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21
February
2014

Girona Cycling - Introduction

Girona owes much of its fame to Jonny Weltz a veteran Danish coach and former team director of US Postal, who lived in Olot, just short of 55 km away from Girona.  Jonny and his brother, Ken, had spent time around the area as pro cyclists, both having ridden for ONCE for a time.

Jonny wanted to set up a central European training centre because he’d noticed that although the Americans had been previously been based in Europe, they had been spread out across Nice and Northern Italy. They found it hard to integrate with local inhabitants or their team. Weitz theorised that having the Americans centralised would raise their morale and blend the team into a strong unit.

Based on his local knowledge of cycling routes he started bringing cyclists to the Costa Brava in 1996.

Soon American cyclists like George Hincapie and Jonathan Vaughters were buying homes in Girona. More followed, possibly enchanted by the old Catalan charm and atmospheric local cafes. Hincapie referred to himself and other early settlers as the “OGs” (“original settlers”). The OGs were followed by the next wave, cyclists such as Tyler Hamilton, Christian Vande Velde, Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong.

Girona and the surrounding villages are now home for riders such as David Millar, Dan Martin and others.

It sets a romantic scene; all these riders meeting at the Pont de Pedra, Girona’s ancient stone bridge, organising their own peloton and then setting off for the climbs of Sant Hilari and Rocacorba.

So why do so many of the top cyclists live and train here?

Sir Bradley Wiggins explained in in his book In Pursuit Of Glory, that Girona was a “mini centre for cycling, the weather is good, there are all sorts of training terrain and always a mob to train with. Brilliant”.

David Millar confirms (in his book Racing Through the Dark) that “Girona was perfect; the weather was fabulous, the roads quiet and varied… Waking up to blue skies was refreshing and the Catalans were friendly and welcoming.”

Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) told RoadCyclingUK: “In my opinion, there’s no better place in Europe to train.

I moved here mainly because of the team, but the team is based here for a reason. The roads are mainly clear of cars. There’s a really good variety of training routes. You’re not limited. You can pretty much go in any direction.

Being a cyclist, you need a social life as well. Girona isn’t a tourist town. It’s quite small, but lively. There’s always somewhere to hang out. The number of cafes and bars and restaurants and cafes is pretty high. I always say that guys like Lance Armstrong, who can afford to live anywhere, lived here because they chose to.”

 

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