Bristol to Barcelona – a long read

Bristol to Barcelona – copied and pasted from Stu’s diary

You may want to grab a drink before you start reading this section

Day 1 Bristol to Poole – Sat 9 June

Riding Time 5hrs 55mins

Miles 78.87

Ave Speed 13.3mph

Max Speed 39.5mph

Ascent 1650m

Descent 1666m

Calories Burnt 4556

Another challenge is upon us – the weather leading up to the day was somewhat questionable with severe weather warnings in the South of England & Wales in place for floods and gale force winds – with winds gusting up to 70mph and heavy rain.  The forecast for the day was better – scattered showers and winds of 16mph with gusts up to 33mph.

We woke up excited, checking outside to see what the weather was doing, it was dry but with a strong wind – appeared the forecast was right.

Dave (land lord at the Ringers) asked that we ring him so that he could give us a send off but when we called him at 7.30am he was nowhere to be seen. We cycled up on the off chance but no-one was about, must have been a late night for him. To my amusement Gary and Stuart had to consult their Garmins to get us out of Nailsea!

Gary E and Rob joined Gary C, Ginette & myself us as we set off, Rob was going to cycle with us for the first part then head back and pick up his car and follow on.  Rob kindly agreed to provide us with car support for the whole trip, he was going to be cycling with us on the trip but unfortunately he damaged his knee during training.

Gary E had a bad stomach until mid morning – his breakfast (porridge) wanted to come back up – it was made worse with every hill we climbed especially going up Gobblin Combe & Burrington Combe – luckily he managed to keep it down.

We past 2 tandems on the way up Burrington Combe and had a chat on the way up – they were in training to cycle from Lands End to John O Groates.

We stopped off mid morning at the Garden Centre Café – where we had stopped 2 years ago on our way cycling to Rome.  They very kindly donated £20 to Cancer Research UK.

We were extremely lucky with the weather today the wind was in our favour and was pushing us along most of the way making cycling a breeze.  We only had a few spots of rain going up Gobblin Combe (or Gobbling as the boys spelt it) but the rest of the day was warm and hot when the sun came out from the behind the clouds – we were in cycle shorts and we had to apply sun cream.

It was fairly flat today compared to what we’ve got to climb in the Pyrenees but Stuart managed to find a number of hills – there was one especially steep hill at 22% and later on in the day after we stopped for lunch we had a much longer climb which went up to 16% – Gary E was again struggling with a full stomach of a massive jacket potato with tuna and mayonnaise which he’d just eaten which he was still trying to digest.

At about 1pm we stopped off at a pub for a leisurely lunch in the sun, (very pricey £5.75 for a sandwich and some salad leaves!) We only had a further 26 miles to go to get to our B&B for the night.

The day was slightly overshadowed by the fact that a good friend of Gary E’s had died the day before, his phone rang all day with friends trying to getting in touch.

Arrived in Upton, Poole at 4.00pm the guest house (Laurel Court, Upton) was excellent – very posh and modern and John & Jill were very welcoming – showed us where everything was for breakfast as we had to leave early in the morning (on the bike by 6am) to cycle down to catch the ferry over the channel to Cherbourg.  They even gave us some wine vouchers so we could get a free bottle of wine with our meals, which we could use at the local pub.

Amusing moments from the team

Ginette as always kept us entertained – she managed a new record for her of getting 5 separate black oily chain marks on her leg – it is a running joke – every time she goes out on her bike she comes back with oil marks on her leg.  Ginette is also good at pulling funny faces when she eats/drinks anything she doesn’t like – it works well when she eats the strawberry & banana flavoured gels but I offered her a try of my energy drink today as thought it tasted good – it worked a treat – I only wish I had my camera out so I could have caught a photo of the face she pulled – it was a picture.

Gary E and Gary C kept the team entertained with their whistling and singing, sometimes in harmony and at other times not.  At one point Gary E was singing Magic Moments whilst Gary was whistling My girl weird combination….

Gary C did his Dr Doolittle impression he mimicked a bird call and nearly found a new mate….the poor little bird came into see who had responded to him and found a bloke on a bike.

Day 2 Poole to Granville – Sun 10 June

Riding Time 6hrs 27mins

Miles 81.41

Ave Speed 12.6mph

Max Speed 31.7mph

Ascent 1018m (height climbed from planning calculations as Garmin not working properly) – felt like a lot more.

Descent 806m

Calories Burnt 4475

Gary E stayed behind in the UK as he had to work this week – he will be flying out on Thursday to meet us and cycle the rest of the way with us.

Rob, our support stayed out late with a number of friends who had come down from Nailsea and didn’t get in until 3am in the morning he then crashed on the sofa.  It was a dry day in Poole but that was soon to change when we reached Cherbourg.  We had an early start we had breakfast and were we on are bikes on the way to the ferry by 6am to catch the 7am ferry.  The trip over was good, not too rough, Gary amused the children whilst on the ferry joining in and starting them in running races from one end of the seating area to the other.  We met a number of other touring cyclists whilst on the ferry – one being a GB Power Glider.  We had some food whilst we were on the ferry to save stopping for lunch as we had a lot of miles to complete in a shorter time than usual – we found out later that it was a good job as everything in France closes on a Sunday.

When we arrived at Cherbourg it was blowing a gale and raining heavily – it was like being in a power shower with your clothes on – this continued for the majority of the day.  We seemed to have a head wind nearly all the way and the riding today was tough going.  Both Gary & Stuart’s Garmin’s weren’t accurately calculating the ascent & descent we were covering – it felt a lot more than day 1.  We had a number of off route tracks which we navigated – Ginette doesn’t like the off road tracks as she is on a road bike.  We made a mistake – Stuart’s mobile died and Ginette’s/Gary’s mobile was left in the car so we couldn’t contact Rob in the support car as we had planned – we will make sure we rectify this so it won’t happen again.  The 2nd mistake of the day was not taking extra food for the day from the B&B breakfast – so we didn’t have sufficient proper food during the day & we couldn’t buy anything as everywhere was shut.  We had to rely on energy gels and bars & drinks – not good for the stomach – Gary had to go and find a suitable location in a field to go to the loo – luckily I had some toilet paper with me.

During our ride we had a large hare come bouncing down the road towards us and got really close then he noticed us and tried to get up the bank but couldn’t get through so then had to try the other way – it’s the biggest hare I’ve ever seen.

Ginette only had 1 chain mark on her leg today but her legs were so muddy compared to both Gary’s & Stuart’s it was difficult to tell.

About 15 miles to go Stuart realised that he had just shot past a turning which we needed to take so he braked – unfortunately Ginette & Gary we’re right on his wheel behind him because of the wind and being towed along.  Ginette & Gary touched and in a split second both were synchronised going over their handlebars one went left whilst the other went right and they landing hard on the road with Ginette ending up on the grass verge and both bikes in the middle of the road.  Luckily no bones were broken – just some bad scrapes and bruises.

We had some great sea views from our hotel rooms, Ginette was pleased as they had an en-suite with a bath but there wasn’t any tea/coffee making facilities.  We found a bar and had a few drinks and we found a restaurant and with our little French between us we didn’t realise it was savoury crepes we were ordering.  Gary & Stuart then also had a crepe for desert. Still hungry Gary had a kebab whilst Ginette had the Australian crunch her friend Sandra had kindly packed her off with.

Day 3 Granville to Vitre – Mon 11 June

Riding Time 6hrs 27mins

Miles 82.89

Ave Speed 12.5mph

Max Speed 35.0mph

Ascent 1725m

Descent 1694m

Calories Burnt 4841

Both Ginette and Gary were sore following their crash from yesterday, both had an interrupted nights sleep. Ginette was sporting a lovely craze/cuts all down her shin and Gary had a bruised hip.  I think we were all slightly weary today following yesterdays wind and rain.  At one point Gary captured the mood by asking ‘what are we doing this for’, fortunately these negative feelings faded during the morning.

During the morning the weather was brighter and drier and the wind died down and it stayed that way until about midday – the sun even came out for a while before the clouds closed in again. Gary (Dr Doolittle) wooed the cows with a love song (Daisy, Daisy) with out going into detail it had the desired effect…

Another day with elements of ‘off road’ biking, Ginette is convinced that there is a conspiracy  to convert her to mountain biking. But whilst there is cow poo to ride through this is not going to happen!

At the morning break we had boiled eggs which Gary had prepared from breakfast and we also had rolls made up to eat from breakfast.  We were following the route when we suddenly

Came across a big green gate – marked private property and mention about guard dogs, so we had to turn around and find a different way around.  Luckily we found another route which saved us going back to the busy main road which got us there – but it was off road and added about an extra 2 miles to our journey we came out just on the other side of the private area which was about 50 metres from the other side.

Gary & Ginette were both brushing up on their French – listening to recordings downloaded onto their ipod.

We made sure we had our mobile on us and they were charged up today and we were able to keep in contact with Rob. We met up with him about 2pm in a restaurant where no-one spoke French, we managed to order sausage and chips/pasta and 4 bottles of coke.  We only had another 24 miles to go.

With about 14 miles to go the clouds were black and there was thunder rumbling in the distance and around us – it was inevitable we were going to get wet.  The heavens opened and we rode the last 10 miles in torrential rain.  Rob stopped and took some photos of us wet and very tired. We are staying in Vitre – it looks a very interesting old tourist town and will be exploring it later.

Gary’s turn to be covered in oily chain marks

Day 4 Vitre to Champtoceaux – Tue 12 June

Riding Time 6hrs 17mins

Miles 86.64

Ave Speed 13.8mph

Max Speed 29.4mph

Ascent 1176m

Descent 1289m

Calories Burnt 4721

Weather was much improved when we set off this morning, it was dry but there was still a strong westerly wind which meant we had cross winds most of the day with the occasional head wind.

Less than 5 miles in and we went off road again, by off road I mean fields!!! Gary found out the hard way why you should cycle with your mouth closed as some crap flew off Ginette’s back wheel straight into Gary’s mouth – not a pleasant experience.

Although we had a couple of off road sections this morning we kept up a good average pace of 14.4mph for the first 30 miles when we had our first break.  Gary was finding it extremely hard, he really had to dig deep – mind over matter battle.

Gary’s comments Ginette and Stu were flying along at an average of 18mph, I was really struggling to keep the pace, the legs were tired and I ended up with my head going in some very dark places. Can I finish this trip? Why can’t I keep up? Why the fxxk are they cycling so fast? They flew along the flats and I could only catch comfortably on the hills. The bloxxy Bastxxds I hate this trip why the hell am I doing this? Not wanting to appear weak like a fool I didn’t say anything. At the next break Ginette and Stuart started discussing the average speeds they were hitting, at this point I managed to express how I had been struggling and the problems I was having. Stuart then sent me in front and we cycled at my pace, only slightly slower but felt so much better. As I started earlier some very dark places. Now sitting in the pub writing this and feeling much better, I still love Ginette and Stuart is still one of my best mates.

