Montnegre Mountain Biking


Mary hits the trail at her first ever Spanish BTT–mountain bike ride. Not a race, but an organized ride. After much hemming and hawing, bouts of self-doubt and fitness level concerns, I finally registered for the event. Riding with new bike friends Travis and Dave on Thursday convinced me that if I could keep up with them, and they were riding in the BTT on Sunday, I could certainly ride it too!

Ride day begins early as usual, but I get to ride my bike to the station and take a train to the race! On the train, Dave, Travis and I spread out across assorted seats. We share the 6:35 am train with partyers in various states of toxicity and slumber. Heading back from the big city to their suburban, ex-urban, and/or country towns. A Boy-Georgina figure sits across from me, shaved side of head leaning against the window, unshaved long hair sticking out from beret on other side. Eye makeup slightly smeared.

The train is so much more relaxing than driving; I enjoy the sunrise as we travel through the countryside to Sant Celoni. We exit the train and freeze. Not literally, but it is about 15 degrees (F) cooler than in Barcelona. I’m happy to be wearing leg warmers and arm warmers and wind vest.

We ride about 5 minutes to the town’s sports facility for registration and start line. We can go inside to pick up number plates (called dorsal here) and stay inside enjoying espresso (thanks, Dave!) and free pastries.  I note that one of the course monitors, in his reflective vest emblazoned with the word “official,” is enjoying his pre-event beer before taking his dirt motorcycle out on the course. It is 8:00 a.m.

There are about 300 people riding with course choices of 25 km or 40 km.I used my improving Spanish skills to find out that the decision point for which course to ride is at 14 km.

Someone is talking incessantly over a P.A. system outside, so we decide to amble out and join the back of the mass start ride.  I meet Ricard (dad) and Mark (son) who are related to someone at Lisa’s school. Travis (also teacher at school) knows them. I’m feeling pretty good, and announce with a hedge “I’m thinking about doing 40, but we’ll see how I feel.”  Mark says “At 14 k, everything is good.”  True.

And we’re off! We ride briefly through town, go beneath the train tracks and the highway and head up dirt roads into the mountain of Montnegre. There are usual clusters of slowness where 1) the route narrows 2)the route turns 90 degrees 3)the route steepens to climb or 4)the route steepens to descend. British Dave says “Spaniards can’t ride mountain bikes, they’re all a bunch of roadies.” And the riders around us do seem to lack the most basic off-road skills, like going over bumps or small rocks.  We pass where we can, then settle into longish climb. Travis stops to take off his jacket, but I go on knowing he will catch me soon enough.  Lovely single track and I pass a few people where I can. Lovely climbs, great descents on double track.

Steepish section:


I’m hungry and wondering where the first aid station will be. Ah, here it is! Right before the 14 km decision point. I’m in awe of delicious palmieres, cinnamon twists, dried apricots, hazlenuts–none of that crappy store bought cookies and PBJ typical of American aid stations. There’s also assorted fruits, juices and coke:


Ricard and Mark and Travis are there and we all decide to definitely go for 40.  Dave decides to go for 25.

Alas, the course profile is no longer available online because it shows that most of the course is either up or down, not a lot of flat or plano, as we say here in Spain. Here’s a view of a place where I thought the climb was over on the dirt road, but we did a hairpin and continued up and up on a rocky jeep trail:


Travis and I ride together and after much climbing, we  see great views from the ridge top–the nearby Montseny and the far away Montserrat. The weather is perfect, cool and mostly sunny. We have our pictures taken at various locations including this one where we passed beneath a gate/chain:


We descend fast but get stuck behind people who can’t descend, I pass them and charge up the next hill.  I catch Ricard and Mark just before the next aid station and they encourage me to pass them, but I am happy with their pace. “Este tempo es perfecto para mi.” Fortunately, they speak English so I don’t have to struggle with  my mind while my body is slightly suffering from the climb.

Another table of juices and lovely pastries. Travis joins us and we all set off together.We cross a cool old bridge in this Natural Park area:


Mark and I chat for quite awhile, and I’m happy to listen because I am seriously breathing hard. We pass by some old farmhouses (one with partying teenagers at al fresco breakfast) and farm fields and farm smells.

I come to an awesomely long descent and think this must be the end, then panic slightly because I haven’t seen any course arrows. I wait for another rider to come around the corner so at least if we are lost, there are two of us. We continue to go downhill and see another arrow, yes!

Hey, that ride was over pretty fast! Thanks to great a 10K descent down the mountain roads before hitting this gravel road into town:


Mark and Mary (mouth full of cheese sandwich) listen to Travis recap his ride:


Note also the presence of free post-ride Skol beer. We also received technical T-shirts with safety orange accents. There’s lots of high visibility sportswear here I notice–especially among runners. There was also a free massage available and an indoor swimming pool for our enjoyment. We did not partake.

Group shot with Mark (far right) and Ricard (seated) and Travis (blue middle) and a few other people who apparently know Ricard well enough to be in his picture:


Looking forward to more BTTs in the future!

NOTE: photos in this post are screenshots of photos taken by Montnegre photo crew. Links to all the photos from the event can be found on the Sant Celoni Cycling Club website.

© 2013 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.

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