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Cycling

The rock and roll lifestyle of a bike tour guide in the Pyrenees

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I won’t thank my new editor Lee Comerford for tasking me with the most general of all assignments; ‘a blog on the last week’, or something like that, would be great. Tonight.

How can one sum up in words what it feels like to ride across the Pyrenees for work? How impossible is it to summarise 600 incredible kilometres in a few photos?

We can only try and I guess one way of doing it is retelling the words that spill out of my mouth when people enquire, ‘oh how was your trip in the Pyrenees?’.

I’ll say it was great fun. I’ll say the group were reeeealllly nice. I’ll say we had rough weather at times but we all got on great. I’ll say we’re hopeful they’ll be back again and we’re looking forward to our next trip. After that, well, do others who weren’t there reeeealllly care?

For those that do I’ll tell with passion and energy of driving almost 500 kilometres from Girona on a Monday afternoon via Perpignan, Narbonne, Toulouse and Lourdes, stopping just once for a leak and surviving on peaches and Deff Leppard’s greatest hits.

I’ll tell of reaching our start point and sourcing ride food, searching for quality and value in a tiny town where the average age must have been close to 70.

It’s basic stuff this, but it just felt right and I definitely think I brightened up the shop assistant’s day with the most over-the-top merci beaucoup she ever heard after selling 8 baguettes, 24 bananas and around 4 packets of ham.

I’ll recall the silence of that grey Monday evening in Arrens-Marsous and going for a late evening core session in a field to pass the time, washing in a freezing cold fountain for the sheer hell of it (and the guesthouse wasn’t yet open!).

I’ll never forget the tick-tacking with Lee on the road from San Sebastien after completing a trip the week before and Louise back in the control tower pulling the strings.

Lee’s buddy Chris helped us on this trip and he was in the Basque country getting a rack attached to the roof of our new van as Lee was guiding clients.

An old housemate of Lee’s who volunteered to come along, Chris sat in a bar in Tolosa on a Monday evening at 5pm while the rack was being welded on. And he looked damn happy with himself in the selfie he sent on.

Our other hired help Peter got a bit of a raw deal from Mother Nature, or at least someone with a fraction of his positivity would believe.

He guided for four days and it rained a LOT. He rode as a back-marker in hail storms and sat in the saddle for seven hours on one particular day. Afterwards, he thanked us for giving him the opportunity to do it.

All he wanted in return was enough food – which is not an easy task with this guy.

Nobody who likes money and working more than eight hours a day would do this job of a bike tour guide.

Nobody with less than a love for cycling could do it. But this week, it became very clear to us that there’s very little else we’d wanna do.

Chris and Peter have brains to burn and it’s just as well because our demands on them this week were many. Yet their only complaint by the end was the trip was over.

Maybe the reason we – and they, love it and do it is because it’s so utterly humbling to see the difference it makes to people’s lives.

We had 12 clients this week from Ireland and the UK and to say they were a pretty accomplished bunch would be unfair to them. In cycling parlance, they were hitters.

There were guys who worked in finance, medicine, insurance, property and construction and they were all very VERY good at what they did.

We had some truly woeful weather, however, no more so than on day one when we headed for the Aubisque in appalling conditions.

Yet wild horses would not have stopped the boys from reaching the top and their upbeat outlook was truly inspiring. The descent of the Tourmalet on Wednesday was similarly bad, yet they all rode down it like demons and wore wide smiles when we convened at the bottom.

As one of them put it to us one evening over dinner, “I work with people over the age of 65 years of age. I’m up at 6 most mornings getting four girls up for school and I mightn’t be back before 6 in the evening. This is my week with the lads and I’ll maximise every minute of it.”

His story was one we’ve heard over and over since we started the company so for that very reason we’ve strived to help people get the absolute best experience they can in the time they have with us.

The life of a bike tour guide is a very privileged one and it offers absolutely everything a man or woman could want in a working life…except time off, a routine and riches.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

2009, Bedoin and the start of a beautiful love affair

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By Brian Canty

The Tour de France is like no other event in the world of professional sport and it´s a race I hold very, very dear. 

My first experience of it was on a balmy July evening in 2009, a couple of months  after I´d finished college in Galway.