The pace was slightly too high so Gary took over at the front so he could set the pace and do the navigating which also gave Stuart a rest from navigating for the remainder of the day.  Stuart dropped to the back and Ginette stayed in the middle.

Mid morning we came across another house that had been built in the middle of our Garmin track it had private property signs up like the house we came across yesterday which meant we had to cycle another 2 miles to cover to find our route.

It wasn’t long before the rain caught us up at about lunchtime and the temperature dropped and we had rain for the following 2hrs.  In a small village we spotted some toilettes so we stopped and Ginette found a shop open, although it wasn’t that well stocked we were able to buy a large bottle of Coke and a few Mars bars.  Gary had 2 mars bars and filled his water bottle with coke to keep him going for the day, this was not our lunch break but Gary was glad of the break he was feeling a bit better but still very weary. The French Mars bars are different from the UK in that they are more like a Milky Way with caramel on top – they are also longer and thinner.  We sheltered in a bus shelter and had a bite to eat for lunch – watching the swallows.  After the rain had cleared it got warmer again and we removed our waterproofs and all put our matching black and white Bristol to Barcelona tops on.

We had a relatively flat day today but about 4 miles to go Stuart had managed to find a 25% hill which had about 12 hairpin bends on – luckily we were going down it – we were then waiting for the up, we headed across the bridge over the large river and up to our accommodation – only a small hill up to Champtoceaux.

Lots of mad dogs, at different times during the day we had a small dog and a collie chasing us up the road and dogs barking our arrival through as we passed through.

Day 5 Champtoceaux to Le Gue De Velluire – Wed 13 June

Riding Time 7hrs 7mins

Miles 96.89

Ave Speed 13.6mph

Max Speed 39.0mph

Ascent 1168m

Descent 1312m

Calories Burnt 5132

Shocking News… Read On

Rob had to leave early this morning so we needed to make sure we had packed our bags the night before, unfortunately Gary forgot his rucksack with his own clothes in, he put it outside Stuart and Rob’s door at 6.00 but Rob had already left so when Stuart opened the door in morning he found the rucksack with all Gary’s clothes in sitting outside.  Gary & Stuart sorted out Gary’s clothes into their bike bags and the decision was made to leave the empty rucksack behind to save carrying it all day.

At breakfast we usually take some food as packed lunch but this morning we had a miserable hawk eyed hotel owner making it difficult, but we managed to avoid her steely gaze Gary took some rolls and Stuart took some cake

The weather was much better today – we set off at about 8am knowing we had a lot of miles to cover, there was blue skies with a number of clouds around and the wind wasn’t as strong.  Stuart led out mindful of yesterday with a good steady pace, which everyone was comfortable with.

Yesterday when we doing one of the off road sections Ginette got a yellow flower caught in her rear derailleur.  Today she decided to have a girly moment and decorate her bike with large daisies from the side of the road.  It was very warm first thing and Gary stripped down to his short-sleeved top.  Unfortunately about mid morning the blue sky was gone and the wind picked up and we had some rain for about an hour or so.

We found a place to stop and eat midday, we had a set main meal of chicken with rice and beans and for desert Ginette had the custard flan, Gary had the Chocolate Moose and Stuart had the thick white chocolate with coconut blended together – it was very tasty and it was just what we all needed. Gary made an excellent job packing his waterproof top away to keep down the wind resistance, then found he had packed his Garmin in the jacket so much to Stuart and Ginette’s amusement he had to get it all back out again.

We set off after lunch the wind was still strong coming from the West but the sun was back out and we were all in our black & white Bristol to Barcelona tops.  Mid afternoon we stopped for a break, to go to the loo, put on sun cream etc.  Ginette went to go to the loo, Gary recommended a field, wary of bulls etc she peered into the field but didn’t think to check whether the fence was electric or not and guess what? It gave her a big jolt and she jumped a mile – apparently she has never got a shock from an electric fence before. Gary and Stuart laughed their heads off.

A day without an off road section to ride wouldn’t be complete and the route duly obliged today. We found tracks that went over fields to the middle of nowhere.  There was one off road route which came to a dead end so we had to detour back around and one road had been cut off because they had built a new road straight across it’s path. To top it off we had an off road section for approx 2 miles, just 1 mile form our hotel.

We all had a good days cycling today, it was still hard going and we were getting a little bit saddle sore, not helped by all the rain we’ve had.  It is getting slowly hotter and the weather conditions are improving the further we head south. We are staying in a lovely Chateau tonight (Chateau de La Sebrandiere) with it’s own grounds and vineyards.

Ginette helped herself to the courtesy toothbrush and toothpaste, it tasted a bit weird and then she realised this was not because it was French she had inadvertently used the complimentary shaving cream instead of the toothpaste. To make matters worse she didn’t realise you had to pay for the ‘complimentary items’ (Stuart and Gary both agreed it was money well spent as they found it very amusing).

Other memories – Gary (with his singing) or Stuart (with his red shirt) excited the cows so much that they chased us from one side of the field to the other thank god for fences.

Gary got chased by yet another dog!!

Several farmers looked at us aghast as we passed by obviously they don’t get to see many cyclists in this part of the world.

We saw a large group of geriatric cyclists going in the opposite direction, Gary wanted us to join them not only because we would have lowered the average age but they were cycling much slower than us.

We have now hit vineyard country.

We went past a ‘hell fast’ today presumably this was a large festival but you can image our conversation for the next mile or so….

Day 6 Le Gue De Velluire to Soubran – Thurs 14 June

Riding Time 7hrs 46mins

Miles 95.67

Ave Speed 12.3mph

Max Speed 28.8mph

Ascent 1237m

Descent 1162m

Calories Burnt 4819

The Good, Bad and the Ugly and the Mystery Bra

Last night we had fun trying to find somewhere to eat, everywhere in France appears to be closed or non-existent.  We tried to book taxis but there were not many around, the only one available wanted to charge us from their base to our accommodation and couldn’t confirm a pick up time.  We opted to go in Rob’s car, but this was packed to the brim so two journeys were needed.  The boys went to the restaurant up the road, leaving Tracy and Ginette in the Chateau.  However the restaurant was not open contrary to the opening times on the door.  One of the locals directed us to the next town only to find no restaurant there either.  All this time Ginette and Tracy are waiting anxiously with no means of contacting the boys.  In the end we found a take out pizza and some wine (The Pizza’s took 30 mins to cook as the takeaway ovens were not even on, we tried to grab a beer but as we got to the bar the shutters came down, this was 8.30pm) and took it back to the Chateau, the girls had been waiting 2 hours. We don’t think the pizza place has ever had such a big order – the 30 mins we were there no one else turned up.

This morning a mystery bra appeared in Gary & Ginette’s room – a 36 double DD….Both Ginette and Tracy claimed it wasn’t theirs….

Good – The first day without any rain, the sun was out from when we set off we had blue sky with some wispy clouds – the temperature rose to 27 degrees, we all wore our short sleeve team tops and shorts all day.

Bad – this was the longest day of the trap. The road conditions today were rough with some even rougher off road sections. One section was on black tarmac, which was still being laid and smoothed off.  We had a strong headwind all day, the wind had changed direction from yesterday and came from the South East, it made a flatter day extremely hard going, the positive was that the wind kept us a bit cooler in the morning, only when we stopped did we feel the heat, especially when we stopped at approx 1:30pm for lunch and it just got hotter during the afternoon.  After lunch we had limited water, we took all of the support crews, which left us with less than one water bottle each to last us for the last 41 miles. We searched for a shop/bar to buy more drinks on route but without success. It would appear that none of the small towns/villages in France have a shop or the very few that do are closed.  We all ran out of water and had to drink loads when we arrived at our destination to get our fluid levels back up.

Ugly – we saw some road kill today, it was a single lane road with some grass growing in the middle of it, clearly the cat that we saw flattened on the road had used up it’s 9 lives or it was the most unluckiest cat in the world because the road was really quiet.   However it did make some sense of the woman who we had seen the day before who had taken her cat for a ride in the car and took him for a walk on a lead.  Later in the day we also saw a dead snake on the road.

Earlier in the day Ginette and Stuart had seen a live snake slither across the road, about a metre in length, the first snake of the trip. We also saw a number of small lizards.

We’ve been cycling through large open stretches of fields with wheat and sunflowers – although the sunflowers are not out yet. As we cycled the scenery changed to more vineyards.  We passed an old windmill and stopped for a photo shoot.  Gary took over at the front and the navigating for the last 35 miles as he was finding it hard work at the back.

We arrived at our accommodation to find out there was a heated outdoor pool – so we all got cleaned up and spent time in and around the pool relaxing before going to get something to eat.  Ginette hadn’t applied her sun spray very evenly and had missed patches and was glowing red in places on her arms, we are all getting a line where our cycle gloves have been – which is a funny sight.

Gary Edwards flew out today to join us for the next stage of the trip. .

Day 7 Soubran to Preignac – Fri 15 June

Riding Time 6hrs 20mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 46 hrs 19 mins

Miles 83.88                                          – Cumulative Distance 608.79miles – 979.8km

Ave Speed 13.2mph

Max Speed 34.8mph

Ascent 1028m                                     – Cumulative Amount Climbed 9002m

Descent 1116m

Calories Burnt 4472                            – Cumulative Calories Burnt 33016

The Four Musketeers Ride Again

 The day started cloudier than yesterday but it was warm and the wind had died down.  As the day progressed the few clouds cleared and the sky got bluer and the temperature rose – it was reading 32 degrees on Ginette’s bike computer and we passed through a town which had a sign reading 36 degrees, when you stopped you could feel the heat and sweat was pouring off us.  We made sure we stopped to replenish food and importantly drink supplies whenever we could – we drank loads.  There were more shops open as we headed nearer to Bordeaux and the roads became busier.  We passed the second McDonalds of the trip today.

It was good to have Gary E back with us again – he flew into Barcelona yesterday afternoon and Rob had gone to pick him up – we started off this morning servicing his bike as both his brakes were binding and you couldn’t spin either of his wheels round.  Once that job was done we had a quick photo shoot, said goodbye to our gracious hosts and set off.  The owner Marc was a Dutchman who spoke 5 languages and has worked for UEFA as a translator and interviewer.

Most of the morning was really flat and we covered the ground quickly.  We got to our meeting point arranged with Rob earlier than expected so we contacted him and arranged another point 20 miles further on.  The area we were cycling through had more trees and woodlands, as well as vineyards and before lunch it was really flat.  The Garmin tried to send us down a road that didn’t exist, so we had to go around where a local elderly French man came and shook our hands and talking to us in French.

