Total ascent: 638m
Hours in the saddle: 3hrs 23
Being August I had been expecting to have to get up early and race against the sun and the heat. It seems however that for the moment my enemy is not the sun but the storms and rain.
I changed the plan for today..opting for a slightly longer more undulating route to stretch the legs and to have more of a ride than the original plan which would have been mainly descending.
It started off sunny and blue sky, but at 8am 3/4 of a way up the mountain it's pretty nippy. So the descent of Envalira was a careful one..the cold and wet putting paid to any zooming thoughts. Add to that traffic once you pass Encamp. It wasn't as bad as I remember but then again I was moving a fair bit faster than when I was going up this side. It still wasn't a particularly pleasant experience and I breathed a sigh of relief and was happy when I saw the Spanish border. The change is incredible..somehow the traffic disappears, the road surface is better, there is a larger hard shoulder and the mountains on the sides are pretty pristine with very little if any signs of civilisation.
On to La Seu d'Urgell and then back on the N260 up the valley to Puigcerda. Even the N260..the 'main' road across the Spanish Pyrenees (they call it the Pyrenees axis) was quiet. Some cars going the other way but few on my side. There was hundreds of cyclists going the other way too..ok maybe not hundreds but getting on to one hundred. Strangely mostly in yellow jerseys with a good few loyal Garmin-Sharp fanboys (appropriate for the area as most live down the road). I felt quite in place as I had my yellow wheelers jersey on today.
I will keep the gushing to a minimum but it was a great road..up along a river gorge, with more pristine mountains and foothills and a scattering of untouched villages perched on rock ledges. Going the other way would be awesome as you would freewheel the whole 50km!
Puigcerda was perched on a hill..as seems to be always the case in Spain. a maze of roads and shops and people bustling about. There was a market too for local arts and crafts. As my hostal wasn't opening til a bit later I found a nice cafe on the main square and got some food in..a vegiburger! Oh it was good. I had a potter about and found another little square with a glass elevator to the bottom of the town and a fantastic view right across the valley. Slight blip on that view was the massive dark clouds slowly making their way towards us.
Taking the hint I wandered past my hotel to see if they were open on the off chance..they were. The woman who owns it had seen that the weather was coming in and had opened early for me as she knew I was coming by bike. Bless her. And good timing too..a few mins later the thunder came soon followed by the rain and lightning..and it hasn't stopped since.
I did manage one important thing though before the heavens opened..topping up my mobile phone. It has not been working in France at all..apparently though there is the same company in France as I use in Spain..they don't cross over, so I have had no reception nor mobile data for months. Life feels all complete again now..it was odd having a phone that didn't work. Not that I use it for calls etc as I can use my tablet for that but having Google maps and GPS available is uber handy for city navigating/not getting lost. Normal service is resumed.
Weirdly the storm stopped dead just at the end of siesta time when people were starting to come out on the street again (it clears completely during lunch). How's that for timing!