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Lovin’ it: Day 1 of Girona Gran Fondo / Cycling Festival

Posted June 16, 2015 by in Uncategorized with 4 comments

Yesterday was the first day of the Girona Gran Fondo, which doubles as a “Cycling Festival” for the city here.  In its second year, it is organised by Bike Breaks.  Bike Breaks is a bit of a local institution – a bike shop / cycling centre run by a formidable husband and wife team, Dave and Saskia.  I say formidable because, their various high level cycling achievements and business acumen aside, they’ve managed to create what really feels like the cycling community centre or hub for Girona.  Oh, and Dave has had 7 surgeries on his elbow (or is it the entire arm?) and Saskia speaks 7 languages.  More on their story, here.

The day begun with one of their “Shop Rides”.  Normally held on a Thursday, almost every week of the year, these are the “club runs” for their cycling club.  You never know who will turn up, though you can rely on Bike Breaks’s facebook page to check it out after the fact, and the speed of the ride will likely be determined by which of Girona’s local pros has turned up.  We were graced by Ted King’s (Garmin Cannondale) presence yesterday, as we set off.

Our ride was really nice – and being one who has always lived in larger cycling cities than Girona, like Calgary, Nice and London, I was taken by surprise by the fact that we were on the country lanes and in the rolling hills in no more than 5 minutes, having met right in the centre of town.  YUM. Our group rolled through the countryside, and rode about 45 minutes to the coffee stop, and our numbers were made up a few Brits (one appropriately named Ian Stannard), some of the girls from Welsh Cycling; Shane, an Aussie living in France (who recently rode a 600km ride, building up to Brest-Paris-Brest), the only Finnish cyclist other than Jussi Vaikonen I have ever seen, a few Americans, a Dutch contingent (looking very pro!), a number of local riders for Bike Breaks (Josep, Pau, Sergi and Anna were the ones I met), resplendent in their jerseys from last years’ inaugural gran fondo, and the distance prizes went to the couple come from Melbourne, and the man who flew in from Toronto just the night before (who of course wore a “Canada” jersey, putting me to shame – though I do ride a Canadian bike). I note that I now sit 25th on a climb where the top 10 positions are graced by the likes of Daryl Impey, Tim Duggan, Tom Danielson and Marc de Maar. Usually when I look at segment times in Girona I am a few hundred down, nowhere near the pros, male or female. I often see Ashleigh Moolman Pasio’s name up there in the lists too. She is a local pro, landed from South Africa, who seems to have QOM’ed the entirety of Catalunya.  

So my 25th, is, well, cheating.  When we were overtaken as a group by two guys on TT bikes, motorpacing behind a scooter, Josep and Sergi insisted on tagging on to the back of them.  Never one to resist a chase and some fun, I joined the pace line, along with a number of our group. Sergi and I managed to hang on, just barely, to the top of the climb, and now I am nestled, unwittingly, in the top 25 of a Strava leaderboard for one of the climbs in a city known as “ProVille” (and in the interest of fighting digital-doping, made public my admission here).

❤️ #cycling in #Girona. On the @BikeBreaks club ride, snagged some free motor pacing!

A photo posted by Mike Duff (@haloveloproject) on

[Author’s Note (18/6/15): So it turns out it was Zak Dempster, Pro on the Argon Bora squad, we were motor pacing behind, according to Matti’s blog, here: http://fillariajatus.blogspot.com.es/2015/06/shop-ride-testing-fitness-and-bicycles.html]

All in all, a good first day.  Tomorrow is the infamous Els Angels Hill Climb, which should prove to be, er, fun.  I’ve set myself a goal of breaking 27 minutes, having ridden it with Sébastien last year in 28:37 and 28:05 last year.  We shall see.


4 comments on “Lovin’ it: Day 1 of Girona Gran Fondo / Cycling Festival”‎

  • Saskia, one of the organisers

    Aaaaaaw, that just made me cry! Lovely piece and this is exactly what our cycling festival is all about, getting people that love the bike, from all over the world, together to share and enjoy their passion.
    Tomorrow will be a big day! Get some solid breakfast, you will need it! #shopride #urbanDH #nocturn !!!

    • mrmikeduff

      Aw, Saskia, I don’t want you to cry! I’m here to make friends before we move here permanently. That would not be a good way to start. You guys have done such an amazing job to create a hub for the cycling community, with this as your “main event” – I am in awe. The cycling community is so strong, and I am excited to move here and work in it. I can tell you more today, but am keen to do something that fits in with what you guys are already doing, rather than detracts/competes/muddies the water.

  • Eric

    How proud can one be of his sister!

    • mrmikeduff

      Aw… how nice!

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