Without much money or cycling experience I planned a trip to France with a good friend which involved the cheapest flight possible from Shannon to Paris-Beauvais, a bus into the city centre, the TGV down to Avignon, a hitch-hike to Orange where we rented bikes and the last 30 kilometres chasing the sunset to Bedoin.

I´ve cycled many kilometres in my life but few as blissful as that 20-mile team time-trial to the base town of Mont Ventoux.

I recall the majesty of the little French villages we rode through, my belly crying for food and my tongue desperate for water. I remember having no lights on the bikes and us pedalling for our lives to get to Bedoin.

There were all manner and make of vehicle on the same road, all making the same pilgrimage to the bike race. Buggies and bikes were strapped to cars while those with a little more had wide-berth campers with barbecues.

Richie and I had maybe a set of kit each, a sleeping bag (each!) and not a whole lot else. In fact, my sleeping arrangement that night was an empty wine bottle wrapped in a jumper and the roof over my head was the underside of a camper which a Norwegian family kindly allowed me seek refuge under.

The journey there was just magic, jumping in behind campers to take advantage of the slightest draft they´d provide. The brief moment where we were sucked along was perfect but all too short.

We made Bedoin before dark and because we were two young guys eager for adventure we decided to actually ride up to the top of Ventoux for the hell of it. 

Ditching our limited belongings and grabbing a quick beer and sandwich, we set off up the murderous ascent, one of us (ah em) reaching it around an hour later as the other (ah em) had enough by Chalet Raynard.

Cresting the summit and scanning the endless lavender fields of Provence is an image still firmly etched in my brain and to quote the late Michele Scarponi “when I ride my bike, life seems light”.

It was one of those evenings you wish would never end.

I hadn´t much to my name that year after finishing college and less of a clue of where I´d go in life, but there was something sublime about where I was at that moment and I made a pact that I´d return to the Tour every year to get that feeling again. 

Eight years on and I´ve stayed true to it – with the latest installment of my Tour career just over two weeks away.

People say, ´don´t you just see the riders for like 10 seconds and that´s it?

In some cases, that is what happens but there is so much more to seeing the Tour than that. There´s the fanfare that fills the morning long before the riders arrive, the banter with fans from all over the world, the atmosphere along the route, the delicious baguettes that only the French can do, the long lazy evenings spent chatting in cafes in the most obscure places, the lounging around in cycling kit after conquering one too many climbs.

I´ve been at the race as a fan and a journalist, so I´ve seen the race through different lenses.

And this year, for the first time, I will take a group as part of a Tour de France package we are organising – and there is no other thing in the world I would rather be doing than cycling in the Pyrenees or the Alps in mid-July.

Warning, you may fall in love too.

 

 

Girona food cycling tour

A blissful union of food & cycling on our first Gourmet Tour

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Warning!! Contains images of food and cycling!!

The Gourmet Tour of Catalunya is an itinerary inspired by all our favourite rides and all our favourite places to eat and drink in the Girona region. Here´s a taster…

Wine tasting in the Emporda region is a must for any self respecting Gourmet Tour. The ride takes our cyclists through idylic country lanes to the only bodega in Catalunya that still uses traditional wine making methods. The results are divine.

A visit to the Costa Brava and a taste of seafood from the Mediterranean is yet another treat for body, soul and stomach. We ride from Girona through farmland and small villages before tackling the climb up to San Grau. From there riders enjoy a spectacular descent and work up an appetite for the 3-course extravaganza that awaits.

We enjoyed the first Gourmet Tour so much that we´re running two more for 2017 and more dates will soon be released for 2018. Join us for a true Eat, Sleep, Cycle experience.

Thanks go to Tristan Cardew for the fab videos and to Colleen, Gil & Harriet for making our first Gourmet Tour extra delicious and to our fabulous hosts on the ride.

Dealing with the heat when riding abroad this Summer

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Most of us cyclists crave the sunshine and to escape the bad weather of our home countries. Cold and wet weather can make long rides harder, especially if you are not dressed for it.

As summer temperatures in Girona hit the thirties, cyclists can be challenged equally, but in very different ways. Having just nearly dehydrated and passed out on my training ride it’s time to take action and make use of some tips and tricks I have picked up over the years of living in hot countries (South America, California and now Spain).

