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GeoCyclist
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655 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is the largest ride report that I’ve ever posted; but then it’s the longest ride that I’ve ever done. The Thomson Bike Tours “Trans-Pyrenees Challenge” tour was a seven day odyssey of 515 miles from Sitges, Spain to St-Jean de Luz, France; a scenic peddle from the Mediterranean sea to the Atlantic ocean. The ride crossed a few bumps call the Pyrenees that had some spectacular climbs totalling 53933 feet of elevation gain.

The tour started on the 8th June with the last of the riders arriving at Barcelona airport during the morning. I arrived a few days early, as I wanted to get in some Catalunya cycling before heading to the Pyrenees. There were 18 cyclist, three Thomson ride guides, two dedicated van drivers, and one Pro Cycling magazine photo journalist.

The majority of the riders rented Orbea bikes from Thomson Tours. I elected to bring my own bike, and lucked out with the airline baggage allowance (no extra cost for my bike). One rider’s bike never did arrive, and the airline was still searching for his bike after the tour was over.

All but one of the riders were Americans; the odd man out being from New Zealand. Thomson staff was from Scotland, England, and France. The ability level of the riders was pretty varied from Cat 1 racers to one guy who’d never cycled more than 25 miles in a single ride. There were two women on the tour; one was a Cat 1 cyclist. The riders were split into two groups (A & B) of approximately 9 per group with one Thomson ride guide per group. Only two of the three Thomson ride guides cycled each day, as they rotated driving the luggage van.

This may be a bit of a cheat, but I did not take the majority of the photos that I’m posting. Thomson gathered all the rider’s, and van driver’s, photos and posted the photos on the Thomson Bike Tours web site. If you’d like to see more photo’s, there are 1511 photos that can be viewed by the general public on Thomsonbiketours.com – Photo Gallery – 2008 Trans-Pryenees-June.

Day 1
Last of the riders arrived during the morning. Pre ride meeting that was followed by assembling and adjusting bikes. One great lunch feast before the afternoon shake down ride. I have included the ride route maps and elevation profiles for each day; these are photos 1 and 2 of each day. Photo 3 of today’s ride shows the beach at Sitges, Spain. The 50 km shake down ride wouldn’t have been much to write about except for a climb called Rat Penat (photo 4 shows the climb profile). Photos 5 to 7 were taken at the top of Rat Penat. The last photo was the A group back at the hotel.
 

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GeoCyclist
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655 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Trans-Pyrenees Challenge – Ride Report Day 2

Photo 3 shows A group gathered at the beach before setting off inland toward the Pyrenees. Photos 4 to 6 were taken while cycling across the Pendes wire region. Photo 7 was the first replenishment stop of the day; cycling with a support van is great! Photo 9 was the second replenishment stop of the morning, and photo 10 was the lunch stop in Calaf. Lunch was a sit down meal of pasta with a choice of various sauces. Photos 11 to 13 show the poppies in the wheat fields; last of the beautiful weather for this day’s ride. Photo 14 shows the crew gearing up for the rain. It rained the last 40 kms of the day, and it only got worse when we had to cycle through 10 kms of road construction. We arrived in Solsona covered in mud, and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning bikes. Last photos show the best hotel of the trip, and the crew sitting down for a nice dinner. Solsona had a pretty cool bike shop, and we scored some 15 euro jerseys that were left over from the pervious week’s cycling race.
 

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GeoCyclist
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655 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Trans-Pyrenees Challenge – Ride Report Day 3

The weather wasn’t looking too promising when we rolled out for another long day in the saddle. There were two pretty good climbs on the route, and the thought of cycling all day in the rain wasn’t very appealing. The majority of the riders cycled out early with the B group, and photo three shows about half the A group getting ready to hit the road. Photos 4 to 6 show the last of the rolling hills before heading into the Pyrenees. Photo 7 shows group 8 still together at the bottom of the first big climb of the trip; heading up the Coll de Jou. Photos 8 and 10 were taken during the climb, and photo 11 shows the crew gearing up for the long descent to Coll de Nargo. Photo 12 was the pasta lunch at Coll de Nargo; yours truly standing, and the rider on the left was wearing one of the 15 euro jerseys that we scoured in Solsona. Photo 13 shows the rain that put a damper on the afternoon climb up Coll de Boixols; yep, we had rain and hail for most of the ride up. Thankfully the rain stopped before the descent. Photos 14 and 15 shows gearing up for the descent off Coll de Boixols. Photo 16 shows yours truly in his warm Assos winter jacket; I never thought I would be wearing this jacket during the trip, but fortunately packed it anyway. Photo 17 was taken during the descent off Coll de Boixols; this was one of the most enjoyable descents of the trip, with a newly paved road and sweeping switchback turns. Photo 18 and 19 show the lake by our hotel and the hotel in Cellers. Last photos show a few of the crew enjoying a much deserved beer by the hotel pool.
 

