Updated: Jun 14
TransPyrenees Race is a completely self-supported ultra bike race. You plan your own route through set check points, starting on the West coast, crossing the through the Pyrenees to get to the East coast, and then back again via the RAID Pyrenean route. This was my second attempt.
As with 2019, I kept a race diary on Instagram (and Facebook and Strava). I tried to write a bit less this time, and instead sleep more, but I still found it really helpful - to help me process and remember my thoughts, and to get support from those following me.
Here's my unedited posts with links to Insta for photos:
Day 1 - Biarritz to Biescas 250km, 4500m climbing. Stunning 27km climb up more than made up for the rather wet start, constant nagging fear and the freeeeeezing descent. Day 1 done, feeling good, stopped early cos had crap sleep last night (booming thunder rolling round didn't help). Off road section tomorrow, bring it on!
Day 2: Biescas to Sort, 225k, 4800m climbing. After all my stressing before I left about route planning, logistics, bike set up, motivation etc etc, I'd forgotten the real reason for this race, I bloody love riding my bike. And today was a brilliant reminder. I'd chosen to take the 'short cut' up an unknown gravel climb. And whilst I'm not sure if it was shorter, it was definitely worth it. Stunning views, fun and not too technical gravel, and only the one puncture! (And I bumped into my favourite ride partner going up a mountain in the dark ♥️)
Tpr no2: Day 3 - Sort - Andorra - Prats de Mollo , 245km, 4300m, 3 countries.
Climbing the mountain out of Sort in pitch black except for the carpet of stars all around me, a car pulls alongside, 2 men lean out, feeling scared and isolated til I realise they're firemen, wondering why their mountain is lit up like a Christmas tree with blinking red lights as we make our progress to the top like ants... Coming over the top just as dawn breaks to reveal an enormous vista of glowing red rock and tumbling hills all around ... Beautiful roads to descend on but ffffffreezing... Stop for a coffee at a petrol station to warm up at the bottom, rammed with people, am I the only one not drinking beer or rum (at 8am!)... Onto Andorra, how can a country surrounded by such beauty be so ugly! Peletons of cyclists escaping the high rise jungle out onto the Spanish roads... Onto next checkpoint, run into Hector just leaving ♥️... More roads, more traffic, more catching up with others on the road, conversations broken as we climb at different speeds, restarted again a few km later.... Descending as the sun goes down, freezing again but I've booked a room, more expensive than normal but last night was super cheap (and showed!)... Hostess offers me a bowl of soup, I tell her I love her, eating soup in super posh dining room, in my stinking clothes whilst other diners turn a blind nose....bed!
Day 4, Prats de Mollo to Cap du Bear to not quite Axat, 240km, 4000m ish
Well that's half way, from Atlantic to Med in 3 1/2 days, let's see if I can do the return (Raid Pyranean and then some) before next Thursday. Great to catch Hector at the checkpoint, home now, we're coming Reg!
After a bit of a blah day yesterday (amazing descent at dawn but then too much traffic and too much Andorra) today was brilliant, the sort of riding you would actually do on a holiday (a real one!). Each day dawn breaks at the top of a mountain to reveal a new vista, today's gift was different again, and all lit up by every shade of pink and orange. As we approached the coast it got more desert like and then after a gradual climb we popped over the top to see rolling hills of sprawling vineyards with roads winding their way through. Some brilliant climbs and descents, and then the sea! I'd crossed a (very narrow bit of) a continent! Down to the next checkpoint, where I ran into Hector again.
Then as it was all going too well my Garmin packed in. I had a bit of a moment, thought about scratching, pulled myself together, and muddled through til I could get it working again. Then more brilliant rolling roads. Still picked up 4000m today but it was a lot gentler. Hundreds of different landscapes to pass through, gorges, cliffs, more vineyards, and the towards the end of the day, the mountains started appearing in the distance, tomorrow's treat beckoning us on!
Bit of a mix up with hotel (wouldn't let me leave til 7am) so had to reroot off the main route but not too far and loveliest couple looking after me in B&B so all good! Bring on the mountains, tomorrow they're getting big!
