Ruta del Cister
This is the gem in the crown of the Conca de Barbera trail network, an all-day adventure for which we have adapted the classic 3 monasteries loop to allow for door to door access. It starts off fairly gently, with a first climb over the ridge towards the little town of Solivella. From then it strikes off up towards the Santuari de Tallat, previously occupied by monks from Poblet. A refreshing descent along wooded trails takes down to the first of the 3 monasteries, ending in a rock-garden challenge which some will enjoy, whilst others may choose to walk! At 18 kilometres, Vallbona provides an early coffee stop, but you may want to wait until the next one at Fores, hilltop village at 866 m.
The climb up to Fores is a gentle one, but ends in another technical challenge that will require some technical riding skills. It can be bypassed if required. The route drops downhill fast towards Rocafort de Queralt at 566 m., which we pass through briefly before riding over the next ridge to Montbrio de la Marca. Here the hardest climb starts in earnest. The trail is very steep in sections, often rocky and loose. The views provide a welcome distraction, but you will need to pace yourself at this stage, as you are about a third of the way through the route. Topping out near the peak of Puig de Comaverd at about 900 m. is a welcome relief.
Tempting though the right-hand fork down to the valley may seem at this stage, our route takes us a little higher along the ridge before the descent starts. It is a tough descent, with some loose rocky terrain, fairly steep in places. Most riders will need to wait till the final part of the descent s we reach firmer terrain in the valley before letting rip.
The trail winds its way now through wooded valleys, with a few minor descents. Pont dÁrmentera will be the first opportunity to replenish water supplies after Rocafort, which will be welcome as the temperature starts to rise. Most riders will be glad of a lunch-stop at the restaurant in the monastery town of Santes Creus at 62 kms, although it may be tempting to continue to complete the next climb before the hottest part of the day.
After Santes Creus arguably the hardest climb approaches. Riders will need to be well-waterd, although there will be a last opportunity to replenish water-supplies at Figuerola at the start of the climb towards the Tossal Gros de Miramar. Although only 350 m., it is usually in full sun, unrelentingly steep and loose.
As we reach the summit of the ridge the Conca de Barbera basin is spread out below us through the trees. The shade is welcome, but not as welcome as the descent all the way down to Montblanc following a trail that is initially steep rocky and loose and then fun, fast packed-earth.
The hard climbs are over by this stage. At 86 kms riders may well choose to find a shady spot to sit, chill and recover from the big climbs. There are some short climbs up towards the third monastery of Poblet, as well as some more loose rocky terrain, but the last 30 kms, although possibly best completed in the cool of the evening, provide an easy relief after a tough day.
If in summer, we heartily recommend a reviving swim at the nearby pool in Pira, 2 kms from the house, accompanied by some cool drinks to finish the ride.
Distance: appr. 112 kms
Accumulated height gain: 2664 m.