A favourite climb when in Girona.
The climb to Mare de Déu del Mont is a little under 22km – climbing over 1000m with gradients over 12%. The gradient rarely feels consistent. A rollercoaster on quiet, narrow roads with stunning views looking over the entire region. It also does not fail in making you feel you’ve ridden through time.
Our ride started in the town of Besalú, a medieval countryside village, less than 40km from Girona. After visiting Besalú’s ancient archaeology sites and walking in the streets that were first constructed circa XII-XIV, we declared crossing the bridge on our bikes the point of departure.
Many parts of this fascinating town ring historical heritage; but it is the medieval bridge, built over the river Fluvià that provides the most enchantment and emblematic charm. With a number of arches that rise from rock, the bridge once served as the gateway entrance – and for us, the perfect opening for our adventure into the Girona Pyrenees.
After leaving Besalú, the ride begins with soft gradients. Turning quickly onto roads free of traffic, you ride alongside the foothills filled with sandstone the through spacious green fields.
Wondering up to what could be considered the official start of the climb; after 5km the gradient rises, and the legs begin to converse with the undulating geography. The fertile land, known as La Garrotxa, consists of valleys, fields and farmhouses, but mostly a lot of forest. There are hamlets and small towns that maintain the rural setting and dot the landscape with culture.
It’s then past a very pretty hamlet, and what feels like a deep dive into jungle-like scenery; with twists and turns like a rollercoaster, the road bends and takes you up and around.
Sant Llorenc Monastery.
At 6km to go the road begins to get steeper. Steep, sharp bends where it’s impossible to stay in the saddle until you meet the road from other direction. From here it levels off for a short while and you catch a glimpse of the hidden Sant Llorenc monastery.
Mare de Déu del Mont in sight.
After a few hundred metres from seeing the Sant Llorenc monastery, still meandering upwards, the towers and sanctuary of de la Mare de Déu del Mont becomes in sight. The distance to the top looks daunting but the quiet road and shade from the trees at this point still inviting.
During the final few kilometres the dense tree-covered nature of the ride starts to push away. Here, the character of this climb begins to take shape and the steep sections rake havoc on the legs. The route takes you higher with the architecture and structure of the road becoming more prominent.
Cut through rugged rock, weathered by heat and altitude – the scenery takes your breath away.
It's up and up.
Through another larger rock opening, it then becomes apparent of being on top of the highest point of a mountain. Over 2000m altitude, the wind meets you around certain the final corners.
On this occasion it was a push to the summit with the wind on our backs.
Feeling the energy, our vigour to reach the summit excelled. And once at the top there was push in every direction – the wind was wild!
It did not stop us from enjoying the coffee stop at what is the ‘Santuari Mare de Déu Del Mont Restaurant-Hostatgería’. A friendly and very charming place that features a restaurant with a terrace. For our journey into the past and present, this was our place of ‘turn-around’
We enjoyed a view of Rocacorba in the distance, as the sweet descent awaited.
Delving back into the majestic landscape – the descent was pure joy.
A cycling journey like no other. This doesn't technically fit with the definition of "col" (mountain pass) but it does with the word "EPIC".