Today’s stage of the Tour is very near and dear to my heart. Two years ago I was pedaling all over those same roads having one Drunkcyclist moment after another. I was telling some of the stories from my trip the other night and I thought that I might share one with you guys.
It was over a week into my trip of touring around Basque Country and the surrounding countryside. I had left Pamplona, Spain and was slowly making my way to the Tourmalet to see a stage of the Tour. Three days of not sleeping, geeking out trying to follow in the footsteps of Ernie H., and getting chased by livestock had really taken it’s toll on me. I was behind schedule getting to Laruns and decided to get a room in the only place that had a light on and a beer sign in the window. The local mountain bikers quickly took me in and proceeded to mock me for not drinking enough with them. I told them that I had the problem of a rather large mounatin pass between me and where I needed to be the next day. A hangover was out of the question. They said that if I could keep up with them partying all night that they would drive me half way to the top of the Col d’Aubisque the next day. I am never one to back down from a challenge and the Kwak flowed like water early into the morning.
They were good to their word and sunrise found me pedaling the hangover away up and over the Abisque. The descent on the other side was amazing and found me in Argelès-Gazost feeling great with a giant smile on my face. I decided against pedaling to the Tourmalet that day but instead chose to head up the Hautacam where the finish would be. With memories of Indurain getting beat in the fog, I pedaled on up the the hill. I quickly ran into 2 guys draped in Basque flags mixing up a gallon jug of Kalimotxo. This sweet nectar, pronounced cali-mocho, had been fueling my trip since I discovered it in the bars of Bilbao 10 days prior. I quickly offer them some of mine and we hug and high 5 like we are old friends. Then one of them starts poring my bottle out on the ground. I start to freak out and try to snatch it out of his hand, he just pulls it away from my reach and says “NO!”. The bottle is quickly empty and I am getting more pissed by the second. This flag draped stranger then bends down and re-fills my bottle with some of his booze and says “mucho mejor”. Come to find out, my mix wasn’t strong enough and it would have been a shame for me to drink such an inferior beverage. We were instant friends and spent the rest of the day trying to talk in each other’s language and taking turns pushing my bike up the mountain. The racers came and went, we exchanged emails and parted ways.
Earlier this spring, the day the 2010 tour route was announced, I open my email to find a simple message from my Basque friend. It was one line: “The tour is near Basque Country for 5 days this year, get to my house and we will go.” I didn’t get to make it over there this year, but I will be back soon enough. These friendships I had made over bikes and booze, half way around the world, have already lasted years. The Drunkcyclist is international and we can’t be stopped.
Long live the Tour! Long live the Drunkcyclist!
Keep it dirty…by