On top of the world

Well that’s the second TORQ Inspirational Fitness Holiday out of the way. Real shame though, because it was absolutely wicked!

The French Pyrenees are truly special. Where else could you bowl into 35 degrees of unrelenting May sunshine, ride your bike on dry dusty trails, yet simultaneously be encircled by lush greenery and then, if you so desire (and have the energy), ride up high enough to frolic in the snow? OK, so there are probably a few places where you could do this, but have you ever done it? We did. ‘Special’ is certainly the best way to describe it.

And then, how about doing all that in the morning under the expert technical guidance of AQR’s Ian Potter. Follow this with a HUGE French stick lunch (stuffed with a variety of nutritious lovelies) back at Hotel Le Luthin – accompanied by as much tea you can drink and a selection of fresh fruit. Ok, so we munched on TORQ bars all week too, but we had to, we needed the energy. We chomped through 9 cases of bars in week, so almost a case of bars each??

How about it? Sounds good doesn’t it? Well we did it, so ner ner na ner ner …

After lunch it was my turn to inspire the intellect of the inquisitive bunch of folk we had with us. Each day I ran a seminar/workshop of approximately 2 hours, comprehensively covering fitness performance topics such as periodization of training, sports nutrition, pedalling dynamics, interval training – the whole kit and caboodle…

Then another ride? A choice of either technical skills training with Ian or a steady aerobic road ride for a couple of hours with myself. Choices choices choices? These weeks really do cater for every ability level – riders could do as little or as much as they wanted. No enforced rest or play, it’s a holiday after all. Ian Barrington for instance came along this time specifically to train his base endurance for the rapidly approaching Mountain Mayhem, so we got him riding lots! Other riders wanted to learn more about fitness issues and did more technical skills training. So, the long and short of it – if you’ve put off coming along to one of our weeks in the past because it all sounds a bit ‘serious’, don’t be daft, you’ll love it.

After our afternoon session, we were all forced to eat dinner. Yeah right. Just like we were forced to ride in the beautiful countryside, fall off occasionally and constantly take the piss out of Ian for choosing a base for AQR that looked just like Wales!

Russ, owner and Chef Supremo of Hotel Le Luthin conjured up some culinary masterpieces. I really can’t remember the last time I ate so exquisitely 7 days on the trot. All the food and drinks including wine and beer is included in the price of the holiday, as were the TORQ bars, TORQ energy and TORQ ribose (I insisted everyone tried the ribose – it’s frighteningly effective stuff). The only extra charge was 4 euros per day for lunch – that’s 28 euros for the week (20 quid). That’s all you’ll spend. Everything else is supplied as part of the holiday price.

AQR are very well equipped. They have a range of Specialized fleet bikes, just in case you don’t fancy carting your own jalopy over for the week. They also dished out body armour at the top of Superbagneres (1800m above sea level) – you know, knee and shoulder pads etc. I’ve never worn the stuff before, but it was popular opinion amongst the guests and guides that I should think about wearing it more often. Apparently I have a bit of a death wish on a bike? M thinks enthusiastic perhaps – nothing like a tight bit of lycra to stop the rocks tearing big holes in your flesh, that’s my moto. Fortunately, I left it to the experienced Ian of AQR to educate the clan on descending technique, so my moto was never divulged. Not until now anyway (WHOOPS!)

Once again, everyone wanted a fitness test on Day 1 and we made the mistake of conducting the 30-minute time trial at 3pm in the intense heat. We all did it, but we cooked! The lesson was learnt for the rest of the week. If you want to find out a bit more about the format of the fitness testing, it’s discussed in more detail in the review of the Spanish holiday.

Each day was different, of course it was, but we quickly settled into a workable format. The 9am start allowed us to get most of our riding completed before the hottest part of the day and by the time we got out late in the afternoon it was cooling down a bit. If you want to view the itinerary for the week, check out this link. We did do everything that was on it honest!

Everyone shone in their own little way. They don’t know it yet, but I’ve awarded everyone with a rosette his or her outstanding contribution to the week. They are as follows:

Keith Evans: Winner of the race simulation.

Ian Barrington: Technical climbing master champion, plus most calories burnt in the week.

Steve Shaw: Hill climb champion and highest anaerobic Threshold wattage. Plus, most illness in a week champion.

Viv Hazelton: Gapped a recently broken collarbone, but you’d have been forgiven for thinking she’d broken a nail. ‘Are you alright Viv?’ ‘Yeah fine, no worries’ – and then she sloped off to the doctors for an X-Ray!!! Tough girl award.