Gary E had fresh legs and it showed – he was flying along and led for periods, over shooting turns, which we needed to take so we had to call him back.  We saw our first French deer, which jumped out in front of us, which started the singing of – Doe, a Deer and the singing continued all day by both Gary’s.  We cycled over the river Dordogne a couple of times.  We met with Rob & Tracy and had lunch in a lovely restaurant – sitting outside, the food was excellent – 3 of us had a great fish dish.

After lunch the terrain changed and became hillier – with hills with gradients of up to 16% but with some excellent views. Now the locals don’t just stare agog they do try to communicate and seem fairly impressed that we have cycled up to the high grounds.  The last 16 miles was flat again.  We saw a war memorial, which had artillery shells as bollards around the monument – Gary C quickly took a photo of it.

We finally arrived at our destination which wasn’t where we thought it was and which we had mapped into the Garmin.  Luckily we found a map in the town and located where we needed to head, apparently we were a road away so we circled round and found the entrance to the Chateau des Grandes Vignes.

The owner laid on wine for us, from his own vineyard in his grounds and we sat around the outdoor pool in the sun, recharging our batteries.           

 Day 8 Preignac to Montfort En Chalosse – Sat 16 June

Riding Time 6hrs 11mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 52 hrs 39 mins

Miles 90.00                                          – Cumulative Distance 698.79miles – 1,124.6km

Ave Speed 14.5mph

Max Speed 37.7mph

Ascent 691m                                       – Cumulative Amount Climbed 9,693m

Descent 608m

Calories Burnt 5,056                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 38,072

The Day of the Two Halves

 Forgot to mention yesterday we had to stop at a level crossing to wait for a high-speed train to go through.

Gary E didn’t get any sleep last night the same as the previous night so he caught up on his sleep and went back to bed after breakfast (although he was so tired he cannot recall even having breakfast).  Gary E aimed to join us later at the lunchtime break when we were going to meet up with Rob & Tracy.  Gary E went to a pharmacist to get some sleeping tablets, but got delayed being served as an 80-year-old French gentleman was purchasing a pair of Tom Cruise aviator sunglasses.  Gary shouldn’t now have any problem sleeping tonight or the rest of the trip.

The weather was perfect again today – blue sky and sun – as we headed out it was 19 degrees and during the day the temperature rose and got up to 41 degrees in the sun at lunch time but was about 32 degrees cooled by the wind when we were cycling.

This morning we set a fast quick rate – the terrain was very flat – we were going down some very, very, very long straight roads, which went on for miles with forests either side as we cycled through a National Park most of the day.  We saw a number of deer this morning jumping around through the ferns and trees including 2 baby deer.  We also saw the second dead cat of the trip.  To keep things interesting we were playing ‘I Spy’ things like ‘T = Tree’, ‘LR = Long Roads, ‘POL = Pile of Logs’, ‘AT = Another Tree’ etc.  Whilst we were playing and we were trying to guess ‘Chain’ which Stuart had set – it took Ginette and Gary so long to guess even with clues that we managed to miss our turning – the first turning in about 7 miles.  So we had to turn around and head down the correct road which then became a very sandy track – we tried to ride it but with our skinny tyres it was impossible as the sand was so soft – it was like cycling on a very soft sandy beach so we had to turn around and head back on the road where we had missed the turning previously when we were playing ‘I Spy’.  There was very little traffic on the roads and we rode three abreast at times down these long straight roads.

We met Rob and the others for lunch in a lovely village with 30 miles to go and had pasta, sausages with tomato sauce and then had ice cream afterwards.

We set off, with Gary E with us – the roads remained flat and straight and we set a good pace until we took a right hand turn which turned into an overgrown farmers track which didn’t go where we thought it should, now off route we continued on along this off road route following the river with the condition of the track worsening.  Gary E crashed in the grass and then Ginette fell off her bike trying to avoid a wet muddy section and got scratched all over as she landed in the brambles – so Ginette has a few more war wounds to show from this trip.  Stuart got covered in grass seeds, which stuck to his sun cream on his arms, legs and chest.  Everyone’s legs were itching from going through the long grass.  Gary E asked if we had ever had to wade through a river with our bikes before as we were following the river down this overgrown track.  As per Gary’s wish we turned the corner to find our way blocked by the river – we had very little choice so we took our shoes and socks off and waded across the river with our bikes, luckily it was only shin deep but you had to be careful as it was much deeper in places, it was refreshing and cooled us down and became a good camera opportunity (one to remember).  On the down side, as well as the crashes, the mosquitoes were having a field day biting us as we stopped to take our shoes and socks off and on.  Once we had crossed the river the off road track continued – when it finally improved it become a very sandy track which was very tricky to ride and impossible in places so we had to push our bikes.  Gary E came off twice attempting to ride through the sand.  Gary E then realised that he had left his sunglasses back at the river (He had these glasses for about 10 years and were his favourite pair) but he refused to go back to get them as it would have meant us going back down the sandy track.

We continued on and had a couple of climbs before we got to our destination – a 18% and a 16% climb.  We arrived at our destination, all tired, itchy, achy and dirty and in a desperate need of a shower/bath.  We then all met by the pool, had a swim and relaxed and arranged to go to the hotel restaurant for food at 7:30pm when the restaurant opened

Day 9 Montfort En Chalosse to Montory – Sun 17 June

Riding Time 6hrs 11mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 58 hrs 41 mins

Miles 72.00                                          – Cumulative Distance 770.79miles – 1,240.50km

Ave Speed 11.6mph

Max Speed 35.5mph

Ascent 2,139m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 11,832m

Descent 2,005m

Calories Burnt 4,546                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 40,077

The Pyrenees Are In Sight

Sunday “day of rest?”

Fathers Day.

 Gary E finally had a good nights sleep.  Ginette had to cover herself in Savlon last night because she was so sore and bruised.  We all got down for breakfast – all with bites from the previous day.  The day started with a mechanic session on the bikes, checking everything over and re-oiling.  The weather was still hot 21 degrees when we set off but there were more clouds around. The day soon got warmer and was 28 degrees later in the day but it felt warmer as we cycled up the climbs.

It was good that Rob was able to join us this morning for the first 12 miles, his bad knee was feeling a bit better, he cycled well and his knee held out, it was just Rob’s luck it was the hilliest start to the day we’ve had so far.  We are in for a hillier day tomorrow when we head into the Pyrenees and we can see the mountains approaching around us.

Gary E managed to sweet talk a local French lady into giving him a piece of one of her bread sticks, we reckoned he’d pulled.

During the time Rob was with us we found another dead snake in the road, which Gary E picked up so Rob could take a photo. Later on we saw a live snake slithering across the road in front of us, Gary E didn’t pick this one up.

It’s been hilly all day with 2 tough long climbs in the last 25 miles of at least a mile hitting approx 20% gradient but averaging about 14%.  We had arranged to meet Rob and Tracy at the top of the first one at Ainerp, during the climb up the hill Gary C’s phone alerted him of a text message. Gary said to stop at the next high point, it turned out that 1.5 miles later the top was Ainerp, a very small and very closed village so we had a bite to eat by the car and Rob joined us again to ride the last 21 miles.

On the second one of these climbs in the afternoon Ginette had chain problems, Gary C helped her sort it out but it was fun to watch her try and start cycling again on a 14% gradient – she attempted it 6 times without success so had to head back down where it was less steep so she was able to get on her bike and start cycling again.

Today we were presented with our first glimpses of the Pyrenees.  These started as dark silhouettes in the far distance then as we drew closer they started to gain definition and we could see the clouds around them and snow on the peaks, until finally we ended up in the very foothills of the mountains in a much more touristy area.  Gary C was especially getting excited and really enjoyed today and we stopped to take lots of pictures of the scenery and views of the mountains which were fast approaching during the day.  As we headed towards the Pyrenees the cows started to wear bells, you could hear them everywhere, one herd was startled by us and stampeded across the field making beautiful music.  During the day we had to pass 2 herds of cows that were on the road.

We stopped this afternoon for a loo break, Ginette unfortunately got a spider in her cycle shorts which she discovered when it bit her after a few shrieks and quick hunt down her shorts we rode on but she became paranoid that it was still in her shorts so we had to stop at a ice-cream parlour so she could strip off in the loo.  It would have been rude not to stay for an ice-cream so we all ordered one before we rode the last 12 miles to our accommodation.

We arrived to find that they had a pool, which was a pleasant surprise to all of us including Stuart who had booked the accommodation.  We relaxed by the pool and had a few drinks.  We can see hills/mountains from the pool, which we will be heading towards tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the start of the Pyrenees and we will also cross back and forth over the Spanish/French border.

Day 10 Montory to Cette-Eygun – Mon 18 June

Riding Time 7hrs 39mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 66 hrs 20 mins

Miles 76.57                                          – Cumulative Distance 847.36miles – 1,363.70km

Ave Speed 10.00mph

Max Speed 39.00mph

Ascent 3,159m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 14,991m

Descent 2,795m

Calories Burnt 6,458                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 49,076

You never know what will happen down the road

 Climbs

Col d’ Erroymendi 1350m

Port de Larrau 1578m

Alto Laza 1129m

Portillo Eraice 1578m

De la Pierre Saint-Martin 1802m

Col de Soudet 1540m

Col de Labays 1351m

Col de Houratate 1009m

We woke to see the weather had changed the rain had moved in, it was about 15 degrees the roads were wet and it was drizzling with fog/low cloud hiding the top of the mountains and surrounding us. It was a difficult decision on what to wear.  We set off at about 8:30am, waterproofs on but we knew we would get just as wet through sweat whilst cycling up the long, steep climbs of the day. Rob joined us for the first 13 miles of the day.

Riding up the first few climbs the weather was horrible, wet & cold and visibility poor, we could not see any views only fog and low cloud. We could only see about 50 metres in front of us as we cycled up the steep climbs.  At the top of Col d’ Erroymendi, Ginette needed to go to the loo but she was struggling to find somewhere to go, she was disturbed by ponies and a farmer on two of her attempts, we agreed we would look the other way to let her go, only to have the farmer drive back in his truck with a pony in the back.  At this point Rob’s knee was hurting so he couldn’t carry on and got back in the car.

As we reached Port de Larrau and crossed the border into Spain we were in thick fog and it was freezing cold.  At the top of the climb (Port de Larrau) the Spanish army gave Gary E a can of coke and some water.  We took our picture at the top next to the sign and put all our clothes on to keep warm as we expected the descent to be very cold through the flog and cloud.  Just as we started down the road the cloud suddenly cleared and we found ourselves in gorgeous sunshine with excellent views of the mountains and the cloud being blown across the valley, none of us expected to see that, it was a definite wow moment and we stopped and took some pictures. We continued on through a small tunnel to the other side of the mountain and it was like a completely different day, the sun was out and it was a fantastic warm day.  We headed down the hill and saw 4 eagles soaring on the thermals.  We blasted down the hill, which was 11km long and had lunch at the bottom.  It was about 1:15pm and we had only achieved 26 miles due to the terrain and the weather conditions.

