What a day. The climax of months of waiting and training, and my first cycling in the Pyrenees. We were treated to glorious sunshine and calm conditions, however the day started with caution – arm and leg warmers and my trusty gabba jersey. Though after spending some time outside preparing the bike I whipped off everything leaving only the gabba in place. The arm warmers came with me but the leg warmers were cast aside for another day.
We set out mid morning to tackle the Col Du Soulor, a 12 mile climb with a 5.2% average gradient. We took our time up here to get used to the altitude and get the legs working after a day off the bike travelling yesterday. I’m glad we did as the views were spectacular with snow-topped mountains in all directions and stunning valley vista’s. The road kicks up right from our hotel door but flattens after a couple of miles. However after the village of Arrens-Marsous it really kicks up and averages about 8% for the last four or five miles. It’s tough going!
At the top we had a quick food stop and I was welcomed to the summit by an overly friendly sheep licking the sun cream off my legs. Mmm, salty!
For anyone that knows me, the fact they served sausages sandwiches at the cafe made my day. Although dried sausage; not like we get back ‘ome!
Back on the road we welcomed a brief descent before tackling the second climb of the day. The Col d’Aubisque. I felt fresh after taking it easy on the first climb and with a belly full of sausage decided to give this one a good go. On paper it suited me great; 4.4 miles long with an average grade of 4.8%. I managed to bag the Strava KOM which I’m incredibly pleased with taking almost a minute off the previous time. I didn’t expect to do so well on my first effort!
I could’ve shaved a few more seconds off still, but a very nice French man who I couldn’t understand shouted me down as I overtook him in a tunnel, and not wanting to seem rude I held back to see if he spoke English. He didn’t. So I said au revior; put my head down and motored on.
My efforts were rewarding with both stunning, unimaginably pretty views – and the best coffee I’ve had since I left home!
After our drinks we made our way back to the hotel the same way we rode out.
The descents were fantastic, and while I’m not quick going down I enjoyed being confident enough on these sublime roads to take some pretty fast corners!
Back in Argeles Gazost, a few minutes away from the hotel I decided I felt like a kid who wasn’t ready to come back from playing out. Waved the rest of the group off as they headed to the pub, made a U turn and shot back up the Col Du Soulor in anger. I felt good despite the effort up Aubisque earlier on and set off at a good pace. I only came second on the segment I was targetting but I still managed to take a Strava KOM for a longer version of the climb! What a day. Two KOM’s in the Pyrenees. I know it’s sad, but fuck it. I don’t care.
Climbing the Soulor this time was really tough. The first slopes I was able to tap out a strong rhythm and by the time it flattened out I was holding 20-24mph for a mile or so. However, when the road kicked up (after initially a strong start on this section of road) I began to quickly fade. I could do nothing about my average speed steadily ticking down as the minutes only went up. In hindsight, I should’ve gone up with a gel to suck on just as I was getting to the hard part of the climb. It would’ve kicked in at just the right time to keep me going to the summit.
At the top I didn’t hang around and started the descent quickly. I felt as though I was going really well until I caught up to an old dear in a Citroen. Ah well… I was never going to get any KOM’s for going down!
Tomorrow we tackle the Hauticam and possibly Luz Ardiden.