From sea to monastery. In riding back over 1000 years as you climb from the sea to a monastery built in 878 BC – this climb is both enchanting and rewarding. It ticks all the boxes.
70km north of Girona lies a white washed fishing village called El Port de la Selva. Dating back to 974, the town sits on the boundary of the Cap de Creus natural park, where it is completely prohibited to build, and the area’s stark beauty is highlighted by the mighty tramuntana that blows off the Pyrenees. Fortunately for us we had calm winds and spells of glorious bright sunshine where the sea was made to look transparent with its crystal-clear waters.
No ride can begin without coffee.
After a coffee and a gentle wonder through the town, we then rode along the glistening sea. The start of the climb is immediate. It is the steepest part of the entire climb rising to almost 15%.
Away from the town we climb, big views of the sea and the town drifting away behind us. The road meandering, hugging the landscape.
The climb so far has been progressive, we roll smoothly on immaculate tarmac, blindly riding and spinning the cranks as we ride towards the former monastery of Sant Pere de Rhodes. Looking back on the climb, it is split into four sections with the first section riding away from the sea and up and over the first shoulder.
It’s easy when climbing to just look forwards. To look at your GPS, to look at your power output to go for that KOM and if you don’t descend back down the same way, you will have missed the views behind. This next section of huge reveals is a classic example of that. The drama! And the memories missed if you don’t keep your head up and look behind you.
Our first few of the monastery and summit. Unlike many churches in the area, this monastery is nestled tightly against the hillside with the road not reaching the true summit of the hill. The monastery dates back to 878AD with its grand twin towers (one of which a bell tower) rising above its castle like structure.
We are now in a consistent section of switchbacks, eager to see what lies ahead. Eager to get our first glimpse of the monastery and the summit. Left, right, as we roll through.
Our first few of the monastery and summit. Unlike many churches in the area, this monastery is nestled tightly against the hillside with the road not reaching the true summit of the hill. The monastery dates back to 878BC with its grand twin towers (one of which a bell tower) rising above its castle like structure.
From the top of the switchbacks it is possible to do a straight shot towards the monastery itself, but you will miss out on some fantastic views and vertical meters. We ride on. The road meandering gracefully like a swan. The Monastery within touching distance, but a tease, for there are several km to go. Our speed has increased as we contour the hill.
Climbing – it is far shallower than before. Half of this section is masked until we sweep around a sharp corner for the rest to reveal itself.
A sharp rise with views to the north before reaching the turning which meets the road from the other side of the hill. Many will ride up and over as the road to Sant Per de Rodes turns into a one-way narrow concrete path but this climb was not a KOM attempt so we turned left towards the monastery.
The climb is now all but over and for the data, this forth and final section does affect the average gradient, as its relatively flat but it is worth taking the time to see the monastery itself and take in the views (it would be a shame not to). There’s a place to fill up your water bottles and a restaurant too.
It didn’t happen unless you have a picture of the sign!
I really enjoyed this climb, a sea to summit climb with silky smooth roads, great views and best of all very few cars. A climb all to ourselves and the descent back down to El Port de la Selva was heavenly.
A staple in the Tour de France – this climb provides drama with jaw dropping reveals.
Col du Grand Colombier
Col du Grand Colombier dwarfs all of the surrounding landscape. It has serious race history too.