What was originally planned to be two days of riding, became one day of riding from Rébénacq to Jaca and then a train ride to Zaragoza, with some riding in the city. This unfortunately was because of some tight timing of the regional trains (which are the only trains accepting bikes), something that we hadn’t known about back when the trip was planned.
The ride turned out to be better than expected as we waited out the morning thunderstorms in Rebenacq with Marc (our CS host) and we set off at 11am or so in a light rain. However, just minutes after leaving the rain stopped and the clouds lifted a little, so we were very fortunate to hardly get wet at all.
The ride to the Col du Somport was nice, gradual until the tunnel, but with heavy transport truck traffic. Of all of the cols I had crossed into Spain at this point: the 298m Coll de Portus between Perpignan, France and Girona, Spain in the East Pyrenees, the 1794m Col du Portalet between Huesca, Spain and Laruns, France in the central Pyrenees and this, the Col du Somport at 1640m between Oloron-Sainte-Marie, France and Jaca, Spain also in the central Pyrenees, I would say the Somport if the best option thus far.
The final 14km of the Somport are where the climbing starts, but it is consistent and not overly steep unlike the windy and varied Portalet. The Somport is far easier than the Portalet. We had heavy cloud the entire way up the climb and once at the top the visibility was extremely poor. The descent was cold and felt likely more dangerous than it actually was, but after only 2 or 3 minutes of descending on the Spanish-side, the sun returned and it was quickly beautiful for our ride down.
On the way we stopped by the Canfranc Estacion, which is abandoned now, but is one of the largest train stations ever built, and this happened around the time of the war as a means to link Spain and France. The building is beautiful and it’s a shame it is closed, although there is a current restoration project underway with plans to turn it into a hotel.
We arrived in Jaca late, but it was planned and the next day went to Zaragoza to eventually catch the train to head back to Madrid. We did about 30kms riding in Zaragoza seeing the sites, and the prior day to Jaca from Rébénacq was 105km all told, so that brought the 5 day total to a hair under 400kms. It was a good series of rides for a first tour in Europe for Patricia as we averaged about 80km a day, did two major Cols between France and Spain at 1794m and 1640m, did the 1280m Monrepos and also tackled the 1035 Col de Marie-Blanque which is a TdF favorite. With the two short days riding in Extremadurra, it brings us both up to 500km in the 7 days of riding that we have done in Spain. For me, this 5 day trip was a great warm up for the second and third weeks of the Cima Coppi Tour, and has left me desiring the completion of Aubisque and Tourmalet. Check into the blog for those updates!