GironaFor the people of Girona, they are already another part of the landscape of the Old Quarter. But those who haven’t visited the city in a while are surprised by the floods of professional cyclists and cycle tourists who cross the cobbled streets that circle the Onyar River. They are a fluctuating community that has not stopped growing for 25 years, turning Girona into one of the world capitals of cycling, where it is common to see foreigners walking around in jerseys. “Geography, climate, connectivity, quality of life and anonymity are the keys to the growth of Girona as a road cycling tourism destination,” explains University of Girona professor and tourist consultant Jaume Marín, co-author of a study that has identified the “exponential development” of the demarcation as a cycle tourism destination.
The definitive boom in business linked to this sport has been the last eight years, when a group of retired professionals decided to invest in cycle tourism as a way of life after a decade turning Girona into a meeting place for professionals for seasons. According to the count drawn up by the ARA and which you can view through a map on the web if you enter it with the QR, businesses have multiplied fourfold: if at the beginning of 2014 there were eight businesses dedicated to the sector in the city, there are now 29 – 34 if you take into account the new premises on the outskirts, such as Salt, Vilablareix, Fornells de la Selva, Sarrià de Ter and Celrà – and three more establishments will open in the coming weeks. All this without counting the hotels that have the seal bike-friendly and that they have adapted the facilities to a clientele that is now coveted because it makes long stays, of at least a week. This is the case of Casa Cacao, owned by the Roca brothers, which is reserved for many cyclists.
Map of the evolution of businesses linked to cycling in Girona
* This map has been drawn up based on the ARA’s search for information. In case there are inaccuracies or missing businesses, we would appreciate it if you let us know at [email protected]
** Bike-friendly hotels or Bed&bike are not included, as they are not businesses created specifically for cyclists. Only tourist apartments that are especially aimed at cyclists have been included.
The last to arrive have been large foreign companies that have taken advantage of the closure of historic premises to carve out a place in the fashion destination on wheels. The Italian clothing brand Castelli opened at the end of October in the space that had been the Cal Rei store in Girona for more than a century. And it is planned that the American Trek, which already operates from a distance making tours in Girona, will open a location right next door, where the Caixa de Girona headquarters had historically been. Before that, however, the Rocacorba Cycling jersey store designed in Girona and manufactured in Catalunya will be inaugurated next week on Carrer Argenteria in Girona, towards the end of La Rambla. It will be right in front of the premises of a Barcelona brand, Velòdrom, which has collaborated with Tactic, a factory located in Bescanó since 1998.
Behind 10 of the new cycling premises in Girona is the real estate consultancy Urbinium. According to their data, if in 2015 there were five businesses linked to cycling in Girona city, today there are 20. “The value chain, economically speaking, is excellent”, points out the manager of Urbinium, Manel Reina Moreno, which accounts for an investment of 2.5 million euros just in the premises they have brought and 300,000 euros in annual income.
Expansion despite the pandemic
Despite the stoppage of the pandemic, investment in cycle tourism has not stopped in Girona. Two companies headed by married foreign professional athletes settled in Girona are proof of this. The premises of Eat Sleep Cycle, owned by the British Louise Laker and Lee Comerford, have only grown in Plaça del Vern, next to Plaça Catalunya. Soon there will be four: a cafe, a shop, a rental space and a last one to expand the bike sales space that will open at the end of November where the historic clothing store Guanter was, which closed for retirement the following May 60 years old
“For a company like Castelli to say in an interview that we are the Mecca of cycling means that we are doing something right” ”
Glória Plana Councilor for Economic Promotion, Local Development, Tourism and Employment
This whole process took place between 2021 and 2022. La Comuna has also grown, which is behind the marriage formed by the Australian triathlete Emma Snowsill and theironman German Jan Frodeno, who live half the time in Andorra – where many athletes have gone to train taking advantage of the fact that they pay less tax. If in 2015 the local boom began with the cafe La Fàbrica, by Canadians Christian and Amber Meier, La Comuna has decided to go one step further and offer food and apartments for cycle tourists and professionals in an entire building in the Galligants neighborhood that to open at the beginning of 2021. Irene Bou is the manager and explains that their aim is to offer a “complete experience”, which they have expanded with the conversion of another building next to La Fàbrica into tourist apartments.
The Old Quarter has seen a new high-income community grow. This week the Girona City Council has set the maximum number of tourist apartments that each neighborhood can have at 15%. But both in Barri Vell and in Mercadal this limit has already been reached, although it is possible to do more if the La Comuna model is implemented: carry out a comprehensive reform of a building and incorporate a lift. From the council, the councilor for Economic Promotion and Tourism, Glòria Plana, denies that a process of “gentrification” is taking place, as denounced by the Association of Neighbors of the Old Quarter.
Has it reached the ceiling?
Plana assures that it is “a very good moment” because they are “harvesting the fruits” of years of “collaboration between the public and private sectors”. Along the way, however, some companies have also died, as happened with Bike Breaks in 2021, which could not withstand the pandemic. The Catalan companies pioneers in tours before the cycling fever, CicloTurisme and BikeCat, claim that the business fabric at home should also be taken into account. “For a company like Castelli to say in an interview that we are the Mecca of cycling means that we are doing something right”, claims Plana. In turn, Marín, a professor at the UdG, considers that perhaps Girona city is indeed reaching its tourist limit, but not the surroundings of the demarcation, where farmhouses that host this sector continue to proliferate.
Tours at 4,000 euros a week and bikes from 8,000 euros