Before the Tour de France started in Liege, Belgium I had some business in Europe with Girona, Spain, the Dolomites in Italy, Beaune, France and Gent, Belgium as the highlights.
Girona, Spain has been my home base in Europe since 1997. I moved there with George Hincapie and Tyler Hamilton and we were the first three English-speaking pro cyclists to live there. Since then Girona has exploded and is a Mecca for cycling, especially for those who speak English.
I’ve been back every year except for one since 1997. Upon arrival this year, I caught myself pondering hard as to where I would ride first. In the end I chose Els Angels. Not a difficult climb, but it’s only five minutes from my Catalan lair and getting there avoids going through the city before being in peaceful serenity.
On my second or third ride I met up with Jaume who is opening a bike boutique in the old quarter. Towards the end of our ride we caught up with two female cyclists. Joanne Hogan (Bizkaia-Durango) and Sarah who rides for the Australian track team. I’ve been clawing my way back into cycling form so once we introduced ourselves, they agreed to let me sit on their wheels for an extra hour of training. Sitting on the wheels of well seasoned riders always makes the kilometers tick by quicker and the perfect rhythm helped place me in a meditative state. Time passes quickly, and I consider this ride quality training.
In addition to riding more, there have been a lot of details and logistics as we plan for several trips for Jemison Cycling Tours. From Girona, I kept tabs on a private trip we had going on in the Dolomite Mountains, Italy. It takes a lot of time to finalize ride routes, time schedules, and details for our Tour de France trips, including a trans-Pyrenees trip, another private trip in Tuscany, and many, many others. Purchasing 6 bottles of Vega-Sicillia Unico, arguably Spain’s best wine for consumption on a Tuscany trip, was something that also had to be done in the name of “cycling tours”!
The evening before heading to the Tour de France the mayor and the city of Girona honored Ryder Hesjedal for winning the Giro d’ Italia. It started out informal as people gathered, then we moved inside City Hall where both the mayor and Ryder spoke and exchanged gifts. Afterwards, in a typical Catalan style, Cava and fresh orange juice were served for socializing.
Liege, Belgium is over 14 hours drive time from Girona so stopping in Beaune, France (the heart and pulse of Burgundy) after the first 7 hours makes sense… See what whet our appetites for dinner and loosened the legs before heading to Gent, Belgium in the next post.
Thanks for reading.