Sunday, 31 August 2014

31 Aug: All-day ride to Nuthampstead, Aston and Royston

Nigel writes: After a couple of weeks of unseasonably cool weather (and a washout bank holiday Monday), August has ended on a high point, with a very pleasant warm and sunny day. There were eight riders at Brookside for today's ride: me, Neil, Rupert, Graham, Seb, Mike CC, newcomer Phil C, and Gareth who had kindly offered at short notice to lead the ride. And an excellent day's cycling it duly turned out to be.

On the busway spur to Addenbrooke's

We set off south out of Cambridge, along the busway to Addenbrooke's and then south along the DNA path to Great Shelford.

We continued on our regular route south through Little Shelford, Whittlesford and Duxford to Ickleton and then over Coploe Hill to Catmere End. We use this route so often that I joked with someone that we should refer to this as "CTC Cambridge route 1".

After Catmere End we deviated from this familiar route, turning west to Littlebury Green and along rather less well-ridden lanes to Duddenoe End.

Duddenhoe End

We continued south through Langley Upper Green and Langley Lower Green to Meesden before turning west to Anstey and finally north towards our coffee stop in Nuthampstead.

Between Anstey and Nuthampstead

At Nuthampstead we found about five members already drinking coffee, including Mick C, Edward, Adrian, Doug and Vic.

Coffee and route planning in Nuthampstead

After coffee it turned out that most riders were heading back to Cambridge, leaving just Phil and me to follow Gareth on to lunch in Aston. Adrian and Doug said they would make their own way there.

Getting ready to depart after coffee at Nuthampstead

Gareth chose a very pleasant route for this relatively short section, taking us to Buntingford and then through Aspenden, Westmill, and Great Munden (and Nasty!) to Dane End before turning back north to Bennington and Aston.

Our lunch stop today was the Pig and Whistle in Aston, a small village just outside Stevenage. After a while we were joined by Adrian and Doug, making five of us in total.

The pub had told us that sandwiches would be available, and it turned out that this consisted of generous plates of sandwiches and slices of pizza served not just to us but to everyone else in the pub, essentially as a promotional offer by the landlord. Despite there being a lot of food available, the staff didn't seem especially concerned to charge for it, and when we asked the landlord how much we should pay, he suggested that £5 would be enough - for all five of us. So at £1, this was my best value pub lunch ever.

After lunch we split into three, with Phil leaving us to return to Cambridge and Doug and Adrian making their own way to tea in Royston. This left just Gareth and me remaining on the "official" ride.

It was still only 1.45pm and Royston wasn't very far away so Gareth led the two of us south for a loop along unfamiliar lanes through Datchworth, Bramfield and then along half a mile of bridleway to Watton at Stone.


This section of the ride was delightful, no doubt partly due to a tailwind but mainly because the earlier clouds had disappeared and the sun was now shining brightly through the trees which lined this smart and prosperous corner of Hertfordshire.

Bridleway north of Great Gobions Farm, between Bramfield and Watton at Stone

After Watton at Stone we were riding north once more, more or less directly into the wind. Back on familar roads onc emore we continued north through Walkern, Cromer and Rushden before turning north-east to Sandon and Therfield and the enjoyable descent down to Royston Heath.

After a brief diversion in north Royston to inspect a recently-opened cycle underpass under the railway, we arrived for tea at Tina's house at about 3.40pm. We were twenty minutes early and Tina was still busy making sandwiches but these were soon complete and we were soon joined by various other members including a large contingent on the afternoon ride.

Getting ready to set off after tea in Royston

After a typically delicious and convivial tea we all set back to Cambridge via Kneesworth, Shepreth, Barrington and over Chapel Hill to Haslingfield and Barton. I arrived home at 6.30pm, having cycled 86 miles.

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

28 Aug: Thursday ride to Hinxworth and Henlow

Edward writes: Nice weather will always bring out the club's Thursday cyclists and as we met in Haslingfield it was in mild conditions with sun and warmth promised for the afternoon. This weather was a welcome relief as the previous few days had been particularly unpleasant.