Avoid the sun

As ridiculous as this sounds it is actually a great first step. If you can train early in the morning or later in the afternoon, you can avoid the peak temperatures of the day.

If you are like me you do not choose the times you train so we look to protect against it.

Wear sunscreen

Obvious, I know, but we still see so many sun-burnt cyclists! For extra protection, use the highest factor you can find (50 or above) and apply regularly (you can get small transportable free samples from pharmacies/drug stores). A “lip-stick” protector is perfect for protecting those luscious lips and even a thicker sun block for your nose will reduce the panda effect from your glasses.

Never put sun screen above your eyes. I learnt this the hard way many years ago – it stings like hell! Normally, your helmet provides protection there anyway.

Wear white arm/leg warmers

Another option is to wear white thin arm and leg warmers. This could be a good call if you are fair skinned and plan to ride for several long days in the sun.

Use chamois cream

Extra heat means extra sweat and danger of chaffing. Chamois cream, especially one with a cooling effect is a great defense and feels so good!

Stay hydrated

Everybody is different but my rule of thumb, on a normal ride in normal temperatures, is one 500 ml bottle of fluid every hour. In hot temperatures I drink double that. Stick your bottles in the freezer the night before or fill them with ice. The ice melts within half an hour but it is cooler than it would be without this step!

Never go out without 2 full bottles and some money to stop at a garage and top up.

Electrolyte tabs are cheap, calorie free and replenish the loss of essential minerals through excessive sweating.

Wear light coloured clothing

White clothing does make a difference. I don’t have the scientific references, just years of trying black and white jerseys. It just so happens that the new Eat Sleep Cycle kit is perfect for hot weather. The material also has a wicking effect which also makes a difference.

Feet

This is a topic very close to my heart. I have horrendously wide feet and they grow a size in the Summer. I need to wear laced shoes and loosen to allow my feet to expand. I remove my shoes at every opportunity and once home apply a cooling lotion which has to be tried to be believed!

Don’t hang around in your kit

Us cyclists tend to love strutting about in our lycra in public in cafes and restaurants. Actually, if you want to stay clean and healthy, the best thing to do is to get out of your dirty kit immediately after the ride and have a good old clean before a beer. This will keep saddle sores and other non niceties away just a little bit longer.

Always carry a phone

Just common sense but should you become dizzy and disoriented, your phone can be used to ring a friend or emergency services.

Here’s to turning up the heat in Girona!

Andorra Cycling Vuelta

Andorra: A theme park for cyclists

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Driving into Andorra late Friday evening reminded me of the first time I drove to Las Vegas. Granted, the long dark single road into Andorra is far more windy, but the suspense of arriving at a far away and strange place equaled.

Once we crossed the border (not quite knowing whether a smile, wave or poker face would avoid us getting pulled over) we entered Andorra la Vella. It was quite a shock at first, all lit up with advertisements everywhere. The main road through the valley is like a race course with several lanes and signals hung above each lane. People drive fast and don’t bother waiting for green to go.

When the sun rose the next day our jaws hit the floor. That dark valley road is actually surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains shooting up almost vertically from each side. All around roads zig-zag up through the towns and into the sky. It’s just like the first time I went to Alton Towers or Port Aventura. I saw massive rides that both excited and scared me, knowing that it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun and also some suffering!

Our objective for the weekend was simple, recce La Purito challenge, get to know Andorra and find our way around. We are running a challenge trip there in August, more details here.

Oh and it was also a romantic weekend away for Louise and I, which was of course more important (I love you darling).

We grabbed our bikes like excited kids and headed for breakfast. The first thing we noticed is that wonderful Spanish prices have been adopted in Andorra too. €1.40 for a coffee, €1.25 for a croissant. We were ready to ride.

Admittedly we were not that impressed to start with. We had to take the main road back down from La Massana, the place of our lodging, to Andorra la Vella. It was quite busy and not like the two abreast casual riding in Girona.

Then suddenly the Garmin said turn left and there it was. An 18% ramp into a 12 km climb into the sky; La Peguera. The contrast could not have been more extreme. From a busy, flat main road to a steep, car-less ascent into the sky. Louise took one look at me and said “see you at the top”. I was hungry for this climb and as I always have done, went off too hard!

