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Women’s Cycling

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Badlands: My First Bikepacking Adventure

By Cycling, Cycling in Spain, Girona, South Spain, Spain, Women's Cycling No Comments

This year local Girona trio Rocket, Cristina, and Laura from Over & Out took on Badlands, by Transiberica. A 750km gravel race, crossing two deserts in Andalusia, with 16,000m of climbing. This was the first ultra-cycling race for all three, and for Rocket, her first ever bikepacking adventure…What a way to start. Read on to find out about how they prepared for this event, and how it went.

Where It Began

Laura and Cristina (Cris) had been preparing for Badlands for a year, whereas I had heard about it through them and decided it would be cool to challenge myself in a new way. Coming from road racing, I’ve been keen to get myself on a gravel, and what a way to kick things off with gravel racing, 750km in Andalusia? Yes please.

I’ll be honest, Badlands was not intended to be my first ever bikepacking adventure, but a series of unfortunate events, and a busy work schedule, meant that it happened that way. 10/10 would not recommend turning up never having backpacked before, but go big or go home, right?

As Laura and Cris were already riding as a pair, I entered solo with all of us repping our Over & Out squad.

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Badlands Preparation

Laura applied her knowledge as a cycling coach and director sportif to look at the route and split it into days. Listing out the climbs, technical sections, villages where we could find water, and hotels along the way. Naively, we split the route into four days, thinking five would be the maximum number of days it would take. I say naively because there’s a huge difference between what’s on paper, and the reality of the route which we quickly discovered during the event…

Training wise I had an event earlier in the Summer, a multi-day stage race in Andorra on the road, and so this was my first focus. I had a large base block prior to this event, some rest after the event, and then began to work back up. Unfortunately, due to work my training began to take a dip a few weeks prior to the event which wasn’t optimal, it meant I began tapering early. With guidance from Laura and Ciaran O’Grady, they helped make sure I was in the best position I could be in the circumstances.

With our route split completed, and training underway, we then needed to think about what we’re packing, which bike bags, and the equipment we’ll need along the way. As both Laura and Cris had some experience with this, they were able to help me with items I would need, and those I wouldn’t. I also reached out to other adventure seeking fanatics who had experience with ultra-riding or multi-day bikepacking adventures for advice.

Kit Choice

I decided to use Restrap bike bags, I’d used them before and was really impressed, they’d also been recommended to me multiple times as the best to use for this type of event. Having reached out to them, Restrap sponsored my bike bags for the event. I settled on the race collection saddle bag, frame bag, top tube bag, and then a canister bag. This was the perfect set up, I was able to fit everything I wanted to pack including having some extra room for food along the way. I also took a camelbak to ensure I could carry even more water, this was vital.

Kit wise, Universal Colours, a British sustainable and ethical focused clothing brand sponsored Over & Out. The kit was perfect, particularly the Chroma cycling jersey which was lightweight and comfortable. I wore the Mono bibshorts in a size up which were perfect for the heat.

For my shoes I opted to wear the Quoc Gran Tourer (which were gifted) over my S-Works MTB shoes, as they are much more supple and wider which meant when my feet were swelling in the heat, I still had room and felt no pressure points.

I refined my kit list with the help Laura, Cris, and Sami Sauri, and have to say I was happy with everything I brought.

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Bike Set Up

With the help of Willem from Eat Sleep Cycle, and input from Daan who did Badlands last year, we built up my brand-new RS Cycles Brusca gravel frame with Shimano GRX from my old cross bike.

We went with a 38t front chainring, and 46t cassette. While this worked well, there were times I wished for the 50t…

My tyres were Rene Herse Oracle Ridge 700C x 48 tubeless. I suffered with not one puncture, at all, and felt secure on the entire route. Never having ridden Rene Herse before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I am beyond impressed with these tyres!

Race Countdown

We flew to Granada a few days prior to the event, giving us time to sort out last minute situations, as well as having time to recce the first few km of the start of the race, particularly the first climb and technical descent.

The Race

At the start line the nerves were real. I still had no idea what to expect, but we hung at the back knowing we wanted to take things slow.

