Oh blimey..it's non stop.,no time for sitting about writing anymore it seems.
Let me do a recap of the raid before it gets too far away..already its blurry..due to either tiredness or just feeling the need to blank it from my memory. Garmin lost my data too so only vague figures here. Ok so where did I get to? Day 2..
So new official route sans the Aubisque was to do the Marie blanc instead. So we would head back up the valley, do the Marie Blanc, Soulour and then the Tourmalet. I have to say I have a complete blank for the Marie blanc..there is nothing in my head for it at all. I imagine Rod made me up my pace the whole mountain though. Soulour was different though..up through the valleys, the round a corner and there was the most amazing sight of the Aubisque in front of us. The first snowy mountain visable. It was awesome, and there was a huge ass grin on my face as we headed toward it. Soulour is a toughie but the vista makes it worthwhile. So does the entertainment at the top...uber friendly goats and donkeys who tried to eat everything. They did draw the line at our toy marmot as they didn't seem to sure about that. Graham (leader) had a fan and was followed continually by a lady goat..
Then up to Tourmalet. By this stage it was hot. Rod left me to go his own proper pace (I knew I was slowing him down) so I was left along to bouce over the rubble and ruck that is the west road avoiding the tractors and heavy machinery. The whole thing is roadworks..it's horrendous. Apparently it's been like that since last year when heavy rain plus snow melt just took the road away. They are fixing it but there is a lot to do. Passed a friendly fully packed tourer on the way..very cheery fellow. Turned out that he was doing across the Pyrenees then the Alps in 100 days!! What a loon! In the end the Tourmalet wasn't shut and our van was able to get to the top. Unfortunately this meant he wasn't where I thought he was going to be to top up my water so it got scarce. It also got hotter. The roads got worse. By the time I got to the top Graham and Rod thought I was uber excited and hyper at being there..when in fact it was more like uber dehydration and lack of sugar. They gave me five mins to 'rest' to go back down the other side.
In that time though we watched three French guys in Lycra fanny about with their car..one came over and congratulated me on the climb, and then went back to his friends to pose in front of the col sign. Something was a little odd to me but I couldn't work it out so I asked the others. It seems that these guys had DRIVEN up the Tourmalet, did the photo by the sign then jumped on the bike to ride the descent!?? So not allowed! There must be a rule somewhere against that sort of thing...
Anyway when it came to Rod and I descending it all went a bit pear shaped..I had a panic attack on the first corner after looking at the bends and the thick fog, and started to hyperventilate. Not what you need when you have 25km down to go. Eventually I got myself under control and slowly headed down, taking lots of breaks on the way. About Two thirds of the way down, I was watching Rod cornering and realised his technique was different, so I asked him about it..and so came about my descending revelation. After that point descending was AWESOME!!! Why does no one tell you things like this before! Totally like my eyes have been opened to a whole new world.
That day ended up being over 100 miles and 4100m. So there is a new ascent rule that over 4000 is freaking insane!
Meant to be a slightly easier day after day 2, but of course it never works that way. There were several small cols..a couple with a bit or two in them, a gentle down then in theory a gentle up for 28k. These were lovely climbs. But i woke up feeling horrible, but kept going until my spanish industrial ibroprufen, at maxed out levels, kicked in. All fine until about 50k to the end, when I felt awful. Well and truely awful. My legs worked but my head felt like cottonwool. That last 28k felt worse than any col we had done..it was hideous. We were all zombies at dinner.
Felt even worse as no sleep. Cold had gone to my chest so I sounded like Darth Vader when I breathed, and even worse when I spoke. Today was getting back to more familiar territory..I was heading to Ax. Couple of cols first, a long lunch at Ax then up the col Pailheres..another long and hard climb (many say harder than the Tourmalet). It was a nice climb but god I felt awful and have to say I was swearing something bad by the time I got to the top..especially when Graham was taking photos..not what you need when you feel like death warmed up!! It was a beautiful day so there was awesome views across the snowy mountains. And also down the fantastic set of hairpins down the other side.
As the bulk of the hard work was done Rod and I decided to be sociable and to potter along the remailing three cols and hangout with the others who were just behind us. The descent off the last col was the most amazing yet..a beautiful valley with picturesque villages and gorges, and long sweeping roads. I have to say that this was the first time I truely enjoyed myself on the trip.
Aim of the day to get to Cabere by 1pm for the 100hour cut off. It started with a gentle descent..we spotted lost of cyclist, camels, and tigers on the way. We finally reached the coast and the fantastic sea which we followed south. Drinks and champas at the end. The rest of the day perhaps unsurprisingly was a blur..we got certificates and badges, there was food and more booze...and much much needed sleeping.
Lay in..ish ..ok til 8. Breakie then loitering in the cafe to say goodbye to the my group who were an awesome lot. Then more loitering til the raid a day behind came in, watched their celebrations. Then helped pack up the van for our drive back up north to Toulouse. With last min plan change we were also taking 6 clients from the just arrived group back too. Along with their beery breathe and several cases more of beer. It made for 'entertaining' trip. After 4 hours driving to Toulouse it was time to change vans and company and drive another 3/4 hours back to Hendaye to crashed the night.
Next morning was 2 hour drive to Bilbao, to pick up clients then another 3 hours to Potes and the Pico's de Europa. Needless to say a little bit exhausted by this stage, lergy still hanging about too. But hey ho...all character building no?
On the plus side I was back in Spain, and really glad to be too. I may not be cycling but its good to be here..and this time the weather seems to be letting me actually enjoy the view. And what a view.
So that brings us up to date to yesterday...this trip seems much more relaxed than the raid, a lot more booze flowing too...an actual holiday holiday for these people!