July 20) of the Tour de France on the famous Col d'Aubisque
>enjoy the Tour's Rest day by cycling my guts out around the Haute-Pyrenees (July 21) and challenging some of the most famous cols (climbs) of the Tour de France
>catch Stage 17 (July 22) of the Tour on the famous Col du Tourmalet, which will be the stage finish
>Enjoy July 23 somewhere in France hopefully cycling around copious grapes and doing significant sampling ;)
>Spend a week (July 24-31) living in an apartment in Girona, Spain (Cataluña Province), the European home-base of a majority of the North American contingent of the pro peloton (that's pro bike riders for you non-roadies :)
>PS Our great friends Rod and Deanna Rawding will be joining us for the week in Girona. So what will the week look like, you ask? Let's just say that Rod and I will spend as much time riding the training routes of the pros as we can get away with; Selena and Deanna will run often and enjoy the beaches of the Costa Brava; and altogether we will enjoy the cafes and tapas bars daily
>On July 31 we will say adios to our pals and to Girona and once again rent a car and spend our last five days touring the Costa Brava
>fly home Thursday, August 5

As per usual, I'd like to share as much of the experience with all of you as possible via this little blog, so as with the past two summers, please check in on us as much as possible and do drop us a comment to let us know that you were by.

You never know what once-in-a-lifetime experiences the road may provide as I found out last year. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Life in Girona

Hi again, it's been a few days now, so I'd say there's been enough adventure and it's time to share. I'm usually one for chronological order, but I think I'll go with themes this time--Rides, Beaches, Food and Wine and a little surprise for last (no peeking ahead!).


Since that last post, Rod and I have managed to ride three out of the three days--proper thing, ya. Undoubtedly, the most epic in terms of length and heat battling was Tuesday's ride. We set out on another ride recommended by Michael Barry in Canadian Cycling Magazine that was described as being 4 hours and 'rolling'. It was all of that. It turned out to be a great day--110 km in the saddle and incredibly hot. I drank seven bottles and I'm sure that wasn't enough. This ride offered an optional out and back climb called Rocacorba, but we decided that we should leave it for another day (foreshadowing) given the heat and duration. Awesome day though as we headed west and north out of Girona climbing up through the small towns of St. Gregori, Les Planes d'Hostales, and Olot and descended/climbed (rolled) south and eventually east back into Girona via Santa Pau and Banyoles. A gratifing day on the bike, but tremedously hot. PS Lunch in Olot consisted of a ham and cheeze panini and a chocolate croissant. The croissant requires some description. Do you remember 'squirt gum' when you were a kid? We were sharing one of these decadent numbers so Rod decides to break it in half and it exploded oozing chocolate. Oh, it was good. Did I mention that both outside ends of it were chocolate dipped - crazy.

Our friend Dave getting us off on the right road out of town

Rod burning a descent - full gas!

The RS's flight deck

The next day, the plan was to ride easy for a couple of hours and get back in time to go with the girls to the beach. All pretty much went according to plan except that I flatted (MY FIRST EVER FLAT ON THE ROAD - I actually feel some relief because now I can talk about it without the fear of jinxing myself; seriously five years of riding and zero flats until yesterday). Tube swapped, and we were back under way. The plan was to head to a town called Le Pera, former home of Salvador Dali, the famous surrealist painter. If you don't know who Dali is/was, the best way I can describe him is to say that he's the melting clocks artist...ring any bells? If not click here. Running a little behind time because of the flat, we decided to head across country to Madremanya and over the back side of the Els Angels climb from Monday's ride. It was much harder (and hotter) this way (short distance so steeper). Fun though!

Approaching La Pera among the sunflowers - perfect!

