Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Mention the Pyrénées to most people, especially those who enjoy a bit of road biking, and the famous cols of the chain such as the Tourmalet, Aubisque and Aspin will be hot topics. The Tour de France has obviously reinforced people's idea of  the Pyrénées as an arena of suffering for the masochistic road cyclist. However, the amateur road biker who doesn't fancy energy-sapping, leg-busting col-grinding will no doubt be relieved to hear that there are endless opportunities here for mile upon mile of gently undulating riding on quiet lanes amidst stunning scenery. After our last couple of outings, I am convinced that where we are now, near Aspet on the border of the Haute Garonne and Ariege departments, is the best area for road cyclists of all abilities.

We have had two cracking rides on the road bikes over the past week. The first one, last Wednesday, was an exploration which took us into the undulating 'bosses', the fingers of hills that are North of the A64 autoroute. This area provides contrasting scenery ....
.....and also contrasting riding to the roads that are south of the autoroute, with the option of either following the little valleys that separate the 'fingers', keeping the ascent to a minimum, or tackling them head on, which gives you a ride profile something like this!
In some ways, rides such as this with small hill after small hill can be more exhausting physically than sticking the bike into granny gear and grinding your way up a col. But thankfully the little old legs were working well and I felt fine after the 70kms/1000m+. It had been a beautiful ride out in perfect weather on wonderfully quiet little roads. Full stats on the usual site.

I have been working hard to try and resolve the issues that I have been having with my right knee when I run, doing regular targeted exercises to try and strengthen my right glute max and glute medius muscles in particular, combined with stretches for other specific muscle groups that affect the knee. The overall result appears to be reduced tension on my hamstring, looser calves and less tension on my knee. I will probably test it out running when the weather cools down a bit, but for the moment my work seems to have made things easier on the bike and I am really enjoying our outings. 

Our other roadie outing was on Sunday and was my longest ride for some considerable time, 88kms/1100m+, which took us from here near Aspet along the amazingly quiet roads of the Comminges, heading East and then South along the river to arrive at our old stomping ground of Saint Lizier and Saint Girons. Fantastic riding! We meandered back via the beautiful roads through Montgauch and Cazavet...
... before heading West again back towards home via Saleich and Urau in the Comminges

For some reason, after 70kms, we chose to finish the ride not by taking the easy route, but by tackling the relatively insignificant Col de Larrieu which links Aspet with the Arbas Valley. We have ridden down the Col into the Arbas Valley before but have not ridden it in the other direction. It felt so steep in parts (OK, so apparently it did ramp up to 14%!) and I had a serious battle with myself not to stop and rest. But, despite the increasing heat, I somehow managed to keep the pedals turning and made it up the col in one piece. The profile ended up like this!
Again, no repercussions in the leg department. This is a very very good sign!. Again, the full stats are on the usual site.

For a relative change, we took the mountain bikes out for a run today. With temperatures set to rise up to 30+ Deg C, we tried to set out in decent time so as not to die in the heat. Exploring new routes and new link ups is great and it allows you to eventually separate the 'good' circuits from the 'not so good'. Today's circuit was a grand old mixture of 'Jeez, sod this for a game of bingo, I'm going home' and 'Bloody hell, that was just amaaazing!' The problem section was approx 1km long, up through the woods from Izaut l'Hotel to Arbon, a steep, rocky, slippery path that was beyond my riding capabilities where I had to resort to pushing my bike. Andy on the other hand put in a sterling performance. Thankfully, the route soon became rideable again and we enjoyed some fantastic views

After some superb riding, we arrived at the Col des Arès before beginning a fast, fun descent down a forest track and then good paths with some pretty technical riding in parts back down to Payssous and the meander home. Apart from the tricky section up to Arbon (which can be avoided by riding up the little lane instead!), the route was fantastic and I can't wait to ride it with mountain biking friends who have promised to come and visit us in the near future. 30km/700m+, 2h30 of riding and we were back in time for lunch :-) Full stats on the usual site.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), we sign for the house and get the keys. We are going to busy over the coming weeks and months, but we will of course make time for more biking and hopefully walking and running up in the mountains too. Fun times ahead!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Busy times

Yes, I know these pages have been sadly neglected for the past 2 weeks. But, you see, I have been just a little bit busy. Preparations for the move to our new home are at full pelt. We get the keys on the 27th of this month! There is some work that we want to get done before we actually move in.... messy, dirty, dusty work like sanding down the big beams on the ground floor before we treat them and then attempt to restore them to their former splendour. The house is now empty, the owners having done a fine job of clearing it of the vestiges of the lives of three generations, which has been an enormous task. We are obviously now impatient to move in and get to work creating our new home.

When I returned 10 days ago from my trip to the UK, the poor weather that I had experienced there decided to follow me home, which I really did not appreciate. However, at the end of last week the weather finally took a turn for the better with temperatures climbing to 30 degrees. I was keen to get up high to experience more of the amazing scenery that we have in this area, so we popped up to the Col du Portet d'Aspet and made our way on good paths to the ridgeline that runs high above it. The views did not disappoint

I wanted to use the outing to test out my knee and I was very encouraged by what I was feeling. Despite running several sections of the very undulating 10km/800m route I had no discomfort at all except for on the final 100m of the descent. I may actually be making some progress here! I now need to be careful not to get too carried away by my enthusiasm and do too much too soon. Steady steady!

The bikes have also had an airing over the past week with a cracking 33km/700m+ ride out on the mountain bikes which saw us linking up several different tracks and paths in the area. We also had a wonderfully leisurely 63km ride out on the roadies in the sun, over into the Barousse Valley and back through the foothills of the Comminges. Just stunning! Good times, good times.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Change of scenery

On Wednesday last week I left to spend a week in the UK for a long overdue visit to catch up with family and friends. But before I left, Andy and I got in a cracking mountain bike ride on Monday during which we explored and linked up even more of the myriad paths, tracks and trails around Aspet. The ride involved a fair bit of ascent and some technical riding, some of which I think I have captured on the video cam that Andy gave me for Christmas. We managed to fix it to the handlebars although I believe the video quality would be improved if we got it set up on my helmet. I'm currently working on putting the various video snippets together to make a short movie which I'll stick on Youtube when it's done. In the meantime, the ascent profile ....
.... and a glimpse of Pic de Cagire towards the end of the ride which came in at 30kms with 850m of ascent
The next day, as the weather remained good (dry, not too hot), we popped up the road to the Mourtis ski station above the Col de Menté (just 25 minutes us)  from where we walked up to the Pic d'Escales 1816m. From there, stunning panoramic views of the high mountains

The Spring flowers are really starting to appear now. These gentians were just stunning
Then it was home to pack for a flight back to the UK on Wednesday and a flying visit to mum's in Dorset before heading up to stay with friends in the Peak District for a few days. Typically, the stunning weather that the UK had been enjoying decided to break on the day that I arrived. But never mind, Ayshea and I still enjoyed a lovely day around and above the Derwent Reservoir which is one of my favourite parts of the Peak District.
Unfortunately, my knee troubles are continuing which meant that my running was curtailed. It was disappointing as the Peak District is a fantastic area for running. Still, I'll be back another day and will make up for it then. After catching up with more friends over the weekend, it is now time to head West to visit my son and future daughter-in-law. Back home on Thursday.