Sunday, 4 September 2016


It's become traditional, at the end of a cycling holiday, to review the experience. First, here are the summary statistics.
  • I spent nearly 42 hours cycling
  • I covered 717 kilometres. 
  • I climbed nearly 18,000 meters vertically, which is over twice the height of Everest above sea level. Actually, that's very similar to last year's efforts, in the Alps
  • The highest point on the trip was the Col du Tourmalet, at 2115 metres above sea level
  • The ride with the largest height gain, of 2767 metres, was over the Aspin and the Tourmalet. That's quite a bit more than last year.
  • I expended nearly 21,000 calories while riding, which is also rather more than last year
  • My maximum speed while descending, naturally, was 66 kilometres per hour, a whole 1 more than last year.
  • In total, I turned the pedals 138,108 times, again a significant increase over last year

All About the Bike

My Ribble Aero 883 performed faultlessly.  With no maintenance, other than pumping up the tyres and lubricating the chain, it tackled the climbs without complaint. Di2 provided consistently slick shifts. The stiff frame, sensitive steering and awesome Ultegra brakes all contributed to a huge sense of confidence on descents. The bike could be placed accurately. Any missed apexes were entirely my own fault. The bike went were I pointed it.

I typically had quite a bit of weight on the bike. I carried a compact camera, several CO2 cylinders, lights, pump, and up to 1.5 litres of water, together with an action camera.

I did expect the deep section rims to be affected by cross winds, and wasn't disappointed. However, the bike always remained controllable and the Mavic's did an excellent job of coping. Wind is something to bear in mind in the mountains. For anyone worried about it, a set of standard rims might be a good idea. I don't think I saw another rider on aero rims during the whole trip.

The Ribble attracted attention wherever it went. People often commented on how good it looked, and were interested in how it rode, who made it and how much it cost.

In summary, it's a brilliant bike. Thanks Ribble.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Where We Stayed

We stayed in two locations this year. Most of the time we were based at the Vélo Peloton Pyrénées Cycling Lodge, in Saint Savin near Lourdes. Paddy and Olive have a wonderful location for cycling in this part of the Pyrenees. Paddy used to race bikes, and has a vast knowledge of the entire area. He also has the distinction of managing to ride up the Hautacam 100 times in a single calendar year. Olive is a fabulous cook. There is secure bike storage, and spares and consumables available. The house is large and the rooms spacious. There is also a comprehensive satellite TV system, very important if you are staying during one of the grand tours!

Breakfast and dinner are communal and a great chance to get to know the other cyclists staying there, to swap experiences and to arrange rides. While we were there we met people from the USA, Canada, Ireland, and lots of folks from Melbourne. Everyone was pretty committed to cycling! 

Saint Savin is just outside Argelès-Gazost, a perfect location for the Hautacam, the Tourmalet, Luz Ardiden, and the Soulor and Aubisque. There are lots of superb, though less well known climbs nearby too, and a 40 kilometre flat ride to Lourdes and back. There is lots of information about the rides on their web site.

They have a super set up for cyclists.

In the Massif, we stayed at the Grand Hôtel, in Le Mont Dore. This is a traditional, small French hotel. It's in a great location near the centre of the town. Once again, there is an excellent French breakfast buffet. Bike storage is possible, but not especially secure. It's a good idea to be able to speak some French in this part of France.

There are a number of climbs that have been used in the Tour within easy reach of Le Mont Dore, and the Puy de Dome is well worth a visit if you have a day off.