Pintxos and Pies. From Basque to Nan Bield. This year’s MTB holidays…

After hastily cancelling my holiday of a lifetime/50th birthday treat/trip to Whistler (for reasons I won’t bore you with), I decided to book up up some holiday time in Europe. Part 1, I decided, would be a http://www.basqueMTB.com Skills Week with Doug and http://www.great-rock.co.uk – Part 2 would be UK based with Carlos from San Sebastian…

Love this shot of Ed!
Love this shot of Ed on a top Basque trail

Those who know me may remember I spent a season working with Doug at BasqueMTB in 2012, and this was the first time I had returned to experience how the company had progressed over the last 3 years. It turned out to be a stunning week of great, if very hot weather and amazing trails –  a mix of the best of the old familiar trails and a lot of new ones that Doug was keen to show me – and the newly made group of friends on the trip with me…

The skills sessions were informal and relaxed and would generally happen when we came across an interesting trail feature like a drop or a rock garden or a particularly interesting corner. Everyone improved during the week, me included, although i still haven’t mastered a ‘proper’ bunny hop!

As ever the food, culture, accommodation and general vibe of the holiday were all top-notch. Doug as usual bent over backwards to find trails that suited us all. Some of the new trails were absolute corkers, with a wide variety from super steep exposed rock strewn loam, through to steep twisty flowing DH tracks to fast open dusty trails, a lot of forest (for the shade) and lots of rock…

The photos were all taken at spots where I could be bothered to get the camera out of my pack, so aren’t of the best, funnest, gnarliest parts of the trails – we were too busy having fun then to take photos. But hopefully you’ll get a flavour.

All in all a great week!

Ed Oxley psyching himself up for the first ride of the week...
Ed Oxley psyching himself up for the first ride of the week…
Guide Antonio handing me my weapon!
Guide Antonio handing me my weapon!
Ed - enjoying himself
Ed – enjoying himself
Drops practice
Drops practice
Antonio - enjoying himself
Antonio – enjoying himself
That's the Bay of Biscay in the distance
That’s the Bay of Biscay in the distance
Epic!
Epic!
The lads
The lads
Our shabby accommodation
Our shabby accommodation
Epic. V2.0
Epic. V2.0

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Ed. Style.
Ed. Style.
Doug. Style.
Doug. Style.
Yadda yadda.
Yadda yadda.
The author - riding his bike.
The author – riding his bike.
Pintxos!
Pintxos!
Me in action...
Me in action…

Fast forward 7 days and Basque buddy Carlos arrives in the UK for a 9 day trip around the UK in my van! First up was 3 days in Wales, where unsurprisingly, but nevertheless disappointingly, it rained for pretty much the whole time. In July. On the Sunday we hit up Bike Park Wales with Matt. Bike Park riding was new to Carlos, but after a few runs he was grinning from ear to ear. Eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out and a great time was had by all! Carlos even jumped back on the bus for a few more runs after Matt and I had called time.

The next day Carlos and I headed to Afan and the Blade trail. It absolutely pissed down the whole time we were out and we were soaked. Even so it was a great ride, even perhaps enhanced by the biblical conditions – think rivers running down the rocky singletrack! Very splashy, but still very fast and exhilarating – especially the final few sections back to the trail centre.

Welcome to wet Wales
Welcome to wet Wales
Carlos consulting the menu
Carlos consulting the menu
Yeah. Whatever.
Yeah. Whatever.
Again, again, again!
Again, again, again!
New to Carlos: cold, wet soggy, muddy shorts.
New to Carlos: cold, wet soggy, muddy shorts.
There's wet, then there's the Blade today...
There’s wet, then there’s the Blade today…
Wales in July
Wales in July
Still smiling!
Still smiling!
Sampling the local produce
Sampling the local produce
Van life - trying to get the washing dry...
Van life – trying to get the washing dry…

After 3 days in Wales, we headed back to see Ed again and enjoy a 3-day ‘Northern Rock’ tour. We were installed in a beautiful luxury apartment and treated to 3 days of top riding in generally glorious weather (at last). Hebden Bridge is a very cool town. Lots of bars and cafes. The famous Old Gate pub was our preferred watering hole…

Day 1 featured the best of the singletrack around Hebden Bridge where Ed is based – super fun trails, but ever so steep and rocky – challenging in places but always rewarding. Lots to explore and we only scratched the surface. The trail aptly named ‘Fuck Yeah’ was a highlight, along with the famous Blue Pig descent.

Day 2 was a Lake District epic – Nan Bield Pass – a physical and technical challenge the like of which I have not experienced in the UK! 10 miles, 3,000 feet of climbing, and one very long, rocky, tricky, tech descent. It took all day!

The final day was some more Yorkshire Dales riding, but which, unfortunately for me was cut short by a trip to A&E (stitches to elbow). That meant I took the uplift bus to hospital so Carlos and Michael had to climb for the rest of the day 🙂

We also had an evening on set filming Ed’s latest instalment of ‘Vain Vagrant’ (in a barber shop) with Carlos in a starring role. (Frapuccino my ASS!), squeezed in a couple of beer festivals and also had a cultural visit to the Magic Rock Brewery Tap to sample their produce!

After we left Ed we headed north on our own to Gisburn Trail Centre for one last ride before driving Carlos back to Stansted, via a night in Sheffield with one of the Basque gang, and sending him on his way full of pies and with a smile on his face!

For those who know...
For those who know…
Ed. Again...
Ed. Again…
Pie!
Pie!
Me in't t'Bridge
Me in’t t’Bridge
(This trail's called) Fuck Yeah!
(This trail’s called) Fuck Yeah!
Carlos preparing for his close-up
Carlos preparing for his close-up
Coolest barber shop in the North
Coolest barber shop in’t North
Heading out in the Lakes
Heading out in the Lakes
Off we go!
Off we go!
Like this one...
Like this one…
Down we go...
Down we go…
IANR0881
An Englishman, a German and a Spaniard discuss politics.
IANR0904
Stunning views in all directions
The top of Nan Bield
The top of Nan Bield
IANR0918
Tear along the dotted line…
3 amigos
3 amigos
Non-bike shot...
Non-bike shot…
The dudes
The dudes
At Gisburn. It's a bit 'Meh'
At Gisburn. It’s a bit ‘Meh’
Carlos finally finds roast beef and all the trimmings
Carlos finally finds roast beef and all the trimmings
Pie!
Pie!
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