Tag Archives: plans

Trans Pyrenees 2020 – The Route

Four years after crossing the Pyrenees with Willem from East to West (see the relevant posts here), I am going to revisit the region, and bike from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea with a colleague (Stef). After a few months of low activity levels and motivation, I finally got back into the sport around the Christmas holidays, and since then I have been commuting by bike again (I love my Brompton), and I have been doing some proper training both inside (Zwift training plan) and outside (when the weather permits, and lately it has been really wet and windy, so less often than I would like to). Of course I needed a proper goal too, because one of the reasons I had lost my motivation to ride last year was the apparent pointlessness of my training, so I definitely wanted to change that. And since I don’t like races and big busy events, what better is there to do than another self supported ride across the Pyrenees!

My planning technique has not really changed since 2016, I still used Strava (even though I had a look at Komoot too, but it had difficulties handling very long routes) and Google Street View to draw up the initial draft, then the availability of hotels set the final stage starts and finishes. I originally wanted to start from San Sebastián, but in the last minute it turned out that the one way extra fee for renting a car in France and dropping it off in Spain (that we need for the drive back to the start on the last day) would have been more than 2000 EUR, so at the end I had to settle with starting in Biarritz (where we finished four years ago).

We have already booked everything (hotels, rental car from Perpignan to Biarritz, long-term parking in Biarritz), so now we just need to train. Being in a good shape will be definitely necessary, because while this time we will have a rest day in the middle, there will be much more climbing than the last time… The final route can be seen below.

It is a total of 993 km, and 25601 metres of elevation gain over 32 (+1) cols (excluding the rest day). An overview of the elevation profile of the whole route can be seen below. (The climb categories were calculated following the discussion presented here.)

Now here is a detailed overview of the planned stages with distances, elevation gains, maps, profiles, and a list of cols for each day:

