Cycle Touring In The Basque Country...

 

I always wanted to try a little cycle touring so I asked a friend of mine if I could join him on a trip to the coast... what a trip and what an area...

We left Chez Passet and headed to the Atlantic Ocean (Moliets-Plage - 85 kms southwest of Bordeaux) - 8 hrs (lunch was fantastic) and 180 kms later (the last 20 are soo boring and an onshore wind made it even more fun...) we hit the beach and checked out the ocean. This was a ride to get somewhere so we just had to put our heads down and cycle - not much to see except for one nice bit of countryside, the rest of the way was skirting around some major towns.

Day 2 took us from the coast (flat) into the rolling foothills and the Basque Country - 145 kms over some spectacular countryside - this area was my favorite as the Spanish influence was everywhere - the buildings, bullrings and signs all displaying their proud Basque heritage. We ended up in the old Garison town of St-Jean Pied-de-Port (10 kms north of the border) where a famous Pilgrim route to the Spanish coast begins (or ends?!). Nice looking town with lots of backpackers starting their journey and plenty of tourists milling about - I'd like to come back and explore more of this...

Day 3 started with a bang... about 8 kms out of town the road went up (and I mean up!!) - Col d'Aphanize, 18 kms with gradients of 14 & 15% - this Col has to be the toughest that I have ever climbed... my front wheel was jumping up on a couple of the corners it was that steep (I did see 19% on my Garmin at one point and it felt like it!). Unfortunately we were in the clouds so I couldn't see the countryside but it must be amazing - I'll go back there again and take Di with me (she'll be happy about this one...). After lunch we then rode the Col de Marie Blanque (in light rain) and were both happy to find a place to stay in Laruns with a hot shower and a comfy bed - that was BIG day (or so I thought)...

Day 4 and the last day of our trip saw us climb the Col d'Aubisque (16.6 kms - avg. 7.2%) and then the Col du Tourmalet (18.5 kms - avg. 7.4%) - both are Hors Catégorie climbs. My legs were heavy at the start but then the rhythm of the climb kicked in and all was well. We finished off at the top of the Tourmalet in the wind and rain (the bar was closed?!) only to find sunshine and warm temps just down the valley... a nice finish to a great trip.

Highlights: Lunch, Basque Countryside, Local People and good cycling...

Cycle Touring In The Basque Country - I'll be back for more with Di next time (I can hear the comments already...)