This is an outstandingly beautiful ride through the rocky outcrops of the Prades Mountains (or Muntanyes de Prades).
The majority of the roads are the sort that road cyclists can’t help but fall in love with: narrow, twisty with breathtaking scenery and hardly any traffic. You pass tiny villages that feel lost in time, ancient forest and a UNESCO World Heritage monastery.
Were it not for the spell on the main roads around Montblanc, this ride would have been absolute perfection. In any event, we’d still put it forward for a best road cycling in Spain award (if there were such a thing)!
Route map and profile
Distance: 65 km
Elevation Gain: 1,120 m
Max Grade: 6 %
All metrics in this guide are approximate
We loved all the ancient towns and villages on this ride. From tiny hamlets that felt totally lost in time (like La Cadeneta, Farena and El Pinetell) to the bustling festivities at Montblanc, this ride shows you the rural communities of the Costa Daurada on roads you’ll be dreaming about for months to come!
1. Poblet to Capafonts: 0 to 26 km
The ride starts in the huge car park just outside the fortified wall of Poblet monastery. Just outside the car park at the start of the climb is a blue sign that says “Prades”. Under that it says “obert”, but like col signs you see in the high mountains, it looks like this can be changed. While it doesn’t feel like the road is high enough to get snow, we wonder if it can be closed for other reasons. If anyone has information on this, do let us know in the comments below!
From the start, you head straight up, on a gradual 15.5km climb (average gradient around 3-4%, maximum gradient 6%) through the Forest of Poblet. The Forest is a National Area of Natural Interest and is part of the Poblet Monastery lands, containing varied vegetation including holm oaks, pine trees and yew groves. When we were there our ride was accompanied by the sound of gunfire. We assumed someone was hunting in the forests! But for the sometimes un-nerving gunfire, it was a great ride to the top - you can really get into your rhythm and just go.
The summit isn’t marked, it’s just a flat section of road before it descends to Prades and then onto Capafonts. Both towns are picture-postcard beauties. Prades is a distinctive town, whose red brickwork comes from the stone of the surrounding mountains. It has a particularly nice square, with a few cafés and it’s on route.
Capafonts (photo on the banner photo) is a hilltop job, so if you decide you want to stop here for a coffee be prepared for a few extra metres of climbing!
2.Capafonts to La Riba: 26 to 47 km
About 5.5km after Capafonts you turn onto the tiniest of roads (TV-7044) which takes you through the hamlets of La Cadeneta, Farena and El Pinetell on super smooth roads surrounded by carpets of forest containing every colour of green under the sun. The general progress is downwards, but there are a few lumps to keep you on your toes. You feel about a million miles away from the rest of the world, surrounded by hills and trees. It’s gorgeous.
From El Pinetell it’s a fast descent to La Riba, a strange place, half industrial, half ancient residential - perched above the motorway.
3. La Riba to Poblet: 47 to 65 km
The final 18km make quite a contrast with what you’ve done so far. From La Riba you’re onto the main road, the C-14 that takes you on gently rising road, 8km to Montblanc.
Montblanc itself is a fascinating place whose Medieval credentials and well-preserved walls and buildings are a big draw for tourists. When we visited there was a festival in progress, with lots of people (both adults and children) dressed up in medieval garb. There were also period market stalls selling all kinds of food and drink. In the sunshine of early afternoon, there was a real party atmosphere in the air - we wished we could have stayed longer.
The 6km from Montblanc to the turn off on to the T-700 are also on main roads. The ride finishes with 4km of quieter road, from L’Espluga di Francoli back to Poblet Monastery.
The main roads of this final section are not disastrous, they’re just not as nice as the roads you’ve enjoyed for most of the ride. Looking at the map, we wonder whether it would be possible to bypass some of the C-14 by turning off the TV-7044 before El Pinetell, and taking the road to Rojals and Rojalons. From here you could drop down to Montblanc from the north. However, we didn’t get a chance to check this alternative out - if you have, let us know in the comments below!
There are lots of villages on this ride, so there’s a reasonable number of bars and restaurants en route. However be aware that this will usually require sitting down somewhere and being served since the Prades hills are very rural, and there’s not much in the way of self-service shops. Also some of the smaller villages/hamlets don’t have restaurants - the 20km between Capafonts and La Riba are particularly sparse.
Prades has a particularly nice town square and a couple of cafes. Also Capafonts is a reasonable size and Montblanc is quite a large town with lots of cafés and restaurants (and a supermarket too).
We stayed on the coast, at the Hotel Estival Daurada, a large hotel with lots of facilities for cyclists. You can find out more about the hotel and lots of information about Cambrils and Salou in our ultimate guide for cycling Costa Daurada.
Read our tips for cycling the Costa Daurada.
Poblet Monastery was built between the 12th and 15th centuries and is one of the largest and most complete Cistercian abbeys in the world. It is noted for its majestic architecture and fortified royal residence as well as the pantheon of the kings and queens of Catalonia and Aragon. More information here.
Montblanc is a fine Medieval town, surrounded by a fortified wall. You enter via one of the impressive defensive gates and find yourself in a warren of lanes. In the centre is the gothic church of Santa Maria with its ornate facade. They love a festival in Montblanc, and if you’re lucky, like we were, you’ll hit it when the party is in full swing. More information about the town here.
Does this route offer some of the best road cycling in Spain?
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