Nestled high in the Pyrenees, the principality of Andorra is a haven for cyclists, both on- and off-road. As participants in the inaugural Andorra Multisport Festival and the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees have discovered, there is far more to do in the mountain kingdom, too.
One of the world’s smallest countries, Andorra measures just 468 square kilometres and is entirely landlocked – situated in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. It’s been an independent principality since the 9th century when it’s believed that it was created by the Emperor Charlemagne. In its current state, as a principality, Andorra has existed since 1278; making it one of Europe’s oldest nations.
Delving into its rich history and awe-inspiring Romanesque architecture are two of the more leisurely activities riders in the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees have been able to indulge in. With the stages only starting at 10:00 there was ample time in the morning for a pedal around La Massana before the Prologue and Stage 1. A sight seeing warm-up ride was the perfect way to take in the beauty of the town while preparing for the rigours of the stage ahead.
Despite the fact that many of the region’s most famous MTB trails are included in the race route, participants will still be eager to explore the Vallnord Bike Park further. Situated in La Massana the park was ranked by Red Bull as the fourth best bike park in the world, in a 2019 report. It boasts 40-kilometres of dedicated mountain bike trails and 29 routes; including 21 descents for various skill levels, 2 Enduro courses, 4 cross-country loops, a four-cross track, and a dedicated eBike route, as well as a skills practice area, a kids’ bike park and a pump track.
After having ridden the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees most people will not be keen on avoidable climbing. Thanks to the ski-lifts doing multiple laps of the best routes, or exploring all the downhill runs, is a viable option even on tired post-race legs. It is certainly worth spending a few extra days to free ride the bike park.
Andorra, as anyone who has been following the race or taking part will know, is breath-takingly high above sea level. In fact, the country averages a staggering 1 996 metres above sea level and the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees crests 2 000 metres on 5 occasions; spending around 30-kilometres above that significant mark. For those who did not get enough of the high elevations the hiking in Andorra is truly spectacular. One of the most awe-inspiring routes is the climb to the summit of Coma Pedrosa, which towers to 2 943 metres above La Massana.
Other, less strenuous hikes abound. Including trips to Andorra’s three national parks in the valleys of Sorteny, Comapedrosa and Madriu-Perafita-Claror. Madriu-Perafita-Claror was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, due to its natural and cultural significance. It remains untouched by modernity and has the distinction of being Andorra’s only valley with no roads bisecting it, the only means of travel in the region are along the ancient partially paved trails.
For riders who travelled to Andorra with their families there’s no need to venture so far off the beaten track. There are child friendly activities on offer too: like the Naturlandia toboggin and tree parks at Segudet Adventura Park. The Vallnord Mountain Park as well as the Engolasters Adventure Forest are filled with bridges, hanging ropes and zip-lines. While the Mont Màgic Family Park, in Canillo, will keep the young of body and heart entertained all day.
After all the riding, hiking and family friendly entertainment everyone will certainly have worked up a ferocious apatite. Andorra’s traditional cuisine is highly seasonal, with wild mushrooms, winter vegetables and charcuterie taking pride of place as the weather changes. Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees riders and their families can indulge in summer dishes; like Andorran cannelloni, jugged hare, wild boar stewed in red wine with wild mushrooms, pan-fried trout with almonds or Trucha a la Andorrana, the local cured ham. Unique and complex high elevation wines from the local Borda Sabaté 1944, Casa Auvinyà, Casa Beal and Celler Mas Berenguer vineyards are the best accompaniment for these dishes. Especially if one has a stellar stage race result to celebrate.
For mountain biking fans who have been following the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees and living vicariously through the riders the Andorran Tourism website is a fantastic source of additional information. If you would as a result like to plan a trip to the mountain Principality click through to www.visitandorra.com. Alternatively, you can download the Active Tourism Andorra Android or iPhone apps from the Google Play or Apple App Stores.