We were at our apartment in Andorra, off the main road and eagerly anticipating the Tour de France coming by our street.
5 min read by Laura Fletcher
We ran full kilter to the road side, to watch the second half of the Caravan cruise past, what I have affectionately dubbed the “junk train.”
Honest confession: the “caravane publicité” is a lot of fun to watch and interact with. Saying this doesn’t mean I don’t recognise the dire environmental impact that throwing out hundreds of thousands of throwaway plastic bits to people does.
What the caravan does do is bring people to the road sides for a good few hours, and create a real spirit around the Tour, and I was happy to play spectator for the day, and simply cheer on the riders, on the Andorran roads.
I was watching just downhill from Soldeu
The long downhill drag that took the Peloton from the top of Envalira at 2400 metres down to the town of Encamp where they would climb their final challenge of the day.
The sun was beating down on the southern facing hillsides of the CG-2 and the fans lined the roads as the weary riders crested the peak and revved into their downhill positions, sailing by and enjoying the wide well maintained roads. The corners are wide and the conditions were good, the whirr of deep section wheels only rarely punctuated by the application of rim brakes.
Once the riders hit Encamp they would take on the last challenge of the day: the formidable Beixalis where Sepp Kuss exploded out of the remainder of the day’s breakaway and soloed to victory on his home roads.
The race finished in the capital city, still a mountain hamlet of Andorra La Vella, as the peloton flashed past world class spas, restaurants and shops, the tired riders looking forward to their rest day to follow.
The rest day is the standard fare of a grand tour, the riders sleep late (relatively) and go for an hour to 90-minute spin, to stretch the legs, fuel up on good coffee and food and handle their media responsibilities. Being respectful of the race bubble, we did see a few riders taking to-go coffees from the best cafes in the country: Del Bosc and Grupetta.
And the next day opened with the race leaving Andorra
From Pas de la Case, the town on the border with France, the riders took the same road down they took coming into the country.
On the way up, on the sunny Sunday, the roads were lined with camper vans and cheering fans. Yet on this day, the fog was the main spectator, a chilly grey day an affront after the sun. The descent was part of the neutral, and the riders arranged a stop at the bottom to disrobe a few extra layers.
This guided French Pyrenees Gran Traverse Tour alternates between the legendary cols from the Tour de France and the lesser-known passes while cycling the superb mountain roads through the Pyrenees.
Offering the chance to take in the diverse landscapes from the Pyrénées Orientales to the dense forests of Ariège and jagged peaks of the Hautes-Pyrénées.
Lucious green and peaked mountain tops really make this itinerary a stand out winner for cycle enthusiasts to test their skills and explore the Pyrenees region. Over the 8 days, you will push your riding limits to the max, add 700km to your mileage, and more than 16,000 meters on your legs. This tour is not for the faint-hearted.
With that they were off!
The foothills of the Pyrenees greeting the peloton with the Col du Port and the Col de la Core
…a day won by Patrick Konrad, his first top level win and a worthy reward after a day of rain and wind.
Despite the inclement weather, the Pyrenees shined through, the beasts of the South beckoning in the background, an omen of the days to come…