Rocacorba

No one has done more to spread the word of this climb than ex-pro David Millar, Girona resident and founder of the exclusive Velo Club Rocacorba.

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The relatively short climb of Rocacorba, along a nondescript dusty road from nearby Banyoles, is unusually famous given its location. Not known from epic stages or brutal struggles in the Vuelta, its reputation has instead grown in recent years alongside Girona, 20km to the south, as the go-to destination for cyclists looking for the ultimate playground.

20 years ago, only hang gliders and radio mast engineers knew about this twisty gravel and tarmac dead-end. At the top, you'll find the mast and launch platform that attracted them, but its on the ride up you'll discover why it's become such an attraction for cyclists. Only fully tarmacked in 2006, there's only one way up – a brutal climb that has become an unofficial test track for local pros.

The “full” climb, at 14km with an average of 5.6% gradient, sounds easy but hides the reality of the brutal 15% slopes later in the ascent. Take the climb as 10km, from the stone bridge across the Matamors river, and the average of 7% gives a better indication of the challenge Rocacorba presents. The last few kilometres are the toughest, with the radio masts seemingly getting no closer with each pedal stroke – there is also quite a cruel downhill bit just before, that may lure the inattentive into thinking they’re nearly done.

Under 50 minutes is considered a good time for non pros; each member of Velo Club Rocacorba has an objective of their age plus 10 minutes. Take care though – there's not even a water fountain along the route, though if you’re there at the right time of year, the Rocacorba Food Truck may be there. Time it even better and you might find yourself sharing a coffee with one of the many pros who call Girona home.

Girona airport does not run a full service year-round, but can be a great way to fly cheaply into Catalunya in the warmest months. The next nearest option is Barcelona, not far by car or train.