Day 4 photos on Insta
TPRno2 Day 5: Cailla - Oust, 180km, 4200m climbing, (late upload) Col, col, col, hot, cold, hot, cold, hot, hot, hot. That's it for today, once again thwarted by lack of accommodation where I want it but just going to get a few hours kip now, and then see what I can do tomorrow. I've got a party to get to ! Post event update: Another great day of riding. Tom, who had stayed in the same hostel as me last night, caught me up and we spent a lot of the day riding together (never drafting! Just leapfrogging as we went up and down the hills). So nice to have some company. Start of the RAID route today, not the big showy climbs you've heard of, but some beautiful, quiet Cols, lovely wooded climbs with sweeping descents. Being France there were no cafes or shops for hours, but at least every village has a font with water, essential on a boiling day like today. Finally down to the valley bottom and a supermarket, a congregation point for riders swooping in for easy to consume and carry calories. Then my phone had a melt down and refused to connect to the internet. My phone gives me a (probably completely unfounded) sense of security and so I felt pretty nervous going out into the unknown without a hotel booked or connection to the outside world. But staying still wasn't going to change anything so I headed out, resisting the temptation to stop and check if it was working yet every 5 mins. It's funny, as soon as you stop moving you realise how many riders are just behind you, but if you're moving, unless it's a big open mountain you can go hours without seeing anyone, all of us like ants, moving along a trail in unison, and just the occasional Haribo on the road to remind you that there are riders ahead. And after great company this morning, this afternoon was one of those days when I felt quite isolated. How much difference a stupid phone makes. But finally after restarting it again it came back to life, and life was good again. But as we were back into France, hotels are few and far between, and shut early, so I went back into panic mode, and booked early, promising myself I'd get an early night and off early again the next day (well, maybe just time for a bath first ...)
TPRno2 day 6: Oust - Luz San Saveur, 203km, 5,600m.
A big day of climbing today, it as all about either going up or down. The first few Cols were all in the dark, riding alone in the darkness, occasionally interrupted by the dongling of cow bells, a whole herd of sheep lined up, standing precisely at 45 degrees across the road, and then a deep bellowing noise reverberating across the hills, which last night's TPR podcast had reliably informed me was just deer rutting.
I stopped for a can of coke I'd carried all the previously day to try and wake me up, and was passed by a few riders, again reminding me that I was far from alone out there.
The weather was still boiling, and so it was all about constant costume changes - taking everything off to go up, and then everything back on to go back down (the descents often lasting over an hour).
Even though I'd ridden the RAID route before in my last attempt at TPR, I didnt remember much of the route in the morning, Col de Core, Col de Portet, Col de Mente, maybe they were all in the dark last time as well? But by the afternoon we were into familiar territory, my least favourite Col de Peyresourde (given all the traffic buzzing past), Col d'Aspin with great company from Francois, but getting a bit scary as I ran out of water. And then the beast of the Tourmalet, the town below the summit still looking like a complete dump, but stunning views from the top as the sun set, and a brilliant descent down, able to use the whole road myself as anyone normal was tucked up in bed.
TPRno2 day 7: Luz San Saveur - Saint Jean de Luz, 276km, 6090m climbing - DONE!
Last night I'd gone over the Tourmalet just as the sun was setting. With about 280km and a hell of a lot of climbing remaining, the cluster of riders at the top were considering their options with some planning on pushing on through the night. I knew that every hour counted but also that my head was so fried that a few hours sleep to reset would be my best bet. (And after another boiling day, a shower was very welcome as well!)
So I was up at 1 and out into the back drizzle. The rain was light enough not to worry about but the fog took visibility down to a meter or so. Not a problem going up, and the lack of views didn't matter as it was pitch black, but it certainly slowed the descents.
Everyone had focused on the Aubisque as the big climb to deal with that day, but it turns out there's some much more challenging lesser known Cols to break your spirit and legs. Maybe it was the fog taking away the reward of the views at the top, or maybe the 30,000 metres of climbing over the last few days, but the last 2 seemed the hardest of the week. And even though it was foggy it was humid and hot enough you had to strip to go up, and then put everything back on for each descent.
Finally all the climbing was done, and it was down onto the aero bars to steam all the way back down to the finish. I'd met my goal, I'd finished the race inside GC (time cut for final control) and picked up 3rd lady in the process.
I'd imagined Hector was a good few hours behind me, but he turned up about 10 mins after me! Where I'm faster on the hills, his super power is steady aero power.
Despite the fact that we ride at a very similar speeds we had really tried to resist cycling together so there was no risk of any accusations of supporting each other. That day we'd both slept in the same town (in separate hotels) but not discussed what time we would each leave, and spoken for less than 2 mins as we'd passed each other at various points in the day, yet finished almost side by side. I guess we're meant to be together! ♥️
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