Cycling tour of Montserrat


A strange range of mountains, which shape resembles that of a series of funny pinnacles is probably the first thing you spot when flying to Barcelona and preparing for landing. As soon as I saw them, I was so fascinated that I decided that I could not help but visiting them to take a closer look. That is why in the first days of November I had no hesitation in planning a cycling tour which would bring me around (and on) the peaks of Montserrat, for this is the name of this mountain, one of the symbols of Catalonia.

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The natural starting point for a trip to Montserrat is the village of Monestirol de Montserrat, located on the eastern side of the mountain range. You can easily reach Monestirol from Barcelona with the Ferrocarril de la Generalitat de Catalunya. However, it is also possible to go with Rodalies, taking the line R4 towards Manresa. Actually the station is placed in Castellbell i el Vilar, about 5 kilometres far from Monestirol; a fact that must be taken into account when you are planning your trip. Travelling from Vilanova i la Geltrù, I opted for the Rodalies option, reaching Barcelona Sants through the R2 and Castellbell i el Vilar with the R4, finally covering the 5 missing kilometres by bike.

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Once in Monestirol de Montserrat, I officially started my cycling tour around Montserrat. Riding clockwise, I headed southward, leaving behind after a couple of kilometres the traffic of the main road and taking a secondary road which climbed up the mountains. A gentle climb of about 5 kilometres brought me to the village of Collbatlò, where you can admire the southern peaks of Montserrat in all their savage beauty. The magic is increased by the loneliness of the environment, whose enchantment is seldom broken by the passage of a car. You will doubtlessly regret it in the following kilometres. (Pictures 4, 6, 2, 15, 10).

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After going through the centre of the small village, indeed, I undertook the second climb of the day, in a very different environment from the previous one. Unfortunately, indeed, the road runs right next to the motorway, partially spoiling this stretch of the tour, which is anyway enlivened by the wonderful views on the western side of Montserrat. The climb, at first almost imperceptible, grows a bit steeper after the village of El Bruc, where in 1808 the Spanish troops, though considerably less numerous, managed to defeat the French ones, detaining therefore the Napoleonic invasion. This feat is nowadays commemorated by a monument in the middle of the village, and has also been source of inspiration for a recent film. (Pictures 12, 8, 1).

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Shortly after El Bruc, at last, the road leaves the uncomfortable company of the motorway. Despite being back in quiet surroundings, I could not appreciate completely the trip because the slope grew again and the energies began to run low. However, as the peaks of Montserrat were gradually closer and closer, it could be said that the view was really breathtaking... if only I had some breath left! Once at the top of the climb, at a break area called Can Maçana (about 700 metres above sea level), I was restored by a providential break. (Pictures 9, 14).

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From Can Maçana it is possible to reach the Monastery of Montserrat quite easily, through a spectacular road which run just below the peaks of the mountains for a few kilometres. Although, in order to complete my tour I decided to complicate matters going down towards Manresa and adding a third climb to my trip. Thus, after a few kilometres of pleasant descent, I left the main road for Manresa and turned eastward, heading for the small village of Marganell. Needless to say, also from this side the landscape is simply wonderful. (Pictures 7, 13).

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Having gone through Marganell, once again I left the main road and turned right to face the third and final climb of the day. The effort and the lack of energies did not prevent me to appreciate me the sight offered by the peaks of Montserrat,

towering over the auburn woods caressed by the autumnal sun. Overcoming a couple of steep segments of climb, I managed to reach the main road connecting Monestirol de Montserrat and the monastery. The imminence of the final goal helped me completing the last 4 kilometres left (the climb consists in about 10 kilometres). I will describe in more detail the monastery in a specific entry. For the moment, it is enough to add that, after having a short rest, I enjoyed a 10 kilmetres descent to Monestirol de Montserrat. It was the icing on the cake for a spectacular ride, finally consisting in about 60 kilometres, 1300 metres of vertical climb and plenty of unforgettable views. (Pictures 11, 5, 3).

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