Wow, wow and wow! The views on the way up just got better and better, the town a distant dot in my wing mirror. When it’s a battle to pedal hard and not stare at the view, I know I’m in a special place.

But this was a casual recce so we took a coffee break after that (Louise had a beer!) stopping at a restaurant nestled nicely into the bottom of the climb with a beautiful view of the valley. The restaurant, San Telmo, is Argentinian. The “asador” or chef is Argentinian and his friendly wife Swiss. We liked it so much we returned in the evening for a romantic meal and ate like kings and queens. It literally was a meat feast, the best Malbec wine I have tasted and friendly service, for unbelievable value.

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Andorra is like a hot pot of nationalities. We heard more languages spoken over the 2 days than we do in months in Girona! It’s not officially Catalunya, but many advertisements are in Catalan. It’s not officially Spanish, but everybody understands it. Then there are Swiss, German, French, Russian…. It’s hard to work out the identity of the place. I’m not sure we’d live there but its a very interesting place to visit.

The next climb, Col de la Gallina, was really hard. I was screaming for a compact, at least semi-compact already half way up! But I bloody loved it. I love a climb that forces me to get out the saddle just to get up it. The view at the top is out of this world and I enjoyed a humble moment.

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Over the 2 days we rode up each of the 5 climbs in La Purito. Yes, it took us 2 days to do what thousands do in one. It is a hell of a challenge. We now feel well informed to get a bunch of you through this challenge (get your compacts out and get your climbing practice in!)

I never forget the first time I visit a new place, climb a new climb. Those 5 climbs in Andorra hold a special place in my heart and I know its a place Eat Sleep Cycle will be visiting more regularly.

Girona City Centre Cycling

Why Girona isn’t Mallorca

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As a cycling business owner in Girona I sometimes look across the pond to Mallorca and wonder about the mass cycling market it has attracted. I have been there myself as both a cyclist and non-cyclist so I know the benefits the island offers. Smooth roads, steady climbs, favourable weather and cheap hotels with huge buffets to fill your face after a long ride are just some of them.

Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky really put the island on the radar of cyclists internationally a few years back and now hundreds of thousands flock there to train like a professional.

Eat Sleep Cycle has been going for less than a year and when you start a business you obviously want to grow, find new customers and establish where you sit in the cycling holiday market. Friends and family have said to me “what you need is an all-inclusive hotel deal like in Mallorca”. I’ve heard this quite a few times over the past 12 months so have been forced to think about this concept in some detail.

The truth is that Girona does not have the mass hotels that Mallorca has. The hotels here are smaller, with character (some really are museums) which means they are more expensive. All-inclusive is rare in these hotels because Girona old town has a plethora of incredible restaurants where, for 20 Euro a night you can enjoy a different food experience in a different environment, seated outside under medieval arches if you wish.

Port de Pollença is a popular spot in Mallorca for cyclists. There, families can sunbath while others break themselves on Sa Calabra. Girona is 40Km from the beach. Its a 1 hour drive or 1.5 hr bus journey. While this is too far for some people, others realise this means 360 degrees of cycling routes rather than 180 degrees (actually much less on the tip of the island that is Port de Pollença). While you are riding a different route every day (we are still finding new routes and have been here for 2 years) your family can enjoy the cultural heritage of the old town and surrounding jewels, like Dali’s castles, museums and art work, beautiful natural rivers and lakes such as Banyoles (the site of the 1992 Olympic rowing), or make the journey to the Costa Brava where some beaches need to be hiked down and your only company will be a bird and a fish or two.

So when I go through this thought process in my head, it goes something like this;

Why does Mallorca get so many cyclists…?

How can we be more like Mallorca…?

Girona is cycling paradise…

I don’t want it to be like Mallorca…

We’ll take the cyclists that want a unique experience.

I know other cycling business owners in Girona feel the same. We really do not want Girona to become Mallorca; over-crowded with buses on the climbs at the weekend and battles between locals and cyclists. We work very hard to maintain a good relationship with local people, inviting them along to our club rides and always looking for ways to give back, like recruiting staff and buying all our equipment (bikes, clothing) and consumables (nutrition, spare parts) locally.