For this ride we welcomed Ira who has cycled with the Saturday morning rides but joining us for the first time. Round about twenty members arrived at the start and once again Andy, Sarah and John R had already cycled in excess of twenty miles before even starting the ride. This week Averil was at the tiller for our ride out to Henlow, taking in a coffee visit to Farrowby Farm in Hinxworth.

Towards Ashwell

Averil led us out of Haslingfield with a sharp lung-bursting climb up Chapel Hill before descending down to Barrington and then on to Shepreth and Meldreth. Although it was warm there was still a stiff westerly breeze to contend with but riding was never difficult and we made steady progress as we passed through Kneesworth and Bassingbourn and out to Litlington. After the next village of Steeple Morden and more open fields the breeze was more evident as we approached Ashwell.


It's not many times that we go to Ashwell and not stop for coffee and sit under the tree on the little green. However, we had another three or more miles to go before reaching Hinxworth which we achieved via Loves Lane, arriving just after 11 am.

Arriving at Hinxworth

Farrowby Farm, Hinxworth

At Farrowby Farm we found Bill, Richard M, Greta, Brian Ma, Mike S and also Doug who had joined us at Ashwell. As the weather was very pleasant we all sat outside to enjoy the break. The farm mainly rears pigs and we believed we saw Tamworths ( the ginger ones) and Gloucester Old Spots and an assortment of goats and chickens, thus an interesting place to visit.

Gloucester Old Spot

Shortly before midday we left to complete the relatively short journey to Henlow via Langford and the Five Bells public house, arriving soon after 12.30 pm. By now the sun was out in earnest and we all sat outside to enjoy it in the garden or in the park on the opposite side of the road.


At about 1.45 pm we left Henlow and made our way to Clifton and we now entered the very attractive Bedfordshire villages of Old Warden, Southill, Ickwell and Northill, each containing old cottages with many colourful displays of bedding plants, and not forgetting the maypole on Ickwell village green. In Northill we turned to head for Moggerhanger and along here we said goodbye to Richard so that he could return to Bedford.


Now, of course, we had the wind on our backs so our cycling was very easy, going through Moggerhanger which brought us to the former Cambridge to Bedford railway, now a cycleway, to take us into Sandy. Andy and Sarah left us here and the remainder of the group, still nearly twenty strong, headed up to Gamlingay Heath and then to Waresley where we joined the regular route back via Great Gransden, Caxton and Bourn.


At Bourn the group broke into two with one set going back to Cambridge via Toft, Comberton and Barton and Averil led the other group through Kingston, the Eversdens and Harlton arriving back in Haslingfield at 4.20 pm and 58 quality miles behind us. Once again another enjoyable ride and our thanks to Averil for taking charge with such aplomb. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

27 Aug: Evening ride to Fen Drayton

Nigel writes: Tonight was overcast and cool, but it remained dry and was pleasant enough. At Brookside I was joined by regular Neil and by John, who was a familar face from Sunday but was here on his first evening ride.

Our route this evening took north-west us out of Cambridge to Girton and then along the busway to St Ives. With a tailwind behind us we made rapid progress. Along the way we were joined by Paul D, bringing the size of our group up to four.

On the busway near the Fen Drayton lakes

We rode through St Ives and continued along the Thicket Path to Houghton. There we crossed the meadows to Hemingford Abbots before turning back south-east in the declining to Hemingford Grey and Fenstanton. By now the daylight was declining fast, and by the time we reached Fenstanton the sun had set.

A few minutes later we arrived in Fen Drayton where we stopped for refreshments at The Three Tuns. After half an hour with our drinks and bowls of chips we set off back for home. First stop was Swavesey, where John gave us for a tour of the village before leaving us to continue to the busway and back to Cambridge. I arrived home at 9.45pm, having cycled 38 miles.

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Rides in Sept and Oct

Our September and October rides lists are now available. In September our Sunday all-day rides will be visiting some new and forgotten lunch stops. On 21st Sept we'll be trying out a new farm cafe near Hatfield forest (details), whilst on 28th Sept we'll be revisiting the Station Cafe in Rayne after a long gap (details).

