Three days with Leonard Lee
In December 2019 we were honoured to host Mr Jolly Good Vélo himself, Leonard Lee. Leonard’s YouTube channel features honest and insightful videos on all aspects of cycling and appeals to all cyclists, from beginners to experts. His videos have racked up over 6.2 million views and he has 20,000 subscribers to date. As fans of his channel we invited him to come and check out the incredible cycling our region of southern France has to offer to cyclists of every ability and were thrilled when he said ‘yes’ and agreed to come for some pre-Christmas riding. Being perfectly placed in between the French and Spanish mountains and the coast, we were able to plan our routes to avoid any pockets of bad weather, enjoying bright skies and temperatures up to 15C while we rode.
On day one we took a gentle ride to the coast, taking the ‘Voie Vert’ cycling route from our local town of Arles-sur-Tech down the valley, following the old railway line. The morning was fresh but the sun and the exercise soon warmed our muscles as we wound our way through pretty towns, over, under and through iron work bridges, passing snoozing vineyards and crumbling chateaus to arrive at the beach resort of Argeles-sur-Mer. From there we followed a steep climb to the stunning town of Collioure where we had lunch (sorry Leonard, ‘dinner’!) at Le Jardin de Collioure. Suitably refuelled with Catalan sausage and a glass of locally-made Banyuls wine, we rode a few more kilometres south along the coast road, through the port town of Port Vendres, and climbed up to le Phare du Cap Bear where the low afternoon sun illuminated the red stone built lighthouse like a beacon. The views of the Mediterranean Sea from the cliffs and the stiff breeze at the top were, both figuratively and literally, breathtaking. We had a welcome uplift home in the Pyrenees.cc van as the sun set quickly over the mountains, back in time for a shower before a hearty meal of homecooked lasagne and warm apple pudding.
You can watch Leonard’s video ‘To the Lighthouse’ to see highlights of the route.
Total distance: 61km Total elevation: 345m.
The winds died down for day two which took us from St Laurent de Cerdans in France to St Llorenç de la Muga in Spain (two towns, two countries, same saint!) Vicky led the ride today, she is getting back into cycling after a long break from the bike having two babies and so the pace was a little slower. We started in the village of St Laurent de Cerdans where the region’s famous espadrilles footwear was once made and climbed around 250m elevation over 7km to the Col de Coustouges before sweeping down to cross the border into Spain across the Emporda river. The road between Coustouges and the village of Maçanets de Cabrenys rolls up and down like a rollercoaster with amazing views from the mountains right down to the Bay of Roses on the Costa Brava. Leonard described it as the ‘most stunning ride’ he’s ever done – praise indeed from someone who frequently rides in the Tour de France training ground of Mallorca! After the village of Darnius we headed south west on a quiet country road through olive groves before tackling a 4km climb of 5% and descending into the ancient fortified town St Llorenç de la Muga for a fabulous lunch of steak and crème Catalan. We were glad of the uplift home as the rain clouds gathered and the wind picked up again.
Total distance: 46km Total elevation: 634m.
For day three we did a local ride in the Gorge du Mondony which provides a dramatic backdrop for the pretty spa town of Amelie-les-Bains. Winding around twisting bends, past impressive rock faces and waterfalls, we just had to get the drone out to capture this special place on film. For our last night with Leonard we had homemade pizza and homemade tiramisu with local wine to celebrate a great few days of riding with a new friend.
Total distance: 32km Total elevation: 500m.
Subscribe to Leonard’s YouTube channel to see more footage of our rides together.