2007 Part 2:
Today was the day that Phil, Chris, Gaz, Taj and Mark kicked off their tour and saw them riding down to Plymouth to catch the overnight ferry to Santander. It was also Cat’s birthday – the big one. Aside from a short 14 mile round trip to the supermarket so Pete could pick up some essentials we didn’t intend riding anywhere. Pete wanted a bit of hand-in-the-sand time this trip so knowing the seaside town of Collioure was a mere 15 minute taxi ride away we couldn’t think of a better place to spend the day celebrating Cat’s 40th.
Collioure is a beautiful little town, famed for its art and culture, and our day started off innocently enough with us wandering aimlessly around the town. We knew how the day was going to end but were trying to delay the inevitable until at least lunchtime. It was easy for us to kill some time because in addition to all the shops that filled the town, today was Wednesday which meant market day. At midday though we finally cracked and an early lunch soon became a boozy afternoon. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Sorede to Urdos
We were all suffering with varying degrees of hangovers this morning. Pete in particular was suffering with the hangover from hell and for him it was going to be a long painful day. With around a 300 mile ride in front of us we were going to take the most direct route from Urdos and this meant most of the day would be spent on motorways.
Jumping straight on A9/E15 motorway, and then the A61 at Narbonne, we spent the first 140 miles heading towards Toulouse, the tedium only broken by a stop for fuel. We then spent a further 120 miles on the A64/E80 motorway heading towards Pau. Monotonous would be an understatement and fuel stops became something to look forward to.
At Pau though we were able to pick up the N134/E7 for our final run up to Urdos – a really nice 50 mile ride. The E7 is a spectacular biking road and the run from Pau, through Oloron-Sainte-Marie, and up to Urdos was our reward after munching motorway miles all day.
Santander to Urdos
Phil, Chris, Gaz, Taj and Mark on the other hand had a much better prospect in front of them. Their crossing from Plymouth to Santander had been good value. They’d had a few beers, eaten in a great restaurant, and had a good nights sleep. So, feeling well rested they were raring to go.
After disembarking the ferry they jumped onto the E70 for the first 10 miles, heading towards Valdecilla, and then turned onto the CA161/CA261 and over the Puerto de Alisas. From there they rode through Arredondo to Ramales de la Victoria picking up the N269/Bi-630 to Balmaseda.
The scenery on the Bi-630 was very pretty and the road surface good, but on the hilly bits traffic tended to build up behind slower cars – not really a problem on a bike though. From Balmaseda they headed for Arceniega on the N624 – although listed as an N road the surface was very poor. From Arceniega they continued on the N624 through Amurrio and joined the AP-68 at Urquillo. This road was an improvement on the N624 and was excellent, with fast sweepers and a good surface.
They then took the motorway, and then dual carriageways N622/N1 and A2134/N104 to bypass Gasteiz Vitoria and get on the A132. From here it was on to Campezo and Acedo across to Estella. This was a terrific road with very little traffic. From Estella they took the N111/Na-601/N121/Na-234 to join the N240 a couple of miles north of Monreal, heading south-east. The first 24 miles of the N240 are nondescript but at Yesa the road runs around the Embalse de Yesa – a reservoir – and then to Jaca 38 miles away, a great bit of road. From Jaca they turned north and up the N330/E7 to Canfranc.
Avoiding the tunnel they passed through Canfranc Estacion and then up and over the Col du Somport rejoining the main road, which on the French side becomes the N134, a few miles from Urdos. The road up from Jaca is good but the pass road going up on the Spanish side is spectacular with wide, well surfaced, constant radius corners.
By late afternoon we were all reunited at Hotel des Voyageurs with the Millau group arriving first and the Santander group arriving an hour or so later. Urdos is the proverbial one horse town with nothing to do and nowhere to go outside of the hotel. The hotel however was fine. It is reasonably priced, with reasonable food, and the staff are friendly and helpful.