Our Sunday afternoon rides continue until the end of October, after which we intend to change to our winter rides format after the clocks change on 26 October. As a consolation, we have booked a traditional pub tea on 19th Oct at the Chestnut Tree in West Wratting (details).

Our Wednesday evening rides continue each week until the end of September, whilst our Thursday all-day rides (our most popular) carry on as normal.

We're currently arranging leaders for this next set of rides, so if you're a member and are able to lead a ride please contact Rupert, our runs secretary (contact details).

Sunday, 24 August 2014

24 Aug: Afternoon ride to Wicken

John writes: I was joined by Alison, John E, Neil, Peter, Simon on a perfect afternoon for the short cycle ride to Wicken. St Lawrence's is unusually sited for a village church being at the Eastern extremity rather than the middle: it also lies on the trafficky A1123.

We followed the familiar route to Stourbridge Common, Fen Ditton, Quy, Bottisham, the Swaffhams and into the delightful village of Reach. Sadly its pub, the Dyke's End, no longer brews its own beer: it used to be excellent and very reasonably priced. We winkled our way through the straggly village of Burwell from where Little Fen Road led us on to the Lode Cycle Way a short footpath from which brought us onto the A1123 half a mile from the church reached at 3.45 p.m.

Here the anticipated excellent tea with its variety of scrumptious cakes did not disappoint. Peter bought some damsons. Several other cyclists where there or arrived shortly afterwards who had been on the day ride or had arrived independently.

After tea John E led us on to the Lower Road through Wicken avoiding much of the A1123. Here we encountered only walkers, dogs, other cyclists and an early blackberry picker. To the North West there was a splendid view of Ely Cathedral. From the Western end of the village we cycled to Upware, Lode and Bottisham across quiet fen roads. A combine was felling the last of the wheat harvest and ploughing had begun to reveal the black soil. My GPS recorded 33 miles. John Ferguson

24 Aug: All-day ride to Fordham, Mildenhall and Wicken

Seb writes: Just five riders, Jacob, Neil, Sue, Tom (his first ride since April) and I, met at Brookside for the all day ride to the Mildenhall Rally, even though it was reasonably warm, the forecast was dry and the departure time was half an hour later than usual at 09:30. There was no leader appointed but we agreed our route to Fordham for coffee, by leaving Cambridge along the Cam, and then via Fen Ditton, Bottisham, Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Reach and Burwell, using National Cycle Routes 51 and 11. Neil and Jacob peeled off early, and after Bottisham we were just three.

We arrived at Simpson’s Garden Centre just a few minutes after 11.00 to find a number of familiar faces had made their own way there, including Mike S, Adrian, George, Ian and Keith. Greta was there having arrived with Dave by car.

There was some re-grouping, here and Sue and I joined Ian and Keith in what was intended to be a southerly detour to Mildenhall, taking in Chippenham, Red Lodge and Herringswell. However, at Red Lodge, Ian discovered that the rear tyre of his vintage Moulton had started to disintegrate. So he reduced the pressure in it and we took a more direct route north to Worlington. We caught up with Adrian and George and the six of us arrived at Mildenhall about 12.45.

The rally was in full swing, with grass track racing in progress, various food outlets all busy, a variety of traders selling clothing, shoes, bikes, and accessories, and also more than a few stalls with new and used equipment. Few of us could resist the temptation to pick up a bargain – mine was a pair of winter gloves each with a little pocket on the back that stores a bright yellow waterproof cover with a separate thumb and index finger, and a mitten for the other three fingers. A snip at £5!

Grass track racing at the Mildenhall Rally

The racing was fast and furious, but conducted in a friendly spirit, at least as far as one could tell as a mere spectator. I was very pleased to bump into Peter Underwood and Patricia Killiard and had a brief chat with them.

At the rally, we were handed a promotional invitation for two club members to attend a Cycling Convention in Italy at the end of September. Accommodation and food is free, but the members will need to pay their air fares to Bologna and bus transfer fares. Contact the secretary if you'd like the information we were given to be passed on to you.

