Total ascent: 1888m
Hours in the saddle: 5hrs
Terrain: one huge are mountain
Well it is not often one can say they rode through three countries in one day. But today was the day of Spain, Andorra and France..with one huge mountain between me and the end point.
It all started off perfectly..out of La Seu heading towards the border it was perfect riding and very beautiful and quiet foothills to meander through. If the day carried on like this or would be perfect. So of course it didn't..to my surprise as soon as I crossed into Andorra, the road became hugely busy and it seemed to be never ending industrial estates and shopping malls. It did amuse me that they kept showing road map signs for the country that consisted of four roads, but that didn't overcome my dislike of the continuous traffic. One plus point was that it distracted me from the several 12% sections of the road around Andorra La Vella, but other than that it was a case of gritting my teeth and trying to ignore it. Thankfully it eased off further up the climb after Encamp, and I could relax and enjoy the ride and the amazing scenery as it went by. By this stage I was already over 1000m up and the snowy mountains on the side seemed awful close. They were stunning. And it didn't take me long to work out that where I was headed was bound to be in the snow too.
By this stage too cyclist signs had started to guide you up the mountain with gradients, altitude and kms remaining. Though a little pale and small I liked these signs as they were not every km, which meant you had the 'surprise' of getting through the k's quicker than you thought.
And sure enough soon started the hairpins up the final climb averaging about 7%. Quite surreal cycling those bends surrounded by snow. Felt like I should be cold but the climbing and the sun was keeping me warm. I cannot say the same for at the top or for the descent. At the top I stopped for compulsory photos, and to pile on the layers and to grab a some food. But god it was cold. I had to keep stopping on the way down to get blood into my hands again. Luckily the road dropped quite quickly and soon the sun was able to warm me up some. But it was not til Ax ..some 25 km later..that in was able to shed some layers. It was a beautiful descent though through the valleys and a few gorges. It just kept going down and down!
I should mention the borders..which while there were stations and policemen, there was no real controls. I passed into Andorra and into France with no real marker. I had hoped for a flag or something but no. The only difference I could see were that the road was not as good the French side and that the road signs changed. Time to learn a whole new set of warnings.
I did think to stop in Ax for food or a look around but my legs were just warming and to be honest I was not sure how my brain would cope with the switch to French so soon. It would come out as some sort of Fraspanglish and confuse everyone including myself.
So onwards to Pech. Not having any stop at all after such a ride was a bit daft but I was just wanting to get there. The legs would cope..they would moan but they would cope. So here I am..my base now for the next few months. It was really good to have some proper english conversation (and being able to!), the brain and memory is a little fuzzy but its not as bad as I thought. Which is a good job as training starts tomorrow!