St Hilari 125

125km. 2000 meters climbing. Any ride that starts in the direction of Aiguaviva or heads towards Santa Coloma de Farners has me looking forward to two backroad cut-throughs which take you off the bigger roads and onto quiet, scenic and fun, twisting lanes - above Aiguaviva and past Brunyola. Coming through Santa Coloma de Farners there’s a handy shortcut to take note of before you start towards Sant Hilari - which is 19km away and all uphill!

8km out of Santa Coloma you pass a turnoff onto the C25 “motorway” and this marks the end of the valley approach and the start of actual climbing - it is also where you find the steepest section - around 10% - albeit very briefly so. The next 5km tend to stay between 5 and 7% although that makes it sound tougher than it is because it does dip below that regularly without really going about that.

Once in Sant Hilari there are two short diversions - the first is to a water fountain and the second is to my favourite cafe in town - confectionary delights served with a big smile always makes me a happy man.

Re-caffeinated, the downhill is utter bliss. 14 km to Osor, mostly super windy and here and there really sharp corners that might catch you out. The gradient starts to ease out from Osor (pronounced Us-sO by the locals I believe) on to Angles but instead of going that way I prefer to take a left hand just before Osor and start climbing again, over into a parallel valley and the Panta de Susqueda (Susqueda Dam which covers the area that once used to contain the town of Susqueda - which you might see signs of if the water level is really low). As this climb ends feel free to turn left to add 3km of climbing to a restaurant with breathtaking views - but it’s deadend so you’ll have to come back down and take the right hand option down to the dam. This descent is also known as the Moustache climb in the opposite direction is the second steepest sustained climb I know of in the area so be warned.

Beyond the dam wall you continue the descent and can chose which side of the valley you want to descend on by crossing the dam wall or not (the far side is straighter and sunnier - better in winter). Slightly bumpy roads next to the river eventually lead you back to what feels like civilization in a bigger valley as you turn left towards Amer and the biggest treat of the day.

As you exit Amer the map contains another detour which leads you past a factory and, briefly, off-road into some woods where you will find stairs leading down to a fountain. More than likely you will find an elderly couple with several large bottles filling them up - which seems strange until you realise that this is a naturally sparkling fountain - and it all makes sense. Sadly, I have heard that this can run dry in the heat of summer.

Back on the road you continue on the slightly bigger road for a short while before you turn off in Les Planes d’Hostoles for more quieter roads and the last climb of the day - 700 meters from the top there is a clearly visible fountain on the left hand side of the road - which all of a sudden seems disappointing that it’s not sparkling as well...

The rest of the journey to Girona is the old favourite, ever descending, Llemena valley road, through Sant Gregori and back to home.