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Stage 775 – Aritzu to Sunbilla

The Pyrenees were always going to be fun, and this stage is fun. Just by looking at the map, even without riding it, it looks like a whole heap of fun. It’s twelve hundred feet up, straight off the start line, to the middle of nowhere, then a whopping two and a half thousand feet down on a series of switchbacks and other assorted goodies. It’s also the last full day in Spain because stage 777 crosses the border into France near the end of the stage: that’s how close ATW is to the end of the journey back in Paris.

The rollout heads north from the middle of nowhere, masquerading as Aritz, which was a small community near the end of the previous stage, and swings by Arraitz-Orkin on the left hand side of the road after a mile. Indeed the first two miles are action packed with natural features because after crossing the Legartzakoerreks stream after half a mile, the road follows that up with the Lanzko erreka after a mile then there are three separate crossings of the Ultzama ibaia as it decides which side of the road to adopt as it flows down off the hill in the opposite direction. Eventually it decides on the right (remember it’s flowing in the opposite direction) before eventually disappearing off to its source high up on the hill just after four miles.

The steepest part of the climb, between two and three miles, calls for switchbacks in the road: only two of them but enough to confirm that the climb is a severe one. The summit, which is obviously the highest point on the stage (but not in the return to Europe) lies at the point where the road crosses over Belateko tunela, the tunnel that runs through the mountain in the Pass of Navarre.It connects the town ofAlmadoz to the north with Ultzamain the south: theN-121-A highway passes through it.

The descent off the top is spectacular and rivals anything that has gone before on the journey. To begin with, the road just swings left and right, encouraging speed and generally throwing the bike round corners. But from the seven mile mark, until Almandoz at ten miles, the journey is a series of flying switchbacks that can be taken at speed on RGT. It will be an exhilarating descent.

In the middle of the switchbacks, the Ellenturietako erreka flows right to left under the road before merging with the Irualkantarilletako errera further down the hill. More streams then get in on the act: the Iturrioxko erreka runs alongside the road at ten miles before merging with Maringo errera that crosses under the road from the right. It follows the highway down into Berroeta after which there’s a big swinging left hander past Zozaia to Oieregi followed by Narbarte where the road crosses the Bidasoa river and the terrain finally flattens out.

Approaching Donezteba at sixteen miles, the route hangs a big right turn between the hills that lie east and west (right and left) and that takes the highway on to Sunbilla at eighteen miles where the road loops right/left/left/right into the finish next to the Ariztigain kanpina campsite.

Distance: 21 miles / 34 kilometres

Ascent: 1214 feet / 370 metres

RGT Magic Road: 2F2joSViFIy1

Total distance: 19.45 mi
Max elevation: 2725 ft
Min elevation: 281 ft
Total climbing: 1216 ft
Total descent: -2519 ft

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