We got up late for a change, but were immediately on our bikes to ride towards the finish of todays stage in Le Tour. The finish was atop Col Peyregudes which meant we had to ride over a mountain and then up a second mountain to get to it. Or we could take the van… But what fun would that be?!?
Mother Nature looked to be against us as we headed out; dense fog and a bit of rain in the air. We set a steady pace out of town and worked our draught line as best we could with five riders with significantly varied abilities. At the turn of Hourquette we thought about calling the support van to pick up Steve – it looked like he was having a bad day, and the weather was turning more threatening – but Steve wanted to soldier on. So we did and it was incredible. Dense fog through a dense forest with a challenging incline the whole way. Just after we crested the climb the sun broke through the clouds and illuminated the towns below… While we cooked along at upwards of 60km/h. The road on the uphill side was nicely paved and wide enough for a car to safely pass a cyclist, and room to run off the road on both sides if needed.
The descent into Ancizan was the opposite. Narrow road, rough surface, steep drop-offs plummeting hundreds of feet to the valley floor below. This meant we had to take the descent slower than wanted but it was definitely the correct choice from a safety point-of-view.
Once into Arreau – a quick 5km down the road from Ancizan – we found a great café that served Nesquik Chocolate milk, burgers and fries. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
At this point three of the five who started the day decided to get into the van for a drive up to the top of the climb where we would watch Le Tour from. Chris and I (Chris) decided to ride. It was an awesome climb with the second half of the climb closed to vehicle traffic. At the top we surprised the folks in the van by getting there so quickly. The burger and Nesquik should be packaged as a superfuel for climbing!!
After the stage we hopped on our bikes for the descent back into Arreau. I think I was the first guy on the road heading down as the road was deserted except for the two motorcycles who couldn’t keep up with me until we hit the flat section at the bottom. It was very exhilarating to ride that fast with two motorcycles essentially chasing me. I continued to hammer it all the way to Arreau passing everything and everyone I saw. The Nesquik and burger superfuel was still keeping me going.
In Arreau after an hour or more of waiting for the slower descenders six of us headed out to ride the “40k or so” rolling route back to Bigorre.
The GPS plotted it at 46k with 500 metres of climbing!
And it was electrifying. Literally. I accidentally touched an unmarked cow fence and got jolted. As the guys joked if this were in America I’d be the proud owner of a farm in 30 days… but here in France things are a bit different. When the zap happened the guys were standing by the road sign and I was across the road setting my camera up to take a timed shot. Here’s the shot:
Late in the ride about a quarter of the way up a 5km climb the tour vans caught us – with a look of shock in their eyes that we’d made it so far so quickly. We continued to ride into the fading light of the day eventually arriving back at our hotel in Bigorre at 8:30pm.