Day one was epic. It is possibly one of my favourite days I’ve ever had on the bike, it was long, hard, with more climbing in one ride than I’ve ever done. There were some long climbs, one in particular which was all on the road and I was able to keep a strong cadence and spin up to the top. The first 40km were brutal, as we were told to expect, with some technical gravel and sharp gravel climbs. We made our way through, yoyoing with a few other riders with whom we got to know a little along the way.

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We stopped once for an early supper, and then carried on, our eyes set on Gorafe being the town just outside the first desert. Our initial plan was to ride through the desert at night, but arriving late to Gorafe and struggling to find some food without meat, we decided to hit the sack for a few hours.

This was the first time I’d ever slept out with no tent, in a random location, not including those as a child sleeping under the trampoline in my backgarden. We found a number of other rides sleeping outside in front of the only BnB in the town (which was fully booked) and decided the safest thing to do was to crash there also. I use the term sleep loosely, it was mostly drift in an out of consciousness over the course of a few hours. We slept on roll mats, in only bivvy bags, wearing leggings and a puffer jacket for warmth.

At 4:15am we started to pack up and find water getting ready to start the day in the desert. By 5am we were on the “road” hitting the first climb out of Gorafe. We rode for a few hours in the dark, and as the sun began to rise we hit the first village, finding a few of our friends at a café drinking coffee. We sat down to join them and caught up on the previous day. They’d ridden the 30km late last night and had crashed in the village square, having dealt with puncture after puncture for hours on end into the early hours of the day.

After a few cups of coffee, we carried on, enjoying a beautifully paved road to the next town, and last water stop (little did we know). As the day went on we took on some more technical sections of sand, long climbs, rocky sections, steep climbs, and as the day got hotter and hotter, the lack of water, food, and sleep started to become an issue.

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Laura’s ongoing tooth infection was becoming more and more unbearable, taking its toll on her body. We’d booked our hotel earlier in the day, knowing we’d need a bed for the night and this became out motivation to keep moving. With 30km to go before leaving the desert, we decided I would ride on, get to the hotel, and find food for us. During this 30km I had some of my darkest moments, I received word that Cris had crashed and hit her head and was struggling with dizziness. I’d nearly fainted in 49 degrees climbing up the final climb, forcing myself to get off and sit under the shade for a moment. With only 500ml of water left, and still the distance from the edge of the desert to Gor to go, not knowing where the water was, alone, a little scared, unable to keep food in my stomach having been sick, I wondered what the hell I was doing here. Seeing some other riders towards the top of climb lifted my spirits and I kept going.

Those final few kms to the hotel were the hardest of my life, alone, with no water, dehydrated, suffering with head stoke, it took everything to keep the pedals turning. I remember feeling so defeated, shaking feeling cold but hot, and delirious, having exited the desert there was still a way to go to Gor to our hotel and it felt insurmountable.

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That first glass of water at the hotel I will remember for the rest life. Badlands is like this; it pushes you beyond the limits of what you thought you were capable of. Having showered, taken a brief rest, and chugged my weight in water, I changed into the only non-cycling clothes I had and made my way back to the village to find a supermarket to find some food to cook for when Laura and Cris made it back. Another 6km I thought would be impossible, and yet I rode on.

When they arrived later that night, we were broken, hurting, exhausted, dehydrated, suffering with heat stroke but happy to have somewhere to sleep. With Laura in pain, Cris in no state to get on a bike, and with my struggling to get food in my stomach we went to bed planning to have a team meeting the following morning to check in before we decided on the day. The next section of the race was going to be a brutal section over 100km with no food stops, an 18km climb to start (which a friend of ours took 5hrs to get up as it was mostly hike-a-bike), and little water security.

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That following morning, after a long chat, we made the decision to pull the plug on this adventure. I was heartbroken for Laura and Cris who had been prepping and planning for this adventure for so long, but in our current states, we didn’t want to take the potential risks.

Badlands Reflection

Badlands was one of the best and worst rides of my life. Riding on the gravel with two of my best friends for so long, on a completely new adventure, was epic. Seeing them both accomplish things they’d never done before and seeing how strong they had come into this race was beyond awesome. Challenging myself and pushing myself out of my comfort zone to my growth zone was equally as awesome.

