Undisputed cycling heartland of Europe
The birthplace of many top cycling professionals including Mikel Landa, the Izagirre brothers and Mikel Nieve, the Basque country is rooted in cycling tradition, offering countless climbs and adrenaline engaging descents. Alta Ride Camps owner Jimmy, who you might have seen work occasionally at the lab, took myself and fellow members, on a discovery of the beautiful but demanding landscape of the Basque Country over a four day period between 27th-30th July.
From the customary consumption of pinxtos to watching the pro’s in the flesh as they took part in the San Sebastian Clasica, read on to see how our Basque Adventure unfolded…
DAY 1 – 27th July: Ongi Etorri 60km (1450m)
Arriving in San Sebastian, the Alta Ride Camp crew were ready to take me to our base in Hondarribia, only a short 15min drive away. Bikes unpacked and set up, it was time to hear what was in store for our four day cycling tour as Jimmy briefed us on what was to come. Hills, Hills and more hills… perfect! Going from rain in London to perfect sunshine in only a couple of hours, I was excited to get the train, eat, sleep, repeat, pattern underway but also enjoy some time embracing the Basque culture!
The 60km ride planned by Alta Ride Camps was the perfect way to ease into a heavy four days of training which I would also combine with additional swim and run training. As you can see in the ride profile, the main action of the day was a “steady” 11km climb at an average of 6%. With the locals famously known for their passion for cycling, we soon found out they were also keen cyclists too with many out tackling the climb and this was on a Thursday afternoon too! Awaiting us at the top was the Alta Ride Camp support van, ready to distribute some local delicacies to fuel the rest of the ride, a perfect way to start the tour
DAY 2 – 28th July: Ruta de la Kosta 137km (3000m)
With 137km to come and over 3000m of climb we started the day with a huge breakfast was conveniently awaiting us at the hotel buffet. Bikes checked and support car in tow, we headed out for an epic ride to come which would take in the stunning San Sebastian coastal city as well.
Rolling through the undulating terrain, one aspect you do notice in the Basque country is that drivers do actually give you space on the road, a refreshing feeling compared to back on London roads! Passing through the coastal towns, it was hard not to stop and take in the scenery as Jimmy told us that Game of Thrones had been filmed in the area, testament to the breathtaking views. With a few “casual” 20% short climbs along the way, combined with longer ascents, this ride had a bit of everything including a surprise boat trip! Jimmy had organised a short ferry crossing over the river, giving us an opportunity to take in the rustic architecture of the coastal town of San Sebastian and of course some time to refuel! The support car provided us again with some tasty carb heavy snacks. Coming to just over 140km, it was a six hour day in the saddle, and on a personal note, probably my longest ride! This obviously meant that dinner was the main topic of conversation as we arrived back to base, and a trip into the local town to carb up for the day ahead, mainly involving Spanish tortilla!
DAY 3 – 29th July: Donostiako Klasika 118km (3000m)
As the third day beckoned, it was apparent that my legs weren’t use to the amount of climbing as the fatigue started to accumulate. The perfect opportunity then, to hit day three hard with what would be the biggest day going up yet! As you can see in the ride profile, five major climbs were to follow. Alta Ride Camps had planned another surprise for the ride and this time it was getting to see the San Sebastian Clasica which was a World Tour level race with all the major teams present including Team Sky, Movistar, BMC and many more! With Alta Ride Camps securing a place for us at the top of the Jaizkibel climb (8km at 6%), which the pro’s would do twice, it gave us extra motivation to ride strongly through out the day. The Alta Ride Camp crew had also prepared a Spanish lunch for us at the top of climb as we awaited the pro’s to pass, culminating in a great day out. For those of you who love some Strava data, I went for an effort up Jazikibel, finishing in just over 23 minutes. Compared to pro’s such as Warren Barguil, I was nearly six minutes off! Gives you some perspective into how strong these riders are!
DAY 4 – 3Oth July: Tour de Iparralde 70km (1350m)
Day four took us for the first time into France, a familiar territory for me and despite an easier day on the cards, the Col d’Ibardin will stay embedded in the memory both for it’s technicality and steepness towards the end! After another big breakfast, we headed out for the 70km spin on the quiet French roads which included bumping into a few pro’s along the way! With each day passing, one aspect of my cycling which improved was descending, a skill which you simply don’t have the opportunity to practice in flat Hertfordshire. Four days or riding in perfect cycling territory with serious gains made, mostly in the form of a proper cyclist’s tan as Coach Tom Shanney tends to rave about! Alta Ride Camps had organised a stunning tour which combined great training with the cultural expertise to learn more about the Basque country, not to mention the food too! I’ll be looking forward to heading back there next year to discover even more of the Basque cycling territory. Massive thanks to Jimmy and the Alta Ride Crew for organising a great tour!
Thanks again for reading and if you want to find out more about ALTA Ride Camps then please feel free to email Jimmy.