We continued onwards and found a restaurant in Isaba where we had spaghetti and cokes, after being refuelled we started out to complete the last 36 miles. We started out knowing we had a long afternoon ahead of us with the highest and longest climb of the day still to go, it was very hot and sunny – approx 28 degrees.  We headed down the valley seeing the mountain getting ever closer.  The temperature was still hot going up the mountain – approx 26 degrees, we stopped at regular intervals throughout the afternoon to take photos.  Up the climb we came across cows and ponies on the road all wearing bells, (we’d also seen sheep with bells on).  All day we could hear bells ringing all around and in the distance.  We were blessed with excellent weather all the way up the climb; once we reached the top of the De la Pierre Saint-Martin the views and scenery was spectacular we were above the clouds and we could see mountain peaks rising out of the clouds.

Rob joined us again for the downhill section but he ended up cycling all the way back – which also included a number of up hills. Unfortunately he didn’t put any cycle shorts on and became very saddle sore and his knee was also very painful.  At the top of the mountain we put our waterproofs on and headed down the French side of the mountain. We headed back into and through the cloud to get to our accommodation.  The visibility going down was very poor as we headed through the cloud and fog and drizzle which meant that we couldn’t easily see especially for Stuart who struggled to see through his glasses and had to rely on following Gary C’s yellow jacket.  We cycled down avoiding the cowpats and cows on the way.

On the way down the Col de Houratate, Ginette unfortunately hit some gravel on one of the many hairpin bends and she flew over the handlebars and landed hard on the road, bruising and cutting her leg and thumb and also damaging her brakes and handlebars.

We arrived where we thought the hotel was wet and tired only to find it was not there, we asked a local and he directed us back down the road and up the long hill with 7 hairpin bends, which we weren’t expecting.

It was a very long and tiring day, truly a mind over matter experience today. I think we all had moments when we had to dig deep today to get through it.  We arrived later than usual today arriving after 8:10pm so nearly 12 hrs out on the bikes.

We stayed in an old converted monastery with stunning views looking down through the valley.  We had a fantastic 7 course dinner whilst we watched a spectacular thunder storm with fork lighting coming down – great end to an enjoyable but tiring day.

Day 11 Cette-Eygun to Viscos – Tue 19 June

Riding Time 6hrs 18mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 72 hrs 38 mins

Miles 68.59                                          – Cumulative Distance 915.95miles – 1,474.1km

Ave Speed 10.9mph

Max Speed 34.8mph

Ascent 3,159m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 17,629m

Descent 2,638m

Calories Burnt 5,418                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 54,494

Racing the Foreigners Up the Mountains

 Climbs

Col de Marie-Blanqu 1035m

Col D’Aubisque 1709m

Col de Soulor 1474m

We started late today as breakfast wasn’t until 8am and we had to sort out Ginette’s bike, which she damaged when she crashed. We also had to wait for the owner of the hotel to take her son to school so we could pay before we left.  We set off at about 9:30am with torrential rain for approx the first hour, we set a fast pace of about 16mph to get the miles done as quickly as possible along the flatter roads. We were stopped at one point as a farmer on a quad bike and his sheep dog were herding a large number of sheep down the main road, and police men stopping the traffic, Gary C managed to get a photo.

The rain stopped as we started up the Col de Marie-Blanque and were passed by a number of French riders because Ginette was still having problems with her bike because we were unable to fix it in the morning, in addition her injuries from the previous day especially her right thumb was causing her pain. Stuart set off up the mountain after a French cyclist who had passed us earlier on the climb.  Stuart managed to catch and pass one of the riders but the others had got too far ahead.  It was a hard climb 9.3km up with no hairpin bends with gradients rising to 13%.  Ginette reached the top but was struggling with her thumb and felt very queasy and a little tearful, after a group hug we dressed up warm and headed back down the mountain.  Gary C and Stuart had to help a farmer heard his cows into a field.

We stopped off at a shop and bought some pastries and then we continued onto the next village and found a restaurant where we had some hot chocolates.  Ginette was cold and not well and made the decision to rest for the remainder of the day.

We contacted Rob and arranged for him to pick up Ginette, we left Ginette behind at the restaurant and headed off towards the Col D’Aubisque our biggest climb of the day.  Ginette spent the rest of the day asleep in the car, she obviously needed the rest.

The day remained grey, with low cloud, with a few glimpses of blue sky.  We headed towards the Col and met a number of other cyclists,  they followed us but we headed off road, they were on road bikes and with their support vehicle had to turn around and go up the main road.  We caught back up with them on the main road after our off road section.  There were loads of cyclist going up the Col which is 14km of up hill ranging from 7%-10%. At the bottom a group of 4 Swiss riders passed us, 3 men and a young lady, she was good looking and Gary C and Stuart picked up the pace and cycled behind them.  Gary C was wearing his Heinz Baked Beans race jersey and he made a joke with the Swiss riders regarding – “Heinz Beans good for the heart the more you eat the more you fart” – it made the Swiss riders nearly fell off their bikes with laughter.  We slowed up so they could get their photo taken so we weren’t in shot and then Gary C shot passed them and Stuart did his best to stay in touch, Gary C was much the stronger rider.  We continued up the mountain, passing rider after rider passing about 20 or more riders on our way up to the top.  With about 4½ km to the summit we got to a ski resort where it levelled off a bit and Stuart managed to get his second wind and passed Gary C who had been leading Stuart up the climb and started to slow slightly. Both Stuart and Gary C continued to cycle hard up the climb to the top, still passing riders, it was a thoroughly enjoyable ride but extremely hard work, our legs were in pain and our lungs burned as we road up.

It was very satisfying passing well dressed road bike cyclist on there flash expensive bikes. One couple wanted to know if we had an engine in our back cycle panniers as they had no kit at all. We managed a sprint finish to the peak, very rewarding but very hard.

We had a meal at the top of lamb and potatoes and after lunch we took lots of photos, one of Gary C on one of the large bicycles at the top. Once the photos were done we dressed up warm and headed back down the col, every turn and every couple of minutes were wow moments and we stopped off to take loads of photos, it took us over 1 hour to descend due to the views and stunning scenery.  On the way down we went through 2 tunnels which were cut through the rock in the mountain side.

We climbed up to the Col de Soulor and because Gary had got wet at the top he had on one of Ginette’s flowery cycle tops on, very fetching!. At the top the cloud had come down and you couldn’t see a thing, which meant descending the other side was very tricky, as visibility was poor.  On the way down we stopped for sheep and cows, which were in the middle of the road. We continued on cycling, mainly down hill once and on the flat, we saw a fox in the road running all over the place before finding a hole in shoot into.  Gary E saw a mink during the afternoon and he also saw a salamander earlier in the day.  Gary E had a moment when his foot missed his pedal and he crushed his nuts on the top tube of his bike (ouch).

We had a very hard finish to the day – with the last hill of 2½ km going up about 10-13% gradient.  The accommodation was great and we ate in the restaurant.

 Day 12 Viscos to Cadeac – Wed 20 June

Riding Time 6hrs 2mins                      – Cumulative Riding Time 78 hrs 40 mins

Miles 56.58                                          – Cumulative Distance 972.53miles – 1,565.1km

Ave Speed 9.4mph

Max Speed 43.2mph

Ascent 2,955m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 20,584m

Descent 3,059m

Calories Burnt 4,532                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 59,026

A Day of Ups and Downs in the Mountains

 Climbs

Luz Ardiden 1735m

Col Du Tourmalet 2115m

La Mongie 1800m

Col D’Aspin 1489m

It was sunny and hot as we set off, lovely blue sky, with a few clouds, the temperature was already 22 degrees when Stuart and both Gary’s set off from the hotel at 9:15am. The day started with the first climb of the day, Luz Ardiden, which ranged in gradient from 7 – 10% with lots of hairpin bends. We all rode up together we were all tired from the day before efforts and our legs felt like jelly.  Gary E saw his first snake although it was only small – worm like in size.  We all saw a marmot on the road, which then ran up the steep grass bank to its hole.

Ginette was still recovering so decided to miss the first col, she and Rob decided they would ride the Tourmalet so they set off from the bottom trying to time their ride so that they could meet Stuart, and the Gary’s at the top.

The Luz Ardiden was very quiet however we did meet another cyclist who caught us up on the way up Luz Ardiden we chatted to him at the top and he kindly took our picture. He was also going to do the Tourmalet but he was riding a lot faster than us and wasn’t stopping to take photos, we met him again when he was flying down the Tourmalet as we were riding up it.

It took us about 1 hour and a half to climb Luz Ardiden, very enjoyable at the top we saw another eagle flying around – Stuart managed to get a photo.

The Tourmalet was about 8-9% going up to 10-13% at the top for the last 1km – the total climb was 18.5km. The start of the ride was horrible, we had to make our way up a busy road with no scenic views and it wasn’t until we had covered a few miles and passed the first big village that the traffic eased and the route became a bit more pleasant. It was really hot the temperature was 36 degrees so on the way up Gary E suggested we stopped to get a coke, we stopped at the restaurant but it was closed so we had to carry on up the mountain (a long way, right up to the cable cars) – eventually at 1709m we found a bar that was open and stopped for a coke, although Gary C made a mistake of initially ordering 3 beers (habit he says).  We refilled our bottles and headed on up to the top of the climb where we met Ginette and Rob who had been waiting for us. Ginette cycled the last 6km with two English people who had moved out to France for a quieter pace of life. Tracy was also at the top with some fresh water and food, which was just as well because the restaurant/bar was closed and the shop did not sell water (or any drinks or beverages – the French have no business sense at all!!) before descending we bought some souvenirs and took lots more photos.  To our surprise there were lamas at the top of the Tourmalet.

We all cycled down the Tourmalet together, Rob & Ginette joined us on the bike – we went over the La Mongie and headed down hill, Rob slip streamed a French cyclist on the way down.  At the bottom Ginette decided to go in the car with Tracy to the  accommodation for a much needed glass of wine and chill out – but the sat-nav sent them all down the lanes and up a mountain, which was completely the wrong way. They arrived at the accommodation after the boys!

Rob, Stuart and both Gary’s headed back up hill again and started to climb the Col D’Aspin – this started with an easy gradient until the last 5km when it ramped up to 8% through the trees.  Gary C & Stuart unbeknown to Gary E raced him up the final part of the climb and passed him on either side to beat him to the top, leaving him cursing them as he had not been aware they were going to sprint past him.  Rob was riding at his own pace and followed on behind us, he was suffering from a lack of energy and had no food or any energy tablets in his water.

