Wow! Today was tough. Up, down, Up, down, Up, down, Up, down..... Yes... 3 Cat1 climbs and an HC climb thrown in at the end!
Before you read todays blog PLEASE read yesterdays.... I take it all back.... I just wanted today to be over at times!
Day 19 Stage 17 Weds 16/07/14 Saint Gaudens - Saint Lary Soulon Pla d'Adet 125km
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Apparently according to Mr Garmin I have been riding my bike for 138 hrs and 24 minutes so far..... (moving time). That doesn't include stopped time (i.e. eating, resting, warming up, cooling down!)
The Roller Coaster Ride
For those of you who think 125km isn't very far..... I challenge you to todays ride!
Up early at 5:30am and a quick transfer in the bus. The ride began at 8:15am. The briefing , moustache and chapeau speeches took place before we started the ride because last night everyone was too late / too tired etc etc etc.
Officially only 125km, but basically all up and down. We rode the first 30km together which was fairly flat to FS1. And then we all split up for the climbs. 3 BIG category 1 climbs and an Hors Categorie (HC) at the end up St Lary Pla d'Adet. After yesterday I was brimming with confidence and ready to roll..... Ha ha..... oh how wrong I was to be confident. The 1st climb was tough, the 2nd climb was tougher (VERY tough) and very long, and the temperature was rising to 37degC.... so sun cream was re-applied in great bucket loads at the feed stops.
The 3rd climb was so difficult cos we were so drained form the 2nd climb. We were all exhausted. Seemed to meet up by accident at Feed Stops with the usual banana gang (Steve, Rich, Andy, Weeksy, Darrah) but separate a bit on climbs. Rich had a lucky escape as he pulled into lunch (FS3) as his tyre had been catching on his brake, and had worn right through to the wire. A few more km and it would have burst. Thankfully there was a bike shop nearby in the own and for 21 Euros he got a new fancy red and black tyre.... so he bought 2 at that price! Ha ha
So after lunch (which was so nice and relaxed in a park, by a river, dangling our bare feet in the ice cold water...... heaven.... it really was a struggle to set off!) we completed the 3rd Cat1 climb and dropped down afterwards to FS4, with officially only 10km to go (20 for us though as we had to go up and down the mountain!). This was quite soul destroying actually, cos at Feed Stop 4..... the hotel was 100metres away! We just had a little 10km HC climb to negotiate.....(the pro's finish at the top but we then had to ride back down again...... which actually was brilliant fun cos you got loads of encouragement on the way up... and gave it all back to the other guys on the way down.....). On the way up I found a fountain. At about 6km into the ride... So I stopped, stuck my head under and WOW...it felt good. The next 400metres were easy..... and then the grind returned! My average speed was 6 or 7km/hr.... could have run faster! It was basically 10% the whole way up. Man it was tough. I consumed my 3rd gel of the trip up this hill. It seems HC ascents are calling for a little boost, and as I don't have the connections/associations (never mind the financial funds!) for EPO I am afraid I have to resort to simple Hi-5 gels! They do work though, and give a definite boost.
When I finished the climb and the descent I popped over to the Feed Stop 4 to grab an extra ice cold coke (which I'd been dreaming about all the way up), and met Ivo (the German) who was tired and struggling and "wanted sugar"! I had a couple of gels and an energy bar which I "rather stupidly" gave him.... With hindsight I could have made a few hundred dollars on that deal!! :-)
Into the poshest hotel yet, a Mercure..... fantastic shower, washed the clothes and hung them in the sun to dry... a novel idea! Made a cup of coffee and got writing this before dinner.... Oh what a day.
The Pyrenees really are special. Absolutely stunning.
I heard today a quote..... "The Alps are for Tourists, the Pyrenees for Purists" and then I heard "Alps for Amateurs, Pyrenees for Pro's".
My thought for day? "It's only Up inbetween the Downs ........" hmmmmm, I wonder if that will catch on?
Tomorrow.... I daren't look. I believe there are 2 HC climbs called Tourmalet....and Hautacam !!! You might have heard of them. Aghhhhhhh !!! Apparently this is the Etape stage.... and the toughest.... can't wait! I really am loving this. It's so tough, but it's great. The commeraderie too is wonderful. And.... the wine last night with the meal, was fantastic!