I guess this is the final chapter of ‘The Trainee MTB Guide’. I’m back home, unpacked and wondering where the last 5 months went. The weather here is ‘disappointing’ and I can’t see any mountains.
“So how was it?” I’m sure to be asked.
Well bloody amazing. I have to first of all say a massive ”thank you” to Doug who made all this possible – by being foolish enough to let me loose on his guests. It hasn’t all been plane sailing and I’m sure I’ve been a pain in the arse at times (especially when I smashed my thumb up 3 weeks into the season), but Doug has always been a gracious and understanding ’boss’. He has taught me so much about riding, guiding, bikes and being a good host. My heartfelt thanks Doug.
So yes – bloody amazing… It’s hard to sum up very easily why it was so amazing, but add together the ingredients of consistently great weather, a beautiful coastline, a breathtakingly scenic ocean, stunning mountains, an endless variety of deserted, fun & challenging trails, commuting between 2 countries past the beach towards the mountains every day, amazing vistas, giving people an unforgettable holiday, riding as often as anyone could want, living 300m from the beach, experiencing Basque culture, and making people say ‘wow’ on a regular basis and you can start to see where I’m coming from…
If you have time to kill, I’ve uploaded my favourite photos from the trip here My Flickr Pics Be warned. There’s lots.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of what the Basque country has to offer, but I feel if I ever went back I’d now be in a good position to genuinely help Doug guide. I know quite a few of the trails now without squinting at my Garmin, I can get to most of the trailheads without a TomTom and can ride most of the techie bits with confidence. I can fix most bike problems from my pack and can answer most of the questions thrown at guides. Maybe my training is over. Shame I’m unlikely to ever get to use it unless I really pack it all in…
So I thought I’d compile my Top 10 Moments from the last 6 months; mainly as a reminder to myself… These are the stories I am going to bore you with when I see you…
1 Unloading the bikes with Doug, Carlos and Ash at the summit above the Col de Turini early in the morning with the most incredible view over the clouds down to the Mediterranean; then the track Pharoahs by Tears for Fears came on the van stereo. A haunting track at just the right moment. I felt I was actually *in* a very good MTB video. One of those moments that feels very special as it happens.
2 My first ride of the the Transition TR250 down Jaizkibel. I was nervous having never ridden a DH bike before. Within minutes I was giggling out loud like a lunatic. A game changing moment in my riding.
3 The week with Jamie and Roops – what a fun week! It was great to have 2 of my riding buddies out and show them our best trails. They stayed around the corner from my digs in Guethary so we were able to ‘socialise’ as well. So many laughs that week! Thanks for coming guys!
4 The ride down from the summit above Ainsa during the Backcountry (née South) Pyrenees Tour. An amazing uplift in the back of a 4×4 VW Transporter followed by an all day descent including roots, shale, rocks, donkeys, sausages, chips, a natural jump park and an amazing variety of perfect singletrack all in one ride. And a beer at the end.
5 Riding 2 stages of the TransProvence race and Sospel DH tracks. I must go back.
6 The Fetes de Bayonne – Europe’s biggest street party. Everyone wears white and red, hundreds of thousands of people. Bands, street bars, carnival, processions. Amazing. Enough said!
7 Riding to San Sebastian once a week with guests along stunning trails and being treated with this view at the end of every ride (and usually an ‘Oh Wow’).
8 Getting back to Guethary on the day of the big stack and broken thumb. Tom did an exceptional job, getting me off the mountain, to various hospitals and then a couple of hours drive in the dark back from Pamplona to Guethary. Thanks Tom. I was very happy to be ‘home’.
9 Riding Spanish Utah – available only to a very select few. An amazing place. Part of the Backcountry Pyrenees Tour with Ed and Doug.
10 The Gramondo ride with Ash and the Norwegian journalists. Hike a bike to the summit, recover, plummet to the Italian Riviera. Coffee.
Of course there have been many more highlights – my first solo guiding, the ascent and descent of the big mountain Erlo in Basque, going for a swim in the sea every Saturday, visits from my folks and Michelle, learning better French, popping into Biarritz for coffee occasionally, coaching people to conquer challenges, using my first aid training, making many new friends, etc etc etc…
Any bad points?
Having my thumb reset hurt like buggery.
So did banging my head in Molini. And rib. And arse. And thigh. And ankle.
The road trip from Bilbao to Ainsa was somewhat tricky, over the mountain in the floods and darkness!
But no, not really!
Thanks for reading I hope you’ve found these blogs at least mildly interesting and maybe someone will be inspired to do something similar. At the very least I hope it encourages some of you to visit BasqueMTB and sample some of this for yourself. You won’t regret it!
All the best,