This year I took up the challenge to cycle across the Southern Pyrenees from Bilbao to Barcelona, I accepted my two friends suggestion of the proposed 600 km cycle over 5 days. They are sensible chaps – CEO of a global investment bank and client of ours and a leading Professor of Medicine. The adventure began, as all good adventures do, in the Square Mile and an appointment with www.bespokecycling.com. Hannibal, my appointed guru, arranged a very detailed bike fitting using my original bike, ‘The Specialized’ which has seen me on many adventures. My new enthusiastic supporters at Bespoke Cycling were total ‘spokeheads’ taking a personal interest in ensuring I had all the right equipment including cleats, the latest in fizik foot gear and naturally the fashion accessories!
We were ready for training – we traversed Devon; cruised through Northern France to Paris; explored the rolling South Downs, Oxfordshire, Berkshire; tackled dizzying heights in Wales and numerous circuits of Richmond Park. We saw the bleak winter landscape transform from greys to the fullness of spring; carpets of bluebells, the fields of glorious yellow rapeseed. Of course as we doggedly pedalled we came across some wonderful wildlife; eagles, red kites, roe deer, muntjac to name a few.
The trip to Paris was perhaps the first glimpse of the reality of what we had signed up for; the first day saw us cycling 92 miles south to Portsmouth, reaching the port in the dark just in time to make the crossing. I guess this was not helped by my desire to have breakfast at Gail’s Bakery in Barnes which was possibly a rather lackadaisical approach to the day. With very creaky knees we boarded the Brittany ferry and after a surprisingly delicious supper I retired to my bunk with my new cabin mates; two girls, fellow cyclists. It’s a pretty weird situation to share such tight quarters with people met only hours before but earplugs installed, I slept like a log. The next day brought us to Sword Beach and the battlefields of Normandy, Pegasus Bridge and tea with Arlette Gondrée, who lived in the first French home to be liberated on D-Day in 1944. We arrived in Paris on Sunday night after speeding through the Bois de Boulogne NOT slowing down to ask directions!! Triumphant, we cycled down the pavement of the Champs-Elysées in the dark to our final, very basic accommodation opposite the Gare Du Nord in what we all are convinced to this day has a reputation for charging rooms by the hour!
So with 1000 miles of training under our belts, my bike buddies and I set off for Spain with 85 crazy boy racers for Greenhouse Sports and the Cardiomyopathy charity in memory of Miles Frost. By this time the organisers had unbeknownst to us extended the route to 730 km and tightened our timeframe to 4 days, so 1 day less and 130km more! I think they added a few more peaks for the hell of it. The adrenalin coursed through our veins, the sun beat down on our backs and we had to push ourselves for what was by far my own toughest challenge to date. Bilbao to Barcelona via Pamplona, Huesca and Rocallaura. The views were spectacular – well they would be from the heights we were reaching, ending on Sunday night at a seriously cool beach club in Barcelona (the one with the very stiff G&Ts). What an amazing experience, whatever next!