Pyrenees cycling trip

//Pyrenees cycling trip

Pyrenees cycling trip

With the treat of a surprise birthday party for my 40th I decided that I did not want to be close to home and decided to go away cycling and taking onthe 9 epic climbs of the Pyrenees as listed in the Band of Climbers poster.

Friday

Arrived in Lourdes to be greeted by Jacques holding up a sign with my name on it, I have always wanted this and it has took nearly 40 years to finally make it! His wife, well I assume it was, as they did not speak a word of English, was holding up a picture of the motor home that we had hired and seemed more excited than me about it, I was just thinking “that looks a little big to me”. Luckily for me the language barrier saved the awkward question of “have I driven in France before?” to which I was going to have to yes and crashed while on the wrong side of the road!

Back at Jacques place he was going over the finer details of the motor home showing us important features such as switching the interior lights on and less so about the actual mechanical features of the vehicle. Anyway he seemed like he was happy that he cover all the aspects of the van before we went inside to sign the paperwork for the hire.

The plan for the first night was not drive too far but just to get a feel for the vehicle before we ventured too far. I noticed there was a camp site down the hill, only about 200 meters so thought a good start but after Jacques had poured a large glass of port we did not even get out of his garden and stayed the night!

After visiting Lourdes for an evening meal we concluded this is not the best place to visit in the Pyrenees but more of a “tick the box” exercises. It seems for some reason that the only food you can get is pizza and it is full of what I thought were nuns but after seeing them drinking beer with blokes it seems they were nurses!

Saturday

It seem that Jacque and his wife did not want us to leave as they prepared breakfast for us. Sitting down at the table I thought we were going to have cereal as had bowls in front of us but it would appear this was for the tea or coffee! After pouring it I then pondered how are we suppose to drink it and looked at the teaspoon thinking it is going to take ages but luckily Jacques just used the whole bowl so I followed!

As we set sail down the hill they were both smiling and waving as we left, I could not help thinking that they were going to be on the phone to the insurance company straight away for a newer model!

The first leg was to head southeast and our destination was Genos to tackle 2 climbs in that part of the region. It did not take long before I got into the swing of things with the van although I was always cautious not to get the van in a tight spot where I would have to reverse so it was more of a case of “point and shot”.

We found a convenient campsite to park for the first night while I plotted the route for my first days cycling in the hills.

Sunday

I obviously enjoyed a few beers the night before after the trauma of driving the motor home for the first time so did not awake as early as had plan but managed to get going and crack out the first two cols’ on my list, Col de Peyresourde & Superbagneres. These were tough but not unachievable although I had not factored in getting back to base meaning I had to climb back over one of the summits. I was pleased to find a café at the top where I have a much-needed coke and crepes!

Arriving back the plan was to head to the top of the Col de Tournament to camp on the eve of my 40th birthday.

Not having looked at the map before hand it meant that we ended up having to tackle both the accent and decent of the Col de Aspin before the final push to the summit of the Col de Tourmalet. I couldn’t help thinking what would happen if we just “plopped” of the edge, which looked a hell of a long way down! Luckily we made it to the top and the view was stunning.

A couple of other vans had also decided to pitch up at the same location and they all seemed to have wedges under the wheels, Jacque obviouslyomitted to give us these!

Well what a way to spend the night before your birthday, 2400m above sea level! This beats any surprise party in a village hall!

Monday (My Birthday)

The morning started with the most beautiful sunrise over the mountain ranges as far as the eye could see! Opening the door to experience the freshness of the morning air to be confronted by a group of hungry alpacas! It’s funny in the Pyrenees because you never know what animal you are going to find at the top of the summits, so far we have had horses, cows to add to the current family of Alpacas!

The free wheel down to the bottom of the climb was a chilly one but the views were breathtaking! Dodging a few varies animals on the decent I reached the bottom where I turned around and made the long accent back up the to the top. As the sun rose further in the sky my temperature became to rise and I had to relent and take my base layer off only to be passed but French riders coming past in arm warmers and bib longs!

Reaching the summit was pretty special, thinking of all the tour de france riders that had also reach this point all be it in a slightly faster time that I had done it in!

With the red light on the toilet, this we guessed rightly meaning it was full we headed back to our next destination of a campsite for the evening, which turned out to be a lovely little village called St Lary.

Now I had assumed that the toilet cassette consisted of a complicated filtration system turning it into pure filtered water to dispose of but alas the stark reality hit me like a brick, as I emptied the cassette, not the way I wanted to be spending my 40 years on this planet!

Now it seems that the food choice around the Pyrenees is either Pizza or Tapas but not being in Italy and have Tapas for lunch I fancied something different for my birthday meal. Luckily we stumbled across a lovely restaurant with a full “normal” menu! Being known as Jimmy 2 steaks in the past I went for the 5 meat dish which basically consisted of every animal possible, perhaps they just take one from each mountaintop?

Well that was it, 40 had been and gone and as expected felt no different!

Tuesday

Today’s challenge was “Lac de cap-de-long” which on paper looked relatively easy but due to the usual miscalculation of distance and feet of climbingthis proved a little tougher than originally planned but the views were stunning looking over the lake and well worth the climb!