Having all gone our own ways at lunchtime, we regrouped at half past two. Ian had failed to find anyone selling tyres for a Moulton, but Steve offered him a lift back to Cambridge. Adrian decided to leave Mildenhall on an unmade road, but Sue, Keith, George and I took the road. After a short time, we found Adrian waiting for us; his unmade road turned out to have been metalled. We rode through Isleham, Soham and then turned north-west following the railway line, and then west until we joined up with National Cycle Route 11, which we followed south all the way to Wicken where we arrived at St Laurence Church at about twenty past four, just failing to meet up with the afternoon riders, although Steve and Ian were there.

After a welcome cup of tea and cake, Keith headed back to Newmarket, and Adrian led Sue and me, plus Eva and two cycling friends, on a direct route across Adventurers Fen onto the Lodes Way. Rejoining the tarmac, we saw the afternoon riders just ahead of us and guessed that they had ridden from Wicken Fen via Upware on tarmac, but we never managed to catch them.

Along the river

Just before Lode, we turned right on a track that follows the old railway line and then other farm tracks that eventually led to the road between Horningsea and Clayhithe. Just before reaching this road, one of Eva’s friends suffered a puncture but a new inner tube was soon put in. We all head for Clayhithe, where Adrian, Sue and I then followed the towpath back into Cambridge, arriving around twenty past six. I had done exactly 60 miles. Seb Macmillan

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Thursday, 21 August 2014

21 Aug: Thursday ride to Nuthampstead and Green Tye

Edward writes: Although the weather this Thursday was probably best described as indifferent, for cycling it was a good temperature being about 20 C for most of the day but accompanied by a stiff south-westerly wind. As we were going to be heading south in the morning it held the prospect of a brisk ride back in the afternoon. This week David Mason was our leader and he was in charge of group of about twenty two as we left Hauxton for our trip out to Tye Green, near Bishop's Stortford, calling at Nuthampstead for our coffee stop.


Although we didn't formally go off in two groups we did in fact keep ourselves well separated as we left Hauxton, Little Shelford and into Newton. A trip round Thriplow and Fowlmere took us to the A505 and Chrishall Grange ready for the long climb up to the Elmdon turning where we stopped so that everybody could come together again.

A505 at Fowlmere

Tandem at Chrishall Grange

Elmdon Turning

Now in the high points of the county with fine views all round it was possible to observe that the harvest is nearly completed with some fields already ploughed over. Next up came Great Chishill and then on to Shaftenhoe End where, of course, there are one or two stiff climbs as we headed for Nuthampstead and The Woodman Inn with immaculate timing at 11 am and they were well prepared for us with cups already on the bar counter.


As it was still sunny most of us sat out in the garden to enjoy our break and we were joined by Greta, Doug and Jacob thus making quite a party. As is usual, after coffee, there was the usual exchange of personnel but it was still a large group of about twenty who set off to nearby Anstey.


A trip through Meesden, Brent and Stocking Pelham, all very pleasantly rural, took us on the road heading due south through Gravesend, Clapgate, Albury and finally Little Hadham where, of course, we had the inevitable long wait to cross the busy A120. Two more miles brought us to Much Hadham where we turned for the last leg of the morning session to go over Hadham Ford, three went through the water, but everybody else used the bridge, a little climb gave us Perry Green and then Green Tye.

Hadham Ford

We arrived at the Prince of Wales in Green Tye, still with superb timing, at 1pm for the luncheon interval. Most of our group had brought a packed lunch with only about four of five buying food at the pub and we all sat outside in a most convivial atmosphere.

Green Tye

At 1.45 pm it was time to go again and now we would have the benefit of the wind on our backs. We went back to Much Hadham and Little Hadham and another lengthy wait at the lights and headed up the hill towards Albury but turning east to Upwick Green. This is another narrow and hilly road with patches of gravel to catch the unaware.

Upwick Green

Upwick Green

After Upwick Green we went through Farnham, Manuden (a quick check of the walnut tree), Clavering and Langley Lower Green.


