Day 9 - Narbonne to Girona
Daily mileage: 109 Miles
Total mileage: 971 Miles
Calories Burned: 4,000 each
Total Calories Burned: 36,000 each
Day 9 Blog
From humble beginnings through an exchange over emails just 8 months ago, today all the planning, hard work, ambition, and shear stubborn effort that has gone into the Bristol to Barcelona adventure came to a monumental and emotional climax today for me. This is my last blog before we arrive into Barca tomorrow, and what an incredible few days of cycling & months of preparation it has been.
A couple of hours after lunch today, the 8 members of the B2B team stood literally and figuratively on top of the world as we ascended the Pyrenees mountain range. To be able to see France span out on our left, and Spain falling away to the right was a very symbolic part of our trip so far.
As we forced ourselves out of bed at 5am this morning (cue more abuse in the direction of the iPhone alarm) in Narbonne, I had no idea of what lay ahead. Our plan had been to go around the mountains, but to give ourselves the option of attacking them if we felt we had enough left in the tank. Following the previous 800 miles we’d travelled over the last few days, we decided to go for it. There was no pressure, as we had told no-one of what we planned to do. Daf started the day in flying style, and managed to slip and land on his backside before we’d even left the hotel!
The early morning ride was in stark contrast to yesterday; zero wind allowed us to reach an average speed of about 20 mph over the first 30 miles. The highlight of the morning was getting that first glimpse of the sea, announcing our successful traversal of France from the North to the South Coast. As we progressed further, we saw the first signs to Barcelona – within touching distance! You can see out celebratory sun-cream application pose in the photos from today, always safety first with us!
All of this was just a prelude to the main event. From a personal perspective, I have been the slowest hill climber in the group during the tour, and therefore knew the Pyrenees ascent would require not just a huge push from the legs, but mental toughness to not give up and jump into the support van that would be following us up! I was right to be apprehensive; after a couple of minutes I lost sight of the boys as they pushed on up the mountain. Heading up at my own pace allowed me to focus purely on each rotation – one pedal at a time. The backdrop of the range certainly took a lot of the pain away; this was the most beautiful part of the trip so far in terms of scenery! I can assure you that the most glorious sound when you are halfway up a mountain in 32 degree heat and running out of water is definitely the arrival of Max & Paddy in the support van. I needed a few stops on the way up, consuming over 3 litres of water, and getting there a kilometre at a time - all in all, a 12km climb. Finally I caught up with the boys, although obviously Dylan had started coming back down the mountain to look for me, he does like his ‘bonus miles’! An even tougher climb to the highest point of our route saw Daf again slip, but this time on his bike. We allowed him some sympathy this time, and there was even talk of a plaster being required for a little cut on his hand. The ‘999’ TV show have already approached us for the rights of the re-enactment, with Frank Spencer to play the part of Daf, and the bearded guy from The Hangover is in-line to play the part of Simmo.
As the 8 of us stood at the end of the climb, I became completely overwhelmed by the achievement of what we had done; not just the climb, but all the work and the miles covered since we left Bristol. I am not the type of person to let emotion get the better of me, but I was unable to stop the sharp rush of water into my eyes. We are all incredibly proud of what has been achieved, and this was simply the release of the adventure since hitting the road.
The crossing into Spain from France was very meekly announced; simply that the Spanish have built a decent road from the top, and the French offered only gravel on the way up. So as we jumped on to the start of this new road, we were into our third and final country of the trip, incredible! A quick stop for photos was followed by an outstanding twenty minute downhill run – James has filmed it and promises a Hollywood post-production of the footage on our return! If you look closely at the footage, you will also be able to see the traditional Spanish cucumber crops being grown in the background (TBC).
Usually the climb would be enough for a day’s ride, but we still had another 40 miles to cover until Girona. We presumed this would pass by with minimal fuss, but unfortunately for Crouch and Blay, the Spanish Border Police had other ideas!
Whilst the riders surged forward into Spain, the Police had clearly spotted Dumb & Dumber in the massive branded van, complete with ‘England’ sticker on the back, and thought – These boys are clearly dodgy! I can only imagine the look on Crouch’s face as 6 officers armed with a AK-47’s began to question him, request passports, and demand access to the van. As the officer took the keys off the boys, he noticed that Crouch had 8 passports in his possession. Obviously the officer would find this unusual, leading the boys attempting to communicate that they were actually following cyclists on a charity bike ride… eventually they were allowed to move on, but when we met up with them in a nearby service station both Turner & Hooch were sitting on a bench with a small beer; Crouch looking paler than normal, and Blay far redder than ever!
We tried to pick up the pace for the remaining miles, but it became apparent that Clint was in a lot of pain. Now I know there’s been a lot of discussion in these blogs about, well, how do I put this… bum-cream, but after 9 days in the saddle Clint found he had a serious pain problem (without going into detail, obviously!). Normally this would be of incredible amusement to me, but with still 20 miles until our hotel, and with temperatures rising still, a minor issue could have easily developed into a serious problem. Clint sprinted the final few miles out of his saddle; with Simmo heading on as well to make sure he was ok.
So after bums, guns, and motorways (I definitely haven’t spent all evening coming up with that tagline), we finally made it to Girona. We were able to head out and enjoy some dinner with my friend from Penzance, Vicki, who was good enough to be a tour guide for the evening and take us to an Irish bar and feed us burgers!
It’s now 12.30am, and I have to be up in just over 4 hours to complete the final leg (phew). I will leave you again with my thanks, and simply to summarise everything by stating a) this trip has been life-changing, b) I hate bikes, and c) I never want to eat another pain au chocolate in my life.
See you on the other side,