Day 0 London Gatwick Airport to Barcelona

Unboxing my bike at Barcelona airport, my heart almost

sank when I saw my front tyre completely flat. I remembered I had a patched

inner tube in there, so I grabbed the spare one I took with me. Which was also

a patched inner! Spent the next 2 hours pumping up and swapping between the two

inners before finally venturing outside and riding to the nearest bike shop

which opened at 5pm. Not going too far today!

Day 1 Girona to Prades | 207.40km | 2743m

Frare (202m), Tour Madeloc (656m), Col de Mollo (231m), Banyulsz (452m),Saint Marsal (775m), Col Xatard (752m)

With a new inner tube now in my front tyre, I still wasn't convinced I'd survive the entire trip with new inner tubes so stopped en route to stock up. Lesson learnt, when you have 3 brand new at home, don't reach for the used patched one to take on a massive trip!

The first day offered some long climbs and sea views in almost 40 degree heat, a good intro what was waiting for me! Wahoo lost the maps so guess work which turn to take!

Day 2 Prades to Tarascon | 140km | 3275m

Col du Creu (1708m), Pailheres (2001m, Chioula (1431m)

The 6am alarm was painful but I wanted to get on the

road as early as possibly. To my surprise, I was locked inside the hotel and couldn't

even get to my bike to get it ready. It was a bizarre place as well; 'girl in a

white dress painting on the floor leaning on the wall and a doll sitting on a

chair outside one of the bedrooms' kinda freaky place. Waiting for the owner to

slowly make her way down and pumping up my tyre meant a 2 hour delay but I was

finally outside riding my bike. I didn't have a chance to fix my wahoo so was

riding pretty much blindly following the chevrons without any maps. Things got

a bit worse, after the first climb, the Wahoo battery was down to 58% already! Decided it was time to stop for a late breakfast / early lunch and destroyed half a litre

of yoghurt, a sandwich (shoved the other under the saddle bag harness) and half

a pack of Leibniz biscuits. The clouds were thick riding on Pailheres with not

much visibility, but I was in great spirits reaching a big one. Put my rain

jacket on and continued towards Chioula. By the time I got to Tarascon, I was

completely soaked through and cold. Went into the first hotel I saw in the town

centre, where I was greeted with a big smile and a "do you want a

drink" when the owner saw me walking in. After a long shower and a

surprise dinner (think it was stew?) I fixed the Wahoo (hurray, got maps

again!!) and went back to my room where I fell asleep listening to the heavy

rain outside..

Day 3 Tarascon to Saint Lary | 112.14km | 2837m

Port de Lers (1517m), Col d’Agnes (1570m), Col de Latrape (1110m), Col de la Core (1395m)

Not wanting to waste time I left the hotel without eating

breakfast and hit the road. Lers & Agnes were back to back. Stopped for

food and to top up my water bottles between the second and third col, the temps

were getting high rapidly. Just shows how unpredictable the weather can be, one

side (climbing of course) of Latrape was hot, the other side was cold and

windy.. continued to Core, 0 visibility up and down. Byt he time I reached the

village of Saint Lary, my feet and hands were numb from the cold. Took a room

at the only hotel in the village and after the usual chores (laundry, sort out

next day, strava etc) I was invited to join a group of french cyclists at their

dinner table. With quite a lot to pack into a couple of hours in the evening, I

was finally out by midnight.

Day 4 Saint Lary to La Laurence | 145.34km | 4301m

Porter d’Aspet (1069m), Col de Menté (1349m), Superbagnerès (1804m), Col de Peyresuerde (1569m), Col d’Aspin (1490m)

The French guys warned me about two tricky bits ahead,

one was a steep descent of d'Aspet where Italian Olympic gold cyclist Fabio

Casartelli had a fatal crash during the 1995 Tour de France. I paid my respect

at his memorial and carried on down the hill. The second one was a resurfaced

Menté with small slippery gravel covering the roads. Again, took the descent as

slow and safe as possible. Next up was Superbagneres, a Cat HC 18.5km climb up

to the ski station, and the same road back into the town of Bagneres de Luchon.

