30″ gear is dead; long live the 28″ gear !!
We decided to go a have a look at Spain, so we rolled down the Tourmalet for 5 miles into Luz St Sauveur (684m) to start our 20 miles steady climb uphill to Port de Boucharo (2270m), via Gavarnie (1365m). Hola! And then it was pretty much 20 miles downhill back to Bareges (1250m) *), though we did have to pedal since we had a head wind back.
*) remember that Bareges is 5 miles up the Tourmalet, which I now have done 3 times.
As we were climbing up to Gavarnie we were passed by a Spanish cyclist on a old steel frame, sleak thin tubes, triple chainset and all painted in a faded orangey-yellow colour with his name painted all over, “Martin”. Peli at first let him go, but I could see that she really wanted to reel him back and I told her to “go on, I know you want to”, “NO” was her answer. “I’m too knackered!”. But half a mile later she started, and I had to work hard to keep up with her as we passed him.
We arrived at Gavarnie, for a quick break and re-fueling of our water bottles, before we started the tough, steep, 13’ish km climb up a serious mountain road to the top. Reading the ‘Cols of the Pyrenees’ guide when we got back, we noted that this climb was reserved for those ‘physically very strong’ riders. Oops! And yes, it was tough.
As we climbed out of town we were followed by a wee lad on his MTB with SPDs who quickly overtook us. We passed him at a hairpin where he was packing his sling-shot away as he was carrying that in his had when he started to ride. He then passed us again, the little bugger, to only disappear into a little sidepath, and I was thinking that would be the last we would see of him. Yet he appeared again coming out from the bushes as he had taken a shorcut across the hairpin!
The last 4 miles or so was well hard as it had the part of the road with 9-10% climb and we had a strong headwind coming over the mountains from Spain. It was here I had to resort to my 28″ gear as it was well hard to ride that bit. We did see a fat, furry marmotte running up the hill, funny little buggers.
The last mile of the road is closed to cars, therefore not cleared of rocks and stones, so we had to zigzag around the fallen scree and parts where the road had collapsed. Quite a few walkers there were surprised to see us on our bikes and especially mine ;) That part of road is VERY exposed and not advisable for those with vertigo!
After we had eaten our butties (Peli walking in bare feet as her Speedplay-cleated road shoes are not the best at mountain-climbing ;) ) we then flew my kite while standing in Spain and it flew over France. How fun it is to fly a kit even a liitle one like mine. I managed to keep it up for a considerably long time. ;)
And then I started to look for a passport control as I wanted my passport stamped, but no one to be found. We saw a couple more Griffons flying around, massive birds they are.
The downhill was fast and fun, until I had a visit by the fairies, probably due to over heating, due to the amount of speed and zigzagging.
We saw Martin (the Spaniard, remember) again coming up with two of his mates, though, this time on the very hard bit of the climb, he did look a bit worse for wear.
Back in Gavarnie we had arranged to meet up with Peli’s folks, though we were nearly two hours late because of the “visit”, kite flying and general faffing around. At a cafe we re-fueled with crepes au sucre et au chocolate, ice tea and a beer and some good natter. We went up to see the Cirque de Gavarnie, a massive rock amphitheatre with the highest freefalling waterfall in Europe. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site.
Then along with Peli’s dad we cycled back to Bareges to make it a total of 51 miles in 5 hours and 30min and over 2100 metres of climbing, though Peli did it 5 mins faster than me as she was pegging it up the Tourmalet (in her middle ring). I was going faster than I ever had done at a steady 6mph but I could not keep up with her, and she even had time to stop for a call of nature en route.