Whilst the French may market their undeniably beautiful country as the spiritual home of cycling, those in the know have, for many years, been waxing lyrical about the outstanding riding that lies beyond French frontiers. Dan Hirst, our man in Spain had been toying for some time with the idea of creating a tour predominantly on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees to compliment our ever-popular French Pyrenean Mountain Challenge.
It all started when regular Skedaddler Julian Oakley picked up the phone and called the office “Are there cols on the Spanish side too?” he asked. Julian, having tested his group of cycling buddies on various Skedaddle tours over the years, including our tour of the French Pyrenees, had enjoyed ticking off the numerous Tour de France classics but this year he was looking for something slightly different. “Cols? No, we don’t have those” replied Dan “but in Catalonia we have some colls. And in the rest of Spain we have puertos – loads of ‘em!” And indeed Dan is quite right, the Spanish countryside dishes up classic climbs aplenty and it has always been something of a mystery to us why, out of the 3 Grand Tours the Vuelta a España gets such little coverage and prestige. A recent study has suggested that Spain is the second noisiest country in the world (Japan is even noisier apparently). It seems for some reason that the Spanish don’t want to shout about their wealth of amazing roads, puertos and colls that grace their landscape. Julian liked the idea of traversing the entire length of the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean taking in some of the toughest and most iconic climbs along the way so after musing over maps for a few days Dan hopped on his bike and began a full reconnaissance of the route. The latest addition to our Spanish portfolio was born. 8 days of fantastic riding through magnificently beautiful scenery and 28 true categorised puertos to boot. Classic stuff.
The route begins in the beautiful Basque country before heading into Navarra. Next we head into the “Land of Giants”, the Aragon, the region with the Pyrenees’ highest mountains, most dramatic scenery and toughest climbs. Along the way we sample stages of the notoriously challenging ‘Quebrantahuesos’ sportive route which takes its name from an elusive, giant and graceful vulture that soars the skies of the region. The name, somewhat unnervingly translates as ‘bone-breaker’! You can choose how to interpret that but by the time you’ve completed Puerto de Somport, Puerto de Portalet and popped over the border to tackle Col de Marie Blanque we think you’ll understand what it means! The latter stages of the route, although not without their own challenges, do ease up a little and eventually we arrive on the sun-soaked shores of the Mediterranean, reflecting over tapas and celebratory drinks. “Are there cols on the Spanish side too?” “Oh yes, and the riding is definitely as good as it is over the border”
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