So here is to keeping Girona the jewel of Catalunya. If you want “all you can eat buffet food” please go to Mallorca!

Girona Bike Hire Worx

Worx: small bikes, mega impact

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Worx is making big waves in the world of small bikes and we’re proud to welcome an XXS Worx RA SL to our rental fleet. Perfectly proportioned for smaller riders the bike handles like a dream and marks a satisfying end to having to ‘fit’ small riders to a bike that’s just too big.

I sat down with John Wylie to find out a bit more about the company, how it all started and what makes their bikes unique (John was tucking into a post-Vallter Slayer, Federal Cafe avocado and eggs at the time).

Worx is a small UK company which produces around 200-300 bikes a year and is the result of Mark, MD of Reynards Racing Cars, trying to find a decent bike for his son to race on. He couldn’t find anything in the youth racing bike market and so set about designing his own.

Enter Barry, chief designer at Reynards Racing Cars, who drew up designs for a bike that could be used for both cyclo-cross and road for youth riders. And here comes Worx’s groundbreaking logical thinking that big bike brands seem to steer clear of: no compromise for small people!

Big bike brands design their bikes around an average frame size of 54-56. If you’re lucky enough to ride a 54-56 bike you’ll experience a bike which handles well and is beautifully balanced. If you’re not you’ll likely be riding a bike with the same standard sized components as used on the 54-56 (so same crank length, same fork length, and a weird fork rake angle to compensate). These standard sized components are used throughout the whole size range to cut down production costs. The result is a reasonably horrific, if not downright scary ride experience – ok, I’m being dramatic, but this starts to explain my past history of useless descending, slow cornering and an over-awareness of toe overlap when riding slowly.

Worx have taken the radical step of designing each size frame from scratch and tailoring the geometry accordingly. The result is a no-compromise small bike which rides just as well as those holy-grail 54-56 bikes. The whole frame is designed around small cranks – if a bike is going to be ridden with 160 mm cranks then the fork rake can be in it’s optimum position for handling, not for avoiding toe overlap. The bikes are finished with narrow bars (ours are 36 cm) and specced with the groupset of your choice. Last year my race bike had a 60 mm stem so I could reach the brakes, this year my Worx has a 90 mm stem. Cornering bliss.

It’s a mystery to me why all small people (ie. those riding bikes smaller than a 54) are not jumping on the Worx bike-wagon. John cites a lack of knowledge in the target market, the power of mass-market branding and the huge problem of competing with mass production. Worx do small production runs (no pun intended) and costs per bike are accordingly higher.

Worx bikes are currently aluminium but the huge investment needed to set up carbon production is currently being made (I’m quite excited by this). Aluminium is perceived as secondary to carbon for a race bike. But, as John rightly points out,  standard grade carbon used in mass produced frames is equivalent to the high quality aluminium used by Worx. If you’re a weight-weenie reading, John built his son Dan’s Worx to sub 7 kgs, way lighter than his daughter Sophie’s plus 8 kgs Pinarello. (We’re both working on Sophie to convert to a Worx, she’s a sucker for the branding!)

So, if you’re a rider on a bike smaller than a 54 and in the market for a race bike look up Worx and experience what a bike is supposed to feel like. If you’re a rider under 5’2″ and coming to Girona, hire ours and take it for a test ride!

Thanks go to John for sharing the Worx story with me and for introducing Worx to my cycling life.

Read more about my hunt for a little bike in my blogs: The Struggle is Real: Kick Ass Bike for Short Arse People and To Steel or not to Steel?

Vallter 2000 Pyrenees Girona Cycling

Vallter 2000: Life in the support vehicle

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Yesterday 20 apprehensive cyclists left Girona early in the morning bound for Vallter 2000, the highest point in the whole of Catalunya. It was our 2nd Challenge Day of the year. For the first we conquered the 3 famous peaks in Girona and I wrote a blog about my personal achievement riding it too. It was my turn to go in the van for this one and I wanted to be the best damn support vehicle.

The briefing before a ride of this nature is key. To get 20 amateur riders through 220 km and 4000 m of climbing requires motivation, organisation and a heck of a lot of common sense! Safety first as many riders cycle on the other side of the road at home! But the main aim is to have riders ride at steady pace and try to stay together. This makes life in the support vehicle much easier.

