Pyrenees Day 1 - Les Petit Cols du Pays Basques
The Small Passes of the Basque Country

A few of surprises yesterday:
1 - There are only 4 of us in the group, surprising that the holiday is run with such small group
2 - The group isn't made up of twenty somethings but 4 people of more mature years. The fears I had of being the eldest and slowest have been consigned to history
3 - The support driver, Claude, was also the group leader when I did a mountain bike holiday to Luchon 10 years ago with Exodus. We will be passing through Luchon later in the week
4 - According to my Garmin (and hence undisputable fact) my warm ride along the coast to St Jean du Luz and back yesterday included 330m of climbing. I'm not sure I believe it, or maybe all that training means I will be flying up the mountains this week.

The first day proper started with an early breakfast and an 8am start for photo-calls outside the hotel and on Hendaye beach. We followed the same route as I had taken for yesterday's warm-up ride to Ciboure on the outskirts of St Jean du Luz before heading inland towards the foothills of the Pyrenees. Soon we were in Ascain and the start of the ascent to Col de Saint-Ignace. A popular tourist spot as this is where you can get the funicular railway up to the top of La Rhune mountain. We had no time for such jollities and continued down the short, but fast, descent. Then it was climbing again up the Col de Pinodieta, which was included on the penultimate stage of Le Tour (ITT) but not the side we climbed. Soon after we had a coffee break at Itxassou - don't ask me how to pronounce these Basque names - before quite a fast, but gentle, climb to the popular town of St Jean Pied de Port. This is the meeting point of many of the long distance pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela and is also pretty rampart town with great views of the mountains. Hence its popularity.

Through St Jean and the fun started - the short but brutal Col de Gamia. Only a 300m climb but we were 50 miles in, enduring the midday heat and it had sections over 13%. It was lunch at the top, but rather than stop at the cafe, Claude had been shopping and we settled down to a lunch of melon, bread, cheese, ham, salad, crisps, M&Ms, sweets, mixed nuts, tea and coffee.

Perhaps we can introduce a support van on Sunday club rides

After lunch we had a quick descent but in the valley the combination of false-flat, heat and too much / too soon after lunch made pedalling a bit of a struggle. Then before we knew it we hit the climb of the Col d'Osquich. Not a major climb, again topping out around 500m but it was hot. Luckily the gradient was less severe than the Gamia and I secured a few more mountain points with a sprint to the line. Re-group, top-up the bidons and a 12km descent to Mauleon before a 15km drag up the valley to our over-night stop in Montory.
The highest point of today's ride (or maybe it was the Gamia. Road signs and Garmins don't agree)

Today's profile, sourced (as ever) from GPS Vizualiser .com

Map (google maps)

Day 2

Photo Gallery