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Vous êtes : Accueil / Notre cabinet d'architecte > Les architectes fondateurs > Architecte ADRIAN BREWIN > Coast to coast Macmillan cycling challenge

Adrian's Successful Cycle Challenge

Excusez nous pour la gêne occasionnée par la manque de traduction de cette page. Il s'agit d'un blog personnel d'Adrian Brewin et son challenge cyclisme, fait dans sa langue maternelle. N'hésitez pas de nous contacter si vous voulez plus d'informations.

Just over £1000 raised for Macmillan Cancer support

Adrian's cycling challengeAdrian's cycling challenge

Just over a year ago one of my friends convinced me to accompany him on a little trip across the Pyrenees during Autumn 2013. From 14th September 2013 the idea was to try and cycle between the great waves of the Atlantic to the calm waters of the lake otherwise known as the Mediteranean.  Over 700km reaching heights of (pain!) 2000m along certain parts of the Tour de France. So my kids were paid to clean the old bike and I started training my legs to go a little further than the 10 minute sprint to work.


The trip is now just a distant memory.  A really good memory too and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about it.  Through Virgin Money Giving I raised just over £1000 for Macmillan Cancer Support thanks to some very kind donations.  I really appreciated all the support leading up to and during the trip. Thank you to Nick for the idea. I'm just sorry that he wasn't able to join me.  In the end it was a solo performance, without any back up support vehicle, rather like a prolonged Sunday ride, as you will see in the highlights below.


Thank you to everyone who helped me on my way.

Day 1 - St Jean-de-Luz to Arette

The route

St Jean de Luz - Ascain D4 - Sare - Cherchebruit - Dantxaria N121B - Spain - N121B - Arribiltoa NA2600 - Erratzu - COL D'ISPEGUY - D949 Saint Entienne de Baigorry - D948 Bourciriette - D15 Occos - Saint Jean Pied de Port D918 - D401 Caro - Aincille - Bascassan  or D118 D18 - Bastida - D18 Lecumberry - D117 Mendive - Behorleguy - D117 Alcay Alcabehyety Sanharette - D247 Alos Sibas Abense - Tardetes Sorholus - D918 Montory - Lanne en Baretous - Arette
Gare de St Jean-de-LuzDeparture
I was up pretty early Saturday morning.  We'd been out the night before celebrating a friend's birthday so I hadn't slept long enough. In the silence before the house awoke I mechanically put together a bowl of porridge and gobbled it down nervously.  A casual goodbye to the family was all I could handle and it wasn't long before I was off testing my luggage set up as I made my way across Paris. 

It took longer than I thought, which I tried to dismiss being a sign for the rest of the trip. I weaved around the crowds at the station in my hurry not to miss the train. There was no time left to take any chances in the long queue for coffee and croissants.  I'll get something on the train when I'm on my way and can relax. I did need to change some clothes though as I didn't want to sit down in lycra for the whole journey so crouching down behind a drinks machine I put on my only pair of long trousers.  Job done without too many blushes and I got back in my stride to find my seat. 

As the train pulled away my breathing died down a little after all that running around and I was just left with my thoughts, typical of me; is the bike safe, what have I forgotten, am I mad?
Bike set upThe trusty MBK
Unfortunately there was no coffee and no snacks as the bar staff hadn't boarded the train.  By the time I arrived around 1pm I was pretty bored and decidedly peckish.  The sun was shining though and I was grateful and relieved by the warmer temperature consistent with being further south unlike my earlier trip that morning.  I repeated my tricky moment  this time getting changed in front of the station and set up the bag on the back of my bike.  The senses were firing on all cylinders and I'd spotted a boulangerie opposite the station.  Before long I'd stuffed a pair of sandwiches in my back pocket, filled my water bottle and set off.  

The wrong way of course.  I found myself going through a tunnel to a dual carriageway when I had a plan to follow the river by the park.  I got off and carefully hobbled back in my cycling shoes between the crash barrier and the speeding cars and tried another route.  Round the corner and in to my first hill.  After about 15 mintues and some heavy breathing I started to have a niggling feeling that there was still a small river missing and the it was more forest than park.  Stop, phone out, maps, wait, yep, wrong way again.  So I rolled back down the hill thinking how much time and energy had been wasted just to visit a housing estate but I put that one to bed pretty fast as I realised what a beautiful day it was and I was finally doing something that I had been looking forward to for over a year.  It felt great as I saw the river, found the park and felt the warm breeze sweep across my face.


  • Old steel frame MKB bicycle with ridiculous smallest gear ratio of 35-29
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste, razor
  • Cycling shorts, cycling t-shirt, socks, pants, clip in cycling shoes, cycling jacket
  • Helmet, sunglasses, cycling gloves
  • 2 inner tubes, repair kit, type levers, allen key set, chain link repair
  • On the bike, bike lights, pump, 2 drink bottles, speedometer
  • Change of clothes (long trousers, long sleeved t-shirt, long-sleeved hooded t-shirt, pants, socks)
  • Running shoes (a pair of flip-flops would have worked just as well)
  • Energy bars and sweets
  • Bike lock (could easily have been left behind)
  • Neck warmer that can be pulled over my head under my helmet
  • Emergency contact details and list of directions
  • Phone and wallet

I used my belt and the bicycle lock to hold the luggage under the back seat.  Apart from the lock I think I got it about right but when it was sunny there were times when I could have done with more liquid.

Once I got into my rhythm I was quite surprised to see how quickly I started making progress across the map.  It's not easy to relate the distances to anything familiar.  All I could do was concentate on the present which was fantastically liberating and helped keep at bay the thoughts of work far away in Paris. Still it wasn't long before I needed some food so I stopped for a sandwich on a bridge near Cherchebruit.  Nothing much happening there so I saved the other one for later.  In any case I wasn't sure how many shops would be open as I approached Spain during siesta time. Learnt that lesson once before aged about seventeen.
Cycling on top of the cloudsShame I didn't wipe the steam away from the lens
Crossing the border was weird as I suddenly left my comfort zone of everything in being French.  At the same time it gave me a lift as it was exciting and all part of the adventure.  I noticed the going was seriously uphill without any warning signs about the approaching col.  It was long and the wind had picked up against me.  Upwards and upwards and upwards, never ending, one foot over the other.  The gear ratios were totally inappropriate, but there was nothing I could do about it.  I'd thought long and hard about treating myself to a flash new bicycle but it wasn't to be in the end.  With the heavy breathing I was beginning to realise the difficulties ahead of me.  It was tough.  True to say there were occasions when I'd look over my shoulder, see nobody around and decide on a small pit stop.

It was only when it opened out at the top that I realised how high I had come, cycling across the plateau with the clouds below me in the valley.  It looked like a sea of cotton wool that you could quite easily sail across.
Around 4pm I pulled over to assess on the map where the day would end.  Boy the spare sandwich tasted good and the idea of a compulsory purchase for every day slipped through my mind.  I'd started the cycling pretty late so I thought I'd go for it.  The Hotel de l'Ours in Arette had room and was prepared to keep the restaurant open late. Sorted with a bed for the night I pressed on but it was still dark for the last stretch and I was grateful I'd decided to bring my lights.  I was tired and had foolishly run out of liquid but thrilled to have made it in the dark clocking up just over 130km.  

I apologised for smelly state of attire but they were accustomed to cyclists arriving in a similar state. Keen to close the restaurant for the evening, they had a perfect meal of hot soup, hearty veal and ice cream for dessert ready for me.  "Would you like an apperitif?"  "Yes please, I'll have a Perrier, Pineapple juice, Coke, jug of water, (then I caved in), a beer and un quart de vin rouge thank you!"
I was shattered but grateful for the comforts of the hotel.  I tried a few stretches but a hot shower beckoned.  A quick rinse of the sticky clothes and it wasn't long before I lay immobile in bed.  

Day 2 - Arette to Luz-Saint-Saveur

The route

Aretta - D918 Issor - N134/E7 maybe D238 - D294 Escot - D294 towards camping Moulin Barescou - COL DE MARIE BLANQUE - Bielle - D894 D3944 Belesten - Geteu - Getre - D240 Beost - Assouste - D240 - D918 Eaux bonnes - COL DU SOULOR - COL DU TOURMALET - D918 Arrens Marsous - D918 Azun - Argeles Gazoust - D921 Balagnas - Pierrefitte Nestalas - Soulum - D921 Luz Saint Sauveur

Col de Marie Blanque signHardest col of the week
Bright and early the next day the breakfast felt a little lonely and somewhat functional. I felt stiff but knew I needed to pack in the calories.  I was glad to set off but realised that it was Sunday and my lunch options were a definite concern.  The air felt fresh as it had rained in the night and it reminded me of some of my early morning practice rides but it meant the roads were wet and slippy.  As the tension and stiffness from yesterday's excursions eased it felt good to be rolling again.  That was for the 5 minutes before the knowing wobble of a flat tyre.  Damn it.  Quickly and efficiently I emptied the bag, dug out the tools and set to changing the tyre.  Less than 15 minutes and I was back on the bike.  I didn't need that to happen very often and luckily it was the only puncture or mechanical problem I had on the whole trip.
Col de Marie BlanqueDay 2
At the foot of the Col de Maire Blanque there was a sign.  I'd never heard of the col before (shows my ignorance and amateur status) but I stopped to take the picture and contemplate a moment the task before me. I noticed that it just kept getting steeper.  The further up the mountain, the steeper the slope.  Not good. It also wasn't the only col that day.
Col d'AubisqueBetween Argèles & Eaux-Bonnes
When I arrived at the Clos des Remparts at Luz St Sauveur, the second day's end point, I knew I was tired.  I needed something to drink and some food 'reasonably' quickly.  I felt fine but still a long drink was high on the agenda. Lots of closed shops through the town was not too encouraging.  Behind a big gate, the courtyard was beautiful and peaceful with nobody around.  Only the low hum of a lawnmover going backwards and forwards beyond another wall.  I tentatively headed up the steps, poked my head round the corner and politely asked if I'd found the right place.  The kind owner promptly stopped the lawnmover and suggested I sit down.  I obviously looked a little pale but all was well.  Tea and cakes were summoned, the grass cutting put on hold and a sun lounger was placed in the sunshine. Heaven had appeared in a sunny sheltered corner and I enjoyed one of the best 40 winks I've ever had.
Definitely not getting enough calories in me. Really tough. Puncture then 1000m then down (lovely bit) then 1900m I think...then brilliant descent in the sunshine. Toumalet tomorrow — at Col D'Aubisque.
Back down the valleyLuz St Saveur & Bagnères de Louchon
Just as a word of warning, the map apps on the phone are great for finding your way when you have a phone signal but they aren't as accurate as the ordance survey maps.  I had taken photos of portions of the OS maps along my route which meant I didn't have to carry the paper and I could look at the pictures any time to try and figure out where I was heading.

Day 3 - Luz to Saint Beat

The route

Luz - D918 Betpouey & Bareges & La Mongie & Artigues - Gripp & Cabadur - Sainte Marie de Campan - D918 Estupas & La Seoube - Espiadet & Aspin Aure - COL D'ASPIN - D112 Arreau
D618 Borderes Louron - Camors - Louderville - COL DE PEYRESOUDRE - D618 Saint Tritous & Garin - Cazeaux de Larboust - Trebons de Luchon - Bagneres de Luchon - D125C Moustajon - Poy - D125 Cantruc - Pont de Guran - D125B Cierp - D44 Marignac - Saint Beat

Road blockedBlocket at the foot of Tourmalet
Setting off in the morning, the route out was quite simple until I hit the road works.  40 minutes wait until they opened the road!  Get real!  But no amount of arguing was going to change anything.  The floods from the previous winter had caused some serious damage and the only way to repair the roads and underground services was to completely shut the pass.  Whilst I waited for the opening slot at 10.30am the traffic backed up and over 50 cyclists came to join me.
It was pretty good to have some cyclists along side me.  It meant that there were one or two jokes on the way up and it all helped with the motivation.  Everyone was enjoying themselves and the spirits were high despite the trial ahead.
Col TourmaletOut from Luz St Saveur
Up the valleyWell worth the detour
I wasn't sure where I was going to end up today but judging by the climbs and the downhills any further than St Beat was going to be too much.  After making a couple of calls to sort out accommodation for that night, I finally found Le Chapel Bleu was prepared to put me up but couldn't feed me any more than soup and a sandwich as I hadn't given them sufficient notice. I'd had enough of ringing round so I took them up on their offer. 

My careful reckoning over the map earlier had my hopes pinned on the fact that they'd be quite a lot of downhill late in the day.  Luckily this was the case but rolling in to St Beat was surprising.  Most of the Pyrenees is so scenic but this place looked like a ghost town. It seemed like a real down and out place that had clearly just had all the mines closed.  My tired head started imagining all sorts of horrors of my bed for the night.  

I need not have worried though because the welcome was really warm and it wasn't long before I'd showered, been fed, chatted over a few beers and fallen fast asleep in bed.  The story was that the town had been badly hit by the floods last year and they were wisely taking their time making sure the right decisions were made in putting it back together.

