I’m not going to sugarcoat things
By Jason Sumner
I personally think it’s silly to play the ranking game with endurance cycling events. If a race’s tagline includes “world’s toughest” I take it as a sign that it doesn’t have more interesting currency to traffic in. Unique is what makes these events special.
But I’m not going to sugarcoat things either. As far as pain and suffering goes, the TransPyr mountain bike stage race is not for the feint of heart or weak of mind. This 8-stage adventure that started in Roses along Spain’s Mediterranean Sea, and traversed across the Pyrenees to the Atlantic Ocean in San Sebastian, totaled 509 miles and somewhere on the order of 66,000 feet of climbing. Every day was hard. Just finishing was a major accomplishment.
All the more remarkable then that of the 223 starters, 183 earned a certificate of completion and a white finisher’s jersey. Count teammate Nuno Coelho and I among that group. After logging what was by far our best day in the saddle on the final day, we ended with a total race time of 64.5 hours, good enough for 99th and 100th among that group of 183.
As for the final day, in terms of sheer depth of experience, the 84km trip from Elizondo to San Sebastian might well be the most memorable I’ve had on a bicycle. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the route or the scenery, which were amazing, or even the fact that the final finish line happened to be a stone’s throw from the beach in San Sebastian.
It was simply the fact that after spending a good portion of the previous seven days struggling to figure out how to best work together as teammates, Nuno and I attained near-personal perfection. I finally found some decent climbing legs, Nuno continued his rapid ascendance toward deft descender, and we made all the right moves, ducking in and out of draftable groups and buzzing through aid stations.
The end result was 39th and 40th out of 200 who rode the final stage, and more importantly, I honestly believe it was the absolute best result the two of us were capable of. Imagine taking a wet sponge and squeezing every possible drop of liquid from it, and you get the idea. It was a truly special moment that’s hard to put into words. But anyone who’s ever raced bikes knows what it’s like to have the proverbial perfect trip.
It also didn’t hurt that the timed section of the route was just the first 56km, because there was no way we could race safely into the heart of a bustling coastal metropolis. That meant giving full gas for just 3 hours, 45 minutes, then coasting the rest of the way in, able to enjoy spectacular ocean vistas as we drew closer to San Sebastian. There was even a quick boat ride near the end of the stage to get us across a river, and at the last aid station they served tasty chorizo sandwiches and (non-alcoholic) champagne.
Once again, the stage win went to Joan Compte and Jaume Guardia (Team Camprodon), who stopped the clock in 2:55. Emilio Vivian and Daniel Martinez (Alberto Contador Federation) held on to the overall, recording an 8-day time of 45 hours, 9 minutes. Even more impressive was the perseverance of Natulio Luis Enrech and Maure Luis Enrech, who logged two full work weeks, finishing the event in just a shade over 80 hours. This year also saw the first women’s team finish the race.
Bottom line, if you’re looking to truly test yourself, and do it among one of the world’s most majestic mountain ranges, put TransPyr on the bucket list. It’s truly unique in it’s own spectacularly hard way.