­Date: 03 May – 10 May 2003
Flight: East Midlands to Toulouse (£65 return plus £10ish each way for bikes)
Contenders: 6 male Worcester AC runners
Destination: Cauterets (Train from Toulouse to Lourdes)

Cycling into Toulouse from the Airport on a Saturday night is an experience to remember. Narrow back streets teeming with people out on the town. Bars, restaurants, hustle and bustle. We stayed in Toulouse the first night ready to catch the train the next day. The 10.00 am we missed by 2 minutes but were reassured by the Ticket office that velos were free. Setting off from Toulouse on the 2.00 pm train (with no velo carriage), we considerately spread out over six carriages and parked our bikes in the corridor. Well, the Fat Controller was not happy! He want­ed another 30 Euros on top of the 15 Euro ticket, so we said “No” (Especially as the other French people with bikes were not asked to pay). After a heated discussion for ¾ hour it was “You pay or you go!” We said No Pay – so at St Goudens, the train is stopped for 20 minutes and the Police came, took our passports and kicked us off the train….

Change of Plan: Big Tour around the Pyrenees: 4 stops 400km cycling starting at St Pe-d’Ardet (about 2 hours cycle from St Goudens). At the restaurant here, we made plans for the next day. I suggested a 1½ hour run before breakfast up Pic du Gore (1760m).

(Day 2) We set off at 8.30 and returned at 11.30 – slightly misjudged the forest climb but it was worth it. Clouds lifted with spectacular views over the snow-capped mountains. We decide to pack up tents and get breakfast in town (bread and cheese). However, by the time we had packed up and got to the nearest town, it was gone 12.30 pm so everything was shut till 2.30. The thought of breakfast got more and more taunting……we ended up in a bar demolishing what was placed on the counter at 1.30 pm. One of the best breakfasts we had.

Good cycle ride to Bayneres De Luchon (Day 3)

Rain and cloud in morning so hardened group of 4 decide to cycle into Spain over the Col du Portillon (1293m). The idea was to go up and over then around the mountain range to the north via St Béat. Luckily, no passport control on the summit so we speed (66km/hr) down into Spain where the countryside changes from pine forests to gorse bushes and wild countryside. Following the valley down to the border after another ¾ hr ride, we meet a fully manned border post without passports – luckily they did not ask for them for some would have had a big climb to get back home.

(Day 4)

Up over the famous Col de Peyresarde fully laden with tents and then on to St Larry via Arrea.

(Day 5)

Hung over after dancing till 3.30 am

Epic 3 hour run up over Cap de Pêde. After 1½ hours of climbing in forest and then into cloud, we came to the end of the forest track and nearly turned back. However, 100m of shrub bashing we found the ridge footpath through a lichen infested wood which took us beyond the tree line where the clouds lifted to reveal a majestic view. Vertically below were shepherds’ cottages in green fields, then below these were the clouds and in the distance were the snow-capped mountains. Very much like The Lord of the Rings.

(Day 6)

Decide not to catch the train back from St Goudens so all head out of the Pyrenees to cycle back to Toulouse. Keeping up with our lead cyclist (almost in the British Triathlete Team) was a training experience to forget. All hills seemed to be taken in the same gear as the flat (top gear) averaging 20-30 km/hr. If you didn’t keep up you knew you wouldn’t be able to coast along in the slipstream so there was no choice except to push the heart rate up and endure the pain. We arrive in Boulogne-sur-gesse well ahead of schedule so have time to do some quality speed training (running).

(Day 7)

104km back to Toulouse done with plenty of time to catch the plane. Lunch in the park was a complete feast before going back to the train station to get a refund. Amusingly with all the commotion on the way down, they forgot to stamp our tickets so some of us had our outward bound tickets refunded. Justice.

Most people would think this was a holiday from hell but you know us: we’re tota