Training in the Pyrenees

Day 1: Sariñena – Laruns

Time: 9:54:09
Distance: 183.7km
Average Speed 18.5 km/h

For Day 1 I woke at 5.30am and managed to be on the road before 7. I made my first stop in Huesca for coffee and a pintxo de tortilla de patatas. I also stocked up on some bread, serrano ham and bananas. After the climb over Monrepos I stopped again at a great little roadside bakery in Lanave. I had long break and a beer in Sabiñánigo shortly after. I continued on to the village of Biescas where the climb of Portalet started. On the way to Portalet I passed the ski station of Formigal. Portalet is a small village on the Spanish side of the France-Spain border. All the shops here were loaded with cigarettes and booze since the taxes are lower in Spain. The rest of the day was a breeze as I descended almost 30kms into Laruns. Before finding a campsite I decided to have a look at the town. There was a barbeque set up at the side of the road selling hotdogs and crepes and a lot of people about. A few minutes later a load of cows with bells started running through the town, followed later by sheep and horses. It was part of the town's Summer festival. I found a campsite close to the town center and set up there for the night with the last of my bread,serrano ham and bota of wine.

Climbs of the day:
Climbed Portalet from the other side so this diagram isn't entirely accurate

Day 2:  Laruns  – Arreau

Time: 10:01:11
Distance: 131.54km
Average Speed 13.1 km/h

After a breakfast of muesli and water, bananas and the last of my bakery food from yesterday I set off for my first climb of the day. Col d'Aubisque starts just outside Laruns so there was little time to warm up the legs before the climbing began. I soon realised that the average % on this mountain was a lot higher than the climbs of yesterday. With all the weight on my bike (tent, sleeping bag, clothes...) and my 53/39 tooth chainrings I wasn't really properly set up to climb something this steep and long. Having a 3rd smaller chainring would have made things a lot more comfortable but its not as simple as just buying one in the next shop and hooking it on. So, it was going to be difficult it would not be impossible. I'd just need to take a few more breaks.
When you start to reach the top of d'Aubisque you start to feel a real Tour de France atmosphere. The roads are covered in the names of riders from previous years painted on by roadside fans. There are plaques and memorials to champions and heroes of the past. At the summit there are 3 giant bicycles painted in the colours of the main Tour de France jerseys. There were also a lot of cows and horses with bells similar to the ones in Laruns for yesterday's parade. I stopped in the hotel at the summit for a coffee.
After a few kilometres descending I left the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques and entered the department of Hautes-Pyrénées and the start of the Col du Soulor. Starting from the d'Aubisque side the Col du Soulor is quite an easy climb but I stopped halfway up to top up the bottle again at one of the many mini waterfalls that you find along the roadside in the Pyrenees. I started again on the muesli and water at the top of Soulor and reapplied the sunscreen.
Travelling from the top of Soulor to the start of Tourmalet took a bit longer than expected with a lot of rolling hills. I stopped in Saint-Savin along the way and again at Luz-Saint-Sauveur for a final chance to eat before the climb. I quickly got through a massive can of tuna I had bought in Carrefour along with a banana. I'd find more water fountains on the way up. Like d'Aubisque the Col du Tourmalet is a beautiful climb. It's a few kilometres longer and the % is similar for a lot of it. Both mountains were very busy with other cyclists going a lot faster than me. Ever since I started cycling road bikes a few years ago the Col du Tourmalet has been one of the main mountains I've wanted to climb because of its importance in the Tour de France. It was a relief to finally get to the top for another coffee break. Like the rest of the tourists up there I took my photos and headed on my way passing the ski town of La Mongie on the way. 
The next climb of the day was Col d'Aspin. This was by far the easiest of the day but it was still 12 or 13 kms long. However the % is a lot lower than the other 2 mountains so I had a lot less trouble getting up this one. By the time I had reached the top it was around 9pm. It was getting dark and there was a lot of fog so I didn't hang around long. Being so late I was the only one up there. I descended down to the town of Arreau and straight away went looking for food. I got a big pizza and the woman in the restaurant filled my bota with a bit more wine. I found a camping spot in the municipal camp site which I'm told exist in most French towns and cities.

Climbs of the day:

Day 3:  Arreau  – Sariñena

Time: 10:20:12
Distance: 183.22km
Average Speed 17.7 km/h

I finished the last of the pizza for breakfast and started the journey. There had been a storm the night before and some water had leaked into the bottom of my tent so I didn't sleep much. After such a punishing day yesterday my body was feeling pretty dead. I stopped in the town of St. Lary for a break before starting the climb up to the Bielsa-Aragnouet tunnel (The France-Spain border). I had no idea how far the climb up to the tunnel would be since I hadn't done much research for the 3rd day of the trip. It was humid and dull the whole morning in France with a lot of fog out while I was making the climb. The tunnel lasts about 3km beginning after the climb and when I got out at the other side to Spain the difference in weather was dramatic. Fog was replaced by blazing sun and clear skies. I descended for a long time into Bielsa and stopped there for lunch. The next destination was the beautiful medieval town of Ainsa. I stopped there to have a look around the old town and then set off for the last 100km of the trip along the River Cinca. I managed to get into Sarinena just as it was getting dark... con rompepiernas.

Climb of the day:

1 comment:

  1. I think you should consider teaching spanish in the future, you know well most of our topics to be a good ambassador too: tortilla de patata, serrano, bota, rompepiernas...
    Good luck with the trip, we´ll try to be up to date.

    By the way, does the name of the blog have the gastronomic meaning as in spanish?