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Guest blog: My time with the Glasgow cyclists in the Pyrenees

Written by Fiona

July 21 2011

I met Marianne on the Marmot Tour of the Pyrenees. She’s a keen cyclist and takes part in the odd sportive event with the “aim of completing rather than competing”. She admitted feeling a little intimidated by the cycling trip, but she was determined to enjoy herself. She also confessed to being 38 but sometimes feels more like 28 or 48, depending on how long the hills are. Here she recounts her experience in the Pyrenees.

Marianne writes: This is my first steps/pedals into the world of blogs, and before I have a go there’s a thing that amuses me about the word “blog”: I always think it should sound similar to how Rowan Atkinson (in Blackadder) says “Bob”! Anyway… moving swiftly on…

My first impression of meeting FionaOutdoors, and the rest of the Glasgow crowd, on the first day of the biking holiday with Marmot Tours was: “Wooah, how much Lycra?!”. The nine cyclists and triathletes (not bikers) were clad from top-to-toe in top-notch cycle kit – and they were busy rebuilding their bikes. These bikes had been thoroughly dismantled for the plane flight (pedals, handlebars, derailleurs, wheels, headsets etc) and each of them was busy rebuilding their own bikes. In contrast I’d removed only the pedals and wheels and I’d even brought a recurring puncture with me to France!

I thought to myself: “This holiday is going to be about as relaxed as a battle to win a stage of the Tour de France.”

I do have to thank one of the Glasgow guys, however. He spotted that my headset was a little loose and tightened it for me. For those of you who know what that means, I might have been in trouble coming down some of those 18km descents  if I’d ridden a bike with a wobbly headset.

And so we set off to ride the first route of the holiday. My fear was that as I set out (ahead of the Glasgow crowd who were still doing all sorts of things to perfect their bikes) that I’d be quickly swallowed up by the others and spat out at the back of the group to plug away all day on my own. I thought my only consolation would be that someone else would get to the bar and have the beers waiting for me when I wobbled my way into camp (comfortable 2-star family-run hotels).

But amazingly this didn’t happen that way because everyone was on holiday. No-one was racing and lunches were not rushed. Being champion (or champignon, you had to be there for that joke!) didn’t matter. Instead, the tour allowed for everyone to bike at their own speed with no pressure to be faster, slower, earlier or later.

That all sounds very lovely and bypasses the fact that on one day I did 20km uphill (Col du Tourmalet) followed by 13km uphill (Luz Ardiden) and a total of 2550m of climbing. Who knew it was possible to cycle uphill for 2hrs 20 mins and apparently enjoy it? And then do it again, thanks to a large injection of energy-giving cake courtesy of our tour leader James and his van.

Oh, and by then (day 6), I was out of mountain biking shorts – you know those lovely baggy style short shorts that I like to think hide a girl’s figure – and into the tight-fitting, figure-hugging Lycra shorts. I’m wondering if the French had put something in the Ruby Beer that we’d been drinking the night before to persuade me make such a drastic change. Or perhaps I somehow came under the influence of those cheery Lycra-addicted Glasgow cyclists and triathletes?

Despite feeling intimidated at the start of the trip I grew to really enjoy the company of the whole group. We were all out to enjoy ourselves and despite cycling at very different speeds up the cols, and covering a range of mileages each day, at lunches, in the evenings in the bar and over dinner and during breakfast each morning, the chat and camaraderie was really inclusive.

In conclusion, I’d recommend that if you like cycling, then take your bike on holiday with you. On the Marmot Tour of the Classic Cols of the Pyrenees I met some very interesting people who also enjoy biking, a few cycling addicts (very useful for learning more about bikes and cycling!) and a good number of more “normal” 9-5 office-dwelling people, just like myself!

The fitness benefits are amazing, too. My first ride back home and around my normal midweek evening loop saw me cutting 20 minutes from my pre-holiday time. I’m already planning my next cycling holiday!

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