175km, 7:45:13, 3,266m ascent, 11 cols, 65 cols total
We left Luscon at 8am in the lovely chilly air. The route went round the foothills of the Pyrenees to Heche and then Bagneres De Bigorre – a road I’ve ridden loads of times and know how lovely it is. I was feeling strong and since I knew the road thought I’d sit on the front and happily set a pace to keep the group together. If anyone wanted to go harder they could go through and everyone could decide whether to speed up but if they were happy I fully intended to sit on the front through to Heches (~ 30k).
Anyway …. After about 20k Marc had a mechanical. Luckily for him the person who stopped with him was Mick who was able to offer excellent help in the form of words of encouragement, explaining to Marc that turning his bike over would break Rule #49 and ultimately agreeing with Marc that to fix it the bike needed turning over. Baz and I turned round to see what was wrong and arrived to the horrifying sight of Marc bike upside down. He’d dropped his chain and we could just not figure out how it had got where it was without damaging the frame. We had to break the chain to fix it.
We rode together and caught up the other in about 15k as they’d waited quite along time before continuing slowly. The next section round to Bagnere de Bigorre is beautiful – lush countryside, decent cols (one was particularly steep), some fund descents and throughout quiet roads with lovely views.
Marc kept dropping his chain and was getting a little annoyed by it all. Then on one climb Rich held his saddle so Marc could just feel a drop in speed but could not figure it out and shouted “What the f*** is wrong with today” … we could hardly contain ourselves and Mick, Baz and I chuckled up the next climb.
The group broke up a bit and as we approached the top of the Col Des Palomieres Marc hit some serious form and it was all Rebecca, Peter and I could do to hang on. We were impressed. The top of that col the view just explodes on you. You come out of the trees and the view north and east just opens up. Then there was a quick descent to the coffee stop.
Short stop and we were off continuing around the beautiful foothills to Argeles Gazost but this time the road were narrower and steeper. There was a good old race up Col De Saoucede where I chased Scott for quite a few KMs before giving up and setting my own tempo. Good fun but I decided I’d explode if I stuck with him much longer. Then a narrow descent before the Col De Germs. This is sustained steep. Unfortunately I’d only remember the start and the end and forgot just how much was in between. That was one tough climb. If this had been a week ago I think I would not have managed it but in a week I’m a different rider.
At the top I regrouped with Marc, Rebecca and Peter planning to keep us together down the great descent and the wonderful cycle path to lunch. As we started the narrow descent Marc and I were beside each other chatting briefly as we accelerated before we’d single up for the descent. On of the riders came between us at speed missing both our bars by mere inches. I was fuming… luckily I’d calmed down by lunch. Other than that it was a fantastic safe fast descent followed by a lovely flat section to lunch. Sandwiches have never tasted so good – thanks Julie. Baz took at look at Marc chainset and it turns out the mechanic put the inner chain ring on the wrong way round. That would explain Marcs issues (they’re out there fixing it as I write this).
After lunch Marc and I rode up the Col de Spandelles together have started the first few KM with Mel. Marc set a lovely pace and we rode together for the full 15km without seeing anyone else. Then followed the descent I was dreading. The valley just seems to drop below you at a rate that would defy the building of a road. Luckily it was no where near as bad as I’d remembered and soon we were in the beautiful valley bottom with bit rock faces above and a road below that descended at just the right angle to absolutely fly down. Every so often the road would split so our side was one way and you could just fly through the corners.
At the turn we saw Julie and Scott caught us. His Garmin was out of juice so he’s tag along with us. The next section was to Louvie-Juzon and once on the main road is was just the sort of terrain I love. I was feeling strong and pushed it along as well as I could. By the time we arrived I’d done enough for Scott and Marc to buy me my coffee and ice-cream(s).
Everyone re-grouped here. Marc and I had a double ice cream stop and were keen to ride with Mel so we left with the second group. I was keen to keep the group together and ride at a social pace as Julie had described the next section as a grind. I’ve told her she should change her description – it was gorgeous riding. I enjoyed sitting on the front for much of it and in no time we’d arrived at our hotel.
Reckon that’s one of the best days to far.