Category Archives: Pyrenees

Last ride, might be the hardest

Today was our last ride of the trip. And boy, did we make it a Duzer.

We decided to go with the “dashed route” for the final ride. Typically the dashed route is a bit longer and more difficult. See: more climbing. Since it was going to be the last one we wanted to make it a good one. Plus, Peter had said that the road was very beautiful once you got up the initial steep section and it leveled off and ran along the edge of the top of the valley. He drove it in the van a couple years ago and was scared to death on the trip. The road wound up being a glorified bike path really. It was super narrow and was listed on a dangerous roads website – Kristin found the site but I can’t find the link now. But we were sure to look for the “flat section” after the initial 15-24% climb. Yep, that’s right, there was a section of 24%. It was only about a 100 yards, but _______ (chose your explicative) that’s steep. The initial “steep section” ended up being about the first 4 miles. Then it was flat for about a mile before kicking back up to 9-15% for the last mile plus. It was also a bit warmer than we had been riding in the whole trip, so that added a new dynamic to the mix. Along with the mean as hell horseflies, this climb was pretty brutal. But I’m still glad we did it. The other route, the “dotted route,” would have been an interval training session on HGH and steroids with all the little but steep climbs over the foothills of the Pyrenees.

I’ll try to put together a little video from the climb and a bit of the descent and add it soon.

Once we started down the rough and gnarly road I managed to get yet another flat tire. This time it was a thorn and not some massive blowout with potentially dangerous side effects. I swapped out the tube pretty quick and caught back up with Kristin, Galen and Ella. By then a few others had grouped up with us, including The Canucks and Steve.

Things were going well, then the road drastically changed color from a slate gray to a high gloss black. Fresh. Hot. Sticky. Tar. We all hopped off our bikes and walked in the ditches and weeds to try and avoid the tar as much as possible, but we all still managed to get it all over our shoes and cleats. It was a mess. We ended up walking at least a kilometer if not two before we could get back on the bikes and then deal with the occasional sticky rick flinging off a tire at ourselves or bike parts.The sad part was that several other tandems and singles were still behind us and ended up riding through the tar instead of hoofing it. The carnage on those bikes was bad. A couple people upon tearing down their bikes tonight, just threw away the tires because there was so much stuck to them.

Kristin and I then worked our way back to Pau in the warm temperatures. It was about 90 degrees and we were running out of water. Every village we went through we were on the hunt for water. We made it into Pau and managed to coax a man into taking a photo of us on the overlook before we made it the last few hundred meters. I’m sure we smelled as rank as a carcass on the roadside after all the sweating and road tar. The top notch room and all at the hotel was greatly appreciated as we took showers to clean up for our last happy hour and dinner with the other riders. Lots of folks were down in the bar watching the end of the epic Tour stage and having some beverages. The food was amazing as always, even when there’s things I shouldn’t nor want to eat. The food on the trip has been quite memorable. I never did take any photos of it all but I should have. I think I was just too hungry and tired to think about it really.

Overall, this has been an amazing trip. Harder than we even expected, and we expected to suffer a lot. More beautiful than the footage can share while watching the Tour riders race through the Pyrenees. More rewarding than we considered with the great group of people that we were sharing it all with. It was a high suffer to reward exchange expedition, that’s for sure. And despite all the notions of how brutal and horrible it may sound on these pages, we’d do it all over again. Just let us have a few days of recovery first. Then we can go out riding again.





Short ride, big climb

So we had a few options to ride for the day while we stayed another night here in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port. There were some routes that had some steep climbs. And I mean steep. Then there was a small loop just north of town that went through a small town that was recommended for lunch. The option we went with was to do an out-and-back up the Col d’Ispeguy to the Spanish border. The skies were clear and the temps were on the rise, plus we are getting a bit run down after all the days of riding. We stopped and grabbed a couple pastries in a small town before the actual climb and a few clicks away from St. Jean, but then headed up.

Kristin had done some looking on the web to get a better sense of what the grade of the road was, and found things that said it was an average of 3-4%. Well, I think she got info on the wrong col. The signs and my Garmin all said an average of 6-7%. It wasn’t too bad though. I knew that it was going to be a shortish day and that we only had one more decent ride to go, so I shot out of the gate hard and smashed away on the pedals to the top. The knee felt much better and I was able to just get in a groove with the steady grade of the road. As I was motoring up, I started to get worried that Kristin was going to be cooking in the warmer temperatures, so I ran into the shop at the top and on the border to grab a bottle of cold water. I sucked down a few big gulps of cold agua, and stuffed into my jersey on my back and headed back down to see if she needed a cool down agent. But when I got there, she was happy as a clam, and we rode up to the top and chatted with Peter, Galen and Ella for a bit. Then we rode over the to the Spanish side a couple hundred meters just to see what the road down the other side looked like. It was winding and seemed to go down pretty fast, so we decided to head back to the hotel and go for a swim in the pool instead.

On the way back, I was pretty hungry and knew that we should stop for lunch while we could. Since restaurants are only open 12-2pm and all. We grabbed some pizzas and I got a beer. Both were fantastic. Then we decided to make the slog back to St. Jean. The heat was getting a bit warmer and there was a fairly steep couple sections of road to get back into town. Along the way though, they were repaving a section of the road and we had to get off our bikes and walk to avoid as much sticky tar and asphalt as we could. Then we rinsed off quick back at the room and jumped in the pool. There were several folks at the pool hanging out and taking in an easy day for a change.

Then at dinner, they tried to poison me a few times with shellfish. It was all a bit of a mess when four different servers were bringing out plates and none of them had gotten the memo about my allergy to crustacés. There was mussels, clams, crab, shrimp and just in case, escargot. Kristin actually liked the snails. Oh, and if the food allergy wasn’t enough of a curveball, the vegetarian thing was. So instead of a shrimp appetizer, they brought out a pork fried mini-roll. It was all rather funny and entertaining for the evening. I still managed to eat something and have some awesome desserts and wine, so I was still ahead in the end.

Well, better get to sleep. One last ride tomorrow back to Pau. A bit of a long one at 68 miles and we’re doing one last col out in the middle of everything. Hopefully it doesn’t get too hot after today’s episode.



Adios, España

UPDATED with photos!! Here’s a bit of info about the pilgrimage stuff from the photos too. 

We headed back into France today from Isaba, Spain. The roads were smooth as glass and the grades a very enjoyable 3-8%. Some of the descents were quite simply a treat. Wide open on the trottle, weaving around wide curves and then spinning it out on the next climb. A pack of us all started out this morning together and we all were just having so much fun. Kristin and I both were a bit tired on the last climb back into France. The constant pedaling up the cols is taking a toll for sure. The big group of us split up a bit after the mid-morning snack break and lunches, but we all were able to get into St. Jean-Pied-du-Port in time to be able to change, do laundry in the sink and head out on the town.

We made a short stop at the pool to soak the legs and grab some sun rays. Then we wandered into the centre ville to see the citadel and the shops along the narrow road that leads up to the fortress. After a bit of ice cream and an eclair we went back to get ready for our five or six course meal at the hotel. At first I figured I would be going out after dinner for more food, considering how small the portions were, but I’m stuffed and ready for bed. Sorry, no photos today. Check back tomorrow or have a peek at the one from Spain earlier today.

There was one thing that really stood out from the day though. On the final descent into St. Jean, there were a pair of hand-cyclists cranking away on the climb to the south an into Spain. This woman and gentleman smiled back as I waved at them and gave them the thumbs up. The “dead legs” notion in my head kind of went away and made me be thankful for the chance as well as the ability to do what we have done so far. It’s been pretty amazing.



Super strong riders on a NASTY climb

We did a monster climb today into Spain. Holy crap.

There are some amazingly strong riders on this trip with us. We all managed to slug it out up and over some 15% and up sections of roadway into the lunar landscape of the French-Spanish border. Some of the tandem teams and other single riders have been churning out serious watts over these climbs the last 10 days. It’s been impressive to say the least. Some are in their 70s and keeping pace with us over the course of the day(s). It’s been really fun to get to know all these people from all over the world. There are several Americans, Canucks and a couple Aussies. Everyone has been a blast to hang with on and off the bike.

So after hammering away on the Col de La Pierre St. Martin we started to descend into Spain and I had another freaking tire explode. I’m so pissed off at these Schwalbe tires. I had a pair of them for all of last season and the spring this year and never had an issue. Even racing in the Roubaix and Koppenberg in Boulder County on dirt roads. I don’t know what the deal is, but today could have been really bad. The rear tire blew up on the sidewall on a somewhat flatter section (6%) at about 30 mph. I managed to keep the bike upright, but then the tube got sucked into the cassette and locked up my drivetrain. After shaving off a section of my rim I got everything to a stop and waited for the van. Again. I managed to find a file and smooth out the rim as much as I could and put on Kristin’s spare tire that we brought over. Luckily it’s a different brand. So tomorrow we ride back into France and the town we are staying for a couple days has a bike shop that I can go get a replacement for the front wheel, so I can ride with a bit more peace of mind instead of waiting for it to explode as well.

Other than all that noise, today was a really hard ride, but epic in terms of scenery. Holy crap. It’s amazing here. Now th only issue is that we won’t be able to eat until late because the Spanish don’t believe in eating before 10pm. So I’m off to finish my fifth beer in an attempt to chill out after the stress of rolling on worthless rubber. Kind of like driving an Explorer equipped with Firestones circa 2000.


A real rest day

UPDATED: More photos!! We managed to kill eight bottles of wine between the nine of us for lunch. Strong work for Bastille Day. Vive le France!!!


So today we were going to go for a ride…..but then we went with a big group to the French version of a classier Walmart (think WholeFoods, Best Buy, Liquor Mart and Target all under one roof) and picked up a ton of food, wine and chocolate and wound up hanging out all day at the hotel and then watched the Tour stage. It was fantastic.

You can have a look at some stats to see what we’ve been up to:

Here’s what we’ve done so far on the bike.

Then I went out and fixed up the bikes before we headed off to dinner. So not much to brag about today. We head out of France and into Spain tomorrow. I might actually be able to understand what the hell people are saying for a change. I’m sure I’ll be speaking Franglish though and be a mess tough. The ride down and over the border is going to be a punisher. There’s a couple 15% areas listed on the map. So if it’s on the map, it’s STEEP as hell. Considering 8% is second nature to these folks here. I’ll be wishing that 29 tooth cog was functional. Could be fun though, I mean, we had a good rest today.

No photos really for today. I did update a couple other posts, so be sure to look for ones that have UPDATED in the first line.