The Sun has got it's hat on...... Hip, hip, hip, hip Hoorah!
Day 18 Stage 16 Tues 15/07/14 Carcassonne - Bagneres de Luchon 237km
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Day 16. Pyrenean Pleasure…..
What a day! Well, I can definitely say that today was BY FAR the best day of Le Tour so far.
Clear blue skies, fantastic views of snow capped mountains, deep long valleys, a most bizarre grotto cut through the mountain that we cycled through, several birds of prey, a herd of deer (being guarded by a huge stag…..) and even a strange fury jet black squirrel which I nearly ran over! (Could it have been a Marmot? here?)
Plus…… and this is very important, I completed todays ride easily… a mere 240km (that’s 150 miles by the way, for all you old fashioned types out there!), 3,600m ascent, after cycling 3,000km of Le Tour over the past 2 weeks……and I don’t feel exhausted. Incredible but true. Must be getting fitter. RESULT! In fact I feel really good. I took it steady, and REALLY enjoyed the day.
We were up at 5:30am, for a quick Premier class breaky…..which was lavishly added to by Sarah….who really does understand the needs of hungry cyclists. Extra pain au chocolat, muesli, ham and cheese……. Sarah… you’re alright you are!!
The Translation of the banner above us says Port de Bales (that's the last climb of the day) "19 km of happiness" (French humour!)
The sun was up and we set off at 7am… as this was expected to be the longest day so far. Indeed it was. For me and “the banana gang” it was a 12hr ride. (10 hrs moving time, 12 hrs in total). But here I am, writing this blog at 10pm and still there are cyclists coming in. Several failures too, due to heat exhaustion or other issues with the long day and steep climbs. Tough day for many, and so tomorrow will be even worse for them I suspect, as they won’t get much time to recover.
So apart from the fabulous riding, what I learnt today and want to share is the following:-
I heard someone say last night “Ah, once we get these Pyrenees out of the way we’re almost there….. I can’t wait till they are over”. Now this made me think. I fully understand where they are coming from because as you know…I am a very determined person and I REALLY want to complete this tour….. even if it kills me! However, what I have realised today is that I CAN COMPLETE THIS TOUR, and IT DOESN’T HAVE TO KILL ME! I can actually finish whilst “enjoying it”!
As I was riding along today I backed off the pace… and rode a few bits on my own, it’s not a race after all. I looked up, I saw the birds of prey, the snow capped mountains, the wonderful woodlands, the beautiful villages and the amazing houses. I looked at the incredible churches built into the mountains…. I paused for a photo at the scene of the 25 year old Italian 1992 Olympic champion Fabio Casartelli monument. He crashed and died here on the descent from Col de Portet d’Aspet in the 1995 Tour, he was aged 25. It was this incident which brought about compulsory wearing of helmets. I reflected for a few minutes.
In short, I ENJOYED the ride. I didn’t treat it as a slog, and a “got to finish this, get it out of the way and move on to tomorrow” attitude, which I have done on a few days, I have to admit (something to do with torrential rain and 3degC…. I feel!).
I realised, it’s easy to get sucked into doing this in order to achieve this monumental feat of completing the whole of the Tour de France.
But now, as we all get fitter we can slow down a bit, and ENJOY the beauty of the Pyrenees. I suddenly realised how lucky I am to be cycling through the Pyrenees, in the fresh air, smelling the smells and seeing the sights. I don’t want it to end! I don’t want the Tour to end….. I want to keep riding….. but I can’t!! I’m not on an endless holiday. I am doing a fixed route. So…. I have to ENJOY and SAVOUR every moment. And I did today…. And (incidentally!) that also included honking down the 20km descent at the end at break neck speeds! Awesome!
Now I know this sort of reflection is not normal for me…. It’s not the usual “Come on let’s Go Go Go …Follow Me, It’s Easy” attitude….. but it’s what I felt today. It really is beautiful here, and I want to enjoy the rest of the Tour. Really enjoy the beauty and not just the physical challenge…. Which initially seemed impossible, but now seems to be really a very high possibility.
Hmmmm. Bit of a different side to me hey! Ha ha. Well I don’t care… This blog is my diary of my thoughts….. I loved today. I rode a fair amount on my own at 1 or 2 km/hr slower than I can if I push hard, and I really did enjoy it. So……. Now you know.