I had my front break pad replaced as I wasn't sure if I'd come across another

bike shop until the end of the trip (I didn't). I saw a number of police during

the descent and at the roundabout which I was going to take on my way out, but

I thought they were there for an amateur event.. oh no. The Tour du Sud was

taking place and as I was riding of town, (uphill of course) I was waved down

by a policeman to pull over. High on a can of red bull and Milka chocolate I

stood for an hour and half by the side of the road in the blistering afternoon

sun waiting for the race to pass. I was almost at the point of being annoyed

with myself for not leaving earlier, I realised it doesn't matter if I get to

my accommodation a bit later, I was about to watch pro cyclists finishing their

stage!! And to top this, a Canyon rider dropped his water bottle near me! 😀 I

still had two cols to do so pushed on as soon as the road opened. Peyresuerde

was and felt very long. I remembered I had salt tablets on me so popped one,

the afternoon heat started getting unbearable. Stopped in Arreau to sort out

room for the night and carried on to climb the last col of the day, Aspin. Wish

I had the opportunity to stay at the top and wait for the sunset.. Made it to

La Laurence just before 9pm, and went to bed knackered without dinner

Day 5 La Laurence to Laruns | 108.16km | 2957m

Col du Tourmalet (2115m), Col des Borderès (1156m), Col du Soluor (1474m), Col d’Aubisque (1709m)

Doing 5 cols the day before was hard but at least it

meant my first one of the day was the Tourmalet where I bumped into two guys

from Hotchillee! We rode together chatting for a bit but I wanted to settle

into a comfy pace to save legs for the other 3 cols I had to do after. We had a

quick chat at the top and after the compolsury summit pictures I continued down

the other side with a bag of jelly babies gifted to me by Stephen, rider

captain for Hotchillee. The rest of the day was spent trying not to have a heat

stroke on the bike, at one point I stupidly flicked to the temp page on my

Wahoo, 42C and it was getting hotter. Nowhere to buy food, nowhere to fill up

my water bottles. Stopped for an ice cream and a break in the shade just under

the summit of Soluor but didn't waste too much time.. After the top (it's

another Cat HC climb) it drops down a bit and the same road leads you by the

side of the mountain (simply stunning) and up to Col d’Aubisque (the second

most used climb in the Tour De France). Really cool summit with incredible

mountain views! Staying in a cabin at a campsite, eating a huge bowl of pasta I

cooked and chilling out with a bottle of rose planning the next day

Day 6 Laruns to Ochagavia | 127km | 3625m

Col de Marie Blanque (1035m), Col d’Ichere (674m), Col de Labays (1354m), Erroimendy (1350m), Port de Larrau (1585m)

I left Laruns with two small snacks not waiting for

the supermarket to open in the morning. Huge mistake on a day when I didn't

come across any shops until well after 3pm, when I stopped at a gite's

restaurant for a sandwich and an ice cream, by which point I was pretty close

to bonking. I didn't manage to recover after but still had two cols to do, I

soldiered on. Rolling into Elizondo was a huge relief and after finding a hotel

for the night I headed out for a 3 course dinner and back in the room later 4

pots of yoghurt and some chocolate also magically disappeared 😛

Day 7 Ochagavia to Elizondo | 99.71km | 1909m

Jaurrieta (975m), Remendia (1040m), Mezkititz (922m), Urkiaga (918m), Artesiaga (984m)

Big brekkie in the hotel and armed with Spanish

treats, I headed out into what I knew was going to turn into another scorchio

day. The route nipped back into France for a climb I can only describe as

f*%$£@&*^ hell. I decided I needed some music to get me up the last col of

the day, a french guy on his Canyon rocks up next to me and starts chatting.

Since the last people I spoke to were the Hotchillee guys on the Tourmalet, I

got quite excited to have a riding buddy up the Artesiaga. It's funny how we

didn't even ask each other's names but with his broken English and my

non-existing French we chatted all the way up. We took some pix and said

goodbye at the top, he rolled back down and I continued on a very fast downhill

into Elizondo.

Day 8 FINAL DAY Elizondo to San Sebastian | 80.81km | 1891m

Bagordi (685m), Agina (551m) & a few other hills

The first part was covered in low hanging clouds but

once I was above it, I had some immensely stunning and lush views over the

mountains..The long descent was on crap and dodgy roads, it's a miracle I

didn't get a puncture but my water bottles kept falling out of their cages! The

mist got so bad I had to turn my front light on full, and prayed that no cars

were coming up on the single track road. At least I knew it was the last day

and I was edging closer and closer to San Seb. It was another sizzling day so

decided to treat myself and found a shopping complex outside town, pair of

bikinis, shorts, a sleeveless top and a pair of slip ons I had a brand new

wardrobe for the beach and the journey home.

It was 40C when I arrived at the beach, near the

square, the official finish point! The afternoon was spent sorting out a

cardboard box and packing up the bike followed by chilling on the beach until

sunset with picnic food.


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© copyright 2021 by Alexandra Nemeth

© copyright 2021 by Alexandra Nemeth