A Travellerspoint blog

Sat 5th July


Usual morning up times though for the first time all the riders were in breakfast before we were..keen to get today..the last day and the one with the time limit...underway.

In theory I should have been back van today but as we were headed to Spain and somewhere new I volunteered and was willing accepted to be scout. Our usual spot in Cerbere didn't want to accommodate us in July / august so hence we were migrating south to Portbou.

The drive there was fine..zoned out a little on the drive and almost shot through Cerbere without realising it. Up and over a col to Portbou which has a very different feal to it. While I love Yves at our normal hotel in Cerbere, Portbou just had a little more character to it and of course it is Spain. Though the parking is a pain in the derrier. Parked badly then sorted the rooms and the dinner, and got back to Cerbere by just after 10. Not bad going there! Very fast time. Eventime to have a coffee before sorting the finish line celebrations.

Bit of waiting for them to arrive and then at 12ish the tandem came in. Champagne popped and celebrations started. G turned up in Frodo and then the others came in over the next half hour or so. The champas seemed to evaporate and the riders moved onto other booze..beer then wine...we had to remind them that there was a little more cycling to go to get to the hotel, and then after photos left them to their lunch. We headed off and got an ice cream each and sat watching the beach and having a good natter and a return to normality.

After which we headed back to Portbou with the riders wobbling along behind us. Unfortunately work for us was not finished. We had to offload the bikeboxes and get the tools etc ready for the riders when they got back. There was also the hire bikes to dismantle, repair and clean, I think it was just before 7 that we were done. Just enough time for a shower before heading back down stairs to give out the certificates and badges and to congratulate the guys. One moving addition to the usual presentation was something G read out that was written by the man on the tandem describing his cycling crash 6 months ago that left him with multiple bad injuries to his chest and legs and was unable to talk and use his jaw for months. It was a letter of thanks to his wife who had been with him the whole way and got him through it. This trip was their way of sticking their fingers up at the accident and moving on. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room when it finished. Those two were lovely and they really made the group and were an inspiration to us all.

During dinner it also turned out that another rider had made a momentous decision while on the raid..up the Tourmalet in the fog actually..he quit his job and was going to do something that was actually worthwhile and contributed to society. Good on him..another brave move.

Dinner was a huge amount of food, complimented by a huge amount of wine. At 6€ a bottle it didn't put too much of a dent in the budget. Though we did stop paying 9 bottles down....
Not sure what time I went to bed but some of the guys just kept going, moving onto spirits and only made it to bed in the wee hours.

Posted by louisebenn 09:57 Archived in France Comments (0)

Friday 4th July


Usual morning timings, most people were on the road by 8, its a big day today..not in mile but in climbing but it is my favourite day of the raid. The very civilised col de port and the Pailheres and the amazing descent. Just was hoping the weather would hold off so the guys could appreciate it.

Our luck held for the col de port, and on the road to Ax the sun came out! But that's as far as it went. When we were stopped in Ax the clouds came and there was some rumblings of thunder. Going up the climb it got worse..a bit of rain and some mist to start, then cold winds and stronger rain came. I am writing this at the top sitting in the van with thunder all around. I have a wee herd of horses keeping me company. I figure when they look worried I will worry but until then...hopefully my logic will hold.

It being July 4th we thought we should do something for our American guests so we had a flag and some american cookies. Obviously with the weather flying the flag wasn't going to happen. So as I was standing in the pouring rain wondering how best to get the flag up, inspiration stuck when part of the flag stiuck to the van..a ready made billboard!! So flag was 'hung' on the front of the van by the grill plate..by wet soakingness only. Me also being soaking by this point and cold...half hour or so waiting in the van...then the tandem showed up. went out on the weather to welcome them and to bundle them in the back of the van to get warm and change and eat. And so was the routine for the arrivals. G turned up and so his van became a changing room and then as more arrived the second party van. God it was bitter up there..9degrees without the wind chill. But we had to feed them and/warm them up and send them on their way. It actually turned out that the weather vastly improved just a few hundred metres on the descent but on the top you couldn't see that.