We took a few pictures at the top and chatted to a number of Australians whilst we waited for Rob, Rob soon arrived and we took another photo under the sign and all headed down a fast downhill for the last 9 ½ miles to our accommodation.

The chef at the restaurant in our accommodation was unable to cook for us – he would only cook for 12 people so we had to get on our bikes and head back to the town down the road – approx 3km to find a restaurant to have some food. It was still very warm so we decided to eat in doors this was a big mistake as we were attacked by flys (they’re everywhere – really annoying) after our main course we sat outside for our dessert and then cycled back again.  Once back at the hotel we had a few more drinks in the bar and went to bed ready for another hard day tomorrow.

Day 13 Cadeac to Les (Spain) – Thur 21 June

Riding Time 6hrs 2mins                      – Cumulative Riding Time 84hrs 38mins

Miles 59.08                                          – Cumulative Distance 1,031.61miles – 1,660.2km

Ave Speed 9.9mph

Max Speed 41.3mph

Ascent 2,941m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 23,525m

Descent 3,022m

Calories Burnt 4,838                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 63,864

A Bird’s Eye View

 Climbs

Unknown Col 1,115m

Col de Peyresourde 1,568m

Superbagneres 1,800m

Col du Portillion 1,293m

The weather remained the same as yesterday with the temperature of 19 degrees when we set off.  Ginette joined us today on the bike and Rob remained in the car supporting.  Near the start of the day we did one of Gary’s shortcuts to cut the corner off but the road we should have been on was on the bridge above us which meant getting off the bikes and walking over a couple of gravel ditches and up a bank to get the road above us.  This started our first mountain of the day, we steadily climbed up the hill as we were all very tired from some very hard days cycling and are legs ached and hurt.  4 miles of climb and we were at the top.  We discovered this was where the satnav had sent Ginette and Tracy the previous night.

We ignored the road closed signs as usual and we carried on down the hill only to find some workmen who were re-surfacing the road. We had to wait by the side of the road whilst 2 separate machines came up the road putting down the road followed by 2 trucks putting down chippings and then the roller followed up the road.  We were then allowed to continue – we were the first to ride/use the new road, we all had a laugh as Ginette had only said earlier in the day that she wanted to avoid loose chippings.

We then headed up the Col de Peyresourde (which is going to be included in this years Tour de france – on the 19th July 2012), we met a French cyclist at the bottom who cycled along with us for a short while and then Stuart cycled up with an English cyclist for a while who was doing a 4 day organised tour coast to coast.  We all cycled up and Gary C & Stuart stopped to take photos.  We met Rob and Tracy at the top and refilled our bottles and had a bite to eat, which Rob and Tracy bought from the supermarket. We took more photos at the sign and headed down the other side – stopping for even more photos.  We saw a number of wigwams on the way up and a husky dog-training centre.

On the way down Stuart spotted an eagle souring overhead and took a photo of it, Gary E & Ginette saw the eagle minutes later swoop down just in front of them and pick up a dead lizard off the road, a real wow moment.  We stopped at one point on the way down and it was that hot, that the tar on the road was melting and Gary C managed to leave his shoe impression on the road.

At the bottom of the hill we headed through Lochon – the largest town we have cycled through in the last 5 days. It was torture for the Gary’s and Ginette as we passed open restaurant after restaurant and bar after bar, Gary’s stomach was rumbling (but that is nothing new Gary has hollow legs). It was a very picturesque place with trees either side of the street.  We headed on through the town and started the next and major climb of the day – Superbagneres.  There was fantastic scenery all the way up, the temperature had continued to rise all day as it reached 36 degrees on the way up.  Gary E was suffering due to the 13km climb which went up about 9-12% gradient and the very sever heat. Half way up Gary C informed both Gary E and Ginette that once they reached the top of the Superbagneres they would be turning round and coming back down, this was really demoralising, but fortunately didn’t put either of them off completing the very long climb.  As we neared the top we could see the greyer clouds starting to gather.  In the last 2km of the climb Gary C raced past a German rider and continued to race up to the top of the climb, which made him feel sick in the process. Although he was the first to get to the top, he has told himself off and will try to stop racing up the last 2k.

Rob and Tracy put on a big spread for us which we sat down an ate before the cloud descended and you couldn’t see a thing. The ground was still really warm but the temperature had plummeted down to 14 degrees within about an hour.

We put some more clothes on and headed back down the mountain with the visibility very poor as we headed back down through the clouds.  On the way down Stuart passed 4 cars and he descended quickly in an attempt to keep warm.  On the way down we met other cyclist-turning round and coming back down as they had given up climbing to the top, the temperature had dropped down to 14 degrees, a very drastic change from the earlier 36 degrees.

This climb was enough for Gary E and Ginette and at the bottom of the Superbagneres only one of them had a chance to get in the car. Ginette gracefully let Gary take the seat as she had, had a rest the day before. Gary got a lift to the top of the Col du Portillon (9km up with gradients going up to 11%).  Ginette stayed on her bike and started to climb the Col du Portillon but Rob came back in the car for her as the climb was much harder than the sign at the bottom had suggested.  As Rob picked up Ginette and loaded her bike on the car there were some locals playing Petangue (French Bowles) in the lay-by.

At the bottom of the Col du Portillon Gary dozed off whilst he waited for Rob to come and collect him, he woke up with a start when he felt something touch his shoulder in his half awake state he got the shock of his life when he found a huge Alsatian’s nose on his shoulder, fortunately the dog wasn’t as jumpy as Gary, I think only Gary filled his trousers, the dog walked off fine and untroubled.

Gary C and Stuart continued up the Col du Portillon at a slow rate, they had some light rain as they neared the top.  At the top Gary C & Stuart crossed the border into Spain and headed down into Spain and Les (the name of the village we were staying in). The temperature had gone up to 19 degrees on the way up the climb but at the top and on the way down the temperature had dropped to 11 degrees, as the light rain came down we could see steam coming off the road.  The road conditions on the way down were terrible, it was difficult to avoid the large potholes all the way down.  At the bottom of the main down hill they came to a roundabout and turned left continuing to go down hill but you wouldn’t have known it as it was such a strong headwind which made it as hard as cycling up the climb.  They followed the river down the road; the river appeared to be going up hill due to the strong wind blowing up the valley.

We arrived at our accommodation and ate in the restaurant and reviewed the photos, which had been taken from the day and previous days.  During the meal time our deserts were served and one of the dishes looked just like a crème bruille, Gary E demonstrated his ability to suck this off the plate in one go, an extremely funny trick and one you should all witness, but be sure you do not have a mouthful of food when you watch this.

Day 14 Les (Spain) to Seix (France) – Fri 22 June

Riding Time 5hrs 27mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 90hrs 05mins

Miles 58.24                                          – Cumulative Distance 1,089.85miles – 1,753.9km

Ave Speed 10.7mph

Max Speed 38.6mph

Ascent 2,522m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 26,047m

Descent 2,632m

Calories Burnt 4,655                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 68,519

Gary & Ginette Corr Have a Col Named After Them (although spelt wrong)

 Climbs

Col de Mente 1349m

Col de Portet D’Aspet 1069m

Col de la Core 1395m

It was a grey cloudy and cold day today but dry. It was about 15 degrees at the start as we set off at 9:20am.  We had a nice gradual downhill start as we headed out of Spain into France, we took pictures at the old unused border control station, and considered ourselves lucky we hadn’t ended up in a hotel in the ghost town immediately after the border control.  We continued on towards the first climb of the day.  We past some road kill on the road – a dead fox and along side it was a dead eagle – clearly it had come down for the fox and got hit by another car and was killed itself.

We got the base of the Col de Mente – an average climb of 9% gradient for 9.5km  – the gradient went up to 14% at a few points but the majority of the time it was 9% (a steep hard climb).  At the bottom there were some caves, which of course meant another photo opportunity for the boys. On the lower slopes we saw 2 deer in a field, Stuart was ready with a camera and was just about to take a photo only to see them disappear into the woods before he could take the photo.

They were cutting the grass at the side of the road, not good for Ginette and Stuart with their hay fever.  Gary E managed to find a pink rose, which he gave to Ginette for her bike.  Gary C stopped on the climb and did a wheel change with the wheel from Rob’s bike as the bearings in Gary C’s front wheel were worn out and it was rubbing and not running well despite the Gary’s and Rob’s attempts at fixing it before we set off this morning, they also worked on Ginette’s bike to sort out the gearing and to bend the derailleur back into shape to stop the chain going into the spokes which was happening when Ginette tried to go up into a lower gear.  We got to the top of the Col de Mente where the cloud was low and it was damp and misty, with a bit of light drizzle – it was about 9 degrees.  We had coffee/hot chocolate at the restaurant, which surprisingly was open!  At the top there was also a man who was carving animals and other items out of tree trunks and logs.  We put our layers on and headed back down the hill – it was a very cold descent. It was a quick descent for Gary E as his brake blocks were worn out and they were no longer working and grinding metal to metal.

As soon as we got to the bottom of the Col de Mente we stopped to replace Gary’s front brake blocks and started to climb the Col de Portet D’Aspet, an average of 9.7% gradient going up for 4.4km – not long in Pyrenees standards but it was a very steep hill – with sections going up to 15-17%.  Just up round the first bend we stopped to take photos of the Fabio Castartelli monument and then continued up the climb. Shortly after this while going on up the hill a cyclist came past with the biggest grey beard we have seen in a long while, he was flying down the hill (opinion varies, he looked like Elma Fudd, Father Christmas, Father Time and all the ZZ Top brothers all rolled into one) At the top Rob and Tracy had set up lunch for us – which was excellent.  There were at least 6 cats roaming around at the top.

Again we dressed up warm when we were at the top and ready for the descent and down through the valley.  We got slowed down by a couple of goats, which were in the road.  Gary E and Stuart zoomed past a tractor.  Down through the valley we had 2 small peaks which we had to go over – the second one was about 14% for about a 100m climb before a short descent to start the Col de la Core – Ginette and Gary Corr have a Col named after them so we had to make sure that we did a photo shoot at the bottom of the climb by the sign.  The climb was long 14¼ km long with an average gradient of 7.5% but it did go up to 10% at times on the way up.  As with all the climbs today they were damp and got colder as you climbed and neared the summit.

Gary C really struggled with this last climb; he had eaten too much at lunch time in the attempt to keep the calorie count up, this was a long slow hard slog for Gary. The others all waited close to the summit and when Gary finally caught them up they all climbed the last corner and reached the top of the climb together.  We put a few more layers on and took a few photos under the sign. Rob stripped off his top and was wearing just his shorts and a red hat, Ginette commented over dinner that Rob looked like a large gnome which made us all laugh.  We cycled down the final hill passing a couple of chickens on the road – 8½ miles downhill to Seix.  On the way down Gary E cycled on in front of us and staged a crash for our benefit on one of the hair pin bends – he was on the outside grass verge with his bike on top of him and he then waited for us to come down and find him.  What Gary E hadn’t thought about were the snakes and spiders, which could have easily been where he was lying.  When Gary C helped Gary E up, Gary E did have a large spider on his jacket.