Probably the closest I'll ever get to Salvador Dali

Rod atop Els Angels

Big descent

Last ride was yesterday. We ventured back up to Banyoles to challenge the Rococorba climb. Fourteen kilometers at average of 6.5% doesn't sound too bad, but k's 8 and 9 are at 10.5% (which I think is steeper than anything I climbed in France) and the last 4 k's are at 8.5%. I guess you could say that it starts out fairly easy but gets very intense up top. Dave, the owner of a local bike shop told us that the pros make good use of this climb in training and actually do a time trial on is frequently. We made it to the top and were happy to find clear skies at the top for the camera. The summit actually offered 360 degree views, so we were able to see a distinctive mountain valley that we rode through on Tuesday off in the distance. Pictures taken, the descent was fast and furious. After lunch and coffee in Banyoles, we burned back into Girona (Brad Vein style - aka FULL GAS!) and managed to skirt the ridiculous rain storm that was baring down on the city. Jinx, you say? I flatted again in Banyoles and if that weren't enough the valve stem on the replacement tube failed, so had to change it again - good thing we both carry a spare tube.

Our heroes set out for Rococorba on the cobbles of Girona, and yes, we bought matching Cycling Girona kits for the occasion

One of the sights along the way - a border collie at work

The stats on the climb

Rod's climbin' calves!

We're keeping good company on this climb as evidenced by the writing on the road

Success! Man, climbin' mountains feels good!

This is at the summit - we were told it's a hand gliding launch-way. Can you imagine the nads it would take to jump off this thing?

The beach

If Rod and I have handled all cycling related business ;) over the past couple of day, it's been Selena and Deanna's job to make sure the beaches got invaded. They've had a great time exploring the beaches of the Costa Brava--I think they may even have had a plate of French Fries. Tops are of course optional on the Spanish beaches...actually bottoms are even so in some cases, I guess. The water is blue and warm but refreshing given the heat.

Rod and I joined them on Wednesday after our ride. We drove out to a beach city called Palamos and ended up at Platja de Castell. Last one in's a rotten egg. Pretty much your standard beach day really except for the kayak rentals. Fifteen Euros got us a tandem open kayak each for an hour and we were able too paddle around the point and through a big seacliff archway. Also paddled into a bit of a cave. Good times.

The arch that we paddled through

Rod and Dee paddling under ground


Bad time for an earthquake

Food and Wine

This post is getting long, so I think I'll let the pictures do most of the talking here. Suffice it to say that we've lived pretty high on the hog around here over the last couple of days. First was Draps (see previous post), then was a France place for stellar crepes (mine was stuffed with sausage, cheeze and a fried egg), and lastly a Basque tapas bar called Zanpanzar. At Zanpanzar, you pick up your tapas at the bar, each with a toothpick shoved into it; you collect these toothpicks throughout the evening, then your bill is based on the number that you've collected - no we didn't 'mistakenly' let any toothpicks fall through the street grate :)

Pre-game cerveca at the apartment

Inside (yes, inside) the crepes place (you can eat inside the old bus; we, of course, opted to eat in the alley way outside the cafe)

We seemed to develop a thing for stacking dishes???

The end to a perfect evening. Please note the three people behind the counter of this little gelato place are the three people that we got to know best having 'spoken' to the EVERY night. Like I always say, a day in Europe without a dish of gelato is like any old day in North America

One final, major piece of news

I think I mentioned a post or two ago that our time in Girona was to be a sort of Tour de Michael...Michael Barry being one of mine and Rod's favorite pro riders. He's a Canadian from Toronto and rides for the British Team Sky. Michael is a also a writer, so we've spent a lot of time over the past few years reading about life in the pro peloton and specifically about the life of a pro cyclist living in Girona. Indeed this is what inspired us to come here in the first place. This city really is a road (and mountain) cycling mecca actually. It's very common to see (obviously) pro riders riding about town on their way to or from a training ride. It's fun; their training groups/friendships don't at all observe the boundaries of 'team'; they seem to be a big family really living and training together here in Girona. We've been lucky enough to spot a couple of Saxo Bank riders, a few Garmins, a lone BMC'er, but as you can imagine, our eyes have been peeled for our patron saint of Girona, Mr. Barry. (Rod, brace yourself for what you're about to read...I'm sorry buddy, but it happened this afternoon just outside the store where we bought the Bikecat kits.)

