The Costa Daurada - the 'Golden Coast' - is a small sliver of Spanish coastline often overlooked by tourists and road cyclists, but it is somewhat of a hidden gem. Part of Catalonia in north-eastern Spain, it lies just over an hour's drive south from Barcelona in the province of Tarragona. For the road cyclist the real attraction of the region lies not on the coast, but inland, where a wealth of routes lead into the pink limestone mountains and world renowned vineyards.
The Costa Daurada (or Costa Dorada in Castilian Spanish) enjoys mild temperatures throughout the year, even in winter. This benign climate and quiet roads have not gone unnoticed by the smattering of pro teams who have started coming to the area for pre-season conditioning. German sprinter Marcel Kittel and his Giant Shimano team mates trained here in the early spring of 2014 and each year more and more top amateur riders, triathletes and cyclo-tourists arrive from the UK, Germany, Belgium and other northern European countries, all of which is helping to put the Costa Daurada on the cycling map.
Pine forests and limestone outcrops characterise the mountains of the Costa Daurada Picture. Rafael Tamajón
Especially popular with Spanish and French tourists, who flock to the resorts that line the long sandy bays and beaches of the Mediterranean coastline in high summer, the Costa Daurada may not be as famous as the cycling epicentre of Girona in the north of Catalonia, but the quiet roads and challenging inclines are perfect for anyone looking for some excellent cycling in warmer climes. Inland from the flat coastline, the roads weave through native scrubland, oak and pine forests overlooked by impressive escarpments, with commanding views over the landscape towards the sea.
It is the proximity to the coast of this spectacular scenery that explains why the Costa Daurada is becoming increasingly popular as a cycling destination. Within 30km of leaving your base on the coast, you can be standing a the top of La Mussara, which at 980m is one of the iconic climbs in the region. The routes is typical of many in the area and carves its way through the towns and villages of Baix Camp and the vineyards of the Priorat wine-growing area. There are plenty of opportunities to stop for a coffee or some tapas along the way, or even rest a while at one of the many bodegas in the area to taste some of the potent local reds!
You are never far away from a vineyard in the Costa Daurada. Picture: Priorat Tourist Board
Many businesses in the Costa Daurada have noted the success of cyclo-tourism in Mallorca, which lies 200km southeast across the sea, and hotels and restaurants in the coastal resorts of Cambrils and Salou are vying to offer provision for cyclists. Tour companies, like Cycling Costa Daurada, are also springing up or expanding their operation, providing local knowledge and guides, backed up by airport transfers and mechanical assistance.
Cyclo-tourism in the Costa Daurada is still very much in its infancy, but the pioneers who travel to the area will be rewarded by some spectacular cycling on smooth, peaceful roads, coupled with the rich and historical culture of Catalonia.
Main picture: A group of cyclists ascending La Mussara. Picture: Joan Castell/Cycling Costa Daurada
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