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This is one of those rare bike tours that combines beaches with mountains, making it easy to understand why Lance Armstrong made this region his home base during his historic Tour de France run. Over the span of eight days you’ll skirt the clear, lapping waters of the Mediterranean Sea along Spain’s famed Costa Brava; you’ll pedal through the jagged reaches of the Pyrenees Mountains while crisscrossing the border between Spain and France and visiting tiny Medieval villages; you’ll sample wines from world-class vineyards; you’ll wheel through thick forests dotted with castles and even pass dormant volcanoes; and you’ll see firsthand the dramatic settings that inspired such artistic heavyweights as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. In between you’ll stay in hotels with three- and four-star ratings.
Day 1 : Arrive in Girona
Whether you’re traveling by plane or train or even car, Girona enjoys easy accessibility. Located in Spain’s northeast corner, Girona over the last decade has become a bicycling Mecca. Lance Armstrong thought so much of this city and its riding potential, he made it his training base during the height of his riding career. And the Garmin-Slipstream Pro Cycling Team calls it home. But before there was cycling, there was history and Girona has plenty of it. Narrow cobblestone streets wind past ancient buildings dating back to the 12th century. Your hotel is conveniently located downtown, near all major attractions including the Arab Baths, the Rambla de la Llibertat and the Cathedral. Overnight centric hotel *** B&B.
Day 2 : Girona – Tamariu (72 km or 45 miles; 1,125 m or 3,690 ft. of climbing)
Following breakfast, one of our representatives will give you an information kit and go over your itinerary in step-by-step detail. Your tour will begin with a popular climb that often plays part in the Vuelta (a three-week bike race that’s considered one of the three “Grand Tours” of Europe) and in the Tour of Catalonia. From atop you’ll pass the Sanctuary dels Angels, the church where Salvador Dali secretly married Gala in 1958. You’ll then descend into La Bisbal, before climbing the Coll de Calogne and reaching Catalonia’s coastal road along the famed Costa Brava. At night you’ll lodge in Tamariu, a small beach village tucked inside a secluded bay. Overnight in a family run hotel ***.
Day 3 : Tamariu – Banyuls-sur-Mer (92 km or 57 miles; 985 m or 3,230 ft. of climbing)
If “sexy” could be used to describe a ride, this one is it. You’ll pedal north along Catalonia’s curvy coast, passing tiny coves bejeweled with immaculate white, comma-shaped beaches and glittering Mediterranean water, creating the visual sense of seeing Mother Nature in a corset. You’ll also wheel through Emporda’s wine region, consisting of 41 vineyards. Some estates, if you so desire, will be open for tasting. After crossing through the Alberes Mountains into France, you’ll have another wine tasting opportunity in Banyuls-sur-Mer, your home for the night. The vineyards here produce a sweet wine that is considered to be France’s most complex vins doux naturels. Overnight hotel *** HB
Day 4 : Banyuls-sur-Mer – Amélie-les-Bains (95 km or 59 mile ; 1,830 m or 6,000 ft of climbing)
Hugging the coast, you’ll pedal north into Collioure, a shockingly beautiful coastal village with an artistic past. It’s scenic awe has inspired such creative-giants as Matisse, Picasso, Derain, Dufy, Chagall and Marquet. From here, you’ll veer inland into the fortified village of Céret. Located at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, its Museum of Modern Art attracts visitors from around the world for its vast Picasso collection, which includes his famous bull fighting series. You’ll spend the night in Amélie-les-Bains, a town noted for its numerous thermal spas. Overnight in a charming hotel ** HB
Day 5 : Amélie-les-Bains – Olot (85 km or 53 miles; 2190 m or 7185 ft. of climbing) Today you’ll wheel back into Spain, but not before pedaling through Prats-de-Mollo. This fortified village of only 1,100 residents, features a maze of narrow, cobbled streets that snake past rows of Medieval structures, making it feel like the calendar is locked in the year 1561. From here, you’ll climb Coll d’Ares. This mountain pass reaches 1,513 meters (4,963 feet) and serves as the border between France and Spain. Gravity will then speed you down into Camprodon and then into the Garrotxa Province. Eventually you’ll reach Olot, located in the heart of the Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park. This off-the-beaten-path village, which the New York Times championed for its notable restaurants and surrounding “austere beauty,” blends old with new, highlighted by the Carmelite Cloisters, which date back to the Renaissance. Overnight in a family run hotel *** HB
Day 6 : Olot – Vic-Sau (short option: 66 km or 41 miles; 1,450 m or 4755 ft. of climbing)
Today you have two choices. You can pedal a short route that will take you up the Faou and then down into Vic-Sau along a scenic road. Or, if you’re feeling as ambitious as a can of Red Bull, you can follow a longer route that wheels along the railway-turned-into-bikeway known as “The Carrilet.” This will then wander into “La Selva,” a wonderfully lush area filled with fairy-tale landscapes of thick beech and cork forests and towering castles. And then from here, you’ll ride into Vic-Sau, a city with a rich and varied collection of ancient architecture that dates back to the Roman Empire. Overnight hotel **** HB.
Day 7 : Vic-Sau – Caldes-de-Montbui (125 km or 78 miles; 2,230 m or 7,315 ft.)
Today’s ride will present a culmination of everything you experienced the previous other days: extraordinary cycling, natural beauty, pretty Medieval villages, quiet roads. Your route will glide through the Parc Natural de Sant Llorenc del Munt i l’Obac, a stunning setting of thick oak forests, rocky bluffs and cliffs, and steep ridges and valleys. After passing through the tiny Medieval village of Mura, you’ll then ride into Caldes-de Montbui, a popular spa town that still features remnants of Roman bath houses. As an exclamation point to this extraordinary tour, you’ll receive a complimentary spa treatment. Overnight hotel *** HB.
Day 8 : Departure. After breakfast, depart at the time of your choice. If needed, we can arrange for you a transfer to Barcelona or Girona.
Net Costs 2016 : from 825 pp in double/twin room
What’s Included : 7 nights comfortable and carefully chosen accommodations, double or single room occupancy with private facilities, 7 breakfasts, , 6 diners, luggage transfers, detailed route notes & maps, , hotline 7/7 from 8:00 to 20:00, all tax and service charges.
What’s not included : Entrance fees into museums, insurance, drinks, items of personal nature, rental bikes
Full-carbon bikes are available at the rate of 190 euros per bike. This price includes the delivery and drop-off fees. Aluminum racing bikes are available at the rate of 140 euros. including drop-off and pick-up.