I'd had it in mind to do a big ride through a mountain range or other this year. Last year I rode part of the Route des Grandes Alpes. I'd also been a few times to the Dolomites. So with only very limited experience of the Pyrenees (mainly from the Etape du Tour of 2002 and 2003), we decided it would be good to spend time over there.
The aim was to do something as close as we could manage to a trans-pyrenean ride, and be self supported. It was a bit of a daunting task - the gradients in the Pyrenees tend to be more brutal than in the Alps. The weather is also capricious. But our incentive was the beaches that would await us once we reached the Mediterranean, and our weekend in Barcelona.
Stan chose to take his mountain bike because it would be sturdier than his road bike for carrying panniers, and also he would have a good choice of gears. I chose my road bike as it would be lighter, and the brakes would be better if we got into wet conditions. I used the wheels from my cyclo cross bike for better grip, and also switched the carbon fibre seat post for a steel one, so it would cope with the pannier rack. Gearing wise, I believed I would be ok with the compact chain set (34-50) and 12-27 sprocket. Stan wasn't so sure.
The plan would be this :
1. Take the train from central London to Stansted on Fri 24th August, spend the night at a B&B in Takeley, 2 miles from the airport.
2. Ride to Stansted Airport at 3.30am on Sat 25th, put our bikes in bags and get the 6am flight (with Ryanir) to Pau
3. Arrive at Pau airport, set up our bikes, ride to Pau town centre.
4. Find a post office and send our bike bags to the hotel in Barcelona where we would be staying
5. Start our Pyrenean tour Saturday afternoon
6. Reach the Med Coast (St Cyprien Plage) on Thursday 30th August
7. Do the short ride from St Cyprien (France) to Portbou (Spain) on Friday 31st
8. Catch a train to Barcelona, where we would spend the weekend
9. Fly back to London Gatwick (with British Airways) on Sunday 2nd Sept
10. Train from Gatwick to East Croydon, and then ride back home.
I hadn't done any specific training for the ride - I hoped that the usual routine of road racing, track racing, cyclosportives, and the training that goes with it would be enough.
I had already used my panniers on my road bike in the past so I was comfortable with doing that.
However, despite all that preparation you always feel a little anxious about how things will actually turn out. There'd be many stages to go through between leaving London on 24th August, and returning on 2nd September.