Tandem went down first but called up soon after as their tyre had blown. Hard decisions as we had really cold people here and potentially less so stuck down the mou rain now. subtle techniques employed to move people on and I was free to go down and help the tandem. Them all sorted free to get on and race after the others some who were far ahead now. Others had decided to not descend and were in the other van with G.

Slight worrt when I didn't see some of the riders but they had had a quick 'detour' just when I was going past so I didn't see them. When I went back they were on the right path. So all fine. Tandem had second blown tyre of the day.

Tiredness by this stage was kicking in..too tired even now to write the details of this later stuff. But I got to the hotel about 7ish, sorted dinner, sorted riders bags out then was time for dinner@8. Except some riders decided to hangout at a bar for a couple though they knew when dinner was. Poor guys that were quicker on the mountain and desperate for food had to wait til they were all back before they could eat.

Tomorrow is a bit fiddly so we have worked a new plan.

22.15 finally some time out. writing this and emails etc. Long day

Posted by louisebenn 13:12 Archived in France Comments (0)

Thursday 3 July raid d3


06.00 wake up. Phone died again.useless thing.

06.45 down to the van for cereals and flaffing. 07.00 breakie.

People seem in a funny mood today. Little bit strange. Try and get them everything they need and keep them happy. Very slow start today..a couple of the guys went off early ish but the others seemed no hurry to. Once they had G went up after them while I went to Bagneres to get some bananas. Banana buying is a never ending mission. Bought the local shop out of bananas and oranges.

Col d'Aspin..glad the weather held for them to be able to appreciate the scenery. It may be cold but at least there is no low cloud and rain...yet.

Down the descent to Arreau..nice pretty village/town but I hate it as its a nightmare to drive through..especially on market day is today. This time though they shit the village to cars which was good. Still had to find a way around to the detour but better than trying to squeeze through the small streets. French people here have no qualms about walking in the deter of the road and are completely unaware of anything else around them.

Up to the Col de Peyresourde, where there is a lovely cafe at the top. Not sure how but all the group is pretty close together so time to go to the top and have a bit of a chill. Helped some Germans, who are doing the raid but independently, with a mechanical. Then the same with some French cyclists later.

Weather is being very changeable..no idea what it will do next, tho so far no rain yet..fingers crossed. Still made the clients put layers in for the descent..you never know and its better to err on being too warm.

Back down in the valley, it's raining lightly but not too bad. Met most at luchon then sped off to catch the rest and check they are ok. G is with the tandem so I have 9 to keep an eye on. These lot are still relatively close together so should be fine.

Col Ares, Col de Buret go by, now loitering at the top of the Col de Portet d'Aspet. G just left, the tandem guys are apparently on a mission so he is now off to chase them down. I now have about an hour or so of waiting. If it wasn't wet I would consider getting on the bike..I still might.

In the end I got sidetracked by my book, and was surprised when people reached to col. Oops. Fed and watered them then down to St Giron's for a stamp and then they have a 27km drag home.

I'm feeling tired (and stuffed and fat with crappy foods) at this point and the hotel can't come soon enough. On the plus side the sun is out fully any it is almost hot for the first time today.

Got into the hotel just before 8. The last riders just after. Dinner , and oh my god how much dinner, straight away. Everyone tired but in a good mood. All finished and stuff sorted by 22.15. WiFi just reaches my room so I can post this, then i think I will pass out. Then it will start all over again tomorrow

Posted by louisebenn 13:19 Archived in France Comments (0)

a weds 2nd July raid d2


06.15 alarm..or would be alarm if my battery wasn't buggered on my phone. Am sometimes very glad of my body clock which wakes me early when things like that happen.

07.00 ish breakie. Its misty any damp outside and todays riding is a toughie (aubisque and the tourmalet) but people are strangely calm and fine about it.

