Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tour des Pyrenees Mountain Challenge

We had heard about the Heritage clan's trans-Pyrenees Mountain bicycle challenge, from St. Jean de Luz on the Atlantic coast to Collioure on the Mediterranean. A mere 750 kms distance (450 miles) and 11,000 meters elevation gain. Julian and Gwenda Gray transported their son Tom back from England so he could participate with Craig and Jo. Since Strath and Cam couldn't drop out of school for the week, Julian and Gwenda also transported the lads on Friday afternoon so they could share the weekend torture.

We figured the least we could do was take a leisurely drive into Spain, spend the night in Bossost, and watch the athletes summit the Col du Portillon. As luck would have it, we ran into Julian and Gwenda just in time for lunch. We learned that the past couple days cycling for the Heritage group were pure hell---rain, cold and monster hills. It had been 3 degrees C (37 degrees F) on the Col du Tourmalet. My personal experience included commuting by bicycle for several years and taking several long cycling trips, so I can attest to what an instant morale buster bad weather can be.

When we arrived at the top of the Col du Portillon (1293 m), it was great to see that Jo was all smiles. The sun was shining, the sky was a cloudless blue, and it was shirt-sleeve temperature. Tom Gray had already made it to the top and Jo was waiting for her crew to arrive. The bad weather had taken its toll on everyone, and spirits needed rejuvenating.

Within a few minutes, Strath rounded the bend. And if you click on the photo below, I'd say that look has that "piece a cake" attitude, as if he did this every day.

Cam pedaled the final bit with a huge smile on his face, which made me think he must be out of his mind. But then, youth can sustain anything.

Jo was beside herself with pride in Strath and Cam, and who wouldn't be. It's not everyday your family hops on bikes and pedals over the Col du Tourmalet, the Col d'Aspin, the Col de Peyresourde and the Col du Portillon. Some families wear themselves out working the buttons of the TV remote control.

Last, but not least, Craig powered up the hill. I think he just wanted to make sure the boys got up before him. He might have been sweating a bit, but I don't think anybody noticed.

I'm pretty sure I heard these guys say that this was going to be an annual event. Didn't I hear that? Or was it once in the spring and once in the fall?

Julian and Gwenda head over to Collioure to help with the shuttle back. It's just damn lucky that these bicycle challenges occur in some spectacular places. Well done, all.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful place to ride, shades of le Tour, and what fun for a family to do together. The Eusers are doing their thing in Colorado too. lro

Peggy said...

Oh, no. Wait until Tony and Kate hear about this. How will we get their bicycles to France?

Tony said...

What a fun looking ride, makes the Tour de Iowa look a little flat. Looking for more info!