Monday, September 2, 2013

Stage 2 - first time above 2000 metres

The Stage was from  LA SEU D'URGELL - PLAN DE BERET
120km (+ a 22km ride back to the accommodation village) and 3,500m climbing.

La Sue D'urgell is where the canoeing was held for the Barcelona Olympics.  It contains a huge seminary that now seems to be boarded up and neglected.  A comment perhaps on the state of Catholicism and attractiveness of the priesthood in Spain.

We left bright and early.  A little too early for the hotel that made us a "picnic breakfast" as they wouldn't be starting proper breakfast til 7:30am.  It was cool in the morning, now we are at altitude and the neutral start was for 7km which gave me an opportunity to warm up just a little before the first big climb of the day Col del Canto.  A climb to 1730m.

Which was surprisingly easy.  Perhaps because I had adjusted my rear brake which seemed to be rubbing.  I hope I wasn't riding it like that yesterday ...

Then a wonderful swooping descent and a 30km ride along a river right at the bottom of a gorge.  Looked just beautiful.  Unfortunately it was a wind tunnel and that got tedious after a while.

And then I ran into Richard of bamboo bike fame!  Anyone who was at our Pool Party at the Alpine Classic will remember Richard.  He turned up with his self-built bike and had everyone enthralled.  He was pedalling easy with his team-mate Nick (on the left), resplendent in pink.  Their team is Black Widows (think Clint Eastwood movie) and the pink is another piss-take.  

I rode with them for a while until ...

we hit the 2nd big climb of the day to Port De La Bainagua at 2072m.  Which I mistakenly thought was the last climb of the day.  I'd failed to notice the 3rd one somehow.  Perhaps by paying no attention at all and leaving the cheat sheet behind. Oops.

We climbed up masses of switchbacks that I could see going up the mountain.  Like those dramatic shots you get in the TdF except they are usually descents.  A bit daunting really but truly spectacular.  But a bit too steep for me to take a picture.

Until we reached the top for a quick snack and then down an untimed descent.  There was roadworks and parts of the road had been washed away.  Amazing engineering up here.

Given I thought this was the last descent I was somewhat surprised when the road turned left and another climb started.  More switchbacks, climbing, climbing and more climbing.  I passed a bloke in white kit on the way up - he'd passed me on the untimed descent.  Haha - take that.  Only an 8km climb or something but it seemed really steep.

Finally we got to the finish line at Plan de Beret - a ski station at the top of a mountain.  And more cows with bells on!  So far I've seen cows, goats and horses belled up.  It's like being in the Sound of Music I tell you.

Gobbled some rice, salad and yoghourt - the joys of being a vegetarian and interested mostly in protein and carbs.  Fortunately I'm an eat to live person otherwise I'd be mightily disappointed I reckon.

And finally a 22km descent back the way we had come to our accommodation down at Vielha.  On the way down I stopped and took this picture of the valley we'd just climbed.

If you want to follow my results you can see them here   My rider number is 365.

On Stage 2 I came 29th out of 33 women.  And 2nd in my age group (there's only 2 of us).  The fastest women were nearly 2 hours faster than me (4hrs 30 rather than 6 hrs 26 for me).  Mind you, that fastest woman was only half an hour behind the fastest bloke (3 hrs 55).

Right now I'm off for a massage.  One of the guys on the tour has brought his personal masseuse along, as you do, and he's apparently excellent.  About to find out.


  1. Wow... Are these women pro riders? Or just freaks? How many people are riding all up?

  2. Some of them are from a pro mountain bike team. There's supposed to be 400 all up, of which 33 are women. Most of the women are faster than me. But I don't think everyone finished yesterday as there's less than 400 names with finish times.