By 08.00 all riders had set off in their waterproof. We had a little while to flaff with the vans. The other day I found a parcel for a client from my last trip that didn't reach cerbere in time. I told HQ and they came back today to say it wasn't worth sending back and to open it as it was a bit of fun...very exciting as I love a pressie! And it was a bit like a 'pass the parcel' parcel...first layer the brown out side packaging, then a shoe box, inside that the top layer was pretty wrapping paper and a congratulations note, some tissue, then some party poppers, more tissue..then the piece de resistance! A pair of black y fronts with red trimming and a bike horn attached to the front! They are awesome...I just now have to have a think how best to 'use' these..maybe put them on the marmot?!

For a few mins along a valley before laruns the sun looked like it might make an appearance.. There was the quite strange sight of the sky and the mountains covered by low cloud but in some place somehow the sun had got through.

I am in Shadowfax today and so am the front van. Got to Laruns first and parked up at the bottom of the Aubisque. Cake and snacks out at the ready. First to fly by was the tandem which is absolutely storming. Ten mins later the three guys who set off early, then G not far behind in Frodo...who he has managed to break already! He's only been driving him for an hour!!! Poor Frodo. Once the clients left we had to ponder the bags..we had 6 clients to come, the 3 just ahead, and the two fasties on the tandem..all in all about a 45min plus spread across them. Not good for us as thats quite hard to support. So after so umming and ahhing we shifted the day bags around to the vans which we agreed could support each group best. Hopefully it will work out. Its quite a complicated day for the vans as I have to leave after Argeles (at the bottom of the Aubisque and Soulour) to go around the Tourmalet, to the hotel to unload and then up the other side hopefully getting to the col before the clients...meanwhile G supports the whole group as they are ascending. As last trip had a detour rather than this route this is my first time trying to 'do it properly'. Fingers crossed.

As I passed the tandem near the half way mark they were both out of the saddle..uber respect for them as they are both so strong riders and must be incredibly coordinated and know each other so well to make it work. They are a lovely couple too, you can usually hear them coning before you can see them as they chatter away constantly. Bless.

Temperature on the Aubisque is dropping very rapidly, very misty and damp with a cold breeze. Gonna be very important to get the support right. Visibility is very low, little bit worrying and a shame that the riders will not be able to see the view. On the plus side the bad weather means less people and cars about.

The road between the Aubisque and the Soulour is one of my favourites..it's an amazing piece of road. I have not cycled it but even in the van it's awesome..basically they decided to have a road connecting the two cols and just chiselled the road out of the side of the mountain. Even in the mist it is impressive in fact may be more so as it adds an air of mystery to it.

Down to Argeles, and straight on to Lourdes then Aste and the hotel. Down side to speedy people is that I arrived at the hotel before they were ready so just left the bags in the lobby. Trip to cycle shop to get that wheel fixed and a new cable...shut for lunch. Sigh. Nothing else to do aside from head up the mountain and wait for the tandem and sort the other bits out when I come back down.

Thickest fog yet on the Tourmalet and boy was it cold and damp. Could not see a thing. Even the brave cyclists heading up would only be visible a few metres ahead of me. Waiting for a while at the top for the tandem. May not have a view of more than a few feet but great spot for people watching. My fave being the cyclist with a tux and dickie bow jersey.

15.45ish Once the tandem came up I headed back down the mountain, the others were so close together G could manage them. If going uphill in thick fog was has, going down was worse. Visibility was a couple of metres in front (if that), and the same to the side..where you know it is a sheer drop. Added excitement of animals being all over the place around the road. About half way down you I came out of the cloud and into the rain. Headed to the bike shop to get broken spoke fixed, then back to the hotel to put the bags in the clients rooms. Just done when the tandem came in. Welcomed them and sorted them out then back to the bike shop to pick up the wheel and then onto the supermarket for a few bits. The others were slowly arriving by this stage..some in the van due to the torrential rain and cold on the descent.

