136km, 6:37:43, 3,322m ascent, 16 cols, 91 cols total
We woke to pouring rain which matched Ian’s comment that they’d never done todays climb in clear weather. My local weather man, Marc had his own forecast and he’s never let me down. The rain would stop at 8:30am – our scheduled start time.
As we had breakfast there was a consensus it would be worth waiting for it to clear. The early starters set off in the rain but right on cue the rain stopped at 8:30 and the scratch group started in the “dry”.
There was a close to 1,000m 12k ascent to start off. Marc and I rode with the Ozzie Coyotes plus Rebecca and Peter. Everyone was willing to set the right pace for the group and we had a lovely chatty ride all the way to the top in about 1:15. The mountains in clearing weather are wonderful. They’re moody yet optimistic. The weather is improving. The clouds cling to the valley sides and in Cwms. It give the mountains a real mood. As we approached the top we first heard Julie screaming encouragement to us, then we heard her tunes blasting out and finally we could see her strutting her dance floor moves by the side of the road. Such amazing support throughout this trip from Ian and Julie
Off the top we had a great descent riding all together at a sensible pace. Rich, Mick and Bas then did a massive Coyote pull along the valley keeping us cruising at 40+ km/h whilst most of us were freewheeling for 50% of it. Such good fun.
We then took turns to pull the group along the valley and back towards France before the next big climb up Col De la Piere St Martin. Steve went off and soon Baz was following. I ended up riding with Rich and Mick. I was putting in a good effort and they cruised along keeping me company and chatting away. Near the top there was a few KM rolling and I was really appreciative when they absolutely cranked it across there. They took turns but I had to skip mine as it was all I could do to stay on.
The top was the high point of the day (1,766m) and most of the riders were there for lunch. Nice to have everyone together for lunch, There followed a fantastic descent. We continued together and the group rode at a just perfect pace for me down the descent. Fast but nothing crazy and it meant we kept everyone together to the bottom. So far along there was a small climb. Rebecca was on the front and was absolutely cranking it. Putting us all to the sword. Whatever she had for lunch today I want tomorrow – she was on fire.
At the bottom we found a nice little cafe for a coffee. The nicest coffee I’ve had all trip. Mick had a Heineken and it certainly did the business as following the stop he was off like a rocket and I didn’t see him till after the next climb. Baz towed Marc, Scott and I along the valley and to the start of the Col de Marie Blanque. This is a brute of a climb – concaved so the gradient keeps going up. I gave it a good crack and was pretty knackered at the top.
A refuel from Ians van and then Marc and I headed down this fantastic descent. I went past an older French guy who I’d said “bonjour” to at the top. Whilst I waited for Marc he went by. We really pushed it along the valley towards Laruns and went hurtling by him. I was so so impressed he managed to jump on. Then he went through and did a pull. He was strong. I also popped up the next rise and was very pleased to see the Laruns town sign. I said “mercy” and we went out separate ways.
In town everyone had regrouped so I enjoyed a couple of beers with the Coyotes before we cruised up the first 4km of the Aubische to the hotel. It’s one of these big old French buildings. Pretty down to earth but a lovely big room with loads of character.