9 Minute Read
9 Minute Read
Back in October of 2022, Aarika and I tied the knot in Monterey, California. It was beautiful and wonderful, and somehow, I convinced her to do a Trek Travel Ride Camp in Girona Spain with me for the honeymoon!
Isn’t that great? Isn’t she great? That’s actually her in that photo at the top of this post.
So Trek Travel has really done well with these cycling camps as far as the price point goes. It’s far below what a lot of comparable companies offer and while there are fewer amenities (no included massages for example), I find that those things can be purchased elsewhere and still be below a lot of comparable price points.
Besides, you may pay for amenities that you don’t actually use, so I find that these cycling camps work better for my particular method of travel. But hey, that’s just me!
When I wrote about my first trip to Girona in 2018, I made mention of how the weather was…not so cooperative. We were there at the end of October and it was basically rainy the entire time.
This time we opted to go in the beginning of May, and it was considerably nicer, as the weather was warmer and dry.
Well, except for the first day’s afternoon. We got stuck in an unexpected downpour of rain as we went over the pass on our way back to Girona! Neither of us had expected this, given how clear everything was looking in the morning, so we didn’t think to have our rain gear with us that day.
Despite that day, though, we really didn’t have much else to deal with in terms of inclement weather. It was basically about as perfect as you could hope the weather to be in Spain!
Another quick aside - I opted to not bring my own bike this time, which at first felt like a gamble. Except that the bikes they provided to us were really nice! Trek Madones that were basically brand new, running the new 12-speed Ultegra groupsets.
These bikes were actually quite a bit better than I expected them to be. They weren’t as snappy as mine is, but they weren’t quite far off, and a lot of the perceived differences there was likely the 32mm tires that they put on for us. Which also made for a super comfortable and stable ride.
Another benefit of letting Trek provide you the bikes? They clean them for you each day! How nice of them.
This particular time, however, the road up to Sant-Hilari de Sacalm was closed due to repaving that particular week. Which is really unfortunate, as that was one of my more favorite days of riding last time.
The tour guides made up for it by taking us out towards a new place that day, Sant-Marti de Sacalm, which ended up being one of my more favorite days that week! And that was even considering the flat that I had to fix along the way.
It’s a super quiet and steady climb that pros use for training, and we saw several of them out that day, which was an awesome surprise.
In the interest of trying something a bit new, and since this was my second time doing this same ride camp, I thought it would be nice to interview Aarika, my wife and regular riding partner, to get her thoughts on this whole experience. It was her first time traveling to do a more intense riding camp, as last year’s vacation to Croatia was nowhere near as serious as this one was!
James: In your own words, what did you do to prepare for this ride camp?
Aarika: I was mainly focused on training for distance, so considering that I have a pretty involved job, I was mainly focusing there on the weekends. So during the week, I would do 1 or 2 hour long rides on Zwift, and on the weekends, I would plan to do a longer ride that had a mix of terrain. I focused more on the climbing aspect of things, since I knew there would be a lot of climbing. But other than that, I didn’t necessarily have a training plan. I was trying to go for distance and frequency, since I knew the ride camp would be back to back days of riding.
James: How did the amount of riding compare to your expectations? How did it feel?
Aarika: I would say that it felt a lot harder than I expected, especially the Rocacorba climb! Also, the group was very fast, so I found myself struggling to keep pace with the front of the group. So the amount of riding met my expectations, but the effort felt a lot harder than I expected.
James: How did the fatigue over the week affect you?
Aarika: Because I’m an avid rider, I assumed it wouldn’t be too hard for me, but I now really respect the fact that you’re fatigued over multiple days of back to back rides. And overall, the terrain near Girona is really rolling, so there aren’t a lot of flat areas to easily recover with. Plus, the wind was a huge factor later in the afternoons in how fatigued I felt.
James: What was your impression of the group and its size?
Aarika: The size was much larger than I expected, and I didn’t like that it was such a large group. I would have rather had 10 or 15 people less. And to elaborate, I am not used to being in a bunch with other people, so I’d recommend people getting more comfortable with that before going on a ride camp.
James: What did you think about the ride leaders?
Aarika: The rider leaders were fantastic! I got to know each and every one of them over the course of the week. I really enjoyed how they shared with me their personal stories, specifically their experiences being ride leaders. They were just really friendly people. I always felt very safe and that they were looking out for me, given that I was always mid to further back in the group.
James: What was your favorite day of riding and why?
Aarika: I think my favorite day of riding was the very last day. I felt a lot stronger than I originally thought I would feel, a testament to what a ride camp is supposed to do, which is to build strength. I also liked the last day because it had a good mixture of rolling hills, beautiful scenery (the cliffs and rock formations of El Far, which were gorgeous), and I felt very accomplished that I got up to the top of the climb (San Marti de Sacalm). It was also really great to see some of the professionals that day! I felt like I was there out training with the pros.
James: What was your least favorite day of riding and why?
Aarika: The first day! Because we got poured on unexpectedly. The beginning of the day was beautiful, but we were caught off guard towards the end, and neither of us had the proper equipment with us. And even if we did, it was just raining so hard, you couldn’t see out of your glasses! At one point it felt like small hail was pelting us. So while it was my least favorite day, I was impressed at how well we got through it as we forged on.
James: Serious question: how was the food on the rides?
Aarika: Two words - chocolate milk! I really appreciated the nice cold (local) chocolate milk at the end of every day. I even took a few extra ones back to our room because I liked them so much! And I liked the OTE hydration tabs that they provided us as well. I never felt like I was close to bonking, so it was great that they had so many fuel options on hand.
James: What about the provided dinners?
Aarika: The group dinners were very well organized and the food at each was very good! A lot of nice, local options. I liked the mixture of traditional and modern food options and restaurants. I want to give a special shout out to Hors Category, as the vibe in there was so cyclist-oriented, and the food was healthy and tasty. I really liked that place.
James: What surprised you the most about the ride camp experience?
Aarika: I think I was most surprised by how much it challenged me. Despite riding through multiple difficult days, either due to the climbing or the wind, I was surprised at the resilience I had at the end of the week, and that I managed to get through it all. It really built up my confidence as a rider! It was great to see how accomplished I felt given that this was NOT easy for me. There were definitely a few times where I doubted myself, so this was a good confidence builder.
James: Would you do another ride camp?
Aarika: Absolutely! I would definitely do another ride camp. I’m already thinking about Mallorca next! I want to continue challenging myself in a friendly and welcoming environment, and that’s what the ride camp was for me.
So there you have it! I’ve somehow managed to convince Aarika that my feelings and love for Girona are not unfounded.
It truly is a unique and special place, with so many interesting things to do, a great food scene, endless outdoor activities, amazing roads…the list truly does go on. And with great train access to the rest of Europe, it’s no wonder over a hundred different professional cyclists call this place home.
Perhaps one day we will, too! Until then, adéu!