At the last round of the UK Gravity Enduro 2015, my husband and I won a holiday for fastest couple of the day. It was a week long, all-inclusive Enduro training camp in the Pyrenees. We were so excited - what an amazing prize! All we needed to pay for were the return flights.
Being in mid-April, we were a little concerned as to what the weather would be like. Would there still be snow in the mountains? We arrived in Barcelona to blazing sunshine! Following our prolonged wet winter, I was happy to spend some time chilling in the sun waiting for the transfer bus. We were soon on our way to the chalet “Mouli del Riu” within the hamlet of Le Mouli, on the edge of the village and ski station of Saint Pierre dels Forcats. Luckily it is well known that this area has the highest sunshine record in the whole of France. We built our bikes on arrival then enjoyed a delicious 4 course meal with drinks and wine.
Day 1 was predominantly downhill starting from the chalet. A chilly start but we soon warmed up as we headed down the valley. The trails were amazing – dry, dusty and rocky tech with loam and rooty forest sections. After a quick coffee-stop outside the local thermal baths we headed off up a steep climb joining onto a loose rubbly fire-road. We were very surprised to get passed by a Renault Twingo, sprayed in multi-splash paint, carrying a double mattress on their roof. Needless to say it got stuck! A super fun descent lead us to our packed lunch then a long steady climb before a fantastic long descent; mainly rocky tech with steep sections, exposed ridges and tight, twisty switch-backs. We finished at a café for a drink before we were taken back to the chalet.
Day 2 started further down the valley and was an enduro loop used at one of the local races. It was a lot warmer here as we were considerably lower than the accommodation, which sits at 1500m. None of us Brits on the holiday were used to the heat seeing as it was still freezing at home, and the long ascent in the middle of the day in the direct sun was a shock to the system. We all crawled into the shade at the top. The descents were ace, full of technical features to keep you smiling the whole way down. You had to take it easy on the blind bends though as it was so exposed in places; you might just head off the side of the cliff if you didn’t brake in time!
Day 3 was an uplift day. We rode the local trail just behind the chalet a few times so we could improve on our lines. Then we made a long descent down the valley before stopping for lunch. Afterwards we focussed on 1 descent with van uplifts. Our guide, Ian, hung his go-pro in various trees and filmed and photographed us coming down technical sections. Later that evening we watched the clips and he provided some advice on our body positioning.
Day 4 was rest day. We took the uncovered tourist train down to the fortified town of Villefranche-de-Conflent. This mountain railway (the highest electrified train in Europe) is a spectacular journey with stunning views the whole way. After lunch we headed back up stopping off at the thermal spas. The area is famous for its thermals where the water comes out of the ground at 40 degrees. A great relaxing rest day!
Day 5 we attempted to ride a trail that was accessed by going through a shooting range. Unfortunately, they’d changed the opening times and it was shut but our guide had an amazing plan B up his sleeve and showed us some more awesome trails. In the afternoon we were the first group to try out a new trail he’d recently found with huge views, techy terrain with some fast flat out sections too.
Day 6 was another enduro day. We headed up towards the ski resort from the chalet. The trails were in the forest so were loamy and rooty. However, there were still patches of snow around so there were a few sketchy places and we ended up pushing through deep snow on the transitions.
Ben, from MTB Strength Factory, had come on the trip to give us advice on training and nutrition. Before every ride he would lead a series of warm up exercises to get our muscles warmed up before we started a long day on our bikes. Then in the evening after hot showers, we would have a stretching session. After our 4 course evening meals we would be given a talk by Ben on one of his subjects, these would include Sprint training, Recovery and Nutrition which proved invaluable advice for me as I knew I was never eating the right foods at the right time on race day.
Altitude Adventure is owned and run by Ian and Angela. Their passion is mountain biking and they offer a variety of holidays to suit all needs. They also run their chalet during the winter to offer a base to explore the local Pyrenean ski resorts. The food was delicious – a continental breakfast, a packed lunch, afternoon tea and cake and a 4 course evening meal. We really had a fantastic holiday. Awesome trails, great guiding, lovely food and superb hospitality.