THE CANYON PIRINEXUS CHALLENGE: THE ORIGINATOR OF GRAVEL TRAILS26-05-2022
On 24 September, a new edition of the gravel challenge par excellence, a time trial with the goal of finishing before sunset.
The ultimate challenge, it symbolising the cross-border union between Catalonia and France, linking the Catalan Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea by bike along continuous greenways.
The Canyon Pirinexus Challenge is a 340-km non-stop circular cycling event on the so-called Pirinexus route. It is one of the most authentic, beautiful, tough and prestigious gravel events in Europe. Participants have 18 hours to complete a route that includes all types of terrain, featuring tarmac roads, plenty of tracks and the occasional urban stretch.
The route is characterised by a very good mix of trails and paths through the picturesque scenery of the Costa Brava, with ideal autumn weather. For 2022, the route will go in a clockwise direction from the starting point: first towards the Pyrenees, before returning to Girona from the Costa Brava covering a total distance of 340 km and 3,000 m of cumulative elevation gain. The event is considered a brevet, with a non-competitive spirit, albeit one based on self-improvement.
Enjoying the journey is one of the challenge’s key principles
There is nothing better than the journey itself to savour a route like the Canyon Pirinexus Challenge. Therefore, we have selected five of the route’s highlights:
- The section from Sant Feliu de Guíxols to Olot
- Coll d’Ares
- The Vallespir greenway
- The gravel tracks of L’Empordà
- Riding alongside beaches such as Sant Martí d’Empuries and Sant Antoni de Calonge
You have to experience it first hand.
The beginning of the Pirinexus legend
Back in 2011, when there was no talk of gravel bikes, Jordi Cantal was introduced to the world of cycling by a professional road cyclist. He taught him to discover off-road routes with stronger tyres, which could be used on gravel tracks.
In the off-season, they used to ‘get lost’ in the Girona area in search of spectacular routes.
In 2013, Cantal got to know the Pirinexus cycle touring route and realised that it would make a great gravel adventure. One year later, he managed to ride it in 18 hours, a milestone that turned into a type of event/challenge, before finally transforming into the current Canyon Pirinexus Challenge.
The idea of reaching the finish line before sunset is the great accomplishment to which the bikers aspire, although completing 340 km is already a great long-distance challenge. The passing of time and perspective make you appreciate what has been achieved.
Sea Otter Europe is the international hub for cycling
At a festival with as much prestige as Sea Otter Europe Costa Brava-Girona, a long-distance challenge had to be included. With MTB, Gravel, Road, E-bikes, test riding, industry news, the festival makes for a perfect weekend for fans of cycling.