Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Stage 3 - well that was hard! But we're in France now!

120km, 3900m climbing

I guess the third day is when fatigue starts to set in.  I think it has.

still finished inside the time limit but that last climb up to Superbagneres was hard going.  And you’ll never know quite how hard because the Garmin had a conniption about 5kms from the top and stopped working.  Grrr.

The day started in Vielha which is a ski resort I think.  Sort of Spanish Jindabyne.  But only sort of.  Dinner last night was quite funny.  When the hotel buffet opened up they were immediately charged down by hungry cyclists who ate pretty much everything - in large quantities.  I’ve been struggling to find enough protein in Spain and even though there were baked beans on offer for breakfast, I couldn’t quite stomach them unfortunately.

It was cold when we set off on the 20km neutral section down a main road, under escort. Somewhere we crossed the border but it seems it is very porous. I was carrying my passport just in case but never got to show it to anyone.

The first climb up Col du Portilion was steep but a mere 8km and felt good.  But the descent was scary.  Very, very steep and I spent most of it on the brakes. 

Along the way we passed a sign that seemed to indicate a Bear Park.  Either that or wombats with long legs which is unlikely.  Another sign pointing to the same place had a wolf and a deer on it.  Poor deers – presumably lunch for the other two.  Do they have bears in France/Spain?

Then a 40km stretch through a valley where I was lucky enough to hang off the back wheels of some Australians from Perth who were chivalrous enough to swap turns on the front and not ask me to do any work.  Result! 

The second climb to Col du Port Bales started off gently through some cute villages, around here I realised we were actually in France as suddenly I had a bit of a clue what the signs meant (that schoolgirl French coming handy for once). And it was a lovely ride up a valley alongside a river, in the shade and the occasional farmhouse.

But then it got steeper, then steeper and I believe there was a fair section of 14%.  But I didn’t look at the Garmin.  Didn’t want to know.  Finally the top and my legs were feeling fairly shot at that stage.  But I had passed a couple of people on the climb so decided to keep going and maintain my advantage – distance from last.

Then another scary descent where we had heard there were “100m drop-offs with no barriers” at the briefing the day before. Most of the descent, for no good reason at all, I spent puzzling over how they arrived at the figure of 100m.  Really, it didn’t matter because if you went over the edge you were cactus anyway.  That descent made my feet hurt something serious and I wanted it to end.  I’ve figured out right handers now by the way and can just about get around them functionally, if not with panache.

A short flat bit to the town of Bagneres du Luchon where we are staying tonight.  Maddeningly we had to go right past it and then up the mountain to Superbagneres (no prizes for guessing why it’s called that) which is a ski centre of 1860m and above the snow line.

Around here I started riding with Nick, a chap I chatted to yesterday but riding solo today and we dragged ourselves up the mountain and motivated each other.  It was hard, hot and we were both pretty tired.  But best that there’s someone to chat to and to negotiate things like “when we get to the first bit of shade on this side of the road, or the 5km-to-go sign, we’ll stop and have a drink of water.”  It’s pretty hard to keep the fluids up on those relentless climbs because as you get more and more tired, it’s challenging to take your hands off the handlebars.

But the views were spectacular and not done justice by the picture (taken at a brief stop).  There's still snow up in them thar hills!

We eventually made it with about 45 minutes to spare.  Should have been a quick turnaround and then downhill all the way another 20kms to Bagneres du Luchon and my hotel.

Except … it’s France!  And there’s a café open with people sitting outside under umbrellas!  So I had a quick espresso and a Nutella crepe – enough to reinvigorate me for the descent.  Where I actually passed a car.  


  1. Stay positive Eleri! You are doing it and are still in front of the dreaded Sag Wagon. And hey, if you are allowed a Nutella crepe at the end of the day then that is certainly something to look forward to.

    Looks like Jo T might be getting the Baum after all... ;-)

  2. Did I know she was contemplating that? Cool!

  3. Haha. Did you read the forum? She said if you are sick of cycling she will have the Baum even if she is taller than you. I said if she gets the Baum, clearly her 808's won't fit so I will have them. :-)