However, the lack of water, and water security, the heat, and the issues along the way made this one of the worst experiences I’d ever had on the bike. I suppose that’s the type 2 fun, it was horrible, but I look back and think how epic it was to make it through that.

Badlands challenges every essence of your being, and for those finishers, all of you, whether you completed it in two days or six, my hat is off to you! What a feat! For those who started and pulled the plug whether it was km 60 or 650, kudos to you, starting Badlands is not for fainthearted, and those who take to start do so with courage. You’re epic. And Badlands, perhaps I’ll be back for a re-match…

A huge thank you to Eat Sleep Cycle, Restrap, Universal Colours, and Quoc for your support.

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Mother's Day Gift Guide for Cyclist Mums - Eat Sleep Cycle

Mother’s Day Gift Guide for Cyclist Mums

By Women's Cycling No Comments

Mother’s Day is this Sunday in the UK (don’t panic if you’re reading this in the States). After giving you a Christmas gift guide for cyclists and some romantic Valentine’s cycling gift ideas there was no way we were going to forget about our mums. And so, to celebrate the awesome cyclist mums out there we’ve compiled a gift guide and interviewed some mums for an insight into what being a cyclist and a mum entails!

Girona Cycling Mums

Considering Girona is such a hub of cycling it is no surprise that some of those riders are mothers too! So we asked two, Nancy and Silvia, about life as a cycling mum!

Girona Cycling Mums - Nancy - Mothers Day Gift Ideas - Eat Sleep Cycle

Nancy

Q. How long have you been cycling for?
A. I learned how to ride a bike when I was 3 years old and I haven’t stopped ever since! I did some racing when I was younger but now I just go out for the simple pleasure of riding my bike.

Q. How many children do you have?
A. I have a gorgeous 1 year old boy.

Q. How has being a mum changed your riding habits?
A. The only thing that’s really changed is that I don’t have as much time as I did before but I know that it will change when Miki gets older.

Q. Do you ride with your children?
A. Cycling to me is a family affair, I remember riding after school with my sisters and every weekend with my dad and those are the best memories I have growing up, we had a lot of fun and I hope to continue the tradition when my son is old enough to join me.

Q. What advice would you give about being a cycling mum?
A. If you’re a new mum like I am just take your time and start slowly until you’re ready, the form will come back! Taking time for yourself is important and your children will definitely benefit from that since they’ll have a happier mummy.

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Silvia

Q. How long have you been cycling for?
A. I have always cycled (leisure) but serious road cycling (and loving it) last year just after my divorce (you can also say it was my meditation/healing process to digest the divorce and consequently the new life ahead).

Q. How many children do you have?
A. I have 2 boys of 10 and 12.

Q. How has being a mum changed your cycling habits?
A. Being a mum has not really changed anything, I have always managed to escape for me “me time”!

Q. Do you ride with your children?
A. I do ride with my children (the oldest is more of a trial motorbike kind of guy) and last time I rode with them I dragged them on the carrilet to sant feliu and they loved it.

Q. What advice would you give about being a cycling mum?
A. I don’t really have advice but I am just constantly telling them(my kids) how good is to go on a bike and the benefit that brings you into your daily life. Definitely living in Girona helps a lot being a cycling mum as the life here is super easy! With and without a bike.

Gift Guide for Cyclist Mums

And so, what do Mums who cycle like to get for Mother’s Day? Here are some ideas for you (a lot of which can be found in our online women’s collection):

Mother's Day Gift Ideas for Cyclist Mums - Eat Sleep Cycle Girona

  • A Ride!
    Go for a Sunday ride with your mum and spend some quality time together getting in some quality miles!
  • A Stylish Jersey
    This MAAP Women’s Pro Hex Jersey comes in blue or pink and is sure to have your mum looking stylish out on the road! – €150
    For a more classic look this Assos summer jersey combines style and technology for even the warmest of weather. – €160
  • New Cycling Shoes
    Everyone loves new shoes, and for a mum who rides bikes new cycling shoes are even better! These from Fizik are sleek and come with stylish teal details. – €200
  • Cycling Socks
    In any other instance socks as presents can be a bit naff, but for a cyclist socks are always welcome! These offerings from MAAP and Pongo are our favourites. – €17 (Pongo) and €25 (MAAP)
  • Cycling Glasses
    As with socks, new cycling glasses can never go amiss and you can’t go wrong with Oakley. The EVZero Path (€162) are a great on the bike option and this casual Frogskin pair (€112 )are perfect for post-ride summer chilling!

