The fourth edition of the Girona Cycling Festival has now been and gone and what a week it was!
We are still trying to process that it´s all over again for another year and concluded the week with mixed emotions- relief to be done but also sad it´s over and that most of our lovely Festival participants have returned home.
It was a challenging, emotional roller coaster from start to finish – full of highs and lows!
As you all know, we so tragically lost a rider throughout the DAY 2 Hill climb. This was a huge hit to everyone involved and incredibly difficult to accept. An incident as such is an event organisers worst nightmare and we found the situation very heartbreaking, overwhelming and difficult to deal with. Our thoughts remain with the family and loved one´s of Paul and we are so thankful to them for urging us to continue on with the Festival, in knowing it would have been what he would have wanted.
Following an emotional few days, we were able to come together as an organisation and use each other’s strengths to do so and ride on in his memory.
This was certainly a challenge, but it was made easier by our excellent team, participants and the Girona cycling and wider community. We were incredibly grateful to you all for your support and uniting to move on together.
Following a lovely, local Catalan meal Wednesday evening, the Race Village came to life Thursday. It once again provided the perfect relaxed, social atmosphere for Festival goers to come together and hang out between events. We designed the Race Village and chose its location for this purpose and to give riders a go-to place to chill out and mingle with other riders. Coffee, Moritz beer, food, drinks, music and more – the perfect combination to sit back between ride time and unwind.
Throughout the day, we set off with our Gold pack riders for a tour of the Cannondale Drapac, World Tour cycling team´s service course. It was a fantastic opportunity to get an idea of how a professional team organises their excess amount of equipment and have a peak at the riders race bikes! Following some great Q&A with pro rider Brendan Canty and the team mechanic, we hit the clothing department for a bit of Cannondale retail therapy before returning back to Girona to put the feet up for a few hours and reset for the evening ahead.
Thursday evening´s Nocturn kicked off with our latest event to the Festival, The Kid´s Nocturn. It was so refreshing to see a group of keen youngsters line up excited, nervous and full of energy and then give their best efforts to the finish. Well done to you all!
Following this, we set to the start and held a minute of silence in honour and memory of Paul, with riders sporting black ribbons. It was a very special and emotional moment shared by all.
The old town streets of Girona were lined with spectators as the riders set off, some harder than others! This event is truly unique and certainly not your everyday criterium. Riders have 1 hour to ride as many laps of the 1.5km challenging, cobbled course as they wish. They are timed on one section of the lap, and it happens to be the hardest section – steep, uphill and covered in cobbles, alongside Girona´s spectacular cathedral. Following the timed section, they can sit back and recover as slow as necessary before taking on the next lap. It is a tactical event and exhilarating and exciting to see the riders fly up the timed section, gritted teeth and all! As a spectator, it was thrilling to watch and a fantastic atmosphere to be part of.
There are two separate classifications to declare the winners – the fastest lap and the fastest 5 lap average for male and female. Big congratulations to our winners and all who got stuck in and gave it a crack. It isn´t an easy course and we appreciate you all giving it your best – we saw some excellent pain faces out there! A special mention to the Whitelaw brothers for making the podium for the fourth consecutive year and this time round, Nick broke the fastest lap record – impressive!
Following the event, riders re-gathered in the Village for burgers, beers and podium. Safe to say, it was a better day.
Friday morning, we began the day with another group ride from the Race Village. Group rides are a huge part of our Festival week, running all days aside from Hill Climb and Gran Fondo day and led by our amazing team of local riders and friends/club riders of Bike Breaks. Each day, we split riders into groups heading out on different ride routes and offering a variety of distances – the perfect opportunity for Festival goers to spin the legs ahead of and following events, mix & mingle and explore the beautiful roads surrounding Girona. Without our ride leaders this would not have been possible – thank you team!
Another special thank you to the Halo Cycling Project for providing a coffee, cake and pool stop on our Wednesday and Thursday group rides from their training centre in Pubol. A huge success and very appreciated with the hot weather!
Friday evening, the pre Gran Fondo party in the Race Village provided a social, yet relaxed environment ahead of the big day. A local DJ, dinner and a few drinks to loosen up as riders discussed their plans for the following day – to Rocacorba or not?!
Finally, the big day arrived and 350 keen Festival riders filled the Race Village ahead of the start – some a bundle of nerves, others excited and many cool and relaxed with the intention of getting out there and enjoying the day. The biggest hope for us is that our riders have fun out on the roads – it is a sportive and not a race, so the day is about riding together and enjoying the experience.
To add to the fun, we had some jazzy feed stations out on course, sponsored by Federal Cafe Girona and Sleep & Stay – each station offering something different and unique. Fresh summer fruit was a hit at Sleep & stay and the talk of the day was the quinoa salad from Federal!
For those hungry for some competition and that real extra challenge to conclude the week – this year we introduced, ´The Rocacorba Challenge´! Those taking on the challenge took a detour in the early stages of the Gran Fondo and were timed up Rocacorba (to the top). Tristan Cardew was reigned king of Rocacorba with a very impressive time of 0:35:39 and the leading female to the top was Anastasia Yanchilina. Kudos to all of the contenders – Rocacorba is well known in the cycling community for its brutal nature – steep and relentless, so to race up there in the hot conditions was certainly a challenge! Our pick for ´rider of the day´ would have to be Dee Harrington. It was Dee´s first Girona Cycling Festival and her motivation and drive to take on Rocacorba and complete the full Gran Fondo course was inspiring. When it came to podium time and she realised she had come in 2nd female up Rocacorba – her reaction was priceless. Great work Dee!
All in all, it was a huge effort for everyone in very tough conditions – so, well done and we hope you enjoyed the beautiful roads! To top off a great Gran Fondo, riders arrived back to the Race Village to our Botifarrada party – delicious Catalan barbecued sausages, a few beers and a great atmosphere, eventually concluding with the prize giving where we had Cannondale Drapac professionals Lawson Craddock and Brendan Canty award our winners – cheers boys! The Festival raffle soon followed, where pro rider jerseys were given out before the winner of the Cannondale carbon bike was announced. Eventually, Jubbe Rasker from the Netherlands claimed the prize as he walked up to the stage, surprised and excited. Congratulations!
Thank you again to all of you who have been involved in the 2017 Girona Cycling Festival. It has certainly been one to remember and we have grown a lot as a team throughout the process.
A special THANKS:
- To our participants – we have been so lucky to have such a fantastic group of competitors and personalities this year, making our jobs that much easier and enjoyable.
- To our incredible volunteers, who day by day gave up their time to keep our riders safe out on course and help with countless behind the scenes tasks. We have a truly unique local cycling community here and each year, the number of people putting their hands up to volunteer is overwhelming.
- To our staff and organisation, who have been working towards this for months now and did an excellent job throughout the week.
- & lastly, to our Festival sponsors – your support is what creates this amazing week and without, it would not be possible!
Until next time!
The GCF & Bike Breaks team