Having completed the climbs on the east side it was the long trek west navigating what felt like a small house back over the 2 biggest Cols. Having a break halfway for a coffee Birgit tried to make friends with one of the local cows although was not so accommodating knocking her to the ground with it’s horns!

Our camp for the night was at the top of the Col du Soulor and after a couple of beers if was an early night ready for the next day!

Wednesday

Today’s plan was to tackle the decent before climbing up the Col d’Aubisque and then back the same way to climb the Col du Solour and thus getting two easy summits in a short period of time.

Getting up early meant I got to see the sunrise, which was stunning over the mountaintops. I wrapped up warm and settled in for what I thought was going to be a long decent only to find this lasted less than a mile before I was on the accent of the Col d’Aubisque. Another epic fail in my preparation of the area by not knowing that there is only one accent of the Col du Soulor! This meant I reached the summit of the Aspin earlier than planed and could only find one stray Frenchman to take the obligatory summit photo!

Rolling back to base camp AKA the campervan I thought I could cheat and have my photo take with the Col du Soulor sign but would only be cheating myself so stopped for refreshments and rolled down to the start of the climb and made my way back up carrying the French Stick that I had purchased in town.

After lunch it was time to make our way to the last location of the trip and headed to Luz-St-Sauveur. The beer in the Pyrenees seems stronger than back home and this defiantly showed tonight after have a couple of Kwak beers which is a Belgian Beer served in it’s own special glass and was 8.4%!

Thursday

After waking up not feeling the best from last nights beer the reality sunk in of knowing I had to tackle 2 tough climbs today! The first was Luz-Ardiden, which was a stone throw from the campsite meaning I was straight into climbing with a pounding head. This was a lovely climb with plenty of switchbacks although not much at the top other than a shut down ski resort.

The next climb was the Hautacam, which was one of the bigger ones in the Pyrenees and I was really starting to feel it but dug in. The weather was hot today and had planned to refill my bottles at the top but found out it was another “ghost town” ski resort with nothing open!

We met up with some friends from Café Cadence back home who were out here with Classic Roads cycling tour company and enjoyed a couple of light beers this time before the last days riding tomorrow which was going to be the biggest to date.

 

Friday

After riding on my own all week it was lovely to go out with a group and also ride on the flat for a period of time which I have missed coming from Norfolk!

I only needed to tackle the Col d’Aspin today to complete all 9 climbs for the week however due to the location of the start point we had 2 choices, either climb the Tourmalet twice to get to the Aspin or ride 60km round to the Col d’Aspin then back over the Tourmalet once to get back one. I went for the later.

It was great to have the full support of the team at Classic Roads who did a great job of looking after the whole group and me. There knowledge of thearea was spot on and there was nothing that you would have needed that wasn’t carried in the van.

We stopped for a fully provided lunch spread before we reached the foot of the Col d’Aspin, which in reality was not that bad. We did however have to negotiate the cattle in the middle of the road who where also making the accent to the summit. Even with my tired legs we managed to beat them to the top!

Now just the small matter of climbing the other side of the Tourmalet that I have not yet climbed and it would be me home and dry. Being the highest summit and after all the climbing that had come before then this was quite tough for me. Getting to the top was always going to happen for me, failing injury or death but seeing the faces of the group members who made it to the top made it quite emotional as for some this was just an amazing achievement and a memory to treasure.

Feeling like a pro riding down the other side it was time to pack up the bike and get the motorhome , which was now called snail, back to Lourdes safely and us onto our flight home.

 

 

I had an amazing week and wanted to say thank you to Birgit for all the lovely food she prepared for when I returned back from riding.

Looking forward to getting my next poster from Band of Climbers!

By |2019-01-28T11:36:10+00:00October 17th, 2018|Cycling trips|0 Comments

About the Author:

My cycling career started in 2005 when I purchased my first road bike and I was immediately hooked. Since then I have completed numerous cycling challenges including Ironman, Lands’ End to John O Groats, Mt Ventoux (all 3 ascents), London to Paris, the BBAR challenge which included a 12hour TimeTrial and more recently the Mallorca 312.

Leave A Comment

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Register to Our Newsletter to Get Our Free E-Book on Power Based Cycling

You have Successfully Subscribed!

