Everyone has a ride they are proud of or remember because of its epic nature. Perhaps the first time you ticked over triple figures, climbed over 3,000ft elevation, finished a five-hour Gran Fondo... Maybe the weather gods conspired against you one day but, through sheer force of will, you overcame those obstacles and triumphed?
Well, try this on for size: Aigars and one of his guests decided to ride 161 miles over half of the Pyrenees, climb eight summits, ascend almost 28,500ft, and start and finish in the dark. If ever the term 'hardcore' could be used to describe a ride... this is it!
Aigars runs HC Bike Tours and regularly takes groups to any country in Europe and through the French countryside during the Tour de France. He knows France and its famous climbs backwards, the Pyrenees his favorite cycling destination.
For a long time, Aigars had wanted to do 'something really crazy', and so the HC Hard-Core Ride was born.
See also: How to climb like a pro cyclist
The ride details alone would strike fear into the heart of any cyclist, regardless of your climbing prowess or fitness level - 161 miles and 28,500ft of total ascent!
Check out the STRAVA profile here
"I don’t remember why and how, but I started to think about a crazy ride somewhere in mountains a while ago. We were doing Tour de France Pyrenees tour in 2014 and we started to think about the Pyrenees as the location for this crazy ride. It didn’t take a lot of time to figure out a perfect route - eight climbs, all very famous, all very hard. At the end of July, straight after our TdF Pyrenees tours, myself and one of our guest riders took on the challenge. The ride was carefully planned and we had a support car for the day. Our plan was to start at 7am and only stop at the tops of the climbs to take one quick picture and get drinks and food.
"The first two climbs were easy"
The first two climbs of the day felt like a normal ride. The Col de Portet d’Aspet is long, but not very steep, and obviously we still had fresh legs here. The altitude wasn't that bad either. Only a little bit over 3,000ft.
Col de Portet d’Aspet
Distance: 11.2 miles
First climb of the day - the Col de Portet d’Aspet
Col de Mente
Distance: 6.7 mile
Second climb of the day - the Col de Mente
"Only the pure climbers feel comfortable on gradients like these"
The Port de Bales on its own is a very hard ride. Almost 12.5 miles long and lots of sections over 10%. Only the pure climbers, like Alberto Contador, feel comfortable on gradients of 10% or more. For people over 145lbs, it is very tough. Like most climbs in the Pyrenees, the Port de Bales is not so regular and has lots of ramps well over 10%. The roads are narrow with no barriers and lots of turns. The views though are very spectacular, a little distraction for us.
Port de Bales
Distance: 11.7 miles
Third climb of the day and spirits still high - the Port de Bales
"I don't remember that one, it wasn't that hard"
The next two climbs I don't remember all that well. They were easy. The Col de Peyresourde is an easy climb, steady and averages 6-7%. The Col d'Aspin the same. It wasn't that hard. But for sure we were tired at this point and still had three big climbs to come: Col du Tourmalet, Col du Soulor and Col d'Aubisque. Maybe we were thinking about them and not the pain in our legs.
Col de Peyresourde
- Elevation: 5,148ft
Distance: 9.6 miles
Distance: 7.5 mile
"We really started to struggle, and we still had to climb the Col du Souler and the Col d’Aubisque"
We really started to struggle on the Col du Tourmalet. It is so long and the highest climb of the ride, almost 6,000ft. The last section is 2.5 miles at a steady 9% - no less! We really started to struggle!
It was around 7.00pm at night and we still had to climb the Col du Souler and the Col d’Aubisque, around 50 miles more. We were both so tired and knew that if we stopped again, it would spell the end of our ride. Our support van driver had prepared everything we needed for the final climbs, so I told him to go back to the Village and not come back. I said to the other rider, 'we are alone, we have to finish this.'
Col du Tourmalet
Distance: 10.6 miles
The Col du Tourmalet and still two climbs to go. At this point Aigars sent the support vehicle back to base.
"WE DID IT!"
It was getting dark as we started the final two climbs. The Col du Soulor and Col d'Aubisque are almost one climb which made it mentally a little easier. We were at the top of Col d`Aubisque at around 10:00pm. We were tired, but very happy. We almost did it!
It was totally dark and we just needed to go down. It took us around an hour to get down to the Col d'Aubisque and back to our village. We did it!
The feeling when we were done was something special in my life. As we sat down to dinner (a very large dinner) and glass of wine at midnight, I was tired but so happy.
The next day I didn't want to ride, but I did eat a lot of things!
We plan to do something crazy each year, maybe a little more crazy - 10 climbs! We love it!
Col du Soulor
Distance: 12.2 mile
Distance: 6.2 mile
Triumphant... Finished... Empty