Photos: The Service Course
You don’t have to go any further than Girona to find one of the main hubs of European road cycling culture. As it turns out, the northeastern Catalan city has more than just road riding. The inaugural GiRodeo, held from October 28th through 30th, presented a world of gravel riding possibilities that few of us knew existed. Four days of exploration on and off the bike, delivered an experience beyond expectations thanks to The Service Course’s local knowledge of the area’s gravel and off-the-beaten-path destinations.
In the same vein as ENVE’s own annual Grodeo event in Ogden, Utah, which includes the Builder Round-Up handmade bike show and gravel event, The Service Course took a similar approach to the GiRodeo with a custom builder element and multiple days of incredible riding that was headlined by Saturday’s 150-kilometer GiRodeo Epic route. Add in a strong community tie-in, unique Girona flavor, and short-sleeve weather, and you have an event that was one of the highlights of the year.
Day 1: Where There’s A Will, There’s…Tapas,
Drinks, and Builder Bikes Awaiting
While the spotlight was around Saturday’s GiRodeo Epic route, the event’s first two days were limited to just 50 people for an intimate setting. Beginning Thursday evening with an off-bike experience, we took an hour-long walk from The Service Course through the woods to Mirador de Can Pi – a hidden gem just outside of Girona where drinks, tapas, and the handmade bike showcase were served up.
Day 2: Where Gravel and the Sea Collide
Friday was about riding – and beer. But before the beer, we had nearly 100 kilometers of gravel to work up an appetite before finishing at Doskiwis Brewery. From Girona, we headed east to the Mediterranean coastline called Costa Brava, where ocean views and quiet gravel roads collide. A casual pace kept things conversational and had us to Doskiwis by the late afternoon for drinks, burgers, and entertainment by George Bennett (UAE) and Sam Bewley (Bike Exchange). The two World Tour pros treated everyone to a live edition of their Social Distance podcast that provided a fun insight into racing and everyday life.
Day 3: A Huge Helping of Girona Gravel
After our Thursday night social and Friday’s relatively flat casual ride, everyone was ready to test themselves on a route that promised to be the best of the best. Two route options delivered something for everyone, with the Epic route option being one of the harder sub-160-kilometer events you’ll find anywhere. Much like our own Grodeo in Ogden, there’s every type of surface and conditions out there, so you always had to be heads up and ready for a rock garden or rut that was looking to ruin your day. The day’s biggest challenge came from an 800-meter stair step climb, rising and twisting its way under a forested canopy. By the time we reached the summit, we had been climbing for nearly an hour, and aside from the other GiRodeo riders, there wasn’t a single soul we came in contact with. Straight over the top, we screamed down the
other side for a 20 minute descent where the concrete turns provided the traction and confidence to push hard through the corners and sprint back up to speed for the dirt straightaways.
As cool as that portion of the course was, that kind of experience isn’t entirely unique to the GiRodeo. What was unique is the feedzone stop that was on the property of an abandoned castle. Not only did we have an impressive backdrop for the stop, but there was a Rocket Espresso pulling shots and freshly made food that kept everyone hanging around much longer than a typical rest stop. Even with the big climb behind, the course kept riders challenged all the way until the final plunge into Girona where pizza and Doskiwis beers greeted riders back at The Service Course. A good ending to a memorable day.
Day 4: A Fitting Exit
A slightly later start and promise of a recovery ride helped with the tired legs when first climbing onto the bike. Saturday’s Epic route had left its mark, so the Sunday Salida was a nice send-off for a final way to share stories of the week over the 58-kilometer, mostly flat route. Just like the previous two days, we were on roads we had yet to ride, so with the reduced pace, it was a good opportunity to soak up the final riding we’d be doing in Girona.
Getting to Girona from abroad is relatively straightforward. From the Barcelona airport, Girona is less than a 1.5-hour drive or 40-minute train ride. Unless you’re planning on additional travels, there’s really no need for a vehicle and utilizing the train from Barcelona simplifies the trip. Lodging within Girona’s city center is widely available, and all things GiRodeo were happening within a few minute’s walk. We rented an apartment through Bravissimo, which ended up being less expensive than multiple hotel rooms, plus it allowed us to have laundry and a full kitchen. Restaurants, cafes, bars, and everything else you could ever need are all right out the door. Just don’t expect any of it to be open before 9 in the morning.
Our Favorite Food Spots
Oniria Cafe: Quite possibly the best coffee in Girona, Oniria sources beans from top roasters all over the world. In addition to the pre or post-ride coffee, they have a wide selection of sweets and fresh sandwiches. Located directly across the street from The Service Course.
La Fabrica: Each morning began the same way, and that was with breakfast at La Fabrica. The restaurant is located in the old city and was founded by former pro cyclist Christian Meier and his wife, Amber. Although the cycling-themed cafe’s decor is fun, the true appeal is the menu that offers up a wide assortment of farm-to-table options.
Casa Cacao: The Roca family are widely considered Girona’s most famous chefs with multiple restaurants in the city, including Can Roca, which has been named the best restaurant in the world and holds three Michelin stars. Since getting a reservation is about a one-year endeavor, we opted for Casa Cacao, their chocolate shop. On the rooftop terrace, we sipped hot chocolate between bites of assorted chocolates made in their first-floor shop.
Place del vi 7: There are any number of tapas restaurants found throughout the city that can serve up a delicious plate of patatas bravas, but the food and wine experience at Place del vi 7 left us wanting more of everything.