This website uses cookies and third party services. Settings Ok

GDPR Privacy Notice

GDPR Privacy Notice General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Article 13 of Regulation EU 2016/679 1. Purpose of this notice This Privacy Notice provides mandatory information as required under Articles 13 and 14 of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regarding the transparency of personal data processing. Definitions of certain terms within this notice are explained in the appendix. 2. The Data Controller for personal data The Data Controller for the personal data processed by us is the Client Company of RIDE HARDER (the employer of the natural person whose data is collected, hereafter referred to as the Data Subject). The Data Controller will pass personal data of their employees to RIDE HARDER to manage training on behalf of those employees in connection with their business. RIDE HARDER, as Data Processor acting on the instructions of the Data Controller under a written contract with them, will subsequently use that personal data to facilitate training programs for the Data Subject. It is this contract which forms the ‘Legal Basis’ for the processing of personal data carried out by RIDE HARDER in these circumstances. RIDE HARDER will also become a Data Controller if it collects additional personal data directly from a Data Subject. In these circumstances RIDE HARDER will be acting under a ‘Legitimate Interest’ to legally process the data for the management of training for the Data Subject and to fulfil the contractual requirements for its Client. RIDE HARDER also acts as a Data Controller for any personal data held regarding its own employees, and legally processes this data under its Contract of Employment with those Data Subjects. 3. Your Rights As a Data Subject you have rights under the GDPR. These rights can be seen below. RIDE HARDER will always fully respect your rights regarding the processing of your personal data, and has provided below the details of the person to contact if you have any concerns or questions regarding how we process your data, or if you wish to exercise any rights you have under the GDPR. 4. Contact Details The identity and contact detail for the Data Protection Officer within RIDE HARDER is: THE OLD FORGE FORGE ROAD LANGLEY NORFOLK NR14 6BD 01508 521000 5. Data Protection Principles RIDE HARDER has adopted the following principles to govern its collection and processing of Personal Data: Personal Data shall be processed lawfully, fairly, and in a transparent manner. The Personal Data collected will only be those specifically required to fulfilltrainingprograms or other training-related requirements. Such data may be collected directly from the Data Subject or provided to RIDE HARDER via his /her employer. Such data will only be processed for that purpose. Personal Data shall only be retained for as long as it is required to fulfill contractual requirements, or to provide statistics to our Client Company. Personal Data shall be adequate, relevant, and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are collected and/or processed. Personal Data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date. The Data Subject has the right to request from RIDE HARDER access to and rectification or erasure of their personal data, to object to or request restriction of processing concerning the data, or to the right to data portability. In each case, such a request must be put in writing as in Section 3 above. Personal Data shall only be processed based on the legal basis explained in section 2 above, except where such interests are overridden by the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Data Subject which will always take precedent. If the Data Subject has provided specific additional Consent to the processing, then such consent may be withdrawn at any time (but may then result in an inability to fulfill training requirements). RIDE HARDER will not use personal data for any monitoring or profiling activity or process, and will not adopt any automated decision-making processes. 6. Transfers to Third Parties To fulfill the training programs for a Data Subject it will in most cases be necessary to process personal data via a third party. Personal Data shall only be transferred to, or processed by, third party companies where such companies are necessary for the fulfillment of the training programs. Personal Data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area (EEA) unless the transfer is made to a country or territory recognized by the EU as having an adequate level of Data Security, or is made with the consent of the Data Subject, or is made to satisfy the Legitimate Interest of RIDE HARDER in regard to its contractual arrangements with its clients. All internal group transfers of Personal Data shall be subject to written agreements under the Company’s Intra Group Data Transfer Agreement (IGDTA) for internal Data transfers which are based on Standard Contractual Clauses recognized by the European Data Protection Authority. Appendix – Definitions of certain terms referred to above: Personal Data: (Article 4 of the GDPR): ‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person. Processing: (Article 4 of the GDPR): means any operation or set of operations which is performed upon personal data or sets of personal data, whether or not by automated means, such as collection, recording, organization, structuring, storage, adaptation or alteration, retrieval, consultation, use, disclosure by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, alignment or combination, erasure or destruction. Legal Basis for Processing: (Article 6 of the GDPR): At least one of these must apply whenever personal data is processed: Consent: the individual has given clear consent for the processing of their personal data for a specific purpose. Contract: the processing is necessary for compliance with a contract. Legal obligation: the processing is necessary to comply with the law (not including contractual obligations). Vital interests: the processing is necessary to protect someone’s life. Public task: the processing is necessary to perform a task in the public interest, and the task or function has a clear basis in law. Legitimate interests: the processing is necessary for the legitimate interests of the Data Controller unless there is a good reason to protect the individual’s personal data which overrides those legitimate interests. Data Controller: (Article 4 of the GDPR): this means the person or company that determines the purposes and the means of processing personal data. Data Processor: (Article 4 of the GDPR): means a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or any other body which processes personal data on behalf of the controller. Data Subject Rights: (Chapter 3 of the GDPR) each Data Subject has eight rights. These are: The right to be informed; This means anyone processing your personal data must make clear what they are processing, why, and who else the data may be passed to. The right of access; this is your right to see what data is held about you by a Data Controller. The right to rectification; the right to have your data corrected or amended if what is held is incorrect in some way. The right to erasure; under certain circumstances you can ask for your personal data to be deleted. This is also called ‘the Right to be Forgotten’. This would apply if the personal data is no longer required for the purposes it was collected for, or your consent for the processing of that data has been withdrawn, or the personal data has been unlawfully processed. The right to restrict processing; this gives the Data Subject the right to ask for a temporary halt to processing of personal data, such as in the case where a dispute or legal case has to be concluded, or the data is being corrected. The right to data portability; a Data Subject has the right to ask for any data supplied directly to the Data Controller by him or her, to be provided in a structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format. The right to object; the Data Subject has the right to object to further processing of their data which is inconsistent with the primary purpose for which it was collected, including profiling, automation, and direct marketing. Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling; Data Subjects have the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing.