Epic Mountain Bike Holidays | Spain | Basque Country | Pyrenees

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Trail > 2011 Trail Finding and Building News

I still haven’t decided how I’m going to organise this, however I plan to keep a record of all the new trails I have been checking out. I will either continually update this page or will add new pages. The idea is that everyone can see the new trails that we will have for 2011 and those of you who are joining us for a holiday can keep an eye on the new singletrack awaiting you. I’ll try to keep it picture heavy and word light, so you can see lots of nice mountain biking pictures but not have to read my waffle.

Thursday 13/01/2011: Exploration. This ride has been in the planning for a long time and I have been checking out maps for weeks now. Today was the day for it though. It worked out as 1500m vertical and 38km total distance, with the descent being 99% rideable and 100% great but the climb was only 80% rideable and is 100% tough. I have a few options for changing the climb which I will check out shortly and report back.

Leaving the house under bright blue skies I quickly drove into low lying mist. I parked the van at around 200m and, after winding through the old town a bit, descended 200m, to sea level, dropping down further into the mist. The descent was brilliant, slippy ancient cobblestones that had broken down leaving lots of jumps and drops. After a few minutes climbing, I started to see blue skies again and passed through lots of fields with traditional Basque hay bales.
The climb was very tough. Too tough. I will spend some time searching out another way up there. Eventually I came out high on a ridge with stunning views into Spain and France. The snow capped Pyrenees ran away east and the sea was clearly visible with San Sebastian and Biarritz seeming very close.
A frustrating section as I dropped out onto the ridge. Some of the best singletrack I’ve ridden, very technical and fast, but mixed with very difficult climbs. Needs some tweaking to find a better way.
I reached the first of my summits at 1050m where I found the Basque flag flying. From here on the route was amazing. I dropped down this ridge, all rideable but very hard, and picked up some contour singletrack which took me to my next stop. I love contour singletrack, for me it’s the ultimate mountain biking – tough and requiring total concentration. In this part of Spain they have a lot of this type of trail.
I reached this mendhir, commemorating all the Basques who died under Franco. From here I could have gone straight down and enjoyed the 800m descent to the van, but… the highest peak around this region sat just above me, with a monastery at the top that I had heard a lot about. Mountain biking is all about biking up and down mountains… isn’t it? So bike on shoulder I scaled the 150m to the top and was rewarded with amazing views over a huge area of Spain and France with the mountains all running into one another. It was also where I saw the first person I’d seen all day, sitting up there smoking a spliff and enjoying the view!
The first part of the descent was incredibly technical, and dangerous a bit too. There was a lot of exposure and the trail wound through the rocky crown surrounding the monastary on rickety stone steps. One mistake and it would be…
Passing through this boulder gate, around 50m down from the summit, marked the last of the do-or-die sections and I dropped about 100m, back to the mendhir, on nice flowy switchbacks with pumpy rocky sections in between. My mountain bike and I were very happy!
The 800m descent to the van was almost all on contour singletrack, rocky, buff and technical but with a real flow and speed to it. Very nice indeed. There were a couple of sections of very broken down fireroad where it was a lot of fun to pump and float to try and keep the bike moving fast and smooth. All too soon though I was back at the van with a bad case of arm pump! Now I need to study my maps and speak to some locals and try to work out a better way of doing the climb.

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