186k, 3,247m ascent, 8:03:48 ride time, 3 cols
We’ve just got in ahead of a big storm which is needed as it was a hot with the final ascent done in 37c !! I’ve certainly demonstrated that my riding coming in to this camp is the least I’ve done in over a decade. I have suffered today but had great fun. I’m hoping my usual adaptation will happen and I’ll just get fitter from here. There are some strong riders and I’m certainly in the lower half. Only 2 riders finished behind me today.
We rode our from Luscon in a nice organised group. For the first 10k I was on the front with the guy who “Brick runs” are named after- Matt Brick !! He’s now a hip surgeon and it was a very interesting story about how a pro athlete ended up a surgeon.
We stayed together till the first climb – Col du Portilon where it split up a bit. I tried to do the sensible thing and stick to my own pace and ended up climbing it with Rebecca (who I’d met on another camp about 4 years ago) and we chatted the whole way. A good sign we didn’t go too hard. The descent was fantastic as the road had been resurfaced for the Tour de France. The long drag to Vielha was made easier by being in a small group to share breaking the small headwind.
We had time for coffee today so we made the most of it. I’m pretty sure the next two days will be short on time. Then was the big climb of the day – Puerto de la Bonagua (2,072m) and 23k of climbing. I spent the first part chatting with Rich about bitcoin. It was fascinating but, in hindsight probably meant I went a big too hard. He’s a younger guy and part of a group of `Ozzie road cyclists who ride for the same team – they’re all cat 1 or elite. It means the pace was probably very easy for him. After about 5k or so Marc and I let him and Steve go and we road up together. I was struggling and using my 34 x 32 lowest gear – in theory my “get out of jail gear”. Just as I approached the top the Ozzie roadies came past at speed in a nice tight knit group.
At the top Julie had made some great sandwiches. I’d been dreaming of coke for a good 30 minutes or so and I lived that dream with definitely more than a litre of coke. This, again in hindsight, was probably a mistake. 1. I shouldn’t have allowed the thirst to build so much and I should have had some water rather than just coke.
The descent from this point is fantastic. I’ve done it before on camps I’ve helped Ian and Julie with in the past. I was looking forward to it. The top bit has great sweeping bends which you can see from a long way ahead so you can really enjoy the cornering. I was descending better than from the Portilon which being the first descent of the trip is always a little nervy.
After all the switchbacks you get this long, wide well maintained road descending at about 10%. It’s fast. I hit 81.4 km/h. Unfortunately I started to cramp quite badly and couldn’t pedal. I took my foot out but it didn’t help. I freewheeled and massaged it. In the process I lost the group and was on my own. There was a further 30k downhill to Sort before the final climb and I realised if I didn’t sort this out I would not get up that 1,000m ascent. So I eased off, spun the pedals, drank my water. Then John came by and kindly helped me along, I sat on his wheel and it seemed to improve.
Then The Ozzies came by and I told John to jump on, which he did. Then a split second later I decided I should. I bust a gut, got on, then immediately cramped in my other leg. What a bad decision.
I nursed myself to Sort. Julie came by and being the star she always is asked if I need anything. I said I was Ok and would “Sort myself out in Sort”. I thought I was utterly hilarious. Thats how tired I was.
In Sort I guzzled water like there was no tomorrow. I also took loads of salt tablets. I had to lie to Julie telling her I taken 4 when I’d actually taken 6. It’s not like I believed it would make much difference. No I just felt there was no harm and you never know. It was clear to me it was my lack of fitness (probably combined with dehydration) that did it. When I’m fit I don’t typically cramp on long rides in hot weather. Luckily for me I’m a jovial tired person. I find it funny and rather satisfying to battle through tough days on the bike. I just hope that I gain fitness tonight so tomorrow isn’t quite so bad. Seriously though, I am very intrigued as to how quickly I adapt back to normal service.
I regrouped with Mel and Marc for the last climb. It was 37c for most of the 19k, 1,000m ascent. I constantly had to switch between in the saddle spinning and out the saddle bigger gear. I had various twinges of cramp and halfway up when Julie and kindly stopped for us to refuel I put my saddle up 1cm just to change the dynamics of my pedal stroke. It worked and was absolute bliss for about 10 minutes.
I had a good spell for about 20 minutes after Marc and cramped and got quite a long way ahead. He then caught me with about 1km to go and I started to cramp. Funny how that works. As I approached the van I shouted could someone catch be as I’d cramped really badly as I crested. I was either ignored or wasn’t heard and just had to deal with it.
Now just the descent. As we headed down I remembered it and how good it was (apart from the numerous little ascents ). There are some hairpins but then it descends down a shoulder of the mountain with lots of steep sharp 90 deg bends. All great apart from most right had turns resulted in cramp in my left calf if I pushed my foot down. Made corning a little interesting.
We regrouped with Cameron and Nigel for the final 6k in to the hotel. The banter at dinner was great – groups really come together after sharing a great and challenging day like that. It’s what makes these trips so much fun.