  • June 10:
    Drive to Biarritz.
  • June 11:
    On the morning we drive to the airport, where we have long-term parking booked, and start from there.
    Stage 1) Biarritz – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port: 125 km | 2498 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Puerto de Otxondo [570 m] Cat 2 (8.2 km @ 5.7%)
    – Puerto de Artesiaga [984 m] Cat 2 (12.8 km @ 5.7%)
    – Collado de Urkiaga [915 m] Cat 4 (6.9 km @ 3.2%)
  • June 12:
    Stage 2) Saint-Jean Pied-de-Port – Anso: 108 km | 3429 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de Burdincurutcheta [1135 m] Cat 1 (9.0 km @ 8.8%)
    – Col de Bagargi [1327 m] Cat 3 (6.5 km @ 4.9%)
    – Port de Larrau [1578 m] HC (14.3 km @ 7.6%)
    – Puerto de Laza [1129 m] Cat 3 (3.4 km @ 6.1%)
    – Puerto de Matamachos [1148 m] Cat 2 (4.6 km @ 6.7%)
  • June 13:
    Stage 3) Anso – Oloron-Sainte-Marie: 104 km | 2158 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Alto de Zuriza [1290 m] Cat 3 (13.8 km @ 3.2%)
    – Col de la Pierre St Martin [1766 m] Cat 1 (14.3 km @ 5.3%)
    – Col de la Hourcère [1440 m] Cat 3 (4.8 km @ 4.5%)
    – Col de Bugalaran [498 m] Cat 3 (3.3 km @ 6.9%)
  • June 14:
    Stage 4) Oloron-Sainte-Marie – Luz-Saint-Sauveur: 112 km | 3275 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de Marie Blanque [1035 m] Cat 1 (9.1 km @ 7.8%)
    – Col d’Aubisque [1709 m] HC (17.0 km @ 7.0%)
    – Col du Soulor [1474 m] Cat 3 (1.9 km @ 5.0%)
    – Col des Bordères [1156 m] Cat 2 (4.2 km @ 6.9%)
  • June 15:
    Stage 5) Luz-Saint-Sauveur – Bagnères-de-Luchon ♛: 114 km | 3874 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col du Tourmalet [2115 m] HC (19.0 km @ 7.4%)
    – Hourquette d’Ancizan [1564 m] Cat 2 (16.6 km @ 4.3% – including a short descent)
    – Col de Val Louron-Azet [1580 m] Cat 1 (10.7 km @ 7.3%)
    – Montée de Peyragudes [1645 m] Cat 1 (9.6 km @ 7.3%)
    (- Col de Peyresourde [1569 m] practically in the descent)
  • June 16:
    Rest day: we will probably still bike, something short and flat, to keep the blood flowing and to get the total distance beyond the thousand kilometre mark ;) But the main plan is mostly staying horizontal, and eating as much as possible.
  • June 17:
    Stage 6) Bagnères-de-Luchon – Castillon-en-Couserans: 100 km | 2775 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Port de Balès [1755 m] Cat 1 (18.8 km @ 5.9%)
    – Col de Menté [1349 m] HC (9.3 km @ 9.0%)
    – Col de Portet d’Aspet [1069 m] Cat 1 (4.3 km @ 9.5%)
  • June 18:
    Stage 7) Castillon-en-Couserans – Ax-les-Thermes: 137 km | 3667 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de la Core [1395 m] Cat 1 (14.2 km @ 5.8%)
    – Col de Latrape [1110 m] Cat 2 (5.8 km @ 7.4%)
    – Col d’Agnes [1570 m] Cat 1 (10.3 km @ 8.0%)
    – Port de Lers [1517 m] Cat 3 (4.7 km @ 5.2%)
    – Pas de Souloumbrie [911 m] Cat 3 (6.3 km @ 5.5%)
  • June 19:
    Stage 8) Ax-les-Thermes – Prades: 102 km | 2717 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de Pailheres [2001 m] HC (17.1 km @ 6.8%)
    – Col des Aychides [1008 m] Cat 3 (6.3 km @ 4.1%)
    – Col de Jau [1506 m] Cat 1 (17.9 km @ 5.8%)
  • June 20:
    Stage 9) Prades – Perpignan: 91 km | 1208 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de Palomère [1036 m] Cat 2 (24.4 km @ 3.2% – including a short descent)
    Pick up the rental car in Perpignan and drive to Biarritz, where we stay for the night.
  • June 21:
    Drive home.

Trans Pyrenees 2016 – The Kit

In one week already, we are doing our first 1st-category climb in the Pyrenees during our self-supported duo-ride from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coast (see the route in the previous post). Besides having a good route, with hotels booked for every night and transportation arranged for the first and last day, riding with a carefully assembled kit is the most crucial ingredient to our plan. So what do we need? Mostly clothes on and off the bike, tools and spares to repair a flat or replace a worn component, etc. Since we are going to bike through the Pyrenees (for dummies: a mountain range between France and Spain containing mountain passes over an altitude of 2000 metres, and weather that might change from sunshine to hailstorm over the course of five minutes), we need to be prepared for bad weather too even in June, which again calls for a few extra pieces of gear. Moreover, living in the 21st century, we ‘need’ some electronics, chargers, etc., mainly to recored our epic adventures. And on top of everything, we have to carry everything ourselves, since we don’t have a follow-car, or an organisation transporting all our crap from one stage to another for 9 days. Then come the aesthetics: we are not taking trekking bikes with massive racks filled with a ton of gear, because we want to keep it light and because racing bikes themselves are light, fast, and most importantly, pretty to look at. So we really only take what is absolutely necessary, this way sitting on the bike will still feel like just being out on a normal ride with a race bike. All in all, the following picture contains every piece of gear I will have with me during the ride.