We had intelligence that a storm was brewing in the mountain and just had to mention it. It’s better that things like that are not a surprise to a group. If it doesn’t happen its a bonus.

Anyone who has ever driven a support vehicle will agree with me that you have far less time than you think you should have. A peloton of cyclists moves pretty quick and before you know it they are 50 km up the road. Having loaded the van with our tools, bike stand and supplies I tore off up the road and just made it to the first food stop. There were 3 bikes with problems so I grabbed the bike stand and got to work. Off they went again.

Things started to get really interesting at the base of Vallter. The weather was good but we could see the storm coming in from the bottom. We always run these challenges with 2 vehicles; a lead car and a van at the back (to pick-up anyone needing a rest). The lead car went ahead to the top to provide nutrition and warm layers before the descent. I parked at a nice spot on the bottom and gave people the optional “if you don’t make it up come back here”. Finally I had half an hour to gather my thoughts (by that I mean answer Eat Sleep Cycle emails). Then the fun started…

A few drops of rain turned into an all out hail stone storm. It was literally hailing cats and dogs. I had 4 people at the cafe stop safe and the rest scattered up the mountain. I had to make a decision to get in the van and drive up. I quickly came across one rider repairing a puncture under a bus shelter 500 m up the road. He had another rider with him. There was a third and he looked very cold. So I put him in the van with a blanket and some food. I had to locate Louise because I knew she would be back sweeping the last rider down the mountain. Louise is the only person I know who will truly back sweep a group which is an incredible quality as a cycle guide. There was no answer from her phone…. Was she riding down in that weather?! I was a little worried. Another 5 mins passed and then a message. They had taken cover in a hostel 2 km further up the road. Louise with one rider. We now had 12 at the cafe stop, 3 with me. My A-Level maths was becoming very handy! I put these 3 riders into a neighbouring cafe and went further up the mountain searching for the rest. Visibility was really bad. I thought the hailstones would shatter the windscreen. I pulled over to clear the fog from the inside and caught glimpse of a bike under a small wooden tepee thing. I couldn’t help a small laugh and the rider smiled back. He was fine. He jumped in and we headed back up the mountain to collect Louise plus one. All riders had been located.

And then the rain and hail just stopped. It was as if somebody up there closed the “really bad weather” tap. Lucky I had ordered 20 warm bocadillos for them which they enjoyed by the fire.

Chapeau to them, the majority got back on their bikes and rode home without a complaint.

Back at Eat Sleep Cycle HQ and after a long hard day in the saddle we cracked a bottle of Cava and awarded riders for their epic efforts. There were smiles all around and all the hard work just felt worthwhile.

Here is to the next epic challenge!

Photo credit Shane Stokes @SSBike

Saturday 12th November 2016: a race, a chase & a grand opening

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It’s Sunday afternoon, the day after the 12th November – a day that will be forever etched into Eat Sleep Cycle history.

Yesterday, we opened our headquarters in Girona. It’s a little patch of cycling heaven in the centre of the Old Town, or Barri Vell. It constitutes a dream come true for myself, Lee & Brian.

The week leading up to the opening was full of painting, paperwork, packages arriving, drilling, drawing, hanging, cleaning, cava buying, ride planning, late night pizza eating & a little bit of cycling. It was busy, but we were busy dream-building and we were happy.

Saturday 12th November dawned.

Lee & Brian were up early making Pinxtos, I was up early mopping & cleaning up the shop. Set up complete, riders started arriving for the celebration ride, and the roller coaster began.

The Ride

We spun out of town in crisp sunshine. It was nothing short of gorgeous, a mix of old friends & new faces headed out together to the mighty Mare de Deu del Mont climb (1,123m). The newly wrapped Eat Sleep Cycle car, manned by Lee (driver), Shane (photographer) & Stephen (swanny aka slave), tooted it’s way past, gleaming in the morning light. It was glorious.

We re-grouped at the bottom of our mountain, re-filled bottles & prepared to take on the Eat Sleep Cycle Sufferfest Segment and earn our spots on the inaugural Mountain Leaderboard. Being cyclists, we all pretended we weren’t that bothered, and told anyone who’d listen how bad our off-season form was. But when we set off for the top, the pace was suspiciously high.