We ate in the hotel restaurant and had a great meal.  Just as we had finished eating, the restaurant was completely silent when Gary C suddenly let out a large ripper of a fart, which reverberated around the restaurant, all the French diners who were in the restaurant eating all looked in utter disgust in our direction and we all pointed the finger in Gary’s direction.

Day 15 Seix to Ax Les Thermes – Sat 23 June

Riding Time 5hrs 2 mins                     – Cumulative Riding Time 95hrs 07mins

Miles 57.86                                          – Cumulative Distance 1,147.71miles – 1,847.1km

Ave Speed 11.5mph

Max Speed 36.6mph

Ascent 2,033m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 28,080m

Descent 1,822m

Calories Burnt 4,382                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 72,901

The Pyrenees are Hard Going

 Climbs

Col de Latrappe 1110m

Col D’Agne 1579m

Port de Lers 1517m

We woke tired, legs aching, knowing that we had another hard day in the Pyrenees with lots of climbing. Ginette was awake all night hearing the hourly and half hourly church bells going off.  Stuart adjusted the route so that we didn’t have to ride up the hard climb to Plateau de Beille – approx a 10mile steep climb, which would have come at the 45 mile point.

Rob took Gary E and Tracy to Barcelona Airport (the trip took 4 hours there and 4 hours back) a day without support, but Rob had kindly agreed to take our bags onto our accommodation.  We missed Gary E today but unfortunately he had to get back to work as he is self-employed, we said our emotional goodbyes and went on our way.

We set off at 8:45am it was cloudy but slightly warmer than yesterday, temperature about 16 degrees, we had a nice easy start with a steady climb of about 1-3 degrees following a stunning clear blue river for the first 7½miles before we got to the first climb – Col de Latrappe. It was a steady climb average of 8% gradient for 5.6km but it did go up to 12% gradient at times.  Stuart reached the top first as Ginette thought the climb was longer than it was and didn’t react when Stuart raced passed her near the submit.  As we climbed the temperature dropped by about 2 degrees to 14 degrees, it remained grey but was dry and started to get brighter.  At the top of the Col there was a telephone box, which seemed a bit unusual.

We headed quickly down the other side and stopped near the bottom to do a photo shoot by a waterfall.  We then headed up Col d’Agnes passing a load of cyclists who were at the bottom just about to do the same Col. The climb was 10km long with an average gradient of 8.2% going up to 10.5% – Stuart raced a couple of French cyclists but stopped a number of times to take a photo or two.  The sun started to break through and the cloud started to break up and we were able to take a number of photos of the amazing scenery.  Nearing the top however the cloud was being blown in and you couldn’t see any of the views. Some of the other riders had to get off their bikes and push them for a while it was re-assuring to see others as tired as us.

We met and spoke to a number of French riders at the top who had just ridden up the Col d’Agnes and we took a photo. We discussed our route and they advised us that the Plateau de Beille was extremely hard so it was a good job that Stuart had dropped it from the ride today especially as all our legs were starting to feel the gradients and the large amount of time spent climbing each day – we were all getting slower.  We’ve all had iffy tums since we went to Spain – Ginette thinks it is due to the water but it is probably due to the amount of cycling we have been are doing nd the different rich foods we are eating.

As we descended the Col d’Agnes the temperature was about 31 degrees we stopped at a café and had a coke.  We overlooked a lake and there were loads of people around, which was most unusual who were preparing to take part in an orienteering event which was taking place on the lower slopes of the Port de Lers – which was a 3.8km climb at an average gradient of 5.7% going up to a maximum of 8.2%.  We started to climb the Port de Lers and we saw the orienteering contestants and families walking up to the starting tent and we saw some already navigating the route further on up.  We also saw a number of Para gliders coming off the top of one of the ridges.

We all enjoyed this part of the route due to the weather and all the activity going on around us as this gave us something else to concentrate on rather than the pain in our legs.  The terrain reminded us of some of our training rides in the UK.  We got to the top of the Port de Lers and saw 2 recumbent tricycles parked up and had a joint back slapping session with some of the other riders that had completed the climb.  At the top we had a 12km downhill and was blessed with some spectacular views, which included a field where there were about 6-7 pigs, some wallowing in mud, they were answering our calls as usual but they were too tired and hot to move to get out of the mud.

We stopped at a restaurant in Vicdessos and had a very plain pasta dish and some slices of ham.  We were very content and continued on for the last 24 miles, the road continued downhill for the next 7 miles but we hit a major road for the last 17 miles which was flat with a few small ups – but these small ups felt like mountains.  It wasn’t the most pleasant part of the route but it got us to our destination the easiest and quickest way – on the way along this road there was a large dead ferret.

We arrived at our accommodation, and looked around the town, we bought some tuna rolls and doughnuts ready for the next day as everything is shut on a Sunday in France.  We sat in the square where we put our feet in a thermal foot spa for about 30 mins, all the locals and tourist in the village square frequented this.  None of the restaurants served food until 7 so we wend back to the hotel to do the blog before finding an Italian restaurant for dinner. After dinner we returned the thermal pool area to watch the local entertainment however it turned out to be an outdoor disco which the locals enjoyed doing a bit of line dancing at one point they actually played YMCA! Ginette didn’t like this so went back to the hotel early and had a bit of a girly session doing her nails etc. The boys (including Rob who had returned from his airport runs) watched the France and Spain game.

Day 16 Ax Les Thermes to Prades – Sun 24 June

Riding Time 5hrs 37mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 100hrs 44mins

Miles 56.89                                          – Cumulative Distance 1,204.60miles – 1,938.6km

Ave Speed 10.1mph

Max Speed 38.1mph

Ascent 2,033m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 30,633m

Descent 1,822m

Calories Burnt 4,364                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 77,265

The Day the Horses Came Out to Play

 Climbs

Col de Pailheres 2001m

Col des Moulis 1099m

Col du Garavel 1256m

Col de Jau 1506m

Stuart amended the route as all the riders felt tired we cut out the Col de Marmare & Col de Chioula.  The temperature was approx 19 degrees and we had blue sky.  We headed straight up the Col de Pailheres from the centre of Ax Les Thermes a 19km climb up to 2001metres with a maximum gradient of 6.75% going up to a maximum of 9.6% – a potentially hard start to the day. Luckily the lower slopes were gentle and even went down slightly as we passed a lake.  4 cyclists passed us on the way up and we saw them as they came back down.  We followed a number of fast flowing streams for most of the day, which were cascading down over and around the rocks. The sound of the fast flowing stream was very relaxing.  The views were stunning as we passed chair lifts and ski runs on the way up.  On the way we saw some goats and a donkey in different fields.  Roaming free were cows and horses and their fouls.  On the way Ginette saw a French/Italian man and liked the look of his arse and asked Stuart to take a picture for her as the cyclist was too quick up the hill but Stuart was able to get a picture of him on the way down – Ginette appreciated the photo.

It took us approximately 2hrs 15mins to climb to the top.  At the top there were 2 very friendly horses and a foul, so friendly that they followed you around (probably looking for food) they took a fancy to Ginette’s handlebar grips – leaving teeth marks around the handlebar tape.  Ginette stroked and touched the horses but later regretted this as she found out that she had been eaten alive by horseflies and her left eye puffed up and irritated her all day, she could hardly see out of it.  Stuart had some eye drops for his hay fever, which he got out of Rob’s support car, which helped ease the eye a little.

We took a number of pictures at the top, some of us on a snowcap, which still had not melted.  By this time the temperature had gone up to about 34 degrees.  We headed down with Rob videoing from the top and you could see the road snaking down the other side with plenty of hairpin bends to navigate.  Gary C was stopped in his tracks on the way down as one of the many horses along the route was stopped right across the road and Gary C had to physically move the horse to one side before proceeding further down the mountain.

Outstanding, stunning views as we came down – winding our way down from the top.

We had another steep uphill climb up to Lu Puch at 11% gradient straight up.  We met Rob at Carcanieres and had some lunch, tuna rolls and doughnuts (purchased the previous day) washed down with some coke.  There were lots of small lizards around – one nearly ran over Rob whilst he was lying down having 40 winks – we’ve never seen Rob move so quickly.  Watched the lizards catch flies/insects and eat them.  The temperature on Gary C’s bike read 41 degrees.

We set off fuelled up to climb the Col des Moulis and then the Col du Garavel – up and down both – gradient ranging from 3-8% shouldn’t have been too difficult but we lacked energy due to the heat – riding temperature was about 34 degrees – we were cooled slightly by the breeze.  In Roquefort-de-Sault we found a small bar, more like someone’s house that was open and all of us had a coke before our last big Col of the day.

We finished riding down hill and started the climb up the Col de Jau – 11km of uphill – the gradient on the lower slopes was fine but later it went up about 8% with a number of hairpin bends.  Road kill today was mainly butterflies – there we at least 5 dead going up the Col de Jau.  Once we reached the top it was all downhill to Prades where we were staying for the night.  When we cycled down we met a couple of English riders who were riding up – they’ve been living out here for about a year.  On our descent we passed a very beautiful village of Mosset on the mountainside, there were signs reading ‘village d’Europe, et du Monde’.  We also passed some stunning scenery, including a spectacular gorge on the way down. Ginette got a little annoyed with the boys as they were taking a lot of photos and she could not cycle off to the accommodation as she did not have the directions so had to wait in the heat.

We arrived at our accommodation at about 5.30ish very tired but buoyed up by the excellent accommodation (an old tannery). It had a pool and a hot tub which we used and relaxed before going into town for some food.  We all washed some kit and put it out by the pool to dry ready for tomorrow.  Ginette’s eye was a bit better but still a bit puffy.

Day 17 Prades to Pas de la Casa (Andorra) – Mon 25 June

Riding Time 6hrs 26mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 107hrs 10mins

Miles 64.32                                          – Cumulative Distance 1,268.92miles – 2042.1km

Ave Speed 10.0mph

Max Speed 34.1mph

Ascent 2,896m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 33,529m

Descent 1,143m

Calories Burnt 5,195                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 82,460

Up, Up and Up

 Climbs

Col de la Llose 1866m

Col de Puymorens 1915m

Ginette woke in a bad mood and struggled to shift this all day. Some days are hard mentally others physically but unfortunately for Ginette this was both rolled into one, even the support vehicle was at hand she persevered head down and determined.

