In the last week of May during the school holidays Rutland riders Andy Smith and Dick Cubison rode the Pyrennean coast to coast with Richard Walker from Sheffrec and Mike who is too busy drumming with Sheffield punk band ‘the Fuckwits’ to be in a cycling club. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rB4Xw3Ngav0
We took the train to Biarritz which is a fine way to get there and knocks the spots off the bike bus. But you do have to take your bike apart. There are bike spaces on the French TGVs but I haven’t a clue how you book one on the main routes. Stick your bike in a bag though and no-one bats an eyelid, plus there is no need to pay a fee. I stuck mine in a John Lewis blanket bag, cost £7:00 and will do me a few more train trips.
We even got to Biarritz an hour early. Got back to Sheffield from Perpignan in 12.5 hours including 2 changes at Paris and St Pancras.
From Biarritz it was six days to Perpignan following more or less the classic Raid Pyrenean route but with a loop into Spain on day 1 and finishing with the much quieter Port de Paillheres. We managed all the classic climbs plus a few others such as the Bagargui.
The weather was varied, we had everything, hot to cold, dry to wet, clear to mist, often on the same day.
We booked accommodation at the start and finish then winged it for the rest. That worked out really well especially the Hotel de Cimes on the slopes of the Peyresourde and the spa at Tarascon that was full of ill people smoking! It felt like booking into an old peoples home for a night.
The Pyrenees are much wilder and quieter than the Alps though slightly less high. But there are miles and miles of fantastic smooth quiet roads. When we climbed over the Port de Bales I think we met about 6 cars in 40 Kms.
We didn’t find that many other cyclists except for the first day when we looped into Spain when there were hundreds on what seemed like mega teacakes. Ever single person wearing a crash hat as well but I got away with, only saw one cop and he didn’t make me get off and walk.
We did meet some Dutch guy in the bar at the top of the Tourmalet who left to go down to Luz in the rain into the wind wearing very little. He’s probably still shivering. We were lucky as we descended in the rain with a tailwind!!
My own highlights were
Biarritz – Beautiful town and a great place to start
Cols de Iraty, Spectacular roads and hardly any traffic at all
Lightning strike at Argeles. Seemed about 50 metres away from where we were eating.
Hotel de Cimes – what a place.
Port de Bales – what a climb.
The spa at Tarascon – what a hoot
Next year I’m planning to do a trip through the Italian dolomites. If you haven’t been before the Dolomites make the Alps look dull. Watch this web site for details on how to sign up in the next few months.