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We'll be at the airport to meet your flight. We usually collect from Biarritz, Toulouse, Carcassonne or Bilbao. Then we take you to the pretty Basque seaside town of Hondarribia, where we'll have tools and track pumps available so that you can assemble your bikes and test them before we begin. You will hopefully also have time to explore the charming town, before we get to know each other over a very nice dinner.
If you've always thought of Spain as hot, dry and boring, think again. The landscape is very diverse, from the beautiful, rolling green hills of the Basque country to the arid, regimented vineyards of Catalonia. In between you follow winding rivers, ride across amazing lakes and see tiny stone towns perched on hills in the middle of nowhere. This area really is a hidden gem, undiscovered and totally unspoilt, with tiny towns and empty roads. Rather more demanding than the Raid Pyrenean, we cycle this supported cycling holiday in five full days. You'll be blown away at how beautiful it is, and how welcome cyclists are here. There are a number of tunnels on this route; it always seems to us that when the French come to an obstacle in the mountains they go round, but the Spanish just go straight through. Most tunnels are very small and you'll be unlikely to see another vehicle while you're riding through them.
We cycle away from the sea and ride into beautiful Basque country with its rolling green hills, red-timbered houses and terracotta roofs. Today is an undulating route, with ten rather modest cols, none of which are very demanding individually, but it adds up to more than 3,000 metres of climbing overall. We start with the Aritzulegi (439m), then the Agina (500m). We tackle our longest climb of the day, the Artesiaga (984m), which is 18km averaging 2.6% but with sections of 11%, taking in the Meaka (636m) on the way up. Between Meaka and the top we pass a red iron monument, which pays homage to the 1756 antifascist prisoners who built the road across the Pyrenees during WWII. We cycle down the Eastern side of Lake Eugi and take in the Erro (801m) and the Mezkiritz (922m). The Garalda (941m) is really just a spot further along the ridge, and then we have the Abaurregaina (1052m), the Jaurrietta (984m) and finally the Remendia (1041m). The scenery is stunning. We descend into Oronz, where we stay the night.
We head out of Oronz and very soon we're climbing the Portillo de Lazar (1129m) before we descend into the pretty cobbled town of Isaba, which is a good place to stop for coffee. For a while we follow the valley to Roncal, and then we have a sharp left turn and we're climbing again, up to a nameless col that marks the border between Huesca and Aragon. Down into Ansó and then east to Hecho, taking in the Vedao (1095m) on the way. From Hecho we descend, following the magnificent Rio Aragón. Through the small town of Jasa and then we're climbing yet again, but up to a col with no name; there's nothing but a stone refuge known as the Refugio de Lomo. A 34km descent and then we're cycling across a massive plain surrounded by fields of wild flowers. We arrive in the town of Jaca, which is probably the best place to stop for lunch, before we continue on a quiet road, parallel with the new motorway, for a short while before heading north towards Biescas, where we turn east again. Last, but definitely not least, is the Cotefablo (1423m), our highest col so far, before we ride down into Broto and along the valley to our hotel in Sarvisé.
From Sarvisé we follow the Rio Ara for almost 40km, descending gently, until we arrive in the small town of Ainsa, which stands on the junction of three rivers. We usually have a coffee break here before cycling out of town on the wide, well-paved but empty N-260. The road is deceptive; it looks easy, but it's an undulating climb and just when you think you're getting somewhere, you find you're descending again and you're back where you started. Eventually we get to the top of the Collado de Foradada (1020m) with its intriguing sculpture by Irishman, Frank Norton, and then we descend, still on the same wide, empty road, into the small town of Las Colladas. For the next 20km we climb gently, first through a well-lit tunnel and the small town of Campó, as the road gradually narrows. We follow the Rio Esera through a stunning gorge until we reach Castejon de Sos at the foot of the Coll de Fadas (1470m). It's a 10km climb, averaging 5.4%, but once we're up there we stay high for a while, until we get to the Coll de l'Espina (1407m). A 20km descent into El Pont de Suert and we're now in Catalonia, and on our last real climb of the day, 8km up to the Viu de Llevata (1325m). A couple of kilometres downhill and then the last 2km to the Creu de Perves (1335m). That's today's climbing over, it's 36km down to the valley bottom again. We cross the river at Poblo de Segur and then ride along to Sort, our overnight stop.
