Stage 6: ARGELÈS-GAZOST - PAU
I'm writing this before dinner, lying on the bed, listening to music and completely and utterly stuffed. I feel like I've been through the ringer today and it wasn't a particularly hard stage. I didn't sleep well last night and my legs were feeling puffy and I woke feeling lethargic.
We're in Pau tonight which is a largish city with an historic inner city that's quite attractive. So many clothes shops and some really stylish looking things that I would have quite like to acquire - if I hadn't been wearing thongs.
I had a quick walk around earlier and acquired a rice pudding which I've just demolished. I figure a rest and a pudding will help me through tomorrow which is a long stage of 177km and 3,300m of climbing.
Today we had 3 climbs that sawtoothed up to the ultimate, and famous, peak of Col d'Aubisque. These 3 peaks are another famous TdF route. Frank! Frank! - clearly had a few friends up here.
The views are, allegedly fantastic. But what would I know? We climbed in blanketing and damp fog and I could barely see for some of it. That got better when I took my glasses off - oops. But still pretty dense.
Here's a view of a tunnel we entered in the climb between Col du Solour and Aubisque. I stopped to take this you'll be pleased to know.
The next tunnel was totally scary - much longer than this one and with no lights at all. I had no lights and couldn't see the end. I was sure I was going to get cleaned up or eaten by werewolves or something.
And shortly after that - I saw a real, life Newfoundland lying on the road looking benignly at cyclists passing! He'd been rolling in cow shit and I have no idea if he was friendly. Disappointingly he didn't have a barrel of rum round his neck as far as I could tell. Although as I have sworn off alcohol for the week* this would have been no use to me. And I might have gone off the edge into the foggy abyss.
Finally, through the fog I could hear 80s pop songs and I was at the last refreshment stop at the top of Col d'Aubisque where there are giant bicycles as a monument to, well, bicycles I guess.
I stopped at the same time as a French guy who only has a right leg, with the other amputated very high up near the hip and only half a left arm. He is just truly amazing and although he has riding style with a lot of body movement, he has done the whole ride. He rides about the same speed as me, perhaps a little faster.
Here's me with Fergus the Haute Route appointed Lantern Rouge whose job it is to give encouragement to those close to cut-off. I try to stay ahead of Fergus for obvious reasons! But we do know each other and he's prone to singing terrible songs that he imagines contain my name. They don't.
But what goes up, must go down and a loooong, cold, damp and at times scary descent followed. After 44km it was downhill all the way to Pau but that got fairly exhausting, especially when I was already feeling crap. I took it easy and was riding by myself for quite a while, my feet were cold and I wasn't making great decisions. At the last refreshment stop I met up with 3 Australians and an Italian and we decided to ride together down a fairly busy road. This was good because it was slightly downhill and I did a stint on the front where we were averaging over 40kph.
Here we are, at somewhat slower pace, going through a little lane through a small village somewhere about 25km from Pau.
The stage finished about 10km out of Pau and then we just had to ride at our own pace to find lunch etc. I was well and truly over the ride by now and could barely face that 10km. The last km or so was an obstacle ride, on GRAVEL with holes in it. There was one steep but short gravel section up to a bridge. If I had come off on that, like one of my mates did, I would have screamed and thrown the bike in the river I swear.
Lunch - gazpacho with a lump of pork in it: rejected (who puts pork in gazpacho???) Pasta with no sauce: eaten because I had to eat. Semolina pudding: ate two.
And I came 28th on the stage and same place in the GC. Hey, I'm only 9hr 15 min down in the GC :-)
And I forgot to mention from yesterday's TT up Hautacam that the fastest time was from the journalist on the e-bike! He did it in 40 minutes, but not an official time.
Here's a shot of Hautacam. In the foreground, the pink building is the old Railway Station, now the hotel we stayed in for two nights.
*My body is a temple. haha One that I appear to hitting with sledgehammers but there you go.