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Catalunya Trail. First contact with long-distance gravel

It is kind of hard to find an adjective to describe everything we are experiencing in 2020 but, despite the adversities, one must be positive and try to keep on with those plans, objectives, and proposals we had set some months ago.

For us, one of the goals we wanted to reach this year was the participation in long-distance self-supported competitions consisting of a gravel course. We had prepared a list of events to which we wanted to go, but we had no other chance but to replan it as the months passed due to cancellations and changes.

Finally, some days ago, we could attend the first appointment, the Catalunya Trail. An event to which we showed up with motivation, physically prepared, and, above all, the desire to enjoy and discover new routes.

Catalunya Trail 2020

Even though the event is defined as non-competitive, we all know that time is always a crucial factor for some riders. In spite of that, the organization claims that their objective is to discover the most spectacular and inhospitable landscapes of Catalonia, through a challenging circular route of 555 km and more than 10.000 m of positive ascent starting in Barcelona and guiding us towards the Pyrenees.

Most of the track is suitable for gravel bikes, however, in some short segments, some skills are required and, even in very isolated cases, to walk the bike.

There are no provisioning places, it is a self-supported event. One must take care of its own food and drinks, and decide when to stop or keep pedaling. In the end, it is you who decides the roughness of the challenge.

The experience

From our point of view, the experience has been very positive for many aspects:

On the one hand, being able to participate in a cycling event with all its sanitary security measures and seeing that the organizers promote their projects is fantastic news and we should support them.

On the other, taking on a challenge like this, besides trying to finish it in the minimum possible time, is a great personal feat due to the demanding course and the determination it requires. Thus, completing it provides you with an enormous satisfaction feeling.

Keys to success

After living our first experience in a long-distance event, we would like to stress out some key points we believe are essential when participating in events of this importance.

Nutrition

Practicing sports, and even more during many hours and days, requires a very good alimentation. Try not to extend the time between meals, and try to eat well, and do not choose foods that might feel heavy in your stomach or result in stomach-ache due to the great physical effort. Try to ingest something every 45 min or 1 h, preferably products that you know and will not be bad for you. Be careful in abusing of gels.

Hydration

Similar to nutrition, hydration is very important, maybe more. It is super important to keep ourselves on good levels of water and one must be aware of the heat. If it is the case that we will be pedaling in very hot temperatures, it is recommendable to combine water with a bottle with mineral salts. It is advisable to carry between 2 and 3 liters of water per person and studying the route to know where to refill the bottles.

Mindset

One should always have a positive attitude, not thinking about the length of the course but trying to set intermediate objectives that are closer and reaching them little by little. There will be more complicated segments, moments in which you will suffer more than necessary, but it is always important to look back and realize all you have achieved and how meaningless that ‘bump’ in the road was compared to the rest.

Setup

It is fundamental to keep our bike fresh every time we stop to rest a bit. A tiny bottle of lubricant could save us from many complicated situations and possible issues. Inspect the drivetrain regularly, especially if it has rained, you have to cross rivers, or there are very muddy areas.

Check the battery level of your GPS device, your cellphone, and your lights, and try to always have an external battery with you that allows you to recharge your peripherals while you are riding.

Enjoy

Not everything is about winning, do not forget about the unknown places that surround you and that you are living a unique experience you will always remember, so try to enjoy it to the fullest.

Komoot

In our case, it was essential to check and analyze every stage before and during the event in Komoot. Knowing where the hardest segment of the day will be, what the slope of a concrete point is, or the weather forecast for the day is very useful. All these aspects and many others will help you picture in a clearer way what to expect from the course and, therefore, setting more realistic intermediate objectives, as we mentioned before.

Here you will find our Komoot collection and also a link to our official webpage of The RAW Stories where we publish all our wilder bike challenges and feats.