We set off at 8:30am this morning after having a great breakfast – the sky was blue, with hardly a cloud in sight.  The temperature was about 24 degrees.  It was going to be a tough day, with climbing most of the day.  Stuart amended the route slightly and knocked 13miles off the route today – the compromise was that the first 10 miles of the day was along a busy main road.  We saw a bear (a wooden one) and did a quick photo shoot.  As soon as we turned off the main road past a town called Evol, the real climbing began and the scenery was stunning and kept changing throughout the day from very dry, hot climate vegetation to pastures to woodland, with a few streams and sleepy towns.

We climbed steady for 16 miles up through a valley – the road hugging the side of the mountain with steep drops to one side as we followed the contours up the valley before a very short down then back along the other side continuing to climb steadily – a French cyclist was riding up the climb the same time as us – he couldn’t speak any English and we couldn’t speak enough French to have a conversation, so we had a joint head scratching and shoulder shrugging moment – we regularly passed each over on the way up as we took breaks at different times.  On our way up we came to a small village – we were hoping to get a coke – Gary spotted a large umbrella up and was looking in that direction longing for a coke whilst cycling up the hill around a bend and ended up crashing off the road into a concrete ditch – Stuart made him stay there so a picture could be taken.

We continued cycling up the mountain – running out of water – the temperature always going up all the way up the climb – it was about 34 degrees and sweat was pouring off us.  We took some photos at the top but nothing was open so we continued on – we had a very short down hill section down to La Llagonne – it was about 12:45 and we stopped off and had a couple of cokes in the Hotel Corrieu as unable to find anywhere else open, but Ginette and Gary where happy to drink the cokes in a hotel partially named after them.

Later in the day we reached a large plateau/large valley, which we had to ride the length of – following the mountains on our left – with the gradient either flat or slightly down hill. This plateau was an area of outstanding beauty with views stretching for miles. In the distance we could see the huge mountain that we still needed to climb, it looked magnificent but daunting. We passed a building, which was covered in solar panels and solar panels all the way up the hill.  At the end of the plateau we had a short descent into Llivia (separate part of Spain surrounded by France).  We got there just before 3pm expecting great things, there were loads of bars and cafes all down the side but everything was shut.  We continued onwards and back into France – there were no border controls so if you were just driving without a map you wouldn’t have known that you had even left France.

We continue along another busy road for a period of time towards the Col de Puymorens, shared with large lorries and coaches brushing past your elbows. This was not pleasant cycling. The road separated as most of the traffic went via the tunnel whilst we headed over the top towards the Col and Andorra.

During the climb Gary misread the Garmin and diverted us through a small village, an interesting detour through narrow roads of ancient houses and up very steep poorly pathed roads. We followed a winding road that you could see making its way right up the mountain, past ski lifts and ski runs that could be clearly picked out on the mountain sides and we finally made it to the top of the Col de Puymorens, we had a short descent with very pretty all round views before heading back up hill towards the border with Andorra – we went through the boarder control and didn’t have to stop and continued to cycle up hill – right until we got to Pas de la Casa a purpose built ski resort. Its odd being in a ski resort with no snow, the shops have to change there services, one for example is selling all motorbike stuff, we presume this will be ski kit come winter.

We were all knackered – we met Rob in a bar and had a couple of much needed beers/coke and then quickly had a shower and had something to eat.

Day 18 Pas de la Casa to La Seu d’Urgell (Spain) – Tue 26 June

Riding Time 5hrs 21mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 112 hours 31mins

Miles 57.41                                          – Cumulative Distance 1,326.33miles – 2134.5km

Ave Speed 10.7mph

Max Speed 35.9mph

Ascent 1,948m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 35,477m

Descent 3,203m

Calories Burnt 3,766                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 86,226

The Short Cut

 Climbs

Port D’Envalira 2,408m

Coll d’Ordino 1,980m

Collada de la Gallina 1,910m

It started out hot – 22 degrees when we set off out of Pas de la Casa and the temperature continued to rise all day.  We started straight into the first climb of the day – to the highest point of the ride and the highest paved road in the Pyrenees – 2,408 metres.  We have been to some beautiful cols with outstanding views all the way around – this col was different – there were at least 5 garages, a sign advertising McDonalds and a hotel – all looked very busy and commercialised – we didn’t spend too long at the top and headed down the other side – with fast sweeping bends and a number of hairpins approx 10.5 miles downhill – you could see for miles – at one point there was a cow just wandering across the road.

Once we had descended approx 1000m we started the second climb of the day (including another of Gary’s mistaken detours through some steep lanes in the village) – up the coll d’Ordino with many switchbacks – as we climbed we started to get more views of the valley below and the mountains in the distance.  We stopped for photos at the top and then headed down towards Ordino.  On the way down Stuart and Ginette had to stop to wait for half a dozen pony trekkers to go across the road.  At Ordino we stopped at the tourist information to find out where the nearest café was – it was just up the road and first right.  Stuart picked up an English map of Andorra showing the maps of towns and the road map of Andorra.  We had no mobile phone signal so we bought a coke and some chocolate cake from a shop and ate that.  Rob finally got hold of us and we met him in the tourist information car park and we agreed to meet at Andorra la Vella.

We cycled from Ordino to Andorra la Vella – the roads were busy and we passed busy retails stores and businesses – when we actually reached Andorra la Vella it was extremely busy on the roads and very different to what we had been use to on this trip – navigating through all the busy roads and fast moving and busy traffic was a challenge – we didn’t stop as planned and continued to cycle through to get to quieter roads – at one point Gary C saw a bike/bus lane which was in the middle of the road – what he didn’t realise that we were going against the traffic as they can switch the priority of the road and Gary had to play chicken with a bus travelling at speed coming towards him – we soon moved over to the side of the road and turned right just a bit further down the road – the start of our final climb of the day.

Stuart spotted a roadside café that was open and we all decided to stop and get some proper food inside of us – it was a greasy spoon – Gary & Stuart had fried egg, sausage and chips, Ginette had a healthier option of a tuna salad.  It was just what we needed – especially with what we had ahead of us.

Stuart had reviewed the map from the tourist information with Rob at Ordino and decided to take a short cut – once we turned off the main road instead of going all the way up and following the road all the way round we turned left at Bissisarri and headed across and met up with the planned route further down the road cutting a number of miles off the route – at the end of the day we did cut some miles of – we should have done 61.8 miles but ended up only doing 57.4 miles (but it wasn’t any easier).

The short cut although shorter went straight up the Collada de la Gallina – the steepest climb we had to do on this trip – about 7 ½ miles up with gradients of between 12-16% with hairpins at about 20%+ and there were loads of hairpins (it was like cycling up a never ending Nash Hill) .  The temperature hit 41.7 degrees as we climbed up the hill – sweat dripped off of us and our legs were burning and hurting – we had to regularly get out of the saddle to get around the hairpins.  Ginette and Gary were in their lowest gear possible to get up the climb; Stuart was also in a lower gear than usual.  To put the col in context Rob who was in the support car had to change down to first gear to get up and around the hairpins.  On the way up we saw a dead snake on one of the many hairpin bends, but it was too steep to stop to take a photo.  We reached the top and took a few photos only to be surprised when we turned the corner at the top to find that the tarmac stopped and the road changed into an off road gravel trail – apparently that passes as a road – as there were still road signs – the CS-111.  The roadmap from the tourist information showed it as a road – Ginette was not impressed as she was on a road bike and had already crashed a number of times on this trip so she was cautious and walked/ran most parts of the down hill gravel track/road which descended about 4 miles before we found a proper road and headed downhill for another 6 miles.  On the last stretch of downhill, Stuart was descending at about 30mph+ when a wasp flew into his unzipped cycle top and stung him, Stuart was quick to stop and kill the wasp Stuart which gave him a small amount of satisfaction as his stomach was still stinging way into the night.

Once we reached the bottom we re-joined the road that we had left to ride up this last Col, we were only 2 miles further down the road from were we turned off to do this last mammoth climb so this was a hard pill to swallow, we didn’t tell Ginette till later in the hotel (although she was in good spirits for the day we didn’t think she would appreciate this info). We headed along the main road to the border with Spain and passed through the border control and continued on the road towards La Seu, passing all the traffic and waited at the road works – the road was extremely busy with some busy lorries – and the tarmac was very uneven and not finished off properly. This was very dangerous and not pleasant at all, one lorry came so close it made us all weave from the wind lash, this was very dodgy as the road was not in a good condition so we had no where else to go.

We arrived at our accommodation just after 6 – the hotel was 5 star – Gary wasn’t feeling great and raided the fridge in the room to get his energy levels up.  We went out and found a restaurant – Rob had rabbit and snails in their shells (which didn’t look very appetising)

Only 2 days to go – but they are going to be long hard days with more miles to cover than what we have been doing over the last 9 days, with plenty of hills to ride up and over.

 

Our jelly/painful legs.

Let us try to describe how our legs feel. You can cycle along down hills, flats or up hills.  The problem is the transition stage between any one of these prolonged stages.  If you are cycling up hill then fine, but add in a small descent and as soon as you go back up your legs are like a pack of jelly and resist any attempt to move forward (really painful), this only lasts for a little while but it is really horrible and makes you wish you never had the little bit of down hill in the first place.

 

Day 19 La Seu d’Urgell to Rippon – Wed 27 June

Riding Time 6hrs 18mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 118 hours 49mins

Miles 74.21                                          – Cumulative Distance 1,400.45miles – 2,253.8km

Ave Speed 11.8mph

Max Speed 37.9mph

Ascent 2,268m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 37,745m

Descent 2,271m

Calories Burnt 4,646                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 90,872

 

Cowboys and Indians

 

Climbs

Coll de la Trava 1,480m

Coll de Josa 1,620m

Coll de la Trapa 1,321m

Coll de Merolla 1,090m

 

The hottest start to the day yet, perfectly blue sky, not a cloud to be seen, at 27 degrees at 9:30am it was going to be another hot energy sapping long day.  15mins into our ride we stopped so Gary C could sort out his Garmin as it wasn’t working properly (again).  Having now got the Garmin working we headed for our first mountain climb of the day the Col de la Trava – just over a 10 mile climb – with an average gradient of 5% but the gradient did vary and at times and hit 12%.  The views were ever changing as we rode up the mountain very slowly with tired legs (from our big climb yesterday).  The scenery nearer the top changed to what looked like a scene out of a cowboys and Indians film – with the red soil, harsh jagged rocks and varied vegetation.  The temperature was still rising and sweat was pouring off us as if someone had turned on a tap – even Ginette was sweating.  The terrain was very much up and down today – Gary was convinced he could hear the theme tune to bonanza and was expecting a Red Indian to jump out and start shooting arrows at him, at one stage some horses were loudly whinning across the valley to each over, still couldn’t see the Indians though.

