Today was meant to be the iconic day of the first Everyday Training Pyrenees KOM camp.
We set off early to be driven round to the far side of The Tourmalet to start a classic point to point day over three major cols with the middle one being our 5th King Of the Mountains (KOM) climb. The handicapping and increasing points system through the camp has been proving great fun with the jersey being worn by someone different every day. We could see several campers were now thinking tactics and looking forward to today’s race.
The climb up the Tourmalet was near perfect. Beautiful sunny weather with a cooling breeze. The mountain slowly revealed itself to be still covered in huge quantities of snow. As we climbed the river valleys coming in from the sides changed to mini glaciers. We rode around the “Route Barre” barrier with 5km to go having been assured by the owner of the café at the top that the col was open. We even ignored the single track slice through three metre snow which took us off the road for ten metres or so. Back on tarmac we continued to within 3k of the summit when we met an enormous snow plough filling the road and a driver assuring us we should terminate our ride there. Looking up we couldn’t see the road through the last switch back.
The super fast descent back down the valley was small consolation. We regrouped at the café where most enjoyed a coffee and “Bears Claw” which was further consolation for me. (Go to Luz Saint Sauveur and try one you won’t be disappointed) The agreed adjustment to our plan was thrown out when the support vehicle broke down on it’s way back to us, so we all continued down the sweeping descent towards Lourdes as a group before heading east to go around the Tourmalet and rejoin our original route.
This was now going to be a big day as not only had the ride length been increased by over 40km but now we were doing it self supported. Jo and I set up our camps to be challenging and have the concept of “Camp Completion”, requiring at least a thirty minute run each day. The two guys who had got up very early today to get their thirty minute run done were now sitting pretty with their decision and feeling rather smug.
We approached the KOM with thunder clouds amassing and soon it was tipping down. We sheltered by the edge of a building to set everyone off on handicap for the race. Being the last to leave seemed a luxury. The third guy off had the perfect count down “5,4,3,2,1” BOOM! As a massive clap of thunder accompanied his start and within seconds the rain was torrential.
Forked lightening and booms accompanied the whole race. With four days of racing to establish handicaps it was now all very close. Passes were only made in the last couple of kilometres and everyone finished within 2 minutes of each other. We rolled over the top for the long, cold and very wet descent. At the bottom two guys got an old pizza box out of a bin to stuff down their fronts to warm up.
It was fun belting down the valley in torrential rain to try and warm up. At these moments I remind myself that these are the days you talk about for years to come. These are the days you say “at least this isn’t as bad as that day in The Pyrenees”. Thinking this helps me embrace the experience.
Then with 30k to go we had a puncture. This tested my approach but it survived, this just made the day even more epic. We set the others off to keep warm and I helped fix the puncture. We then had the fun of chasing the others down helping warm us up no end.
We caught up with 7k to go and eased off to just enjoy the classic day we’d had. I commented that I really fancied some chocolate and the next thing I know I’m being handed Ritter Sport! My day was complete.
We like to finish rides as a group and today it felt great to have got to the finish together. Everyone was soaked, slightly cold but buzzing and incredible happy. This is what it’s all about.
You can read more about what happens on our camps at: