Road cycling is one of the sports disciplines with the most followers in Ripollès.
And those enthusiasts interested in taking on the mountain ports and major cycling challenges will understand exactly why that is with just one look at its winding roads and hairpin bends that have been traversed by the best cycling athletes in the world.
Some of the region’s mountain ports, particularly those in the Vall de Camprodon and Vall de Ribes valleys are reminiscent of the most demanding challenges that form part of major cycling races, such as the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.
In fact, some of them are regular features in major international competitions, such as the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta a España, where the world’s best known cyclists have made their indelible mark on cycling history by clocking up some legendary climbs.
The natural topography and altitude of these routes means that they are extremely physically demanding and not for the faint-hearted. But that’s exactly why you do it, isn’t it?
The Vallter 2000 climb is a must for any cycling enthusiast looking to add a special category port to their list of achievements.A colossus that presents you with the challenge of 12-kilometre ascent featuring 901 metres of elevation gain along the highest altitude asphalt road in Ripollès.
The port starts at Setcases, although you can start further down, from Ripoll for example, to warm up your legs and be fully activated by the time you reach the first ramps.
Setcases is located at an altitude of 1,262 metres and you will be up against an average gradient of 7.4%, with ramps of up to 15% – a true challenge for any athlete! The route is signposted with distance and altitude markers on the hairpins and finishes on arrival at the Vallter 2000 station car park.
Another of the top cycling challenges in the Ripollès area is the Santuari de Montgrony ascent, which starts at Gombrèn. This is an 8.4-km climb with an elevation gain of 445 metres and an average gradient of 5.3%.
The ride starts at an altitude of 909 m, a little over halfway along the road, between the five and six kilometre mark, where you will be up against its steepest ramps, with gradients of up to 10.4%, that will have you digging deep to maintain your rhythm.
Take some time to enjoy the magnificent views of the Pedraforca massif and the Ensija mountain range as you head through the backdrop to the popular local legend of Count Arnau.
This is another unmissable climb in the Vall de Ribes, located at the start of the Puigmal ascent, on the south side.
Rest assured, once you have arrived at your destination you’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views of this Girona Pyrenees peak, as well as of other emblematic mountains, such as the Serra de Montgrony and the Puigllançada.
This is a tough, long-distance mountain port, stretching over a little more than 16 kilometres and with an elevation gain of 1,003 metres, which starts at Ribes de Freser. The first 7-km-long stretch follows the main road, the Collada de Toses, before turning right at Planoles to strike out towards Collet de les Barraques and enter the hardest section of the route.
The average gradient of the route overall is 6.3%, but the second half is an ascent where the gradient spikes up to as much as 15%, a real treat for those of you who like to test yourself to the very last turn of the wheel before crowning the summit.
More information on these and other cycling routes can be found on the Ripollès Tourist Office website.
Photos: Vallter 2000, Ripollès Tourist Office