Does not seem so much, right? We are using the regular size saddle pack from Apidura to carry our equipment, which adds an extra 3.6 kg to the bike with all our kit packed inside. We will have one set of normal clothes for going to a restaurant on the evenings, and two sets of cycling kit, so if we wash one after a ride and it does not get dry by the next morning, we still have something to wear (or if we crash and tear one bib, we have a backup…). Here is a full overview of the whole kit (obviously, the bike and the saddle bag is not on the picture):


And a detailed list of everything that we are taking:

– 1 bike (Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Di2, with fully charged Di2 battery)
– 1 pair of cycling shoes (Sidi Wire)
– 2 pairs of cycling socks (Rapha; one Lightweight one ‘Data Print’)
– 2 bibs (Rapha; one Classic, one Lightweight)
– 2 base layers (Rapha; one Pro Team, one Merino)
– 2 jerseys (Rapha; one Team Sky Training Jersey, one Lightweight)
– 1 pair of gloves (Rapha Pro Team Mitts)
– 1 set of normal clothes (light sweater, shorts, T-shirt, 2 boxers, socks, light shoes)
– cycling cap (Castelli)
– cycling glasses (Oakley Jawbreaker)
– helmet (Giro Ionos)
– HR strap (Garmin)
– arm warmers (Rapha Merino)
– knee warmers (Rapha Merino)
– rain jacket (Rapha)
– gilet (Rapha Brevet)
– waterproof overshoes (GripGrab RaceAqua)
– contact lenses
– chamois creme (Assos, but in a smaller container)
– sunscreen
– 2 bottles (Rapha)
– saddle bag (Apidura)
– small front and rear lights (Bontrager Glo Headlight and Lezyne Led Zecto Drive)
– compact bike lock (BBB Cycling MicroSafe)
– 2 dry bags (Lezyne Caddy Sack; one for phone+IDs in jersey pocket, one for electronics)
– 2 inner tubes (Continental)
– outer tire (Continental Grand Prix 4000 S II 23 mm)
– mini pump (Topeak HybridRocket RX + two CO2 cartridges)
– tube patch kit (Park Tool Super Patch)
– multi tool (Lezyne, with chain tool)
– custom spoke key for my wheels (Mavic)
– 2 quick links (KMC Missing Link)
– spare rear derailleur hanger (specific for my bike)
– 2 spare brake pads (Shimano R55C4)
– spare cleat (Garmin Vector)
– chain oil (Muc-Off Hydrodynamic Lube)
– IDs, insurance cards, VISA
– toothbrush and toothpaste
– Flexium gel + some general pain killers (not on the picture)
– iPhone 6S + charger cable + USB adapter (with data roaming plan)
– Garmin Edge 520 + charger cable (with daily routes, empty memory, map of Pyrenees)
– GoPro HERO4 Silver + K-Edge mount + charger cable + 2 batteries + SD cards (64+32 GB)
– all booking documents and so in an electronic form on my phone

Besides these, we will have with us, but leave it in the car before the start:

– floor pump (nice to start with good pressure)
– a fresh set of clothes to change into for the ride home
– glasses
– bars, gels, and drink powder for the first (or first two) days, then we buy what we need
– shaving equipment (because after 9 days of not shaving, I will look like a hipster/hobo)

We are pretty much ready to go. I have already installed a new chain, a new cassette, cleaned the bike, and before we leave, I will still put in new batteries to everything that needs batteries (power meter, HR strap, speed sensor, front light), charge the Di2, install new cleats, and brake pads. I also need to take some cash out so we can pay at tiny shops along the road. I will sync the clock in the GoPro to the GPS time, so editing videos with metrics overlaid gets a bit easier. And some minor things like, cutting toe nails, putting the map and routes in my Garmin, and not forgetting our train ticket for the transport before the first stage. We will most likely not blog from the Pyrenees, but we will upload our rides to Strava, and most likely at least a few pictures to Instagram too. T-5 days and counting!