Today we reach the highest point on the trip, from the point of altitude. We head out of Sort and climb steadily up to Port de Cantó (1725m). This is a 19km climb, averaging 5.4% but touches 10% in places. The road is very open and you can see endless mountain ranges in the distance. We cycle through a couple of small villages, and then it's the fast 25km descent to Adrall, after which we follow the valley into the town of La Seu d'Urgell. For the next 70km we ride across country on tiny roads, taking in two climbs - the Col de la Trava (1491m) and then the Coll de Port (1685m) - before we descend 20km into St Llorenç de Morunys. We cross the amazing lake, following its banks for 4km before we start our last climb of the day, the modest Coll de Mina (1200m). Finally we ride 10km down into the town of Berga. King Juan Carlos was declared "persona non grata" here in 2012, following a series of scandals with the royal family, and his decision to go off elephant hunting in Africa while the country's economy was in a severe depression. But I'm sure they'll make us very welcome!
It's our last day and although the distance is still long, there's less climbing, with only a couple of real cols, and the last 110km is almost all either downhill or flat. Once we start to get near the coast, the excitement kicks in and you forget all about saddle sores and aching muscles. We cycle out of Berga and over another very beautiful lake, following the banks for several kilometres before we climb gently up to a couple of tiny villages. We have a short descent into the town of Ripoll, and then we come to the first of our named cols of the day, the Coll de Canes (1120m), taking in the Coll de Coubet (1010m) on the way down, as we descend into Olot. We climb about 6km back out of the valley and from then on it's downhill more or less all the way for the next 55km until we get to the village of Toroella de Fluvia, cycling past orchards of peach and apricot trees, interspersed with sunflowers. As we turn north and run parallel to the coast, the sunflowers are gone, and all we can see is row upon row of neatly manicured grapevines. At last you can see the ocean, we follow the headland for a while and turn east towards Roses, where we finish. You'll soon be dipping your toes in the Med and drinking a cold beer in the bar overlooking the beach. It's been an epic week, and you'll be feeling tired but hopefully exhilarated and very proud of your achievement.
After breakfast we head off to drop you at the airport - Perpignan, Girona, Carcassonne or Toulouse.
820KM, 25 COLS, 5 FULL DAYS OF RIDING, CLIMBING AROUND 16,500 METRES
DAY 1 - HONDARRIBIA TO ORONZ - 159 KM, CLIMBING AROUND 3,500 METRES
DAY 2 - ORONZ TO SARVISE - 170 KM, CLIMBING AROUND 2,800 METRES
DAY 3 - SARVISE TO SORT - 191 KM, CLIMBING AROUND 2,600 METRES
DAY 4 - SORT TO BERGA - 148 KM, CLIMBING AROUND 3,300 METRES
DAY 5 - BERGA TO ROSES - 160 KM, CLIMBING AROUND 1,900 METRES
Ensuite accommodation in 2*-3* hotels, in shared rooms. Single rooms are available and a supplement of £275 applies.
Continental or buffet-style breakfasts every morning, supplemented with muesli if needed.
3-course evening meals every night with wine, a beer or a soft drink.
Snacks to keep you going during the day, such as bananas, chocolate, and quality energy gels and bars.
Bottled water and carbohydrate powder for your bottles, as well as High5 Zero electrolyte tablets.
Maps of the route for you to refer to as you ride and GPS files for you to upload to your device.
Souvenir full-zip Owayo Spanish Raid jersey.
As many photos of you as we can take during your trip - usually a few hundred pictures - so you can relive your journey from start to finish when you get home.
We'll never be more than a few kilometres from you at all times, so you don't need to carry loads of kit with you "just in case". We'll try to be at the bottom of every climb so you can shed unwanted clothing, top up your water bottles and grab a snack or energy bar, and at the top of every col so you can add a windproof layer before you start your descent.
We don't make our prices look cheaper by leaving out evening meals, alcohol, or even airport transfers, so if you're looking at prices, it pays to make sure you're comparing like for like.