Travel Guide: PYRENES BIKEPARKS-LA MOLINA
Mountainbiking in the Pyrenees has been the poorer cousin to mountainbiking in the Alps for some time. This could be set to change now with the World Cup races in Andorra raising the profile and firmly placing the Vallnord Bikepark on the map. With two other bike parks, La Molina and Grand Valira both within close proximity, there’s a great holiday destination for UK riders in the making starting just a couple of hours drive from Barcelona airport. All three parks have had high profile involvement of varying levels from the likes of the Misser Bros, Gracia and Oscar Saiz, so we went to check them out and see what the Pyrenees could throw up to the casual rider.
La Molina is the closet resort to Barcelona, just two hours drive from the airport. The landscape changes rapidly as you move from the red soils and warm, drier climate around the city up into the foothills of the Pyrenees and then into the mountains proper where it is cooler and much greener. At one point you drive through a long tunnel and when you pop out the other side it’s as if you have somehow warped to Switzerland, with lots of little chalets and everything so neat and well kept
– it doesn’t feel like Spain at all. Unfortunately our pre–season visits were plagued by bad weather and I took more than one tumble over the bars into waist deep snow, something you won’t see too much of during the main season months of July and August, that’s for sure! It’s hot sun and blue skies all summer, as Pau Misser told us, the last season he worked there they had one day of rain, all summer.
Driving from La Molina in Spain onwards and into Andorra takes just one hour, but in that time the feel of the mountains change again, everything seems to scale up a level. Andorra has a definite vibe about it, the sheer slopes of the mountains dictate that the towns are nestled into the tight valley floors with steep mountain slopes and cliffs looming all around, it can make you quite claustrophobic.
It also means this tiny country, with a small population, feels a whole lot busier and larger than it actually is, as all the buildings and people are concentrated together. The resorts run in linear fashion along the valley bottoms and every last inch of space is utilised. This is clearly evident in the capital Andorra La Vela where the valley floor briefly opens where a few valleys converge; the city is bustling, exciting and the backdrop stunning. If you want to go shopping then this is the place to head. In fact the whole country feels like it is designed for economic success; there are no poor people in Andorra! Most of the towns are modern and built to accommodate their booming snow season, now they’re keen to throw bikers into the mix.
La Molina is located in the ‘La Cerdanya Valley’ in the Spanish Pyrenees, the resort, whilst hosting the Bikepark and ‘a bowling alley, does not offer a whole lot more than that to the travelling biker, you can grab some food, get great coffee or some beers in the bar, but it just doesn’t have the vibe of a good resort. This is largely due to the fact that many people from the city have their second homes here, which are only frequented during the summer holidays and ski season. At these times the resort is a little livelier and if you just want to ride as much as you can for a few days here, then the resort is fine. If you want to experience something a little more cultured, then I’d recommend that you stay down in the town of Puigcerda, a real taste of local town life and much more engrossing than being
hidden away up in the resort. There are plenty of restaurants and bars and a cinema to keep you entertained.
The trails in the bike park range from a few easier blues, through to the red and black runs. The black run from the top of the hill is very steep and in places not too imaginative, with some straight chutes, it is fun enough but my favourite trail was the red run which had been hand built a few years before by the Misser brothers. It is sweeping not so steep and flows well, with some tighter sections in the trees. It had become quite eroded with the use over the years, but to be honest, in most places rode better for it. The small wood park has wooden drops, little banked wooden berms and wallrides scattered all over a reasonable area. Parks are quite cool, but ultimately there’s not a whole lot to get excited about there, you’re far better off putting your time into the trails on the hill using the lift. It is also possible to do some all–mountain runs down from La
Molina to the next resort of Alp, you’ll need a van shuttle back, we rode a couple of trails heading down to the valley floor with the friendly locals and after the rain the area had received it had left it soft and loamy = great fun to ride! These runs were below the main lift accessed Bikepark, but were definitely worth a few shots and they are looking at expanding to allow some sort of return bus to collect riders from these lower areas. Back in the bike park, the blue trails were fun and quite well laid out, meaning you could blast down them carrying good speed or build up your confidence before tackling the red runs.
With the whole resort being quiet and somewhat lifeless in the summer you’ve plenty of choice where to stay. Hotel SuperMolina in the resort is a good bet, it’s recently been refurbished and they have a secure ski room for your bikes. You can catch the train from Barcelona up to the resort and for long weekends this is a good plan. Anything longer and we’d recommend hiring a car and staying in the village of Puigcerda at the bottom of the valley (15 minutes away), it is a lovely little town with a true Spanish feel, and much more lively than the resort. Stay at the Campus Cerdanya, a sports complex with bike storage.
In the resort try out the El Bosc restaurant, which served good local cuisine. In the evening the best food is found back down in Puigcerda, try El Petit Cafe, or Espirit De Vi for great tapas. If you fancy pizza there is a decent pizzeria opposite the town cinema which is popular among the locals.
For mid–week drinks down in Puigcerda head to the central bar in the town square, there is something going on in there every day. On the weekends try L’Aigua which is livelier and a good starting and/or finishing point.
There is a bike shop in the main ski building by the gondola called Esports Success, they can supply you with pretty much everything you need, from hire bikes to servicing and spares. This shop is in partnership with Top Bikes in Puigcerda where they have more stock of spares.
The gondola serving the main bike park is modern and efficient. There is a mid station which takes you high enough for most of the runs and a top station with some more technical trails. Vehicular uplift from Alp can also be arranged at the resort office.
Days Lift pass: 20.50 euros
3 day Pass: 52.50 euros