From the moment we set out, we had the feeling this was going to be a good day’s riding, and so it turned out to be. We had a slight headwind, which became stronger as the day went on, but by sticking with main roads we made great progress. The traffic was heavy and fast but we’d become immune to some extent and there was usually a hard shoulder to ride on, so we felt reasonably safe. The hills around Girona are long, sometimes a couple of miles or more, but not especially steep, so even riding with just a big chainring was not particularly difficult. Of course, we were tired by this point in the ride but the knowledge that this would be the final day kept us pedalling enthusiastically southward.
We bypassed Girona on the N11 but on the south side of the city we hit the same problem we’d experienced the previous evening – the road became a motorway on which cyclists were not permitted. Coming off the junction, we searched for signs that might put us back on the road to Barcelona but could not find any. Even though we had a map, it was difficult to plot a suitable route to connect us to the C35 road we would need to take us towards our final destination. In desperation, we reverted to Google Maps and the outcome was just as we could have predicted – we ended up on a farm track in the middle of nowhere, even losing each other at one point as with skidded around the gravel covered lanes. Then we suddenly came across a cycleway, figured out where we were, and then did a five mile detour to bring us back on track. The sun was shining, we had time in hand, thanks to a relatively early 7:45am start, and found ourselves riding through forests on the minor GI-555 road before stopping for coffee and a sandwich at a delightful roadside garage where the owner and his staff were most curious about our ride. We stocked up on Madelines – tasty cakes – and carried on south to the C35. Only ten miles further on, we stopped for chips and Coke at a Burger King on the outskirts of San Celoni and set about planning the final part of our route into Barcelona. We had to add about 25 miles somewhere, otherwise we wouldn’t hit the magic 1000 miles for the trip. Our original plan was to cycle south of the city towards Sitges then turn around an come in from the south side. Surveying the map, we thought it may be better to get the final big climb of the day behind us while we were still relatively fresh, then make up the additional miles on the coast road, which we assumed was flat but turned out not to be totally so. We turned left onto the C61 to face the biggest climb of the whole ride, one far more challenging than scaling the Pyrenean pass into Le Perthus. The spike in the middle of the route profile gives some idea of knee-grinding endeavour it took to conquer the peak. I got to the top just ahead of Richard and took this shot of him coming to the highest point of the ride.
The descent was a fantastic reward for our efforts and after reaching Arenys de Mar on the coast, we headed north for twelve miles to make up our mileage. A frozen yoghurt with fruit at Malgrat de Mar provided the fuel for the final 37-mile blast south into Barcelona. We had a strong headwind all the way and stopped every hour or so for a few minutes’ rest. At one point, I think I was first to spot the Spanish fleet en-route to invade Gibraltar – it looked like it may need some updating.
We had company for the last 30 miles. A French cyclist from Barcelona started chatting to Richard and rode alongside him. In fact, he wouldn’t stop talking until we paused for a while to let him get ahead. All we wanted to do was enjoy the view and the final few miles of our adventure.
About an hour and a half from Barcelona, the only cloud in the sky rained on us. We got wet for about an hour but still had half an hour to dry out as we used the cycleways of the city to take us to our final destination in the old cathedral square. The sun shone again, the view was glorious and the roads were quiet for all but the last couple of miles.
We arrived in the cathedral square to the sound of a live classical guitar performance and an America tourist from Virginia was kind enough to take our final shot of the trip.