In keeping with the good mojo that helped me meet and ride with Lance Armstrong last year in Dublin, Ireland, I was lucky enough today to meet Michael Barry and his wife Dede as they were coming back into town from a ride. Michael just completed his first Tour de France (he's race several grand tours, World Championships, and Olympics, but 2010 was his first Tour) so I imagine he was on a little recovery spin about the area shaking out the legs. As they rode by, about 30 or so feet away from where I was walking, I recognized him and shouted, "Hey Michael!" They could easily tell that I was a fan, and true to my impression of the man that's come from reading his blog and articles, they were gracious enough to stop and chat for about 15 minutes . It was so great to be able to tell him face-to-face that we had been on what I called the "Tour de Michael" as we've enjoyed three of his four eating recommendations and three of the four riding routes that he described in the article in Canadian Cycling. They were very curious about our trip and I was able to tell them that we'd been in the Pyrenees for Stages 16 and 17 and that Rod and I had just yesterday climbed the famous Rococorba. He said his legs were a bit sore from the tour, but nothing too major or unexpected. We chatted about the local pros and their commaderie, about Selena's conquering the Col du Soulor, ah, it went on... I love this sport! In what other sport can you meet one of your heros in this way? Professional cyclist and the sport itself are so accessible. Check Ticketmaster's website for the price of Tour de France tickets--you won't find any, not because it's sold out 8 years in advance, because it's free, stupid! I'll stop now and fill you all in on the details when I see you. I did give Michael the link to this little blog, so maybe he'll throw us a comment--cyclists are like that...if he is reading this, thanks again, man - it was a real thrill meeting you two.

Our inspiration, Mr. Michael Barry! (PS I was by myself and happened to be carrying the camera; good thing as I'm sure no one would have believed this one.)

And just like that...they were gone

Check out Michael's blog here.

We travel on, our time in Girona all but done, our friends departed this morning; we plan to head south of Barcelona to check out the beaches and hopefully do a little cyclo-wine-touring. Thanks for reading (this novel) and please drop us a comment. Home in 6 days.

PS Believe it or not, I do have much more to say about Girona and would like to put more pics of the city up, so if I run into a good wifi connection in the next couple of days I'll try my best to do so.


  1. What an exciting time ya'll are having. with all of your riding, beach going and kayaking - hopefully the Running (riding) with the Bulls is over!!! We think it is or you might be there.
    Spent the day taking out carpets and baseboards getting ready for painters on Monday. 97 degrees continues to be hot thank goodness for airconditionning. Have fun and a vino for us. love momdadeno

  2. Thanks guys for the detailed update. Shane, your rides with Rod are memories to be cherished. Meeting your hero "Michael", also fantastic. Thanks Selena for all the great beach pictures. I still chuckle to myself when I think about you and Deanna hiding in the bushes. LOL So glad you got to go kayaking in the Mediterranean. Paddling in Mahone Bay can never top the tunnels you paddled through.
    Enjoy your time in Barcelona. Cycle lots and drink more red wine, then relax on a beautiful beach. Safe travels:)

  3. Hi Shane, It was nice meeting you yesterday. From the blog it looks like you guys have had a great time in Girona/Catalonia. The riding is wonderful down in Penedes as well so I am sure you'll have some more stories to share. Safe travels. All the best, Michael B

  4. Well, we made it back and all is good. I can't believe I missed Barry by one day or by meer hours. Picked the book up for you today, by Barry so your world just keeps getting better. Doing laundry, hanging with the kids and putting bike back together. Wish I had a million dollars (you can sing that part) I'd be there still, riding the cobbles out of Girona and heading out into the mountain country side with my wing man pedaling beside me.
    Keep posting and we'll see you when you return.
    Trained in Spain, now we'll bring the pain.
    MROD (Bikecat teammate)

  5. Hey to the bikers:
    It's just like being there with you guys! WHAT A TRIP!!!!!The pictures are breath taking. Dad hasn't seen any pictures as yet but I have saved everything.
    Take care and enjoy the senery.
    Love Dad and Mom

  6. Its so awesome to read and see your adventures! The mojo keeps on workin'...how about some (more)pics of those famous beaches, ya know what I mean??
    Stay Safe,