 

We went slightly off route to find a place to get some food – we stopped off at Tuixen and found a restaurant/bar – Gary C & Stuart had a tuna pizza and Ginette had a Salad and downed a couple of cokes – it was food but it’s wasn’t the best, the pizza’s were dry and the salad consisted of lettuce, tomatoes, olives and a gherkin or two.  We continued on and saw a large dead green lizard on the road – clearly it had lost a game of chicken with a moving vehicle. We met Rob briefly who kindly topped up our water bottles, he told us he had really enjoyed his morning rallying round the corners like Carlos Symes.

 

The scenery was just amazing.  The temperature reached 41 degrees – the little breeze we had was hot and didn’t really cool us down.  On our way up the next Mountain – the Col de Josa we continued to pass small villages perched on the edges of the mountains – in the middle of nowhere – very picturesque.  We continued to climb and had to take care to avoid fallen boulders, rocks, stones and fir cones which were all over the road as we climbed, the road signs did warn you about falling rocks as we reguarly see in the UK but this was the first time we actually saw rocks in the road in front of us! We passed the time by looking for snakes, large lizards and deer.  Much to Stuarts’s disappointment we passed loads of deer signs but didn’t see any (he would really like to take a picture of one) we wouldn’t want to play hide and seek with a deer as they are good at hiding.  We finally reached the top of the Col de Josa after another 10 mile climb – our legs getting even more tired and feeling drained due to the miles and the heat.

We stopped off again for a cold coke at Gosol, as it was so hot and we just needed it so we could continue.  Gosol is a very lovely little town with a cobbled square, with trees in the centre with a statute of a woman right in the middle and the square had cafes/bars on most of the corners, and these are all open not like France.

We cycled on undulating terrain climbing slowly to the Col de la Trapa at 1321m, the views still continued to amaze and looked like a Wild West film set.  We then headed downhill and down through the valley. We stopped and met Rob outside a garage and had another cold coke and some doughnuts we also refilled our bottles again, we are having to constantly drink to keep our fluids up as we are sweating so much in the high temperatures which remained ar the 38-40 degree mark all afternoon (we are all drinking about 6 large water bottles each day plus other drinks).  We continued to ride and crossed a bridge with a hidden canyon with a small river down through it.  We knew that we had one final climb to do – the Col de Merolla – we stopped at a small town called La Pobla de Lillet and did a photo shoot of an old bridge and stopped off at a café/bar and Gary C & Stuart had an ice-cream before we started up the final climb. The final climb was bend after bend not too steep and climbed through forests, fortunately it was one of the easiest mountain climbs we have done, in fact we went down a few times as well.  We then descended into Rippon, this was a long slow descent which we could pedal hard around the brakes instead of braking which was good fun.  Downhill all the way to our accommodation which had a large swimming pool which we could use, but it was full of kids yuk and it was nearly 7.00om so we didn’t really have time as all we wanted to do was take in more fluids, have a shower and eat (we have stayed in some really lovely accommodation but as we don’t arrive until late we rarely get to take full advantage of the facilities).  Another hard day done – we were all feeling tired and looking forward to our last day tomorrow.  Again it will be a long hard day with 79 miles to complete tomorrow.

A big thank you to the emails of support we have received.

Ginette would like to acknowledge one from Ian Elliott – her bad mood earlier in the week was because she had realised that she was cycling miles out of her way (she is convinced it is a boy thing to cycle up and down mountains, she may have a point we have only seen a handful of other females) – once she reminded herself that the challenge was about the journey not the destination she was able to chill but is finding it hard cycling past signs that say Barcelona left whist we continue to cycle in the other direction.

Day 20 Rippon to Mataro – Thur 28 June

Riding Time 6hrs 50mins                    – Cumulative Riding Time 125 hours 39mins

Miles 80.63                                          – Cumulative Distance 1,481.08miles – 2,383.6km

Ave Speed 11.8mph

Max Speed 34.2mph

Ascent 1,939m                                    – Cumulative Amount Climbed 39,684m

Descent 2,595m

Calories Burnt 5,074                           – Cumulative Calories Burnt 95,946

Tunnels and the Great Flood

Climbs (named colls)

Coll de Buc de Riol 1100m

Coll de Sant Marcal 1640m

It was slightly hazy, grey morning and fresher than the previous days. We had breakfast early at 7:30am looking to set off as early as possible as we had more miles than previous days and we were looking to get in at a reasonable hour.  We went to get the bikes out from where we had locked them overnight to find that Ginette’s bike had a front flat tyre.  Stuart and Gary C fixed the puncture (first of the trip).  Stuart also removed a number of other small flints which had embedded themselves in the tyre and Rob got us the track pump from out of the car to re-inflate the tyre, before setting off Stuart and Gary washed their hands which were black. Not quite the early start we were looking for but we were on the road by 9am.

We headed south on the road from the hotel, it became a duel carriageway with a hard shoulder – good safe cycling we went through at least half a dozen tunnels – the road resembled a dual carriageway in our country two lanes with a hard shoulder – but it wasn’t too busy.  We passed and pulled out around many junctions as we sped down this long fast road.  A police car overtook us through one of the tunnels but didn’t stop or slow down so we presumed we were ok to cycle on the road so we continued along this road for approx 11 miles.  We wanted to turn left but we couldn’t as there was a large concrete reservation between the carriages – Ginette suggested getting off our bikes and climbing over to get to the other side – Stuart suggested that we better not and we continued to head towards the next turn off.

We turned off at the next junction and around the roundabout and back over the road we had been riding on – we wanted to go back down the road – this time we spotted a sign saying no pedestrians, no bikes, no mopeds and no tractors were allowed on the road – none of us had seen a sign like this before when we were on the road – it was clear we had been cycling down a Spanish motorway for the last 11 miles (oohps!).  We now had a challenge – the road we needed was one junction down the motorway – the satnav’s were saying that all the other roads leading to dead ends.  Stuart led the way with his gut instinct that there would be a way through somehow – although Gary’s feeling was how on earth were we going to get over the river which was going to be in our way.  The road did stop with a bank of soil but Stuart had noticed a small track off the left which appeared to follow the motorway so Stuart led us along this track which then turned into a small metal gangway which followed the motorway and luckily over the river and we came out on the road we needed to be on.

We carried on when unexpectedly an old man on a motorised bicycle overtook us it was a funny sight which Ginette wished she’d caught on film.  The roads had become busier now having come off the motorway and the next 14 miles were through villages and towns and built up areas with a lot of traffic going past which wasn’t much fun – we stopped briefly in Vic at a bench but Gary C needed his cold coke fix so we carried on.  We spotted our first sunflower of the trip and stopped to take a photo. There’s no shortage of photographs of this trip Stuart has taken in excess of 2500 photos on this trip and both Gary and Rob have been a similar amount.

We stopped off at a garage and purchased some coke and items to eat – we continued on to find a more suitable, less busy place to stop and eat and drink – we found a tree lined road in Sant Julia de Vilatorta and sat down and refuelled. After we continued after this break it appeared that everyone in their cars had gone home as the roads became quite again.

We went over another motorway which they were just building/upgrading and headed towards the National Parc – we met Rob at Viladrau and stopped at a lovely restaurant and had a couple of cokes/Lemon Fanta but skipped lunch as they weren’t doing food until 1pm.  Ginette built a town out of the empty cans to amuse herself.  We didn’t wait for food and carried on up the first mountain of the day. Straight after setting off we reached a dead end but managed a very short off road section to save a detour.

We climbed steadily until we had to take a sharp right hand turn and the road then took a sharp incline upwards – signs were showing a 10% gradient for the next 800m – our pace slowed somewhat as we slowly cycled up the steep road.  The road then levelled out slightly until another sign of 10% for next 800m and you could see the road going straight up.  We continued on – sweat pouring off us – the temperature was about 37 degrees.  After 7 miles of climbing we finally reached the top of the Coll de Buc de Riol 1100m then we went up the coll de Sant Marcal – unbeknown to us this wasn’t going to the last climb or the toughest climb of the day.  We took many photos of the stunning views but we still couldn’t see the sea.

On the way down we met Rob in a restaurant and had another coke and had a tuna sandwich – we continued on with the ride thinking that it would start to go down hill but the road continued to be undulating for another 6 miles before we hit the descent properly – unfortunately the roads were lined with trees most of the time so there wasn’t much of a view to look at on the way down.

After the terrain levelled out we turned a right and headed along the road – without warning the road started to climb at hit 10% very quickly – the road just went up and up and up with very few bends – 10% soon became 12% then 14% then nearer the top it became 15%, then 16% – on the steep bends the gradient was as steep as18% – the climb was only 2 miles long but this was probably one of the hardest /steepest climbs we have had to ride on this whole trip – sweat was literally pouring off us.  At the top Ginette was not impressed as at the top the tarmac finished, there were no views of the sea and no road just a very steep gravel track – so Ginette ended up running, walking and sometimes riding her bike for the next 6 miles as we headed downhill off road until we found a proper road again.

At this point Gary C wasn’t feeling well – he had hit the wall and run out of energy – he didn’t like the hot water we were having to drink – and the heat was just sapping his energy – Gary needed something cold to drink to cool him down and replenish some of his energy reserves so we stopped at a supermarket in Sant Antoni de Vilamajor which helped and then we cycled on – approx 15 miles still to go.

We carried on and we crossed another motorway and up a gradual climb where we saw some cacti and then we had a gentle descent into Mataro where we stayed.

It had been another long hard day starting at 9am and not getting to our hotel until 7:10pm. Finishing the challenge was a little bit of anti climax, Mataro the small sea side resort we thought we had booked a hotel in was a busy, noisy and dirty city, Ginette had another puncture, Rob needed to take the bikes off the top off his car so that he could park it – so instead of hitting the bar and raising a glass or two we had to sort out the bikes.

At the hotel Stuart came out of his room having had a shower and ready to go out to a restaurant for something to eat when he noticed that the lift lobby was flooded and was walking through water – on following the water back he noticed that it was coming out from under Ginette’s & Gary’s room.  Stuart knocked on the door and found a very embarrassed Ginette. Apparently she had removed her cycle clothing in the shower and had inadvertently blocked the drain – it was a wet room style shower so the water had to go somewhere, Ginette had dried the floors in the room but had not thought to check the corridor, her face was a picture when she realised she had flooded the whole of the 2nd floor lobby – fortunately the reception staff spoke good English and were very understanding, but as you can imagine there were a few jokes made about this.

We are having a much needed recovery day tomorrow – staying in Mataro and spending a day on the beach – relaxing and swimming in the sea and then doing the final 20 miles into Barcelona on Saturday morning then spending some time seeing the Barcelona tourist sights and then flying back on the Sunday afternoon.

The trip has been a fantastic experience and really enjoyable – it’s been hard and tough, but with a great team spirit (including an excellent support crew), a good sense of humour from everyone and the will to achieve we have accomplished what we set out to do – Cycle from Bristol to Barcelona.

 

 

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