199.5km, 8:56:18, 3,751m ascent, 11 cols, 14 done in total
The day started heading out on the main road through Andorra. We rode as a group which helped make a rather boring road a bit more interesting. Andorra city again was very uninspiring but this time we turned off right to take in another col before the big one of the day. This took us through another part of Andorra which seemed a little nicer.
The group broke up when we started the ascent of ‘El all D’Ordino’. It was a nice climb helped by the temperature being in the mid teens. Following yesterdays cramps I could feel some soreness in my legs and was a little worried they were about to cramp. I convinced myself it was just the aftermath of yesterday and nothing to worry about. The descent took my mind off this – it was absolutely fantastic. A classic series of switchbacks that had been cut in the side of a near vertical face. I was buzzing at the bottom.
This brought us to about halfway up the climb of Port d’Envilara – at 2,407m it’s the highest paved pass in the Pyrenees. Marc and I rode together and when the Ozzie Coyote race team guys came by we hung on their wheels for a few KM. The pace was slightly too much but when Marc said I should go with them I upped the pace a bit and felt quite good. I caught them but couldn’t stay and got to the top a few minutes behind. It was very positive though – I felt strong and no signs of cramp.
The descent from there is fantastic with sweeting bends you can see from a long way off leading to the border control before heading up the short climb to Col de Potmorens where we had lunch. Then there followed a massive descent which Marc and I road together taking it in turns on the front when the gradient meant you had to work a little to maintain speed. By the time we got to Bourg Madame we’d got out average speed to 22 km/h so perhaps this 200k day wouldn’t take 10 hours.
Next there was a long false flat, in the heat and in to the headwind which took us over 2 cols we didn’t even notice. We chose to stop for a coffee and coke in Saillegouse – we only stopped there because I’d mis-remember where the next climb started but in hindsight it was lucky as that was the last spot we saw a cafe. I’d been feeling pretty drained prior to that but it did me the world of good as I felt strong for the rest of the day.
We continued through this incredible wide valley surrounded by rounded mountains till we saw Ian and Julie and a couple of junctions to direct us to this tiny road up a couple of passes. As we approached the highest of them, Col de La Llose the heavens opened, it even hailed a little. We put jackets on for the descent to Olette. The roads were soaked and I had a close call with a car coming up that made me even more cautious. Unusually Marc was way back (he’s normally a quicker descender). Not wanting to ride back up from the bottom if he’d had a mechanical I waited for him. It turned out he has carbon rims and in pouring rain the braking isn’t great. I didn’t mind following him down at a very conservative pace.
It was incredible – we’d gone from a broad flat valley to looking down an incredible deep valley. The change hardly seemed possible. What seemed even more unlikely was how the road would cut down the precipitous slope. It was a horrible descent, on the brakes the whole time. Both of us had aching hands and very sore feet. You could see how far it would go. We went through one village that seemed to defy physics as it perched on the hillside.
We we came down I could see this fantastic road cut down the side of the opposite hillside. The work involved in it with all it’s brickwork was incredible. It cut down the headland snaking along beside precipitous falls to the right. I thought; “I must come back and ride that some day”. Since it seemed to rise I didn’t believe it was our road. Next thing we cut into the valley bottom and across on to that road. We had a 5 min climb which we both were so thankful for before the most amazing descent. It was fast in places, technical but most importantly you could look a long way ahead every so often and see if cars were coming. We didn’t see one car on it. What a road !!!
We then saw Julie for a quick snack before a final detour for the final two cols. It was a lovely little route, nice gentle consistent gradient and going through some lovely villages, one of which was more a town and you couldn’t quite believe when it just appeared. We picked up Scott here up lead us down the final 10k descent. It was mostly open with very few sharp turns and brilliantly quick.
No cramp. I feel so much better today and am hugely optimistic about tomorrow.
[ASIDE: Marc pointed out that last time I did the last climb of yesterday I was 30 minutes quicker (thats ~ 33%).- that shows how wasted I was at the end of yesterday]