Mother’s Day Gift Guide for Cyclist Mums

And so there you have some top gift ideas for the the awesome cycling Mum in your life as well as an insight into the lives of mums who cycle! Have we left any gift ideas out or how do you find life being a cycling mum? Let us know in the comments below! And, if you’re interested in finding out more about any of our tours then give us a call on +34 972 754 301 or contact us online for more info!

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A Celebration of Women’s Cycling

By Women's Cycling No Comments

International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate women’s cycling, from professional riders, to amateur racers, to those who ride for the sheer joy of it, we want to pay tribute to women who ride bikes!

Cycling brings people together through a shared joy of the feeling of freedom that getting out on a bike brings and bikes have been a symbol of emancipation for women in the past, providing them with the freedom & means to travel independently. Women all over the world ride bikes for myriad reasons, from the need to get from A to B, for the sheer pleasure of a ride, or to tear each other’s legs off in a race.

In the past twelve months alone a woman broke the cycling land speed record, American Denise Mueller-Korenek hit 183.932 mph (296.010 km/h) breaking not only her own record but the men’s as well. Scottish mother Jenny Graham broke the women’s record for cycling around the world in 24 days, 10 hours and 50 minutes and just last week the women’s peloton caught the men’s in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Inspiring Women’s Cycling

We asked some inspiring women from the world of cycling about what riding bikes means to them:

Claudia-International-Womens-Day-CyclingClaudia Marin, mountain biker from Girona

How did you get into cycling?
I started mountain biking with my dad, who taught me until one day I decided to try a Duathlon. When I managed to finish it I was super happy and eager to do another

What is your favourite aspect of women’s cycling?
To get to know other women who share the same hobby, to visit new places, talk and enjoy the practice of cycling that leads us to live unique and indescribable moments!

Do you think attitudes to mountain biking are different to road as a woman?
Yes, I think the attitude towards the MTB is different from the road attitude, since one requires more technique than the other. Therefore, there is more possibility of needing more strength and concentration with the MTB.

How is riding with women different to riding with men?
I think there are several differences. Neither better nor worse, simply different. Strength is an aspect that is different.

Who are your main cycling inspirations?
There are several, but I would highlight the talent of Jenny Rissveds.

What advice would you give women who are considering taking up cycling?
If you like sports and in particular cycling, take this, dedicate time. Meanwhile, ENJOY everything it can bring (friendships, places, excursions, vacations …) and you will see that little by little you will progress and every time you will enjoy more and more

Leah_thorvilson_zwift_international-womens-day-cycling-2Leah Thorvilson, winner of the 2016 Zwift Academy

How did you get into cycling and did you feel like you faced any challenges as a woman?
I got into cycling as an alternative means of exercising and chasing the endorphin addiction when a series of injuries and surgeries forced me to take an extended break from running. I was previously a competitive marathon runner. The biggest challenge I faced was that I was dropped in at a level way over my head after winning Zwift Academy…it had nothing to do with being a woman. BUT, I will say that from the point of view of a professional cyclist, the ability for a female to make a decent living as a cyclist compared to a male….it’s embarrassing what is considered a “salary” for women. I know there are a lot of women actively working to change that, but for the time being, the large part of the women’s peloton are forced to have second and third jobs to make cycling a reality. And those who ARE paid as a full time athlete, many of them are doing it for next to nothing.

What is your favourite aspect of women’s cycling?
My favorite thing about women’s cycling is the camaraderie. I think especially in the US where we are still trying to grow the sport, the women who are involved are really eager to encourage more women to get on bikes and especially to try out racing.

