Getting lumpy in the Pyrenees

We knew that there would be no easy stages this year. Right from the off we had plenty of hills and would be hitting the mighty Pyrenees in the first week! It’s not unheard of, but it’s not the norm to start the climbs so soon.

Those riders who signed up to ride the Pyrenees Loop had to hit the ground running. Their first stage (4) wasn’t too punchy, but the stages increased in altitude gain day by day with the ultimate peak on the majestic, renowned Tourmalet on stage 6: 3 days of back to back solid rides into the wild and wonderful heart of the Pyrenees.

In 2022 we genuinely suffered in the searing heat with temperatures reaching 40 degrees. It was a different story this year, with thick fog that turned the wildlife of this region that wanders aimlessly around the roads into slow-moving crash hazards.

After all the supreme effort of getting to the top of bucket-list cols like Aspin and Tourmalet, it’s a shame not to be able to appreciate the views, but that doesn’t take away from the colossal sense of achievement on summiting.

Those with the expertise enjoyed sweeping fast descents, while those less confident on damp roads with poor visibility were sensibly cautious. But the camaraderie, as always, won out. We’re all in this together, and taking care of each other is as important as finishing the ride each day. We love to see this take place each year, with new friendships forming, probably for life.

It was a particular pleasure to ride these stages with such a strong bunch of wonderful women. Always outnumbered, they nevertheless hold their own on tour and bring an invaluable dimension to the group dynamic. It’s been a privilege riding with you!

Stage 7 saw us leaving the Pyrenees and heading to Bordeaux for some fantastic fast riding in groups, surrounded by woodland, then vineyards, with the sun on our backs once more.

At this stage, all those riders still on tour (the Grand Loopers and the First Halfers) are all starting to fantasize about their first rest day on Monday. There will be much sleeping, eating (a lot), NOT getting into any early morning transfer bus and definitely a trip to the launderette (washing your clothes each day in the shower is only adequate for so long!). But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – there are 2 more solid days of riding to be done before that luxury …

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