Day 7: Sat 30th June 2007
Ride: Andorra – 248 miles
Today the plan was to ride a 250 mile loop that would take us out from St. Lary, into and through Andorra – entering on the French side and leaving on the Spanish side – and back again. Unfortunately Pete couldn’t make it, he was in quite a bit of pain from an old shoulder injury that had been playing up for the last couple of days, and so he decided to give today’s ride out a miss. The vast quantity of wine he consumed last night may also have contributed to his absence.
Meanwhile, for those that had them, the rest fought off their hangovers with coffee and croissants, saddled up, and left St. Lary heading east down the D618 to St. Girons, through Massat, and up to the Col de Port.
Kyle, Cat and Mark (L) and Gaz (R) at the top of the Col de Port
It’s only 40 miles or so from St. Lary to the top of the Col but heavy holiday traffic and a local cycle race turned a 70-80 minute ride into a couple of hours. Also, having 7 riders in the group all trying to make overtakes in the heavy traffic made it tricky for those at the back to stay in touch with the lead riders. Whoever happened to be tail end Charlie had to work very hard to make all the overtakes and still stay in touch with the riders at the front, so there was a lot of jostling for position. Needless to say by the time we got to the top we were ready for a coffee break.
Coffee stop at the top of the Col de Port
Fully refreshed we left the top of the Col and had a pleasant ride down to the N20 where we turned left heading south towards Tarascon.
A view of the D618 from the top of the Col de Port heading towards the N20
The N20 had heavy traffic until beyond Ax-les-Thermes. This is a superb biking road and since much of the traffic decided to use the tunnels into Andorra, we were able to crack on up and over the Port d’Envalira – at 2,407m it’s the highest surfaced pass in the Pyrenees. In fact the traffic wasn’t a problem again until we got near the customs post and the busy ski resort of Pas de la Casa.
Top of the Port d’Envalira
After we’d made our way through the ski resort we dropped down the CG-2 – Carretera General – to Andorra la Vella where we looked for somewhere to stop for lunch.
Lunch stop in Andorra
After lunch in Andorra we split into two groups. Chris B, Cat, Gaz and Mark wanted to go looking for cheap leathers and lids while Kyle, Phil and Chris P wanted to push on. The main drag through Andorra la Vella isn’t much fun, it was very busy and very hot, and it was a relief to get to the customs post and cross into Spain. We took the N145 briefly to La Seu d’Urgell where we turned right onto the N260 towards Adrall, staying on it to Sort. The N260 has to be one of the best roads in Europe whether you are in a car or on a bike – 29 miles across the mountains on a well surfaced road with plenty of bends to play with, as you cross the Coll del Canto.
From Sort the road – the C13/C28 – to Sorpe is equally good, and then you climb up the Port de la Bonaigua and down to Vielha. The road over the top was a bit hit and miss as there were extensive roadworks and it was here that one of our group had his front wheel wash out on loose gravel – luckily only at low speed so the only damage was a scuffed fairing and a broken bracket holding the rear brake lever. The road down from the ski resort just below the pass at the top wasn’t much better and also had a pretty poor surface.
From Vielha the road back to St. Lary, at least for Kyle, Phil and Chris P, was the same as the night before – Vielha to St. Beat where we turned right over the Col de Mente and then over the Col de Portet d’Aspet to St. Lary. However the group behind had misprogrammed their GPS for the shortest route. The result was they ended up following loose gravel forestry tracks for most of the way back. GPS is useful but it’s only as good as you programme it to be! Chris B, Cat, Gaz and Mark finally rolled in 90 minutes after the others.