What did you learn from riding in the women’s peloton and how do you think it differs from the men’s?
Oh man….. what did I learn….. EVERYTHING. It was all new to me, so literally I learned all about racing from my first year as a pro. I don’t know that I have a very good answer for this one…. I don’t have one simple take away from the peloton…. maybe I need a more specific question. I mean, I think the biggest thing I learned is the importance of experience and confidence in order to be successful… but I feel like that isn’t what you meant… I dunno

Who are your main cycling inspirations?
I’m so new to the sport, and to be honest when I was younger I didn’t follow cycling much at all… maybe I watched the Tour de France when it was on, but I had never watched a women’s race before I started the Zwift Academy. During that, I wanted to learn about the team so I started to follow. Because of this, my biggest inspirations were my own teammates when I was selected as the ZA winner and joined Canyon SRAM. They all started cycling when they were so young, they were able to teach me so much. I became really close with Alexis Ryan. She was like my big sister… except that she was almost half my age. ? Her talent and professionalism as a cyclist was really incredible, but also just as a human….she had a lot of other interests beyond cycling, and she cared a lot for her teammates and her family. If I were a young cyclist just starting out, I would aim to be like her when I grow up.

What advice would you give women who are considering taking up cycling?
Just go for it. No matter what your age or what level of cycling you want to get involved in from social rider to wanting to get fit to competitive racer…. there is a community for you

Stay In Touch with Women’s Cycling

If you’re inspired to ride & keep up to date with the latest news from the women’s pro peleton & the wider world of women’s cycling, follow these two great websites!

Want to experience women’s only cycling?

Why not join one of our women’s camps for an opportunity to ride some iconic roads in the company of inspiring women! Or, if you’re based in Girona join our weekly women’s only ride from the Eat Sleep Cycle hub. 

 

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Why Join a Women’s Only Cycling Camp?

By Women's Cycling No Comments

Why Women’s Only Cycling?

Cycling Camps just for women are becoming more and more popular as more and more women across the globe take up the sport and seek a female-friendly environment to improve bike-skills, confidence and fitness in the company of like minded women. But what makes a women’s only cycling experience unique & why consider trying it?

Meet Our Female Cycling Guides

We caught up with three women who work as guides on the Eat Sleep Cycle Women’s Cycling Camps in Girona & the Pyrenees to find out first hand about what makes a women’s only cycling experience so special.

Cheynna: Camaraderie & Support

Hello! My name is Cheynna Treto Sutherland and I am originally from southern California. I visited Girona frequently when I was a university student in 2003 and 2004, but we moved to Catalunya permanently in 2011 as my husband is a professional cyclist and this seemed like a great place to be based.

I have been a cyclist since 1988–over 30 years! My favourite ride in Girona is the coastal loop over Sant Grau. Is there anything more beautiful than the Mediterranean? I have been fortunate to ride my bike on five different continents, but my favourite place to be is right here in Catalunya. We have it all–the Pyrenees, the coast, rolling hills, fast descents. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world I’d rather be.

I love being a guide and sharing my cycling knowledge with women. This can be an intimidating sport for anyone and the ESC Women’s Camp has a sense of camaraderie and support that you will not find elsewhere. Female guests, female guides, female support. It creates a sense of community that is often lacking between women. I leave this camp feeling energised and motivated from the amazing female energy and I think more events like this would encourage women to get involved with the sport of cycling.

Nicole: Less Testosterone!

Nicole-Millar-Womens-Cycling-Girona

Where are you from originally?
I am a life long expat born to Dutch and South African parents. I grew up in the Middle East, before moving to the UK then Catalunya in 2006.

What brought you to Catalunya ?
My husbands job, he was a pro cyclist till 2014

How long have you been a cyclist for?
About 13 years

What is your favourite ride in Girona?
I love the roads around Esponellà/Crespia and Mare de Deu for a big day out.

If you could ride your bike anywhere in the world where would it be?
I have been lucky enough to ride in some beautiful places. But I am always happiest riding in Catalunya.

How do you think guiding women differs?
Less testosterone! Jokes aside, I haven’t encountered much difference to date. Everyone I have ever guided as always wanted the same thing, just a great day out on the bike.

What do you think would encourage more women into cycling?
Groups like the ESC Sunday girls ride are a perfect introduction. And if it is roads that make you nervous the new craze of gravel riding is brilliant way to start.

Louise: More Fun!

Where are you from originally?
I’m from Kent in the UK

What brought you to Catalunya ?
I wanted a change of lifestyle and to try and reach my potential as a cyclist. Girona was an obvious place to be based with the great climate, beautiful roads & welcoming community.