Day 4 - Onwards to Tarascon-sur-Ariège

The route

Saint Beat - D44 Col de l'Agus & Gerr de Boutx - D85 Henne Morte - D618 Portet d'Aspet - COL D'ASPET - Saint Lary - Augirein Terrefete - Illartein - Argein - Audresson - D618 Engomer - Arguilla & Luzenac - Moulis - Saint Girons - D3 Encourtiech - D33 Riverenert - Les Cravives - Les Cabesses - D188 then D72 - COL DE PORTEL - D618 Prat Communal - Saurat - Bedeilhac et Aynat - D618 Tarascon sur Ariège
Wet bendTypical view on a wet day
This was the wettest day.  Quickly up in to the clouds. The last time I'd known such wet mist was in Scotland.  On the uphills with all the effort it wasn't so bad because I was generating so much heat and going so slowly that the splashes didn't have much impact.  But on the way down the chill factor kicked in big time and after about half an hour my feet were soaked.  There was nothing to do but stop at the next bin I saw and dig out some plastic bags.  Once wrapped round each foot and shoes clamped back on to the pedals things started to look up.  I've learnt over the years that if my feet are warm and dry then life never looks so bad.
1709m but it was still harder than yesterday. Col de Marie Blanque was harder again though. 13% indeed! I've decided 5% over 10km is reasonable. 8% over anything more is annoying. Steeper again and I begin to loose it!
Tarascon-sur-AriègeBeautiful evening

Final day to Perpignan

Was I going to make it?  Was today really going to be the last day of cycling. Could I face another day?

The route

Tarascon sur Ariège - D123 Ornolac Ussat les Bains - N20 E9 Sinsat & Les Cabannes - Ax les Thermes - D613 Ascou - towards Goulors & La Forgé - D25 Ascou Pailheres - COL DE PAILHERES - Mijanes - Rouze - D16 Usson but take D118 south towards Escouloubre - D17 Le Bousquet - COL DE MOULIS - Buillac - D17 Roquetfort de Sault - D84 Coumo Claro - Ribest de la Fargue - COL DE JAU - COL DE GARAVEL - Moltig les Bains - Prades - Vinca - Bouleternere - Corbere les Cabanes - Thuir - Trouillas - Perpignan
By now I was beyond getting in to the routine.  Breakfast was a functional process of packing in some calories. Without a doubt I was tired. My bum had started to feel sore to the extent that I'd started to stand up on the pedals far more frequently.
Feels like cycling through treacle this morning. Sun is out though.... — at Ax-les-thermes Ariège.
Etat des routesDaunting stuff on the last day
Up and up and up and up.... time and time again I'd get to the corner and there'd only be another uphill to yet another corner.  Never once through the week had there seemed to be such a long day.  My legs were tired and I think my speed had dropped to an average all time low.  Round again and zig zag uphill.  I'd start to count the revolution of the pedals.  By getting into a rhythm between breathing, pushing on the pedals and counting I'd enter a kind of dream like state and forget I was counting.  I developed this game to see how high I could count without realising.  Often it would be high teens or maybe into the thirties but a couple of couple of times I'd suddenly wake up and be in the nineties!
3 very long cols. Some of the hardest because my legs were mush. Really slow going....
Eventually I reached the top.  Time for a break given the magnificient view in the shelter of some rocks.  I was about as sure that it was the last hill as I had been aware of the size of my first col earlier in the week but this time it really was the last.  The wind was up so the break didn't last too long as I started to shiver.  Back on the bike to roll down the hill - the longest of downhills lasting all afternoon nearly to the sea.  I recommend the lunch in the restaurant over looking the valley near Molitg-les-Bains.  The chips were great and the portions magnificent.
Food stop viewFuel stop before last ride down
I nearly called it a day in Prades but then I thought it was a lovely evening and I didn't exactly have many appointments to stick around for.  What could be more pleasant than a cycle down to the coast?  The road was long and it made it longer tyring to keep off the main roads.  I nearly got lost trying to find the back roads in to Perpignan but once I made it through the industrial estate I did find the station.  A quick check of the phone meant I could catch the night train back to Paris if only I could convince the ticket inspector to change my ticket.  

Just time for a meal but my outfit had definitely seen better days.  I had no choice but to chance my luck with the restaurants around the station which were pretty much what you'd expect.  In my exhilaration and excitement I ended up ordering 3 salads! However it was the cognac I ordered in celebration of having made it that tasted really sweet.

Luckily common sense prevailed and they put me up with another cyclist.  We got chatting and of course had to know where each of us had been on our bikes?  As modestly as possible I mentioned that I'd just completed coast to coast only for a broad smile to appear on my new found friend. He'd just completed the same journey so we spent the next couple of hours comparing stories.  No surprises that we'd lived some very similar adventures.
PerpignanThe end
766km later and I'd made it!! I worked out that I did it in almost bang on 100 hours. I had no idea!
With special thanks to:

Eurostudio - CAD solutions for architects

LRQA France - world leader in the management system certification and their added value

and all my family, friends and anonymous donations.

Rolling alongRide in to Perpignan with a grin

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