Langley Lower Green

Here Jacob suggested a slight detour to take in some off-road work, naturally, and this came out just before Chrishall; some preferred to stay on the road and headed for Little Chishill. Those on the detour went through Chrishall and into Chrishall Grange where we followed the morning route out and bringing us back to Little Shelford with the ride finishing at 4.45 pm. This was a splendid day out and we give our thanks to David for his contribution to such a good day. Our trip was 63 miles. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

20 Aug: Evening ride to Barrington

Nigel writes: My companions for tonight's ride were regular Jim and newcomer Sven, here for his second ride with the club. It was a pleasant evening with quite a bit of sun though the temperature was quite cool with quite a chilly westerly wind which imparted a rather an autumnal feel to the air.

Our route this evening was a loop along roads to the west of Cambridge which we rarely visit on evening rides. We set off west from Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway before turning onto the B1046 to Comberton, Toft, Bourn and Longstowe.

A couple of miles beyond Longstowe we turned left and continued part of the way to Gamlingay before turning south and returning back east through the Hatleys, Croydon, Arrington and the grounds of Wimpole Hall. We reached Barrington rather earlier than planned at about 8.15pm, just before the sun was due to set at 8.19pm.

Jim and Sven

After drinks and bowls of chips in the Queen's Head we returned back to Cambridge via Chapel Hill, Haslingfield and Barton. I arrived home at 9.30pm, having cycled 35 miles.

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A road-biking holiday in Girona, Spain

Nigel writes: My main cycling holiday this year was a week in the Spanish city of Girona with my chum Rob. We based ourselves in the city and rented top-class road bikes from a local tour company which allowed us to enjoy a series of fast, unladen day trips into the surrounding mountains.

Girona is in the far north-east of Spain, in the autonomous community of Catalonia. It's 60 miles north of Barcelona and about 25 miles inland from the resorts of the Costa Brava. Although the city itself is fairly flat, there are wooded mountains in all directions which we found offered a week of delightful cycling along well-graded, well-surfaced and mostly very quiet roads.

Girona is a popular destination for road cyclists, with several professional cyclists based in the area (including Lance Armstrong at one time) and there are a number of cycle shops in the city renting top-quality road bikes to visiting club cyclists.

The River Onyar in central Girona, the footbridge by Gustav Eiffel, and the Cathedral

We rented our bikes from Girona Cycle Centre, handily located right in the centre of Girona only a couple of minutes' walk from our hotel. After briefly considering some rather slow-looking "touring" bikes with racks and straight handlebars, we decided to rent top-range Cannondale Supersix carbon road bikes. Neither of us had much experience of riding road bikes, but these turned out to be the lightest and fastest bikes either of had ever ridden, and great fun to ride. And at €120 for six days' hire the cost compared well with the £100 fee (£50 each way) that Ryanair would have charged for bringing our own bikes.

Nigel and his Cannondale Supersix

Monday: Sant Gregori-Les Serres-Bonmatí-Mas Llunés-Estanyol (32 miles)

Our our first day we picked up the bikes and went out for a relatively short spin into the mountains to the south-west of Girona. We soon discovered what cycling in the countryside around Girona was like; once out of the city the roads were empty and the climbs were very well-graded. Although it was clear and sunny, and the temperature was close to 30C, the mountains were covered in trees and there was plenty of shade.

This ride had two short climbs to about 300m but they were not steep and I was able to ride slowly up with several gears to spare. The descents were similarly long and gentle which made for an enjoyable ride down without the need for continuous braking. We stopped for coffee part-way round and were back in Girona in time for a late lunch.

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Tuesday: Cassa de la Selva-Monells-Santuari dels Àngels(38 miles)

The following day we went for a ride in the Gavarres mountains east of Girona, following a classic route known as the "Els Angels" loop, apparently a favourite of Lance Armstrong.

We rode south from Girona along some rather some flat and dull main roads for about eight miles until we reached the small town of Cassa de la Silva. There we turned east into the mountains and were immediately on a smooth, empty and gently rising road which took us up to an elevation of 350m before dropping down again to the village of Sant Sadurni de l'Heura on the other side.