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GeoCyclist
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655 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Trans-Pyrenees Challenge – Ride Report Day 4

Day four started with the departure of Peter Cousins (Pro cycling mag photo journalist). It was another long day with plenty of climbing, a bit more rain, and one very interesting down hill ride through a 6 km long tunnel. The tunnel security personnel arranged a police escort, and we cycled through the tunnel in mass with one van leading and the second van trailing. By the time we had reached the tunnel about ¼ of the riders had packed it in for the day (note all the bikes atop the vans). The weather was pretty abysmal from the descent off the Puerto de Perves until we reached Luchon. It was very disappointing to do all the climbing, and than have to ride the breaks on the downhill due to the rain and wet pavement. Luchon was a pretty cool city. I finally broke down a purchased a good rain jacket in Luchon, as my PI wind/rain jacket was just not enough. The bike shop mechanic had a good laugh when we mentioned we intended to climb the Tourmalet the next day; as snow was in the forecast. Needless to say, dinner that evening was a bit subdued due to thoughts of climbing the Tourmealet in a snow storm.
 

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GeoCyclist
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655 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Trans-Pyrenees Challenge – Ride Report Day 5

Day 5 was the first day that the A and B groups did not ride the same route. The B group opted out on the Tourmalet, for a ride with 1000 less meters of climbing. It was a big climbing day with the Col de Peyresourde, Col d’ Aspin, and the Col du Tourmalet. The climb up to Aucun was a rude surprise at the end of a long day climbing. Fortunately the weather was much better than the forecast, as it wasn’t snowing at the top of the Tourmalet. The roads were a bit wet, so it was another day without any high speed descents. By the time we reached the hotel the weather had cleared, and the last few photos show the amazing view from the hotel.
 

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GeoCyclist
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655 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Trans-Pyrenees Challenge – Ride Report Day 6

The weather looked promising at the start of the day. The clouds moved in by the time we reached the top of the Col de Soulor, and it was on and off rain showers until we reached the hotel in Montory. I definitely got my monies worth from the rain jacket I bought in Luchon.
 

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GeoCyclist
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655 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Trans-Pyrenees Challenge – Ride Report Last Day

After several days of wet weather, finally one incredibly beautiful day of cycling! The ride from Montory to the coast at St Jean de Luz was made in weather without a drop of rain. Today I felt it was time to wear my Thomson Trans-Pyrenees jersey, and pretty much all the other rides did the same. It was a reasonable long day in the saddle, with some really good climbs. The lunch stop was the best of the trip, and ran into a two hour leisurely affair. Photos of honourable mention: 18 shows Peter Thomson (tour company owner and ride leader), 19 shows Eric (ride leader) with his fiancé Mathilde (support van driver), 20 shows Paul (ride leader), 21 shows Mathilde with Mike (support van driver), 22 shows the whole group.

This report got a bit long, but than it was a long ride to report. I hope you all enjoyed, and you’re having some great riding to report on this summer!
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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13,390 Posts
Terrific! Great scenery. That'd be just the trip for me. I have trouble climbing the stairs to go to bed. ;-)
 

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I heart team Zissou!
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2,954 Posts
Excellentissimo!

Absolutely beautiful pictures of a stunningly breath-taking region. Looks like a good time was had by all -- and I know that deep, deep down in your hearts of hearts you were secretely overjoyed at the prospect of riding in the rain after so many months in the dusty sands of Arabia.

However, I am glad that your group attracted all the cold and rain juju as I am heading down tomorrow morning for 11 days of riding in the Pyrenees. I expect that we shall have nothing but pleasant temperatures and sunny days for the whole duration thanks to your sacrifice (oops, did I just jinx us??).

Cheers,

Philippe
 

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GeoCyclist
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655 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Enjoy your cycling in the Pyrenees!

philippec said:
Absolutely beautiful pictures of a stunningly breath-taking region. Looks like a good time was had by all -- and I know that deep, deep down in your hearts of hearts you were secretely overjoyed at the prospect of riding in the rain after so many months in the dusty sands of Arabia.

However, I am glad that your group attracted all the cold and rain juju as I am heading down tomorrow morning for 11 days of riding in the Pyrenees. I expect that we shall have nothing but pleasant temperatures and sunny days for the whole duration thanks to your sacrifice (oops, did I just jinx us??).

Cheers,

Philippe
Philippe,
I wish you the best luck with the weather! I'd do the trip again, even if I was told the weather was going to be just the same. I'm now thinking a week in the Dolomites next June. The Pyrenees trip gave a goal to train for, now I need another goal to keep the weight off and the body in shape!

Ride One!

PS looking foward to seeing the report from your Pyrenees trip.
 

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Registered
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525 Posts
Very nice.
Day 5 looked alot like the '05 Etape only in reverse (Cirque du Litor, Aubisque, Marie Blanque and Ichere)

MB1 - do the Alps. Different than the Pyrenees but worth it. Do you know where you would be riding in the Alps?

Philippec. Looks like a wet L'Etape on Sunday if you are participating.
 
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