After two highly successful and groundbreaking editions in South Africa, the world’s first gravel stage race is relocating to the cycling hotspot of Catalonia in October next year.
We dispatched Rollercoaster veteran Tinks to test the Catalan trails, sample the local fare and to see if he could hold the wheel of a World Tour Pro and eRacing World Champ.
Girona and its surrounding area is a cycling Mecca, does it live up to the hype?
It was my first time riding in the area and, as I arrived a day early, I went out for a bit of a shakedown ride and there’s simply cyclists everywhere! Even when you’re sat in the café and bars in the evening, pro riders are constantly rolling in for a bit of post-ride refreshment.
You’re based at Rocacorba Cycling, the home of pro cyclist Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, what’s that like?
It’s an absolutely stunning traditional 17th century Catalan villa. It’s so well set-up for cycling with a workshop and a café for pre-ride coffee and post-ride beers. There’s a beautiful pool and you’re surrounded by the mountains you ride over.
With Ashleigh helping with the route planning, these are her training rides so you know they’ll be superb.
On the event, you’ll be glamping out in the olive groves and, with a local live band and food truck that’ll be there, it’ll be as much like a music festival as a cycling event.
The area is known primarily for its road cycling, what’s the gravel like?
Superb and definitely worthy of the Rollercoaster moniker. You’ve got long climbs, steep sharp climbs and swooping descents – so much variety.
Day 3, at 127km with 1710m of ascent is a biggie, tough?
It’s certainly a long day but stops at a bakery and brewery definitely help to break things up. You’re also riding out to the coast and back which means some long flat sections which, if you jump the right wheel, will fly by. There’s also going to be a 90km option.
Day 4 packs a bit of a punch climbing wise too
It’s two main climbs and they were probably my favourite of the whole recce. It might have helped that, apart from being joined by a stray dog, I was riding on my own that day and not trying to cling to the wheel of a World Tour pro!
The descent off the second main climb which will take you to the finish at Rocacorba is probably the best gravel decent I’ve ever done … what a way to finish the event – guaranteed ear to ear grins!
You rode the original South African Rollercoaster, how do they compare?
They’re cut from the same cloth, are definitely related and are both Rollercoasters. There aren’t many places in the world where you can ride plains, mountains and coastlines all on gravel but both the Western Cape and the area around Banyoles tick those boxes.
So, how physically hard is it?
Day 3 is long but, with sensible pacing and fuelling, is definitely do-able. I’d give it a three out of five rating overall.
and technically, what off-road skills level do you need?
It’s fairly rocky in places and you do need to look ahead and pick your line. I’d give it three and a half out of five.
Did you get your bike set-up right?
Yeah, wide mullet gearing definitely helped get me up the climbs and 40mm Gravelkings run at slightly lower than normal pressure were plush enough.
If you’re an aggressive descender or fancy a bit more cushioning, you might want to opt for 650b and a slightly higher volume more MTB type tyre but it’s definitely not a must-have and you would lose some speed on some of the less technical sections and on tarmac.
For more stage information and to enter the 2022 Rainmaker Rollercoaster go to
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