Girona, world capital of cycling

(01. Dave Welch, kneeling, is professional downhill mountain bike (MTB) and opened a shop in Girona. 02. Image Girona Gran Fondo, a competition which has already held two editions. / DAVID BORRAT BIKEBREAKS)

There are 80 professionals that have their base camp, environment attracts thousands of fans.

The arrival of Lance Armstrong in Girona in 2001 was highlighted at the international level that the city and its surroundings are ideal for many professional cyclists take up residence there, especially the months of competition. But if the Texan changed Nice for Girona was because there had been other professionals who had chosen to live in Girona. The Danish cyclist sport director Johnny Weltz -now-Cannondale Garmin team manager- was established in Garrotxa to the 80s for his friendship with the cyclist Olot Pedro Muñoz, who was teammate to Fagor .

It was he who began to bring professional cyclists like David Millar, George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde in Girona, in the second half of the nineties. “Weltz was the key person, who was led to begin to settle in Girona professionals”, explains James Cabruja, owner BikeCat, one of three companies in the city that are dedicated to road cycling guided. “Armstrong did bad things as doping, but also made a good that we recognize: Girona put on the international map for both professionals and amateurs. Clearly there is a before and after him”, adds Cabruja.

This after Armstrong in the professional world is based on eighty professional cyclists who today live in Girona, excluding doctors, physiotherapists and mechanics. It is a group of a hundred people. But teams that have their base of operations there is only one, the Cannondale-Garmin. The Australian Orica-GreenEDGE plays a large part of their cyclists and the rest are of several teams.

The factors that make Girona as a sanctuary are professional cycling climate, good roads close to the city, good food, good communications and drivers, as a rule, are very respectful of cyclists. They are also crucial elements that professionals can go down the street without people recognize them and bother, and that there is an important community that does not feel alone.

Magnet for fans

Many of the arguments that make it installs professionals also make Girona an attractive destination for fans around the world, especially for those who want to pedal the same road where trained professionals and which years ago had Armstrong made. Cabruja began making occasional guide for American companies and ten years ago he set up his own. “All my customers are foreigners, and 90% are Americans and Canadians”, says Cabruja.

Not only cycling race is attracted to Girona. Ten years ago, the english cyclist Dave Welch settled there as a professional cyclist downhill mountain biking, animated by two friends who are also involved. Four years later he created BikeBreaks with his wife, Saskia Welch-Van Vuuren. Also dedicated to roads, particularly road but also mountain biking. Two years ago organized the Gran Fondo Girona, which is a decline of urban biking, a stretch of road in the city night and cronoescalada the Angels (els Àngels). The event brought 300 people last month in Girona for a week. “10% of participants prolong it and ended up staying a month here Welch- says. It’s good for the city, because this world is wearing a client with a profile of between 45 and 55 years and a good purchasing power.”

Cycling Culture

“People here is not aware of and it’s a shame, but there are usually plenty of Catalonia cycling culture. For me it was a surprise, but there are clients who tell me that Girona is the best place in the world for road cycling”, says Welch. “This is a world capital of cycling and we have to believe, but not too much because there are things to improve. But it is true that Girona has not found anywhere else”, says Cabruja.

“If we talk concentration professionals and tourists who come on holiday to train them as if they were professional, possibly a world capital. But tourism bike has many variants and profile of tourists is a small volume in the whole of cycling”, argued Eduard Kirchner, who for three years is at the forefront of CicloTurisme, the third company in the city.

There is agreement in respect of the drivers. Even Cabruja, although they have struck twice, agrees. “There’s always a car that can ruin the start, but compared to other places, respected force cyclists”, he says. “I was surprised but it’s true. And often, when you find one who plays the horn or happening as a result, then you see it from outside”, says Kirchner.

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