The climb from Cassa dea la Selva towards Sant Sadurni de l'Heura

A few miles later we stopped for refreshments in the main square in the village of Monells. It was too early for lunch so we just had coffee before setting off back west for our second climb, up to the monastery of Els Àngels. This was rather harder than the earlier climb and took us up to an elevation of 484m. The ascent was straightforward enough but our decision not to eat anything earlier turned this into a bit of a slog, and when we reached the top I was relieved to discover that the monastery there had a cafe selling bars of chocolate.

After replenishing our sugar levels and admiring the view we descended a mile or so to a restaurant for another late lunch before completing our descent back down to Girona.

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Wednesday: Llagostera-Sant Grau-Sant Feliu de Guixols (63 miles)

After two relatively short days we now felt confident to attempt a longer ride south to the coast. This took us south through some pleasant flat countryside for about an hour until we reached Llagostera.

Near Sant Andreu Salou

Sant Andreu Salou, on the flat section between Girona and Llagostera, which we passed through on the way out and on the way back.

After Llagostera the climbing begin, up to about 460m near the village of Sant Grau, where I had my first view of the Mediterranean Sea. As usual, I was the first to reach the top and sat down to wait for Rob to join me. After half an hour he still hadn't appeared so I reluctantly set off back down the mountain to find him. I didn't have to lose much height before I found Rob wheeling his bike up the road. He had a puncture but since I was the one carrying the pump he had been unable to mend it without me. After making the necessary repair we carried on; this turned out to be the only mechanical breakdown of the week. I climbed with Rob back to the top after which we were rewarded by an exhilarating and spectacular descent down along a series of winding hairpins until we reached the coast road.

A view of the sea on the descent from Sant Grau down to the coast

We followed the coast road east until we reached the small resort of Sant Feliu de Guixols where we stopped for lunch.

The winding, switchback coast road (GI-682) approaching Sant Feliu de Guixols

Our route back to Girona wasn't as spectacular as the route out but wasn't as hilly either, taking us on a different route back to Llagostera before reversing the first part of the ride back to Girona. We arrived back in Girona at about 6.30pm.

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Post-ride beers in Plaça de la Independència, Girona. The waiters seemed very tolerant of our need to keep our bikes close by.

Thursday: Sant Gregori-Les Planes-Olut-Santa Pau-Banyoles (70 miles)

Today we had the longest ride of the week, a big loop to the west of Girona which took us into yet another mountainous region, the Garrotxa Volcanic Park around the town of Olut.

Most of the ride was on quiet roads but for some sections it was necessary to use some busier roads, though these were still quiet by British standards and didn't pose any problem.

C-63 between Les Planes d'Hostoles and Sant Esteve. Like most of the main roads we used, it was well-surfaced, well-graded, had a shoulder, and wasn't especially busy

We stopped for lunch in the village of Santa Pau a few miles east of Olut. This was the highest point in the ride at about 500m, and was followed by many miles of gradual descent along charming quiet lanes.

El Torn, on a quiet diversion from the main road in the Parc Natural Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa east of Sant Pau

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Friday: Sant Gregorio-Les Serres-Angles-Osor-Sant Hilari (64 miles)

Today's ride, rather to our surprise, turned out to be the most purely enjoyable of the whole week. It was essentially a long climb to the town of Sant Hilari for lunch. At 800m this was the highest point of the whole week, but the climb to reach it was a delight, a long and very gentle ascent up a series of beautiful wooded valleys along a road which was so quiet that we only saw a car every ten minutes or so.

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The very long but gentle climb up to Sant Hilari

Saturday: Flaça-Vilaur-Banyoles (52 miles)

Our final ride was a loop through the flatter agricultural countryside to the north of Girona. With no mountains and rarely climbing to more than 200m this was a relaxing way to end the week.

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The city of Girona was an attractive place to be based for the week, with a cosy old town and countless bars and restaurants. A good place to unwind after a day on the bike.

The bumpy cobbles of the old town in Girona

The city wasn't an especially cycle-friendly place, with bumpy cobbles in the centre and plenty of big roads and roundabouts further out. However none of the roads seemed particularly busy and we didn't have any difficulty with the local drivers who generally passed us with much more care than we were used to.

Light breakfast at cafe in Girona before setting off

This building in Girona old town is apparently where Lance Armstrong had his flat