20.00 dins and tomorrows briefing. Had a momentary wash of tiredness in dinner and nearly fell asleap right there and then. Just before my part in the talk too..awesome timing. Thankfully not much 'homework' today aside from charging the bike lights.

22.00 all done in the vans, so bed and finishing writing this..(have found it easier to write during the days in the lulls waiting for clients rather than in one go). No WiFi here so will be a day delayed post. Tis a lovely place..family run hotel..but say if you ask about the weather their first thought is to look in the newspaper. So it is not the most modern. Bit the people are lovely and friendly and remember us. The bar man is awesome...he helped me the other week when we had a banana drama..ie we ran out and I was trying to rush around and find somewhere open at 7pm selling them...no 24hr supermarkets here. He helped me bless him and today when he first saw me I was shifting bananas between the vans so he loved that..we will be forever bonded over the banana crisis. No stalker here this time..so so far so good.

Posted by louisebenn 11:07 Archived in France Comments (0)

Tuesday 1st July Raid d1


06.15 alarm. Pre-coffee coffee

06.45 van flaffing, cereals out for breakie. More coffee. A few of the group are up early and already at breakie. Little bit of nervousness and anticipation in the air.

Group slowly gets stuff together and last few adjustments on bikes.

08.15 heading out in a convoy down to the beach for dipping of toes in the sea and the official off. First glimps of how the group actually are as cyclists. Lots if photos and then @ 9 they set off on the raid. Bit of loitering and van flaffing and we follow in the vans with 10 mins staggers.

Beautiful morning, slightly hazy but mostly sunny. Though a sprinkling of rain saw them out of Hendaye.

Beach is getting more populated in the last week, getting ready for the peak season of school break up later this week. It will be all change in July.

Morning spent leapfrogging the clients with the van until word comes that one guy came off the bike and then 5 mins later got a puncture. Went back checked the wounds and changed the wheel as apparently an issue with the tyre itself too. Off again toward Espalette. Met G there, numbers are not adding up and it seems one guy has gone AWOL. G goes on to catch and support the speedy guys (surprisingly the tandem is the leader), I head back to find the missing guy and nearly get lot myself. Half hour or so later we are all back on track.

13.00 lunch stop @ St Jean Pied de Port. 5 mins of catching up with G before his speedies left. Punctured wheel has a ripped tyre rim not really sure how, these are really new bikes and kit. My guys just starting eating or only just arriving. I am bike sitting and lunch is bits from the van. Healthy. Just went to check on how they were doing..saw the most enormous omelette come out on a plate..had a quick vision of someone eating all that then getting half way up the next col and either we would see the omelette again or he would be slowly slipping back down the hill due to the weight of the food! Luckily the omelette was for four of them so a big sigh of relief.

Clouds and bits of rain while I wait.

14.00 and we are all on the road. Unfortunately it seems that the arvo will be a race against a storm which has hit. I think the worst in behind but there is spouts of rain, wind and thunder rolls.

The last col was marred by rain and then thick mist.

Other incidences..man with bloody nipple..this seems quite a common ailment tho I have never come across it before the raids..for running yes, cycling no.
Lost carnet. Part of the raid is to get your carnet stamped at set points to make your journey across. One client has lost his carnet already.
Snapped gear cable 20km from the hotel. Had to stalk them back to make sure their temp fix of turning his nice Dogma into a single speed held out.
200m from the hotel all hell broke lose with the weather..torrential rain, lightning, thunder and hail the size of a kiwi.
Annoyingly G has had a pretty quiet day with the fast three even missing most of the bad weather.

18.45 little bit of free time to check tomorrows weather and charge the hire bike lights. Only to see storms again tomorrow :(

19.30 dins and tomorrows briefing

Garmin homework and bits and bobs means 22.00 is escaping to my room time

Posted by louisebenn 13:15 Archived in France Comments (0)

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