The final day of our Raid Pyrenean ride started with a sunny departure from Prades and a fast ride in glorious sunshine down to Argeles sur Mer, where we then followed the coast road dropping in to the pretty harbour towns of Collioure, Banyuls sur Mer and finally our destination of Cerbere.
A warm welcome awaited us, with a glass of fizz to celebrate our successful completion of the ‘Raid’
Reality and back to work on Monday await our return. It’s been a tough, challenging and at times gruelling 5 days, but like most things in life, if you want to achieve an objective, plan your approach and anything is possible.
Day 5 – Last day in the ‘mountains proper’, before we head for the coast. Leaving our hotel at 8.00 am we immediately climbed through beautiful tree lined roads in the cool of the day to go over the Col de Port, with a long descent to Ax les Thermes where we had our first cafe stop. Then on to climb the Col du Chioula, a cross country ski area. This was (another) detour because the road up to the Col de Pailheres was closed. It was getting hot now so the Summit and cage were a welcome sight.
Due to the detour we now descended and rode down the Rebenty valley, a stunning are of deep gorges, overhanging rocks (and shade!) before heading to Axat for our last and very long climb up the Col de Jesu. It was on this climb that 4 days of heat and exertion began to take their toll and the last few kilometres seemed to go forever! It’s about here that I began to wish for a nice beach/pool holiday!! However, using mountain streams to douse my head provided enough cooling to get to the top. After a brief break we descended through villages with a very different look and feel to them as we arrived into Prades for the overnight stay.
Day 4 – So we left the ski hotel high up the Col du Tourmalet in bright sunshine and started the day with a fast 10 mile descent before starting the first of the days 5 climbs. In lush green Pyrenean countryside we climbed the Col d’Aspin (dodging the cows!) and the the well known (to Tour de France aficionado’s) Col de Peyresourde, where we enjoyed a well earned lunch. Then a long drop through more beautiful countryside to climb 3 Cols in quick succession, the gentle Col des Ares and Col de Buret before a very tough 4.5km climb up the Col de Portet d’Aspet, past the memorial to a famous cycle rider who sadly died whilst descending this brutally steep Col. After a cooling dip in a spring fed water trough at the top, a fast 60km run through St Giron to our hotel in the village of Massat and a superb dinner of beef bourginon. Only 1.5 days to go and we will be dipping our aching feet in the Mediterranean!!
Day 3 – Our second day of cycling was, thankfully, much cooler and so the three climbs to get over the Col D’Aubisque, Col du Solent and the mighty Col du Tourmalet were very achievable. Don’t get me wrong, 85 miles, of which 35 are going uphill climbing nearly 11,000ft, made for a very tough day. But, with some spectacular scenery, a shower of cooling rain and a detour for roadworks (they rebuild the mountain roads in summer!) we made it to our ‘ski hotel’ by early evening.
Tomorrow promises a similar days riding and thankfully similar mid 20’s temperatures, the completion of which will mark our half way point.
Day 2 – Having left the Atlantic coast at 9.00 am, we rode along the coast in beautiful sunshine, warm breeze and everything good with world. With the temperature climbing steadily, we turned inland as we headed towards the mountains. Stunning scenery and villages came and went, with lots of cheery ‘Bonjours’ shouted to us by the local Basque residents. The heat built through the day as we climbed and we began to use a tip given to us that every French cemetary has a tap, to enable family members to water the flowers placed on immaculate graves. We made unlikely visitors to many cemeteries, but the cool water kept us going. Coffee stops and lunch passed and with heat exhaustion hitting everyone in our 20 strong group (it hit over 40 degrees!) we ground out the miles, getting to our hotel at 8.00pm, just in time for dinner. And this is the ‘easy day’!!!
Early start scheduled tomorrow to try and cover as much ground as we can before the sun is too high in the sky!! What a problem to have……
Day 1 – Travelling to the South Western extremities of France is not a chore when it’s 30degrees and wall to wall blue sky – and that was just the drive to Stansted airport!!
So our group of 7 cyclists all from the Lincoln/Newark area, joined another 12 souls preparing to take on the ‘Raid Pyrenean’ – a 4.5 day, 720km journey from the Atlantic coast just outside Biarritz, to the Mediterranean coast, travelling over the mighty Pyrenee’s.
Having arrived and assembled our bikes, the group organisers briefed us on the days ahead followed by a hearty meal and early night ready for the first days ride of 165km which includes 2200 metres of climbing – in 30+degrees heat!
So, at 9.00 a.m. on Monday morning we will be leaving the sea front at Hendaye, to start our adventure. It’s got to be better than a day in the office!!
I will report on the days riding tomorrow