Martin (far right) opens the new business with partners Saskia and David Walsh and Dominique Rollin
By Brian Canty
Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-SHARP) has gone into business with a new bike shop and tour company in Girona which specializes in providing tours of the surrounding area for riders of all levels – www.gironacyclecentre.com
Martin, who turned 26 years last week, had been thinking of the idea for a number of months and recently decided that the move would be a logical one, given his increasing profile in the past 12 months.
Though the former Irish national champion and Vuelta stage-winner won’t be involved in the day-to-day running of the business, it is expected that when his hectic racing season comes to a close in mid-October, he will be directing some Tours.
Martin isn’t the only professional rider with a stake in the company as fellow professional Dominique Rollin (FDJ-Big Mat) is also an investor.
The shop, based in the centre of the town 100kilometres north of Barcelona, is run by British professional mountain biker David Walsh and his Dutch wife Saskia (multiple national champion) and they have been in business for over five years, having previously worked for other Tour companies in the area.
Martin, since moving to Girona four years ago, sees it as ‘home’ and says the area is a Mecca for serious and more leisure cyclists.
“I came here and it felt like home straight away,” he told stickybottle.
“It’s the town with the highest quality of life in Spain and it’s a beautiful place to train as well. I think it’s the pace of life that makes it special. It’s very relaxed and you’d never have any issues with cars because you never see any.”
“There aren’t huge climbs around here but you can get decent 10km climbs and half an hour climbing is enough for anybody. It is just nice for training and it’s nice to have the environment as well with so many pro riders living here.”
“You never have to ride the same road either, which is great. You can ride a week here and you’ll never cross the same road twice. There’s such diversity here; like, we can’t ride our bikes all the time so you’ve got the beach 35km away and the restaurants in the town here are famous. They’re really good value; you can go out and have a three-course meal and a bottle of wine for €25.”
The shop itself – conveniently or not, it’s located 50 yards away from McKiernan’s Irish Bar – is like stepping into a museum with the walls festooned with jerseys worn by Martin as well as his fellow professionals.
Ryder Hesjedal’s Giro winner’s jersey hangs proudly while Martin’s own ’crash-suit’ from this year’s Dauphine is one of the first things you see inside the door.
David Walsh runs a tight ship with Dan Martin’s father Neil working as a guide and there’s also a mechanic on site at all times.
“Neil guides most of the top end road tours,” explains Walsh.
“Neil’s an interesting character; former pro rider, former British champion and he’s a double Olympian (LA and Moscow games). He’s got a 30-year CV of some of the biggest races in the world. He’s a very modest guy.”
“He is fit and very knowledgeable about the sport and he’s a very good trainer and qualified coach. He has been living and riding here for many years so is perfect for the job.”
Currently, the company is in the planning stages of organising ‘Dan Martin’s Grand Road Tours’ which Walsh explains is a Grand Tour-style trip designed by Martin himself.
“Dan planned the Tour and designed it so you stay in a hotel of his choice, go on routes that he designed and eat in restaurants that he likes. We’re trying to put something with the Garmin team together as well.”
But for now and for the coming winter, Walsh stresses their main focus and big aim is attracting people out to Girona for training camps.
“The big thing for us and what we’re trying to do now with Dan is working to get clubs and teams out here. Majorca is a well known destination and many people go there but the riding here is better and more varied. Majorca’s where all the pro’s where 10 years ago but not anymore because they’re here now.”
“Girona is a bit more of an exclusive destination and we’ve also packages to suit groups of a higher level.”
The company has gone to extraordinary lengths to cater for everything a cyclist could need.
“We do everything,” says Martin.
“We’re a cycle centre so we offer everything from renting a pump, to getting your bike fixed, full bike shop service, all the way through to bike tours and complete bike tour package holidays. We look after everything – accommodation, transfers, everything.”
More information is available at www.gironacyclecentre.com
Ready to go: The shop is well stocked and very much open for business
Break a leg: Looking packed for the recent opening party