How Girona became the road cycling capital of Europe
Girona, the mecca of road cycling. The number of cyclists one sees here is – honestly – incredible: go out for a stroll through the old town between 9 and 10 am, and you will need a block note to tally them all. Here is how cycling became popular in Girona.
It’s not that Girona has been popular among (professional) cyclists for all its history. The Catalan city, more than 2000 years old, only got popular among cyclists around the year 1996. It was back then that a number of Lance Armstrong’s American teammates decided that Girona was ‘the place to be’.
Armstrong himself followed his teammates in 2000, when he left Nice for Girona, together with George Hincapie. They settled in the old town, the city’s medieval, Jewish quarter. From that moment and on, the cycling community started growing. Christian Vande Velde, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, and Tyler Hamilton were a few of the professional cyclists creating a home in Girona.
Only slowly, back then. Up till 2009, the number of professional cyclists living in Girona was still small: approximately 25 to 30 pros could call Girona their homes. However, after 2006, Girona really started to become a cycling hotspot.
It was the mouth-to-mouth marketing that made more and more professional cyclists come to Girona. In addition, more and more teams required riders to have a base in Europe, and with its quiet roads, good climate, great coffee, amazing cuisine, and nearby airport, Girona was a good place to set up the camp and light the fire.
Girona’s cycling community
The cycling community, which grew in size every year, attracted more and more professional cyclists. The pros then, attracted the team staff members, to provide optimal training circumstances at home. Several teams started service courses in and around town, while mechanics and medical specialists saw chances to grow their businesses here.
The professional cycling community inspired wannabe-pros to come over. Together they inspired elite and amateur cyclists to do (pre-season) cycling training camps in Girona. All together they inspired cycling tourists to spend time in G-town.
The introduction of the internet, and the rapid growth of social media afterward, played a huge role in the rapid development of the cycling community in Girona over the last ten years. Not only did cyclists start to be active on Facebook and Instagram, which played a significant role in showcasing cycling in Girona, also the rise of Strava and users like Robert Gesink contributed to the growth of the city as the road cycling capital of Europe.
Cycling in Girona became more and more popular
Nowadays, Girona hosts more than 180 professional cyclists living here year-round. Countless amateur and recreational cyclists join the community every day, whether it’s for just one ride, several weeks, or the whole season. Every day numerous group rides leave from Girona to explore and train on its quiet roads. And the numbers keep on growing.
So do the number of businesses and cycling facilities. Girona city counts nearly ten cafes focusing on cyclists, for instance, Eat Sleep Cycle’s café and Hors Categorie. More cafes pop up at popular cycling destinations, like La Maglia in Platja d’Aro. There are hotels in Girona that have all facilities to host cyclists, like Hotel Carlemany, and holiday apartment rentals that are fully equipped for cyclists too, like the ones from Bravissimo. Last but not least, more and more cycling (apparel) brands choose Girona as their home base. Chpt3 by former pro cyclist David Millar is an example of that.
A new addition: the first cycling magazine in Catalan
The Catalan town hosts more than twenty bike shops, multiple medical centers, and at least four pro-teams# services courses. One thing that Girona and its surroundings did not have until January 2022, was its own magazine. That gap is now filled with Nafent Magazine, the first bilingual cycling magazine (Catalan and English) in the world. The pre-ordering is open since December 23rd.