Well since you are reading this I survived the Tourmalet, though I did have to have two goes at it before I managed it, since I had a 54 mile ride in the middle ;)
Why? Because we started half way up the Tourmalet in Bareges and then up and over the col then down to St Marie de Campan. Once through Bagneres de Bigorre we crossed the foothills of the Pyrenees through the pretty little villages of Trebons and Juncalas and onwards to join the Voie Verte (cycle lane running along old railway line) from Lourdes to Pierrefitte.
We set off at 9.45am, with very stiff legs from our wee walk 2 days ago. The best part was that we didn’t have to ride to the start of our route as the Tourmalet is right on our doorstep and 7 miles straight up to 2115m.
Note to oneself never use progressive trance (Infected mushrooms – B.P Impire) as riding music on a hill like that, as it pulled off my legs while I zoomed past Peli at around 8km from the top. So change of sound track and I slowed right down again, into a steady rhythm and a speed just under 5mph. I made a rule from the start that I would stop and have a quick rest (1min or so) and a drink every 2km even if I felt good. I really think that rule did good for me, as I felt fine though my legs were well sore.
We had to slow right down a few times to avoid the wild life as the sheep just wandered around on the road as they saw fit. Around the same time we passed the “Riis” that was painted onto the mountain.
3km from the top I had a little longer break (2-3 min) and changed the sound track back to some Infected Mushrooms, and set off only to stop once to film Peli go past me and then again a quick stop just before the very last and very hard 3-400m. Peli pretty much did the ride non stop, I think I had 6-8 pit stops where Peli just plodded on with max 3 stops and that was to take pictures of me.
When I arrived I had to swerve around the crowd that was already there taking photos. I pulled in and got off Chutney and kept pedaling for a few minutes more up unto a rock wall as my legs didn’t want to stop :)
On the way up we passed 2 guys on fully-loaded bikes: panniers, tents, et al. We had a quick chat at the top. They were from Strasbourg on their way down to Pamplona, a 2000km journey. One of them had to redo the summit because the other fella was not ready with his camera :)
After a little queuing we managed to get our photo taken too, just like real tourists. There were a few locals whom had to peer at both of our bikes, one played with Peli’s new red pedals and another asked me if I really did ride up there on Chutney.
It took us 1 hour and 27 minutes for 7 miles, I’m well chuffed with that, since Peli’s best time is 1 hour 10 ;)
Then we went off down the mountain – over 18km of descending – after a wee break enjoying the view, since Peli knows these roads and hairpins like the back of her hand, I let her lead they way down. Note the Tour de France writing, even managed to see the Devil’s logo while zooming down :)
In St Marie de Campan we stopped for some water at the village water fountain where cyclists tend to congregate. When we arrived there was a group of 8 Basques in Euskaltel tops doing the same as us. While there 2 locals came up and quizzed me about Chutney, though I understood what they asked me I had to ask for Peli’s assistance to translate my answers. They were quite bemused that I managed these hills on 20″ wheels and when I told them that I did 38mph down the Tourmalet they were well surprised though still not convinced that a folder was the way forward.
Peli then led me through the countryside over to Bagneres de Bigorre where we had a well deserved drink. Even Peli agreed that I should have une biere after all that work, and boy did it hit the spot.
Then we hit the – still lumpy – foothills and my legs were well knackered so Peli had to wait for me a few times. But even at slow speed cycling is great as we really got to see the countryside at its best. We spotted a couple of Griffon vultures while eating our baguettes, checking us out (they do live off carrion you know ;) )
After a few hills (small and nasty) and then restful flat miles I started to pick up the speed again. And then we arrived on the Voie Verte (cycle lane running along old railway line) pan flat but stupidly HOT.
On one of the rivers that the cycle lane goes over had some white river rafters paddling along, we should have been down there cooling off with them.
We then headed up the gorge to Luz St Sauveur, a steady climb for around 5 miles, and I just tucked in behind Peli and let her pull me up. Which again was HOT and when we arrived I shouted “water, water we need to get to the water fountain!” otherwise Peli would have just carried on! A quick refueling of water, ice cream and sweet fizzy pop we were ready for last part of the day 5 HARD, HOT miles up the Tourmalet, yet again.
While we were plodding on up the mountain, we got cheered at by quite a few cars, not surprisingly since Peli has been coming here for the past 28 years, so she is a regular face on this lump. Rob from Les Sorbiers (where we eat) even offered us a lift, but we were determined to plod and puff our way to the top. :)
In total 65.5 very very HOT miles in 6 hours and 8 minutes with the Tourmalet at the start and at the end of the ride.
One funny thing I have noticed cycling here with Peli, every car, cyclist or pedestrian that sees us cycling, stares at Peli’s red hair and then her bike and then they see Chutney and start staring at her. Never at me :(