Luchon, the Pyrenees and the start of an ESC Grand Tour ambition

By May 14, 2018Girona, Pyrenees

To me, they´re the sport´s spiritual home and for us, the Pyrenees are where the Eat Sleep Cycle dream began.

It was a warm Saturday in October 2016 and we were strolling through the Old Town when we (of course) got stopped and called into a conversation ´Peter in the tattoo shop´was having with a long and lean Englishman named Paul.

Paul was friendly and polite and inquisitive and wondered about any rides going out the next day.

As it so happened, Lee and I had a spin planned with a friend named Paddy, so we invited Paul along. Little did we know what that would lead to.

Paul was in town a day early as two friends and his better half were on route from California for a trip in the Pyrenees.

They were time-pressed on it, had no real plan – only they had to be back in Girona by Thursday morning for another trip they were doing out of here. That was four days away…

So, in short, Lee and I decided to hijack their half-baked Pyrenees plans and come up with something, and QUICKLY!

We met the quartet of Jen, John, Julia and Paul in Vinil restaurant that Sunday night and following some last-minute research, we presented to them our Pyrenees adventure.

Less than a minute through our presentation John (partner of Julia) demanded ´stop, stop, stop´… “We´re in.”

So we were in: we were leaving for the Pyrenees the following morning and now all we had to do was arrange bikes, vehicles, transport, accommodation and routes. Easy.

Sunday night 11pm is few peoples idea of an ideal time to work, but fuelled by excitement and driven by a desire to deliver an amazing trip, we put some meat on the bones of a 3-night adventure.

We were going to tackle Superbagneres and the Peyreysourde, the Aspin and the Tourmalet. We were going to ride down the Allee de Etigny that bisects Luchon like Tour de France riders and feast like fat cats in L’Arbesquens and La Flamme Rouge.

We would lounge in the Etablissement Thermal Spa at the top of the town and shop for souvenirs around Avenue Carnot.

We’d fill our bellies at the breakfast table in the Alti and have the bikes spotless and hanging from the A-Frame out front when our quartet of riders came down each morning.

When I think of the Pyrenees, I think of Luchon and I think of all the riders who’ve come here to ride. If Lourdes is the pilgrimage for mass-goers, Luchon is the place where we of a different faith go.

It’s a place where bakeries and bike shops thrive, where roads fan outwards and upwards like the spokes of a wheel and if I could compare any French town to Girona, it would be Luchon.

In the same way arriving into GRO airport after being away for a while gives me that fuzzy, warm feeling, the D125 road to Luchon from the exit at Saint-Gaudens does likewise.

We’ve covered a lot of miles, literally and figuratively, in the interim with Eat Sleep Cycle but arriving into Luchon against the backdrop of a setting sun with the Pyrenees in the background that Monday in October 2016 is still one of the highlights of our short life with ESC.

The love affair has grown into a mutual thing and now we’re on first-name terms with many of the accommodation providers in town. We can call on the local Mavic dealer when we need a spoke or the owner of the aforementioned restaurant (he now has a second one) when we need a table outside.

From a time where we were politely refused a request for 8 take-away sandwiches, we can now order by Whatsapp at night and collect twice that number the following morning.

When the Eat Sleep Cycle van trundles into town with bikes and bags and trailers all kinds of accessories, we’re greeted with a ‘welcome back’ by the staff who come outside to greet us.

It’s a gateway town to a cyclist’s playground with many of the biggest climbs in professional cycling accessible from here.

And boy we cannot wait to get back there this summer!

Check out our next trip to the Pyrenees here!

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