Finding a routine, guests of the CHPT3 Girona Experience began fueling for their second day with breakfast in Hotel Carlemany, again at 7am. On the cards today is a 105km loop out to the serene lake of Banyoles lining up for an ascent of the famous Rocacorba.
Most now learning from the professional’s approach to energy conservation and opting for the hotel’s lift, saving their legs for the riding, we meet at the arranged point in the basement car park – a car park? It soon became clear why. Overnight, riders’ bikes had been stowed in Hotel Carlemany’s newly unveiled guest bike garage – this is the garage of dreams… decked out in bespoke CHPT3 livery and featuring imagery shot on the roads of Girona, your mouth hits the floor when the key-card controlled roller shutter pulls up. There’s space for 50 bikes to be securely stored, CHPT3 Ottolocks available for each of them and a convenient work stand stocked with Fabric’s premium tools for bike build ups pre-ride tweaks. This hotel caters to cyclists like no other can.
During a pre-ride briefing from David, the forthcoming route’s explained with heavy emphasis on the local Cava and Jamon to be enjoyed at the top of Rocacorba – if ever there was a carrot to be dangled, this was it.
Excitedly we roll out of town, quickly finding the first of many beautiful stretches of newly surfaced, traffic-free road where riders get into their own rhythm along the gently twisting descents.
For those few among us familiar with the area, the red and white radio masts atop the looming Rocacroba are enough of a cue to start fueling up and, in typical fashion, The Major pulls up ahead for a clinically well-timed food stop. Bottles topped up and haribo demolished, it’s onwards and upwards.
Though Rocacorba only averages what you’d assume a manageable 6% over its 13kms, it features hellish ramps of 17 and 18% in parts, mostly spritzed in towards the end of the 970m elevation. A true leg-breaker of a climb, this was the testing ground for so many pros in the run-up to Grand Tours; Ryder Hesjedal, Bradley Wiggins, Dan Martin and Simon Yates to name a few. Completing the climb in under 30 minutes puts you up there with the best riders in the world, whilst only a handful have gone sub 28 minutes – all of the Grand Tour and Monument winners aside from one, James Knox (watch his record-breaking climb here, filmed by David).
Staggering to find shade at the summit, our bikes are racked up and The Major awaits with iced Colas and the promised Cava which begins to flow. At this time of day on a weekend the climb is expectedly thronging with riders, all sharing in the satisfaction of completion. Among them is GCN Espanol’s presenter and ex-pro rider, Óscar Pujol who had previously breezed past every member of our group minutes before and now, joining us for a drink and a chat, looked as fresh as we had at the start.
Safely down from Rocacorba we cruise past the lake of Banyoles, famous as the rowing location for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Quickly all thoughts of a gentle row on the calm lake are smashed as our skipper and ex-TT World Champion is knocking out a rhythmic 50km pace on the front as the group lines out behind, flying back to home.
Leaving our rather weary guests back at their hotel to get refreshed, showered and to indulge in a bit of solo-touring around the Old Town, we have some preparations to conclude. This evening our itinerary includes a visit to the CHPT3 Design Studio, situated right in the heart of Girona's medieval streets.
Freshened up, guests arrive to the Studio and are greeted with an aperitif and a tour of the space, one which remains stacked full of two decades worth of David's race memorabilia and four years of CHPT3 development samples – the physical meeting point of all three chapters. A table in the centre of the room is lined with numerous iterations of POC helmet designs, Brompton frame pieces and Castelli fabric swatches whilst the room is sporadically decorated with Factor bikes. Special stuff.
Tour over, we head around the corner for dinner at one of Girona’s most down to earth, traditional restaurants, Plaça del Vi 7. Serving tapas in a French bistro-style environment – the best of both worlds – this place provides a truly authentic Catalan experience. Together we enjoy beautiful wine and local food until all are sufficiently topped up. With a shorter ride on the cards tomorrow, some capitalise on this and the wine flows late into the night.