B2B 2017 – we did it! It wasn’t quite the fun that the last one was but there is a great sense of achievement when you do something that is tough. As we were starting late in the season we knew that the weather could be bad but did not expect to land in Biarritz in the pouring rain. We met up with Jordi and Javi our Spanish support crew and they loaded the van and took us in two trips to our first hotel in Souraide. We assembled our bikes in the rain and then were treated to our first massage. Ouch! (Here’s the route)
Day one started grey and damp but before long the rain came down. It started as we left the support van after a feed and minor bike fix. So it was easy to ride back and don waterproof jackets. It didn’t stop raining until well into the next day’s ride.
On the second long climb, the Col de Soudet, the rain was really heavy and the two of us with the routes on our Garmins were at the back. The leaders went the wrong way choosing an 18km smooth and fast hairpin descent to a little village with a warm bar. This diversion avoided the Marie Blanc which saved us time as we were rapidly running out of light. By the time that we climbed out of Laruns to Eaux Bonnes on the Aubisque it was dark and too late for any massages. Luckily there was a washing machine but as was our luck, no dryer. The rain kept on coming down and, by then, my legs were a dead as my Garmin and the ride had only just begun.
The first day’s rain, the 9 hours, 186km, 3802m and the forecast caused a rethink and we opted to skirt the Aubisque and Tourmalet and head straight for the Aspin which, in big col terms, is a gentle and easy one. We finished the day the way we started hammer down and through ‘n’ off but this time in sunshine. That night’s hotel must have had a refurb. circa 1962 and was definitely showing signs of wear. We got our massages and some great food and conversation, however the discourse was confined to those that spoke French and the calf’s tongue in the bolognaise was not to everyone’s taste.
Day three began chill but dry and we headed up the Col de Peyresourde, Col du Portillon and then the killer 25km Port de la Bonaigua topping out around 2100m. The descent was awesome but when we regrouped in the valley it was full gasdown to Tarlan. I kept telling myself that is was downhill all the way but we were on a mission: flat out and my legs were screaming. We finished the 184km in 7 and a half tough hours. We were staying in an old bunk house in a tiny village atop a conical hill (yes, another climb to finish us off). The dormitory was school like but the showers good and food just what we needed. The local black pudding was a delight.
Day four started badly with the one Di2 bike not wanting to play the game. That was tough on Simon as he was probably the fittest member of the team. Once over the disappointment he squeezed into the van and spent the day trying to keep us motivated. This was the day that I was dreading. When asked to print out the profiles this one filled me with horror. The was just one big climb, the Comiols per Isona¸ which was not too much trouble, but from then on there were countless small climbs which would count as good hills for Sussex but looked like nothing over the whole of our trip. I suffered big time. Our stop came at about 150km with the consolation that the last 35km would generally be down. I ate as much as I could and ended up enjoying the final fling, and yes, you guessed it, hammer down and through and off to the end!
Day five was sheer bliss. The hotel was comfortable and in the centre of Cava country. So, we all drank Cava. We started for the first time on the whole trip without arm warmers and gilets. There was one climb which David knew well as a local Strava and training blast. The hill was gentle, the pace that we tried to ride up it was nothing but gentle. The pain of the climb gave way to the joy of riding, first through the Penedes vineyards and then through gently rolling and twisty roads in a forest of Mediterranean pines. This a popular training route for Catalans and we rode through listening to and obeying David’s commands of “Big ring, big ring!”. We even bumped into a training and work colleague of his for the final run down to the sea and there we picnicked in style. The final run into Barcelona was flat and fast and a mixture of airport service roads and motorway. That was not much fun but then Barcelona is a big and busy city.
As my Garmin died in the rain I had no record but compiled some data from the rest of the teams figures. There is some debate as to the amout of climbing as the mountains ridden over were shown as much high on the route planned out on Strava.
Pro support: Jordi and Javi spend their years working for pro teams as soigneur or mechanic and their support was invaluable from the food bags, massages, clean kit and serviced bikes!
Jordi’s massage was incredible and as the days passed so our pain thresholds increased.
Hairpin descents. We did at least 11 long descents with 7 of around 20km or longer. Aaaaawsome!
W2W: Weapon to win. Jordi’s warm up balm that he applied every morning. The warmth lasted for hours even in the rain and got hotter as the temperature got colder.
Perfect bikes: Mine is always perfect but each morning all the bikes looked clean and ready to go. Javi worked the evenings and mornings to get them ready for us each day.
The company: we all ride together and ride with a similar approach. I felt a bit weak but they never made me feel that I was holding the rest back.
The food bags: Every day Jordi and Javi would package up little bits of food into our respective named bags ready for each days fuelling just as they do for the pros that they work with.
The Pyrenees: they are really beautiful.
My legs feel awesome now that I have rested.
The rain on the first two days.
My Garmin dying on day one so no records.
The long distances, but that was really just down to my fitness.
Port de la Bonaigua: This was my bad climb, on reflection the rest weren’t too bad but such was the personal trauma of this climb that I let it taint my view of the whole trip.
Biarritz to Barcelona in pictures
You can find mosty of the pictures from the trip on the Quest Adventure Facebook page.
Would I do it again? Yes. If you had asked me the week after I would have said no but on reflection I merely lacked the miles in my legs. I would remedy that for the next one.