105km, 2000 meters altitude gain. Almost everyone who visits Girona wants to climb Rocacorba. Clubs and teams are named after it. And everyone lets a few choice curse words pass their lips as they are climbing the beast. It is one hell of a climb - with breathtaking views at the top and a beautiful and cool lake at its foot for any weary bike rider to dip their feet in and replenish their energy levels.
This loop takes a detour before the climb to give you a solid 60km to warm up - but that can easily be shortened if needed. Minus the climb, which is out-and-back, this loop is approximately 80 beautiful and lumpy kilometers.
The first 10km of this ride are on the N2 road which is one of the bigger roads you ride on in the area - but fortunately there is a shoulder and never really too much traffic. Just before turning off the N2 on the outskirts of Medinya, take some care navigating the traffic circulation - it felt more confusing than it is when I first arrived here. From there you are back onto the quiet roads we love, and heading north with very few intersections to worry you. After 20km there is a right-hand turn which extends this ride - but - turning left turns this ride into one of the local’s favorite recovery rides by Banyoles Lake - or alternatively cuts out kilometers and saves you energy before tackling Rocacorba…
Continuing right, as the map suggests, you are on winding and lumpy roads doing a loop and skirting through a part of the area that is hardly ever spoken about but truly picturesque.
At 42.5km on the route there is a slight out and back extension on the map inside the small town of Esponella. This is to help point out a little cafe that has truly pretty - but truly inconspicuous signage. Approximately 30km from the top of Rocacorba it is also a great spot to make sure that you have enough caffeine and fuel for what lies ahead.
Exiting Esponella there is a little climb to really wake you up before you get onto a dead straight road - with Rocacorba virtually dead straight ahead of you, looming ominously on the horizon. Yes: the big radio towers you see mark the top!
The route takes a back-road to Banyoles and around the back side of the lake before heading for the climb. When you reach the lake continue going around it if you are low of drinks of food - this is one climb you want to be fueled for! As you leave Banyoles you have a bit more flat road but after crossing a small bridge it starts going up - if you’re in to timing yourself, that’s the place to start.
The climb is 10km long at 7% - but that includes a few easy sections - which pass all too quickly. Bottom line. It’s hard no matter how you approach it.
Note - the road surface is really bad so please take care on the descent! I know of more people who have crashed coming down ‘corba than almost all other roads combined!
The route takes you back into Banyoles after the descent as you almost certainly need to refill your bidons and belly. I have yet to find a lakeside cafe that really appeals to me, but the view makes up for the lacklustre cafes.
Heading from Banyoles to Girona I always take the backroads which include a steep lump or two but are usually quiet and always stunning - you just have to spend 2km, slightly downhill, on a large dual carriageway road. They pass very quickly and in no time you’re back in G-Town, hopefully having just conquered the beast.