Even if the weather forecasts were not the best for this adventure, we took our bikes out anyway for 3 days of gravel and bikepacking, and it was a good idea!

Sortir de Castres en prenant la piste cyclable qui traverse la ville et qui amène vers l'aéroport

After a short bus ride between Gaillac and Castres to skip 70km of asphalte, we crossed Castres quickly to reach the foothills of La Montagne Noire on the N112 in Caucalières. We immediately starded to climb via a nice road for a couple of kilometers and then we rode on narrow paths, quite steep in the forest. Sometimes we had the sun of the coming spring, the temperature is not very high.
Then we went on wider paths, the ones which lead to the wind generators on top of the Montagne Noire. Once we got to the crete, some nice descents took us to the valley and Trebes where we crossed the former national road N113. The last kilometers to Lagrasses to ride were on pavement. In Lagrasses, we bumped into Gaëtane who is involved in the french cyclist association “Elles font du vélo” and who also runs the local craft beer business www.labrasseriedelagrasse.com . She offered us a nice welcome pack “Beer + Cycling cap”. Thank you Gaëtane.

Chemin dans la Montagne NoireLes éoliennes sont desservies par de larges pistes gravel qui rappellent le DFCIRouler de nuit en Gravel !Lagrasses, petite cité au coeur des Corbières

The next day, the serious stuff was on the menu: big rocks, big elevation, technical descents, bike walking… Bikes and bodies were pushed to the limit and our minimalist winter prep did the job helping us go over all that! Bikes were great, well balanced with the bikepacking gear. We arrived in l’Ille-sur-Têt quite exhausted but happy.
We made a quick stop at Caminade, a french frame builder.

Déjeuner rapide en plein forêtGravel Grinding in the Montagne Noire

Day 3. I was by myself, Damien pulled out because of a sore knee due to the intensive previous day. I had to go 170 km and 1800m of climbing in the first 70 km to cross the Pyrenees. The rain has been my companion all day. I was glad to be a minimum fit, that the bike was fast and comfortable (the Massi Team GR grx) and that my load was not too heavy. I was pushed to the limit with rain, cold, wind and long distance. Riding with a one-by-crankset was new for me and it worked well almost everywhere, I was a bit limited going downhill with a 40x11 but when I had to climb steep rocky sections, the 40*46 was wonderful.
I unplugged my brain and just spinned!

Gravel in LagrassesBikepacking mode pour le gravel Massi Team GR 2022Le pic du Canigou à vélo

In the end, this first 3-day-adventure was a blast, with a great designed route by Damien, with scenery, efficient bikes and some physical challenge before spring.
(Not for self: next time I am cold, tired, with pouring rain, when I ride by a train station, I have to remember this adventure and take the next train!)