Andorra and Spain, too, have their share of Grand Tour stories. It was in the principality in the 2015 Vuelta that the so-called ‘hardest Grand Tour stage ever’ took place. With around 5,000 metres of climbing in only 138 kilometres, the Andorran stage tortured riders and tantalised fans with its double-digit gradients and ceaseless ups and downs, with a thrilling summit finish won by Astana’s Mikel Landa.
It’s fair to say, however, that the Vuelta places less emphasis on the Pyrenees than does the Tour. But the Volta a Catalunya (Tour of Catalonia) often takes in summit finishes such as the 2,200m (7,200ft) high Vallter ski station and roads such as the Coll de la Creueta, a 20.5-kilometre, 4% climb near Girona.
The Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, the Tour of the Basque Country, meanwhile, often heads into the mountains inland from San Sebastián, and its passage through the Pyrenees was immortalised by Ernest Hemingway in his debut novel Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises. ‘Bike racing was the only sport in the world,’ he wrote. Indeed, whether you’re watching the racing or riding your bike in the Pyrenees, that phrase doesn’t seem so outlandish. Come and visit, you’ll see what we mean.