127km, 6:06:48, 3,176m ascent, 7 cols, 54 total
We woke to the forecast rain and as the light came up whilst waiting for breakfast we could see how low the cloud was. The early starters headed out in heavy rain but when we left at 8am it was just light drizzle.
We were straight in to the climb of Col De La Core; about 14km and 900m ascent at a nice steady gradient. Very quickly the faster guys split in to their own group whilst Marc and I formed the gruppeto with Ashleigh and Rebecca all of us very happy to just go at a conversational pace. The climb passed quickly as we chatted the whole way. The rain picked up a little and we were in the cloud but we were warm enough. I quite like the odd day like this. You need to see the mountains draped in cloud occasionally to feel their full character.
Julie was waiting at the top for a quick change in to jackets and long fingered gloves. It’s a long descent with the top section particularly hard today when wearing glasses as the combination of rain and cloud meant I had to look over the top of them for the longer view and through them for tight corners. Pickles and Peter had waited for us at the top and the line of red lights ahead on the descent helped together with the sensible pace being set at the front. Once below the cloud it was a lot easier but it was cold. I waited at the bottom for Marc who has to go a little slower when it’s this wet due to his carbon rims. We welcomed the opportunity to push the pace along the valley to catch the other a few KM before the start of Col De Portet D’Aspet.
Along here we passed Matt who’s Di2 has been playing up and he was stuck in the 28… spinning along. At the start of the climb I could see Mel ahead and it took ages to reel her in. She’s getting a lot strong. She’d not been able to ride for 3 months in to this so bike fitness was lacking. She’s really toughed it out and is already reaping the rewards. I think following the rest day she may be approaching her old self and the three of us will be able to ride together.
The last couple of KM of the Protet D’Aspet are lovely little switchbacks before arriving at the top where Julie was serving sandwiches and hot drinks. We all crammed in to the little covered area and it was quite cosy. The rain was back on it outside and there certainly wasn’t any particular urgency to get going.
It was really raining now and we had the 4km descent past the memorial to Fabio Casartelli who hit the wall and died during the 1995 tour de France. We took it very cautious. Straight off the descent we start the climb of the Col De Mente. It’s one of my favourites with lots of switchbacks and views back down below which on this occasion was very moody indeed with small pockets of cloud hanging in various places. The rain eased as I climbed and Marc and I caught Mick and Bas who we road with. Then Rich and Pickles caught us and we rode at a lovely social pace to the top.
I was warm at the top and the rain had stopped so I suggested we roll straight over rather than stop at the cafe where I thought there was a chance if they didn’t have the heating on we’d get cold (we found out later the heating was on!). Mick and Rich joined us and we flew down the descent in improving weather and then worked well to cover the flat ground to the Col Des Ares. Ian describes the ascent as conversational – we proved him right chatting all the way up the 7.5k 5% climb and were very pleased to find the cafe open. Just as we approached the summit Marc casually asked Rich “why do you ride with you pouch open?” Whilst he looked Marc jumped and rode over the top first. By now it was warm enough to sit outside snd have our hot chocolates and cold Cokes.
Now it was just a matter of cruising round the the quiet roads and villages in a broad arc back to Luscan. Steve caught us and kept pushing a little off the front which just encouraged the Ozzies to play. Even at one point Marc followed a surge up a short sharp hill and rather suffered for it for a while after. Eventually Marc and I just let them go and got back to a nice steady pace back to Ian and Julies place.
I washed my bike and then sat around drinking beer and wine chatting with the Ozzies about Charlesies bucks do in Vegas and reminiscing about Epic Camps with Charlesy and Scott. The evening was rounded off with another of Julies fine meals.
Rest day tomorrow !!!