In October a group of 8 are riding from Biarritz to Barcelona over 5 days. The team is more or less the same as last years when we rode from St Malo to Santander. I am not sure that I have adequately prepared. The first half of my year was all about getting ready for the South Downs Way. I did prepare well but blew it. In my enthusiasm I ate less and got lighter (every climbers dream). I cut out carbs which has the same effect as cutting out petrol when going on a long drive.
Since July I have been trying to make sure that I eat enough: more carbohydrates. It seems easy but drinking beer is not the best way to get your carbs. I am two weeks away from the off so I need to pack in the rice.
This year our ride is shorter but spikier. Last year we accumulated 18,666 metres of climbing over 10 days with a maximum of 2,500 on the toughest day. This year we are doing more. The first four days account for 17,114 metres with a surprise day to get us to our finish in Barcelona. The only other similarity with last year’s ride is the daily length: around 160 kms plus.
The Pros: Not us, although not riding like pros we will be treated like Pros. We have a Spanish support crew with a professional pro team soigneur and a pro team mechanic who can massage too. The stipulation by the support is that we must shave our legs or no massage. All food will be arranged, we just have to ride.
The Cons: October is late and whilst 25°C in the valleys is likely so is 0°C at the top. It will be very chilly and hilly!
The first day we tackle the Les (plural!) Cols D’Irati (18km/993m), then the Col de Suscousse and Soudet (over 20km/900m) followed by the Marie Blanc (9.1km/713m). With all the other undulations the day tops out at 4,625m. Nice warm up, eh!
Day two is the shortest, a mere 126.6km/4,953m, but for me the most exciting as I have climbed them all: Col d’Aubisque (16.8km/1,168m), Col du Tourmalet (from Nestalas 31k/1,623m) with an easy finish up the Col d’Aspin 5.4k/372m, 27:36 last time).
By now we should be warmed up and ready to take on the Col de Peyresourde (17k/815m), the little Col du Portillon (7.8k/609m) then into Spain over the Port de la Bonaigua (Thibaut Pinot has the KOM at 37:11, 16.2/925m). Total distance will be 179k/4728m
Apperently it’s downhill all the way from this point so it is our longest day at 182.4km. The 5% Comiols per Isona (7.8k/412m) followed by a veritable rollercoaster of ups and downs totalling 3,123m of elevation. I think that this will be our toughest day. Lots of short climbs are far harder than the long steady slogs.
Day five will be a surprise. If anyone is still standing and wanting more our guia i amic *will give us something to remember from his local play ground.
If anyone is doing anything like this you will know that you can easily be scared. To overcome this you need to focus on the positives. We will be doing around 18,000m of downhill some lasting up to 30 minutes. It’s not all that bad! The food will be great and the banter irrepressible and irreplaceable.
I must eat more!
*Guide and friend - Catalan
And the bike: Wilier Cento 1 SR