Rutger took on the pace-setting for the first flatter section, stomping out a massive gear and pushing the pace to 30 kmph. He cracked, others came to the front and maintained. Our Stigette attacked the group, forcing more legs to give in. A battle for 1st ensued. Brian (our very own Irishman) lost out to The Stig by 1 min 20 seconds. Dale rounded out the podium with a fine time of 1:02:34. Peter posted a storming effort to come 4th and win the 50+ category with a time of 1:02:57. The Stigette will also prove exceptionally hard to beat, coming in under the hour at 00:59:45. The women’s podium was completed by me (1:04:26) & Rebecca (1:29:00).

After photos at the top and a good refuel from the ESC car we headed carefully down the technical descent to Besalú. Tired legs were felt by all as minor inclines caused limbs to burn, but the sun stayed high & spirits were even higher.

The Chase

After getting back into town just in time to open the shop Mark came running up (I say running, he was more ‘hobbling quickly’ in cycling shoes) in a panic – someone had just ridden off on his bike. I’d just seen a guy go past ESC HQ on a bike that he couldn’t really ride. I knew which direction he’d gone in. I hopped on my bike and sped off after him. Bike skills I never knew I had kicked in, I weaved through the crowd on La Rambla. I felt like a bike-ninja. I could see the man on Mark’s bike ahead, crossing onto the Pont de Pedra. I sprinted up behind him and drew alongside.

We made eye contact.

I said something in Spanglish (no idea what), the weekend crowd’s head’s turned.

He replied “Es Tuya!?”

Me: “Si!!! Que hiciste??”

He got of the bike, I took it off him, heart beating, totally bemused by the audacity of the situation. Neither of us really knew what to do. By this point Mark was hobbling around the corner onto the bridge. I shouted I had the bike and pointed to the guy who’d taken it.

Mark saw red and shouted at him (pure English this time!) The man started walking off, protesting that he hadn’t taken it. Then Brian appeared around the corner on his bike. He also saw red and joined the verbal battle. The guy gave up and started running. Brian chased him on his own bike while I returned the nearly stolen bike to Mark.

An onlooker told us we shouldn’t let Brian go alone after the thief. A very good point. Mark and I set off after Brian (meanwhile it was 4:01 pm and Lee was pouring the cava in the shop) Irish-accented shouts located Brian (still in lycra & cycling shoes) carrying his bike between some cars, following a metre or so behind the thief, waving a finger in air, shouting “POLICIA!!” Neither wanted to actually come into contact with the other, so Brian and the thief were locked into a never-ending chase around the same block. I went to find a policeman. Brian kept running around in circles. Lee sent panicked messages wondering where on earth we were.

Brian tracked the guy to an apartment building where police arrived and took over. He may have missed the opening toast to his own shop, but Brian was hailed a hero on his return and sank many a glass of cava to celebrate. This bike thief messed with the wrong crew.

The Opening

Amidst the bike-thief-chase-drama guests started arriving to our little shop, and very soon it was buzzing with activity. We welcomed new friends, old friends, members of the Girona cycling community, people without who’s help we wouldn’t have got this far. It was a humbling experience to see so many supportive faces, everyone wishing us every success.

The Opening

So thank you from the bottom of our cycling hearts to everyone who has supported us to ‘do our thing’ and make it this far:

To Amy & Ryan (for interior design help), to Peter (for the drill, step-ladder & unfailing support), to Shane (for the fab pics), to Lee’s family, Lou’s family & Brian’s family (for their unconditional support of us all quitting our jobs to pursue cycling happiness), to Dave & Saskia for integrating us into Girona, Gareth & Fiona for all the great advice on getting set-up, Amber & Christian (for saying ‘do your thing’ and for very good cake), to all our first clients who took a punt on us, to those who’ve taken the time to write us reviews, to Andreu (for everything!), to Goretti for all kinds of everything, to Joan (for your patience), to Josep (for going the extra mile to help), to Rutger (for an exciting new opportunity), to Tristan (for creating a buzz about Girona-Biarritz), to Sophie & John (for keeping Lou pedalling) to everyone who’s been on a Thursday night social, to our Stig & Stigette (for suffering). Thanks to all the cyclists, amateur and pro, who have shown us awesome routes, ridden with us on epic rides and allowed us to take cool pics, especially Miquel,  David, Stephen, Paddy, Toms and Gonzalo. We have probably forgotten to mention so many people but your help has been massively appreciated and will never be forgotten.

