What Turns Your Wheels?8th March 2021
What Turns Your Wheels?
We're continuing our new feature for our next few blogs. We have asked some of our previous guests to contribute to a series of guest blogs about their experiences in the world of cycling. Some have chosen to tell the story of their cycling journey, others have focussed on just one of their amazing adventures, but all of them are fantastically motivating reads, and I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!
Today's feature blog is by John Taylor who undertook an epic adventure, cycling from home to home... Enjoy!
My cycling history goes back to the late 1980’s when I saw my first mountain bike on Dartmoor. I was instantly hooked and it has become a never ending passion. I have been lucky enough to cycle all over the world as I was able to take my bike with me during my time in the Royal Navy: a turbo trainer on the flight deck sailing through the Mediterranean was as stunning as cycling in Russia and Ukraine were shocking.
During the early 2000’s I drifted into road cycling and started entering sportives, and becoming engrossed in watching road racing. This culminated with my first visit to Allons y Pyrenees in 2012 to watch the tour. Yes, that tour. The first British winner. Wiggins, Froome and Team Sky made it look so easy. I’m sure it wasn’t but what an atmosphere!!
In 2005 my wife Linda and I bought a small apartment on the Costa Blanca in Spain which gave us many happy holidays and kilometers of cycling. Cycling equals thinking time for me and one thought was constantly in my mind. I needed to cycle from the UK to Spain - Home to Home.
In 2018 Linda and I, both now retired, were joined by our friends Sue and Ian on an extended drive home from Spain. We had two days in the Provence, cycling Mt Ventoux and then an awesome 5 days at back at Allons y Pyrenees; the highlight of which was completing the climb up the Tourmalet. Rachel and Chris couldn’t do enough to help us and we had a fantastic time. At some point on that journey, I said to Linda that in 2019 I was going to cycle Home to Home.
Cycling equals thinking time for me and one thought was constantly in my mind. I needed to cycle from the UK to Spain - Home to Home.
I intended to set off from our home in Cornwall and cross the English Channel on Brittany Ferries overnight service to Roscoff. I would then cycle down through France and had planned in a rest day with and Rachel and Chris at Allons Y Pyrénées Cycling Holidays at Thuy in the foothills of the Pyrénées. I would then cycle with Chris as we climbed over the Pyrénées and into Spain. My journey would be completed with a ride down through the hot heartland of Spain and I intended to arrive at our home in the Costa Blanca after 18 days of cycling. I would complete a distance of 1169 miles covering approximately 75 miles each day. How hard could it be? I would be just going out for a bike ride each day.
This is an extract from the Journal I wrote on the trip:
After lunch, I carried on towards Thuy and as I came down a ridge, I had my first glimpse of the Pyrenees. Last year we called this route, Marciac Flat Ride, but it seemed more hilly now. I think the Flat Ride must have been in comparison with the numerous mountain routes we’d cycled up, down and around. The rain had stopped though now and the sun had come out. I remembered the small church at Chelle-Debat and knew I was nearly there! The last few miles were done in no time at all. I arrived to a very warm welcome from Rachel and Chris at Allons Y Pyrenees. I had a great evening with them both and we didn’t stop talking, or drinking and eating for that matter. It was wonderful to be back in this beautiful place.
Day 11 - Rest Day at Allons Y Pyrenees. Thuy 🇫🇷
Having woken up later than normal due to the extremely comfortable bed, I was greeted by a stunning view of the sun coming up over the Pyrenees. It was a little chilly first thing but I was certain that would change later. I was feeling a little restless as I got on with the day. I couldn’t help thinking that I should be doing something!! As the sun rose in the sky, it significantly warmed up and made the choice of a rest day the right option. I had contemplated bagging a col or maybe even two. Common sense prevailed and even if there had been a group doing the Tourmalet, I would have said no. Rest is a good thing!!
After lunch, Chris was test loading his bike so I gave my legs and Roubaix a run out. After all, that’s what the pro’s do on their rest days!!I stopped for a coffee at Tournay before heading back to AYP. I was enjoying the ride back when just before Goudon I felt my back tyre go flat. I realised in my total stupidity, I’d left my repair stuff in a pannier. I was so annoyed at myself for this schoolboy error that I made myself pay by walking back the couple of Km’s instead of phoning Chris!! After I had sorted out my flat tyre, I succumbed to relaxation with a quick dip in the awesome pool and the chance to chill out.
