A two day journey for the Sea Otter Europe International Cycling Tour18-06-2018
All eyes in the cycling world were on Girona and the Costa Brava for the second edition of the Sea Otter Europe cycling festival. Cyclists were able to take part in the Sea Otter Europe International Cycling Tour, which was comprised of two days of cycling along Catalan roads.
The second edition of the Sea Otter Europe Cycling Tour saw many new features across two days of races as part of the Gran Fondo World Tour, a prestigious international circuit made up of six races around the world. Participants were able to choose from five participation options and three routes (160, 125 and 100 km).
On Saturday at 9.30 a.m. with more 476 cyclists left the Fontajau pavilion in Girona with 160 km and an elevation gain of 2,000 metres ahead of them. The sun played a starring role accompanying the cyclists throughout the day. The first 55 kilometres were perfect for warming up the cyclists’ legs with no notable difficulties. In Bonmati the route curved to the left to take the tortuous Mas Llunès road, crossing the volcanic area of La Crosa with the peloton riding at a steady pace.
At kilometre 60 and the Llagostera through road, the peloton broke up into different groups due to the soaring pace of the succession of climbs with an average gradient of around 4 - 6%, such as in Romanyà, where the cyclists were able to take their first refreshment break.
The mountain pass of Coll de Ganga and Santa Pellaia offered magnificent panoramas of calm but tortuous roads.
Then came the main event of the day for the Gran Fondo World Tour, the timed ascent along the highest point of Els Àngels, stretching for 10 km with an elevation gain of 415 metres – an irregular pass along a road that had little grip and which was made all the more difficult by the intense sun. When the first few competitors began to arrive, the thermometer topped 30 degrees. The refreshment stop at the summit of the pass was a life saver for many cyclists, allowing them to admire the view over both the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean sea. The professional cyclist Dorian Godon, in preparation for his forthcoming objectives, had the best time with 23 min 19 sec and, for the women, Lidia Puyals was the fastest with 30 min 42 sec.
At the summit, just 35 km and a very rapid 5 km descent remained to return to the festival and recover for the next day’s stage with a big plate of pasta. Those who were less tired made the most of the afternoon to visit the festival.
On Sunday at 9 a.m., under a somewhat cloudy sky, the peloton of more than 700 cyclists set off full of veteran professionals such as "Purito" Rodriguez and Melcior Mauri, the professionals Dan Craven and Oscar Pujols and the Frenchman Dorian Godon. The second day, comprised of two routes (100 km and 125 km), was fully underway. The latter involved two time trial sections, which counted towards the GFWT, whilst the former had just one.
And so the competitors pedalled their way towards Garrotxa and Guilleries. After a balanced journey through Girona, the first time trial section along the upper part of Les Serres, situated at the end of 15 kilometres, very soon caused the peloton to split into groups. It was Joaquim Rodriguez, evoking his onslaught in the Volta a Catalunya, who made the grade in this climb.
Fine drops of rain appeared at times, which after the heat of the previous day were more than welcome. After the refreshment stop in Amer, both circuits separated. The 125 km route headed towards the ascent of the magnificent Coll de Nafré, which skirts along the Susqueda reservoir – a mountain pass in two parts, which pushed everyone to their limit on a 400 metre stretch at 13%. Nevertheless, the spectacular “lake” in the middle of the mountains was a real sight for sore eyes. Dorian Godon once again recorded the best time with 18 min 59 sec along with Yolanda Ropez Ramirez for the women with 27 min 40 sec.
The rapid, technical descent in the shade of Guilleries forest was a welcome respite from the rising heat. At the refreshment stop in Bonmati both routes joined once again for the final third of the race. The second climb up to the upper part of Les Serres and the Canet d’Adri ascent offered spectacular views over El Puig de la Banya del Boc.