Matt Hart: Most gracious crash (no one can crash as beautifully as me).

Paul Dexter: Switchback heaven entirely on front wheel award.

Kate Potter: Award for completing a 4-hour ‘recovery’ ride.

Ian Potter: Award for best tasting sperm (I’ll let him explain that to you when you go out there).

Jane Bishop : Definite award for turning down one of Russ’ lovely dinners.

Russ ‘Cookie’: After parting company with his bike at high speed, Russ landed so heavily that he drove both his knee caps into his eye sockets. He was wearing glasses too, so cut the bridge of his nose. There must be an award for that?

Here’s what a few of the folk had to say about their week:

“With SSMM 24hr only three weeks away, I needed an opportunity to pack in the hours and miles in preparation for the Solo event. The Pyrenees is the place to head for big hills and the AQR centre at Luchon is ideally placed at the base of countless challenging climbs, miles of singletrack and seemingly endless decents. Under the guidance of Matt Hart (Torq), the TORQ Fitness week was tailored to suit each individual, and the high volume required to prepare me for SSMM solo was split over two sessions each day.

An early morning start (to get a head of the 30 degree heat) was a group ride with technical off road challenges (up and down) with additional skills guidance from Ian Potter (AQR) along the away. We returned to the centre around midday for lunch and an early afternoon seminar by Matt covering a very wide variety of training topics. I headed out again late afternoon with either Matt or Kate Potter (2004 SITS Solo Womens Champion) to take in the impressive road cols in the area. Matt, Kate and Ian all spent a significant amount of time with each of us giving their advice and sharing previous riding experiences to help prepare both mentally and physically for the event, and their enthusiasm for Mountain Biking never failed to inspire me to ride.

The opportunity to devote a week to training SSMM and ride new trails, meet and ride with new people, learn new skills and gain a greater understanding into training and nutrition have all contributed to improving my riding skill and fitness in preparation for the event. Most importantly, it was great fun!” Ian Barrington.

“I have just returned from Luchon and a week with A Quick Release Holidays/TORQ Fitness in the French Pyrenees; okay so this is a first foreign cycling excursion for me but if this is the standard then this week has set a very impressive benchmark.

It is very difficult trying to condense the good buzz from the whole week into only a short paragraph without waffling on, but the location is superb with excellent riding right on the doorstep of the hotel. Energy sapping climbs are rewarded with equally energy sapping, but exhilarating descents, on varied trails – fire road, rocky, loose, dusty, rooty, wooded, you name it Luchon can offer it all.

Russ the chef fuelled us up each day on good quality hearty food, including homebaked cakes and coffee in the afternoon to keep things ticking over until dinner.

AQR’s Kate and Ian Potter offer a fantastic cycling holiday experience; the only problem is that I have got to go back to ride the many other trails that just can not be squeezed into one week.” Keith Evans.

“I had a great time on the week and thought that Luchon was a superb place as was Hotel Lutin. I can’t wait to go back and will go again in September”. Viv Hazelton.

“This is the second mountain biking holiday I have been on and I have to say, it has made me want to go on more. Everything about it was extremely well organised, the accommodation was good and had a central location to both the trails and the town centre and the food was outstanding. All abilities were catered for taking in skill sessions, intensity and distance. At times I felt I was being pushed to the limit of my abilities, but found that as the week passed, I was learning and had adapted. The scenery was stunning, the trails are fast, the climbs are fun and the town had lots of bars, restaurants and shops. This holiday is obviously organised by very experienced guides. Get it booked, 9/10.” Steve Shaw.


So, the next Inspirational TORQ Fitness Week runs from Thursday 22nd to Thursday 27th September, again with AQR in the Pyrenees. This trip is combined with the optional Transpyrenees event, which takes place on Sunday 25th September with 15, 30, 55 and 80km distance options. The week will follow a very similar format to the one you’ve just read about, with optional Fitness Testing on the first day and technique and seminars the day after. Then the Transpyrenean event on Sunday, followed by 4 days of inspirational riding and coaching.

For further information on the Transpyrenees event, which costs only 12 euros to enter, take a look at http://capvertvtt.free.fr/

If you’re interested in joining us on this trip, please don’t hesitate in contacting us. Places are strictly limited to 16. You can book through the TORQ shop or contact us by way of the following:

TORQ on enquiries@torqfitness.co.uk // 0845 128 4312 // TORQ shop

AQR (Pyrenees) on Ian@aquickrelease.com // 0845 130 4824 // www.aquickrelease.com

Matt Hart/Ian Barrington/Keith Evans/Viv Hazelton/Steve Shaw