Trans Pyrenees 2016 – The Route

So here we go, it is less than a month till the cycling highlight of this year, an epic, self-supported duo-ride across the Pyrenees from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coast. The idea came up on a training ride with Willem the past summer, more-or-less simultaneously, but I think Willem was the one who said it out loud first (I will make sure to remind him if necessary while we both suffer pedalling up on one of the numerous steep climbs).

This post is about the planned route itself. I have designed the trajectory of the different stages mostly using the Global Heatmap of Strava and Google Street View on RouteYou (since the Route builder in Strava itself is horrible, it does not have Street View integrated into it, and the elevation gain is typically overestimated). Then I have used the exported .gpx files to make my own overview maps and elevation profiles with my custom-made python scripts ;) The main challenge of the planning was finding a balance between different factors, such as: crossing the Pyrenees over the highest number of epic climbs and cols, but without making unnecessary loops to keep the total distance (and the number of necessary days) at a reasonable level, plus preferably take low-traffic roads, and start and finish the day at locations where we can get a proper hotel for the night. This resulted in a preliminary plan, that was changed slightly when we booked all the hotels (a few start/finish villages were moved up/down along the route). This is how the final route was born before the end of January.


This is a total of 9 stages, 924 km, and 17635 metres of elevation gain over 22 cols (or 23, depending on how you count it). An overview of the elevation profile of the whole route can be seen below. (The climb categories were calculated following the discussion presented here.)


Now here is a detailed overview of the planned stages with distances, elevation gains, maps, profiles, and a list of cols for each day:

  • June 3: Driving to Toulouse.
  • June 4: On the morning we bike to the train station from the hotel, and take the train to Narbonne, where it all begins.
    Stage 1) Narbonne – Perpignan: 91 km | 518 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de Feuilla [250 m] Cat 4
  • June 5:
    Stage 2) Perpignan – Campdevanol: 122 km | 1757 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Coll de Llauro [380 m] Cat 4
    – Col d’Ares [1513 m] Cat 1
  • June 6:
    Stage 3) Campdevanol – La Seu d’Urgell: 110 km | 1854 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Coll de Merolla [1090 m] Cat 3
    – Coll de Josa [1620 m] Cat 2
    – Coll de la Trava [1480 m] Cat 3
  • June 7:
    Stage 4) La Seu d’Urgell – Vielha: 124 km | 2499 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – El Canto [1720 m] Cat 1
    – Port de la Bonaigua [2072 m] Cat 1
  • June 8:
    Stage 5) Vielha – Cadéac: 82 km | 2190 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col du Portillon [1293 m] Cat 2
    – Col de Peyresourde [1569 m] Cat 1
    – Col de Val Louron-Azet [1580 m] Cat 1
  • June 9:
    Stage 6) Cadéac – Argelès-Gazost: 82 km | 2034 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col d’Aspin [1489 m] Cat 1
    – Col du Tourmalet [2115 m] HC
  • June 10:
    Stage 7) Argelès-Gazost – Arette: 92 km | 2248 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col du Soulor [1474 m] & Col d’Aubisque [1709 m] Cat 1 (small downhill in between)
    – Col de Marie-Blanque [1035 m] Cat 2
  • June 11:
    Stage 8) Arette – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port ♛: 134 km | 3412 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de la Pierre St Martin [1766 m] HC
    – Laza [1129 m] Cat 3
    – Port de Larrau [1578 m] Cat 1
    – Col de Bagargi [1327 m] Cat 1
    – Col de Burdincurucheta [1135 m] Cat 3
  • June 12:
    Stage 9) Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – Biarritz: 87 km | 1123 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col d’Ispeguy [672 m] Cat 2
    – Col d’Otxondo [602 m] Cat 3
    After the ride, we drive with a rental car to Toulouse, then bike or walk to the hotel where we left our car (as the drop-off for the rental car will be at the airport too), and drive to another hotel for the night.
  • June 13: Driving home from Toulouse.

That is it for now. In the next post I will go over the gear we are taking with us, with a detailed description of each piece we will/might need on the road.