When I contacted Rachel and Chris about staying with them on my rest day, one of the things they asked me was what I would like to eat. I remembered the fantastic pizza evening from the year before. Design and build your own pizza competition with a Duvel beer as a prize. I was nowhere near winning the competition back then as stuffed crust was far beyond my capabilities, but my pizza still tasted bloody marvellous. Pizza it would be this year as well. I carefully crafted my pizza and made my way out to the pizza oven. Chris cast a critical eye over my effort and then it was into the oven. What a great day and what a great evening. A huge thanks must go out to Rachel and Chris for making me feel so relaxed in their fantastic home.
Day 12 - Thuy to Ainsa en España 🇫🇷 🇪🇸
Well today would be the biggest day of my ride. France was completed and I was going onwards into España. However, there was the small matter of climbing over the Pyrenees first. I was certain that this would be the queen stage of my tour, so I was glad that Chris would be accompanying me. His local knowledge was invaluable and there was the small matter of getting through the Bielsa Tunnel. It was closed to cyclists. We set out and quickly sorted out a few teething problems on Chris’s bike. It was time to head to the mountains. As we passed through Arreau, there was time to squeeze in a quick coffee. I was still feeling great at this time... From there, we arrived at the ski resort of St Lary and as the signs said, it was time to head to España. Upwards of course!! The climb began in earnest at this point. Chris led out at quite a gentle pace. The gradient wasn’t too bad for the first half of the climb although I was forced to select my lowest gear due to the weight on my bike. As the second half went skyward, I had no gears left. It was time to suffer. Chris left me behind which I totally understood, this mountain needed to be climbed at your own pace. I can only describe the purgatory of the climb and pain in my legs, as like climbing in the big chain ring. Bloody hell it was hard with 18kg of kit on the bike. I managed to persevere somehow and reached the car park at the Bielsa Tunnel. I was thoroughly cooked though. Rachel and her friend Jane had driven up to take us through the tunnel and brought food and drink with them. I couldn’t drink much water and last night’s pizza was certainly out of the question. Boy did I feel sick.
After driving through the tunnel and unloading the bikes, we were in España. We stopped at Bielsa to say thanks and goodbye to Rachel, Jane and Orlagh the dog. A swift drink, an even swifter selfie and then we were on our way. Nicely downhill!! We headed down through the gorge, easily reaching 40mph plus. After quite a lot of kilometres descending we rolled into Ainsa, literally. Chris had stayed at the campsite before so we were there in no time at all. After booking in and sorting the tents out, there was only one thing to do. It was beer o’clock!! The restaurant at the campsite didn’t start serving until 9pm and we were starving. Time to find another restaurant. We walked about a mile to another one and it was so worth it. Three course evening meal and beers proved to be no problem for two hungry cycle tourists. By this stage we were both absolutely knackered, our tents were calling. I can honestly say that that was one of the hardest day’s cycling I’ve ever done. It was certainly the hardest stage of Home to Home.
Distance - 78.6 miles
Time - 6 hours 8 minutes
Ascent - 1811 metres
Descent - 1244 metres
Average Speed - 12.8 mph
Maximum Temperature - 35 deg C
Calories Burned - 3155
Day 13 - Ainsa to Fraga 🇪🇸
I woke early after a good night’s sleep. I was ready for what I hoped would be an easier day descending out of the Pyrenees. A beautiful morning greeted Chris and me as we prepared to set out. I would be back on my own today as Chris was heading towards France and home. My bike was ready and Chris and I said our goodbyes. He was heading back over some huge col which was approximately in the right direction for Thuy in France. I was heading south of course. A massive thanks again must go to Chris and Rachel for all their hospitality and help. I’ll be back at AYP sometime soon.
Bike Touring is only one of the many adventures we can help you to plan here at Allons y Pyrenees. If you’d like to experience it with us, get in touch today.
Finally, here's a summary of the whole of John's impressive Home to Home challenge:
"Home to Home was a sponsored cycle ride from Cornwall to the Costa Blanca in aid of Cancer Research UK. 🏴🇫🇷🇪🇸
On Wednesday 28th August 2019, I finished my Home to Home ride when I arrived in the Costa Blanca. I completed the journey on time, with my only mechanical being the one puncture. The only issue on the whole trip proved to be Spanish campsites. For some unknown reason, the majority of them seemed to be closed in summer!! I managed to raise 1203GBP for charity.
A special thanks must go to Jane and Pete and to Rachel and Chris McCombie at Allons Y Pyrenees for all their hospitality at their lovely homes in France. Thank you for feeding and watering me and restoring my energy levels. The beers helped as well!!
In addition to this, thanks to Pete and Chris for all the laughs and support whilst cycling. The days cycling with friends were my favourite of the ride."
We can't wait to welcome guests back to Allons-y-Pyrenees, and are looking forward to lots of new adventures.
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Want to find out more about our Tour adventures? Check out our blog post here.