And thank you all for your continued support.

 

Trans-Pyrenees-first-Eat-Sleep-Cycle-Tour

Cycling Trans Pyrenees: The Adventure Begins

By Cycling 2 Comments

The first Eat Sleep Cycle tour (Trans Pyrenees) rolled out of Girona heading towards the Pyrenees and the Atlantic coast. One word- Epic. The 6 riders were: Peter Gaskill, Benny Cassidy, David Conroy, David, Corinne & Tristan Cardew. The guides were: Lee, Lou & Brian. The adventure was unforgettable.

Trans Pyrenees: Day 1

And we’re off! Eat Sleep Cycle’s first bike adventure took to the road today. Six intrepid riders set off in style from La Fabrica in Girona, to cover 650km to Biarritz over 6 days. The catch? The route will take them straight over the Pyrenees, taking in classic climbs such as the Tourmalet, Peyresourde & the Aubisque.

Every day the cycling-photographer-aussie legend that is Tristan Cardew will capture the journey on camera. Here’s his take on Stage 1.

Ride stats

  • 85km
  • 1,600 meters

Stage 2: Ripoll to Sort

Just wow. We’re in Sort after a mega ride from Ripoll. The day started with an epic climb up to the Collada de Toses, and finished with an epic descent  from the Port del Cantó to a riverside camping ground.

Here’s Tristan’s 1 min glimpse of the glory:

Ride Stats:

  • Ripoll – Alp – Sort
  • 157 km
  • 3,160 m climbing
  • 2 x mountain passes

Stage 3: Sort to Luchon

With (ever so slightly) weary legs our intrepid six have made it to the pretty little town of Bagnéres-de-Luchon (yes, the place where Froomey won his stage of Le Tour this year). Whilst some opted to eat ice-cream and recover from the days exertions up the Port de la Bonaigua and the Col du Portillon, others took themselves up the Superbagnéres, including our camera man Tristan:

Ride stats:

  • 105 km (or 145 km with the Superbagnéres!)
  • 2,275 m (or 3,475 m for the nutters)
  • 2 (or 3!) mountain passes

Stage 4: The Queen Stage

A truly epic day in the saddle with ascents of the Col du Peyrsourde, Col de Val Louron Azet, Col de Aspin & the mighty Col du Tourmalet. It’s no surprise that the biggest days in the saddle offer the biggest rewards. Tristan captures 1 min of a 7 hour day:

Ride stats:

  • Bagnerés-du-Luchon – Arrens-Marsous
  • 146 km
  • 4, 300 m
  • 4 x mountain passes

Stage 5: Into Pais Vasco

Today began with a nasty sore-leg-wake-up-call courtesy of the beautiful Col d’Aubisque. The route took us up to 1,700 m before dropping down a stunning descent. Rolling country lanes for the rest of the ride made a refreshing change from all the mountains. Cold beers & an al fresco pasta feast in Arette was the riders’ reward.

Ride stats

  • 94 km
  • 2,400 m climbing
  • 1 x mountain col

Stage 6: The Atlantic Coast

An emotional day spinning through the Basque country, finishing with a champagne arrival and dip in the sea at Biarritz. It’s been epic. It’s been mega. Here’s Tristan’s last video from the trip  – thank you all!!

Ride stats

  • 116 km
  • 1,500 m of climbing
  • 1 x dip in the sea

Girona-Biarritz, a summary:

  • 6 riders
  • 6 day’s
  • 650 km
  • 16,000 m climbing
  • 11 x mountain cols (we should make that 16!?)
  • 1 x very tired and happy Eat Sleep Cycle team

This is an account of the first Eat Sleep Cycle Trans Pyrenees crossing – a ride that goes down in Eat Sleep Cycle legend. Thanks to those brave riders who signed up to the tour! This tour has evolved into our Trans Pyrenees Challenge tour – still a 6 day ride, still epic, and you’re invited.