Generally speaking I could do without the whole bucket list phenomenon (Thank you very much, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman). The way I see it, someone who's maintaining a lengthy bucket list probably needs to spend a little less time listing and a little more time doing. But hey, it's good to have goals, so to each their own.

Anyway, the point of the diatribe is not to bash life-living vernacular, it's to lift the lid on a little known (but highly bucket list worthy) event in Spain called TransPyr Road, which just announced its 2013 dates and course.

This true test of mettle is an eight-stage race/ride that traverses the whole of the Pyrenees, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Race dates are July 6-13. Total distance is approximately 680 miles, including ascents of 48 mountain passes, resulting in a net vertical gain of about 65,000 feet. That's up and down Mount Everest twice - and then a little more. On a daily basis, you'll ride about 85 miles and climb 8,200 feet.

And while this is effectively a first year event (organizers ran a smaller test version last year), I can vouch for the magnitude of the experience based on first-hand knowledge derived at last July's TransPyr mountain bike event, the four-year-old big brother of this new road race.

Like the road race, we started on the Med in the tourist town or Roses, and like the road event we finished at the Atlantic Ocean in San Sebastian. Total climbing was just north of 65,000 feet, and yes it was an exceptionally hard eight days (65 hours of total saddle time). It was also an amazing experience full of high highs and low lows.

At the end I had newfound respect for those who regularly contest stage races - and go fast. It's one thing to suffer through one or two grueling days in the saddle. But to do it over and over again for 6-7-8 days (never mind 21 in a grand tour) is an exceptionally tough challenge. The flip side is that the sense of accomplishment when it was all over is hard to put into words.

If you ride a bike with any regularity, and you like big experiences, I strongly recommend trying an exotic stage race at least once in your life. It's a great way to see a country, make friends, and spend a little quiet time between your own ears. You'll find out a lot about yourself, I guarantee it.

Based on back-of-a-napkin calculations, I don't think TransPyr Road will be quite as hard as the fat tire version. While it's about 170 miles longer, riding on smooth pavement is obviously less taxing than bashing down rough singletrack. Plus there will be at least some chance for drafting behind other riders, which typically cuts down on your workload by 20-30 percent depending on the situation.

Still, if you have any interest in doing this event or one like it, you best start training. Your legs, lungs, backside, brain, and stomach will all need to get used to the notion of spending 5-6-7-8 hours a day in the saddle, day after day after day.

Here are some other interesting TransPyr Road tidbits:
  • The Pyrenees are a sparsely populated part of the world, so don't expect to be battling traffic. In the mountain bike event we spent numerous extended periods on tarmac and rarely encountered more than a few cars along the way. The solitude is blissful, and sometimes a little eerie.
  • Just like its mountain bike cousin, route finding at TransPyr Road is done via GPS. That's right, the courses are not marked. Instead, you follow routes that are pre-loaded into the GPS device of your choice. This might sound a little wonky, but once you get used to it, it's really not a big deal.
  • Event entry costs about $800 based on current exchange rates. For that you get a race entry, breakfast, aid station support, and dinner, plus other key infrastructure such as a bike wash, basic mechanical support, medical assistance if needed, luggage transport, and a nice finisher's jersey if you in fact finish.
  • There are two basic lodging choices - sleep on an air mattress in a dormitory or gymnasium or book hotels. The budget option adds about $150 to the price tag, while the hotels are about $450 per person, double occupancy.
  • Based on last year's experience, the general vibe of the event will be more adventure than race, with an overall attitude that is primarily laid back and fun, though finishing the event will be a major accomplishment.
  • The organizers behind TransPyr Road are a small, but hard working crew that literally do whatever it takes to put on a quality event. That's not always the case in the amateur stage race world.
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