How long have you been a cyclist for?
Since birth! My parents are both cyclists so a bicycle has always been a way of life for me. I began with cycling to school and then got into cycle touring – it’s a great way to discover new places. I started racing a bike in 2014.

What is your favourite ride in Girona?
I have to agree with Cheynna, you can’t beat the coast road, especially at this time of year when the Costa Brava is empty.

If you could ride your bike anywhere in the world where would it be?
I’d love to cycle in South America but, as Nicole says, the cycling is really hard to beat here in Girona. For my work I’m lucky enough to travel and ride in new locations – in the last couple of years I’ve been riding in the Pyrenees, North Spain & Gran Canaria and have seen some truly incredible roads & landscapes.

How do you think guiding women differs?
Groups of women always have more fun than groups of men! Even when groups are pushing themselves on a climb the atmosphere is always less serious (even if it can still get competitive!) and women tend to be much more supportive of one another. Women are also way more willing to learn and actively want to improve their bike skills. Women tend to underestimate their abilities and strength on the bike whereas men often think they can achieve more than they’re capable of. Some of the strongest climbing I’ve seen on our tours was on last years Women’s Pyrenees Camp – every single rider was nervous about how they would cope in the mountains and worried about being last, but the group rode the most consistently out of all the groups I’ve led in the mountains & maintained a solid average speed for the whole week. (Comparable groups of men tend to ride faster for the first couple of days then slow to a crawl by the end of the week!)

What do you think would encourage more women into cycling?
I think accessible women’s only rides, access to a bike & friendly advice & guidance from fellow women all have a huge part to play. As Cheynna says, cycling can be a very intimidating sport which requires a significant initial investment in bike & kit as well as a way of learning routes & basic mechanics such as how to fix a puncture. There are so many barriers to getting started that a supportive group for beginners can have a huge impact. It’s also important to get the message out that it doesn’t matter what kit you wear or what bike you ride – anything with wheels, comfy clothes & a helmet is all you need to get started.

Finding a Women’s Only Cycling Group

It can sometimes be difficult to track down other women to ride with. Whilst mixed groups are common and most places have their own cycling club, lots of women start out cycling solo & continue riding alone. If that sounds familiar it’s worth trying to track down some company as finding a group has loads of benefits. For example you can learn how to ride in a group, get a little shelter from the wind, enjoy a good chat and learn new routes. It’s also great to have some moral support in-case of a puncture or mechanical. But, how to find them?

  1. Strava – it’s worth having a look at the women’s leaderboard for segments on your regular rides – it’s likely you’ll find local women there and you can get in touch via leaving them a comment. You can even contact those who are riding at a similar pace to you!
  2. Sign up to a women’s only camp – if local ladies are proving difficult to track down look for a women’s only cycling camp. A week surrounded by women who love cycling can be super motivating and you may find yourself some cycling friends for life.
  3. Join your local cycling club – ok, so this is likely to be full of men but you’re likely to meet some women too. You only need one partner in crime to start your very own local women’s ride!
  4. Social media – if someone in your area is running a women’s cycling group it’s likely to be on facebook, instagram or twitter. Try searching #womenscycling and see what you can find!

Women’s Cycling Camps

If the above has piqued your interest for a trip in the sole company of other women who cycle then we’ve got the perfect tour for you. Check out our Girona Women’s Camp to enjoy the best of Girona’s roads or take a look at our Pyrenees Women’s Camp for a true climbing adventure. If interested give us a call now on +34 972 649 131 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to give you more info about it!

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

 

Women’s Pyrenees Tour With Eat Sleep Cycle

By Women's Cycling No Comments

This is a guest post by Kath, one of our lovely guests on our recent Women’s Pyrenees Tour who has written all about her experience on her blog.

Conquering Cols in the Pyrenees with a different edge – we were all women!

I had signed up to this holiday several months ago – I knew that September would be a bit stressful (moving house!) and a cycle trip to take the edge off would be needed. I’ve done a few cycle trips here and there, either as part of a group or solo, and given the other things going on in my life, a guided trip somewhere exciting was ideal. I’ve wanted to visit the Pyrenees on a bike for a while having spent some previous holidays nearby and looking longingly up at the mountains. But I’ve never ridden a stage of the Tour de France and I really wouldn’t consider myself a mountain climber. I had noticed Eat Sleep Cycle on social media, as they regularly post about their trips and regularly introduce their staff. Their tour of the Pyrenees advertised many of the classic climbs and staying in hotels within beautiful spa towns, but a women-only Tour? What would that be like?

