There are five monuments in cycling, all with exceptional distances and special features like cobblestones, punchy hills or well known climbs that make them more interesting. It is always a wonder to see the best professional cyclists competing in those scenarios but as spectators, we cannot avoid wondering what it would be like riding those routes. For those living in the Benelux area and northern France, it is easy to visit the Mur de Huy or the pavés on the way to Roubaix. However, the logistics for non-local cycling fans are much more complicated.
The event Vallès Clàssics appears as a way to give a taste of the classics racing conditions to the amateur cyclists in Catalonia. Besides, it is designed to discover the less-known region of Vallès (20 km north of Barcelona), and make new friends on the way.
Last Sunday, April 23, the third edition of this event took place, with a new route and a total of 50 female and 50 male participants. As Ismael López, the mastermind behind this project, would say, it was ‘a beautiful day of cycling’.
A special date for the event
The chosen date for the ‘opening party’ could not be disregarded, as St. George is a magical and festive day in Catalonia when the atmosphere is filled with books and roses. That marked the theme of the ride and when we took a glimpse of the 110 km track with 1,500 m of elevation gain, the saw-like and twisty roads reminded us of a dragon spine.
The starting point was in Santa Perpètua de la Mogoda, and after a cup of coffee and croissant, we started tackling the 15 special sectors, with a mix of sterrato and pavé along the way. The departure time was open, so between 8h and 10h, people showed up and gradually started the ride in order to avoid gathering in large pelotons.
The first sterrato sector already left us in awe, as the white gravel winding road climbed onto a little hill surrounded by green wheat fields that contrasted with the deep blue skies. That would be the landscape of our day, as well as some pine forests, yellowish fields, and transition sections through residential or industrial areas.
One of the highlights of the day was the cobblestones sector El Pasqualet in Caldes de Montbui, a 1.5-kilometer-long three-star section worth of the north with a central rolling part, rougher side pavés, and gravely sideways to find the best line. The end of the pavé turned out to be a meeting point, where participants stopped to take a picture or just comment on how tough that short section was and how that would extrapolate to an actual classic.
As we went on riding we came across one of the best bakeries in the area, el Pessic in la Garriga halfway through the route. Despite no waffles, the croissants were worth their reputation, and whoever decided to take a rest there could enjoy one as little groups arrived and went on. Being in the center of the town, pedestrians who wandered around on their way to buy a book and a rose looked at the riders with a curious glance not knowing why we were all dusty and so eager to eat.
That pause helped us recover and we headed to a bumpy sterrato section that turned into a tarmac wall with a 12% gradient. At that point the sun was high in the sky and the heat started to take a toll on us. However, we had reached the highest point of the route, so from there it would be downhill, or that is what we would have wished.
The last kilometers of the track brought us back to the start through a rather busy road that was worth taking as it took us once again to white gravel isolated roads and some unexpected punchy climbs. Back at the start, everyone had a satisfaction smile. The track had been tough but at the same time completely doable on a road bike, we just had to find the right line on the sterrato and pavé. Covered in dust, people shared their anecdotes of the ride around a drink and a fulfilling meal we had all earned.
Isma had done it again. He managed to bring together many cycling enthusiasts from all around with the sole goal of enjoying and exploring on a bike. He had designed an incredible route with all the features you could expect from a classic race and a distance adapted for all levels. Vallès Classics represents a celebration of road cycling in its essence, available to everyone willing to adventure into a different route and Isma’s home region, el Vallès.
The track is available to everyone at this link.