The rip snorting southerly we had at our tails would have just about pushed us all the way to France, had it not been for the spiny snow capped peaks of the Pyrenees looming high above.
Having ridden for most of the day we’d grown increasingly excited at the prospect of sleeping in another country, and elected to press on into the evening climbing over the top.
By 6 o’ clock we’d reached the bustling border town of Le Perthus and, passing a fluttering French flag, crossed into our third country for the trip.
Behind -between steep rising gullies- lay the road to the Iberian Peninsula. Ahead we still had the summit to make and a spot to find for camp before dark.
The main drag was alive with early evening bustle as we made our way higher, riding on to shouts of: “Allez, allez, allez!” and “Vite!” -People began stepping onto the road giving us high fives and passionately shaking their fists.
For a time I was lost in the moment. I felt like I was riding in The Tour de France as I cranked faster, pushed harder; thighs burning, sweat running down my back… It could have been Le Tour until I looked down to see my speedometer registering just 6 km/h, followed closely by the voice of a child close behind: “Dad, can we stop for a pain au chocolat… you promised!”
At which point reality kicked in. My professional riding career was over, lasting all of 20 seconds – as was our time in Spain, though that was substantially longer and completed without the aid of performance enhancing drugs.
Surprisingly, it didn’t seem like all that long ago that we’d been pouring over a map of Spain, weaving a passage through its interior and following a bottleneck along the coast. All of which was now consigned to experiences and memories; part of the past.
During our last few days there, we’d met another tour-cycling couple who coincidentally had also cycled from Western Europe to the Black Sea, as well as more recently New Zealand.
With so much in common we decided to call each other neighbours and found a wooded area to wild camp for the night, re-living tour cycling tales from similar paths but with a ten year difference.
The next morning, Christophe, who had built his own bike, gave us all a campsite ‘bike mechanics’ lesson on dealing with repairs along the way – I hope the kids kept up. We’ll be relying on them in future…
But for now, in France, I don’t think we’ll be too far away from a quality bike shop, or for that matter a supportive pedestrian shaking his fists and cheering us on from the street side.
It’ll be just like riding in Le Tour..
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