Womens Cycling Pyrenees Lunch

Having cycled many years in various clubs and with friends, cycling with other women has always been important. There’s nothing wrong with cycling with men, but we are from different planets, and if you’re not an advocate of that idea from popular science we are raised differently and influenced by varying praises and expectations. Cycling with only women is unusual – I’ve probably only had 2 rides consisting of only women and both were organized specifically with this in mind. The riding pace is just as strong as with men, as is the distance, but the conversation and support are totally different. Support is there in many different forms, from providing encouragement on your fellow rider’s ability to sharing stories of your experiences, advice on achieving goals and ambitions, and the trials of cycling with MAMILs. There’s definitely less chat about groupsets – but I’m pretty happy about that!

 

Whilst on the holiday we were guided by Louise – owner of ESC and cycling extraordinaire. Louise had taken several groups on a similar tour before, but this was the maiden Women’s Tour outside of Girona. Louise was excellent at providing all the information required during the trip and politely providing the necessary pacing to prevent a blow-out later on and company when the climbs got harder. A description of a forthcoming climb always came with a grin from a woman that loves the challenge. I really appreciated the advice as I regularly wanted to cycle away at the beginning of a climb out of pure excitement, not acknowledging that I had 12km to go at an average of 7%.

 

The first day was a short ride up to Superbagnères, with a strange and foreboding ski hotel up at the top. It was brilliant to be back on some switchbacks, something I love descending much more than climbing. On the descent I was fortunate to have a wildcat cross my path ahead, even in the Pyrenees these creatures are unusual to see. Day 2 covered Col du Ares and Col du Mente, both beautiful climbs into the mountains. Day 3 was short and sharp, covering col du Peyresourde and Val Louron Azet just 44km; there was an optional extra but the hotel pool was calling… This slightly easier day was in preparation for day 4 – Col du Aspen and the iconic Col du Tourmalet.

Most people who we passed were clearly delighted that a group of only women were cycling the Pyrenees. From the locals we had many waves and grins of joy, and perhaps a bit of bewilderment. Most other cyclists were very pleased to see us, and many would stop to engage with us. Perhaps the questions were different; ‘is that an electric bike?’ ‘Did you cycle up here?’ Sigh. But not always; ‘is that a 35-25 groupset?’ ‘Just stunning isn’t it?’ ‘Where are you from?’ The Col du Tourmalet was a pleasure to ride up, one foot in front of the other and just keeping soaking up the exquisite views. By this point my new friends and I had bonded; ‘has is just kicked up again?’ ‘No whingeing on the yacht, Ladies!’. During our ride there was several groups of other cyclists, including a triathlon competition, I’m just in awe of those cyclists whizzing down the Tourmalet to then start running.

While we were climbing our driver Brooke was putting together a feast for us, often at the top of a Col (we were very lucky with the weather). This was where a guided tour really came into its own; having a spread of salads, cured meats, carbs and juice all ready for you at the top of a mountain you’ve just climbed. We were definitely the envy of everyone else at this point and had several requests to join the table. Brooke also acted as our social media correspondent and gave us all several lessons in the wonderful world of Instagram.

 

The choice of hotels was perfect, varying from a traditional French lodge serving classic cuisine through to a ski hotel with a pool to relax by (and plunge into) at the end of the day. Our belongings were transported in the van, again the ease of a guided holiday really made the Tour ideal.

So what was a women-only Tour like? I came back from holiday really feeling like I had a holiday. The support for each other was brilliant, and this I have found is sometimes harder to identify within mixed groups. And we had a lot of fun; it was an absolute pleasure to cycle with other like-minded women over the five days of riding. Cycling in the Pyrenees was a wonderful experience and I’m already planning for my next trip there. I’ve returned from holiday with more confidence in myself and ability to climb up anything. After-all, I cycled the Queens Stage of my Tour of the Pyrenees.