What another brilliant day! But before I get into that, a few little oddities from our accomodation in St Gaudens. The accomodation was run by two very strict ladies. You darned not cross them. They swore prolifically in French. They had unusual taste in light fittings!
They also win the prize for the smallest bath award:
Notwithstanding that they did take good care of our babies:
I think they may have underestimated the eating power of cyclists. We were strictly allocated one croissant, one piece of cheese, one slice of ham, one tub of natural yoghurt, 2 pieces baguette. I did manage to obtain a second coffee but that was because I had not had orange juice. I noticed the older lady carefully counting grapes too… but they were a bit soft and most of us passed.
When we packed up our room to depart, this was the view.
We left St Gaudens via the same roads we had entered and headed off towards Valentine. It was cold at 9 degrees and we had bare legs, but well rugged up on our top half.
We ideally would liked to have dumped our front paniers for today’s climb. However it was an unknown factor as to whether the van would be at the top for us to grab warmer clothes for the descent. So we erred on the conservative side and chose to carry provisions for the full day.
We rode through Valentine (6.1 km), Ardiege (8.9 km), Cier de Rivière (9.8 km) arriving at Col de la Hountared at 12.6 km.
We turned right climbing through woods ( what a surprise) but what a nasty little climb this turned out to be, with a 17 % section!
Around the area of Labroquere (17.1 km) we noted the old Roman funeral pile looking more like a section of a fence.
Saint Bernard de Comminges was an impressive village with a cathedral overlooking ancient roman ruins.
We continued through a number of villages including Sarp (21.6 km), Aveux (22.7 km) travelling through narrow wooded valleys along the side of a river.
At Mauleon Barousse (29.1 km) we stopped as the Bike Adventures van was there. After a chat with Andy we motored on as I was not keen for my knee to cool down.
We turned right at this village and came across this sign, indicating the commencement of our 19 km climb.
As with all climbs, Tony has a leave pass to do what he wants. I like to climb on my own, cognisant of my knee and asthma. Today it was to be my back though that would cause me pain!
As you climb it is important to stay mentally focused. Each km there is a sign indicating what exactly average incline is for the next km. The first few were only 3 -to 4 percent. Then they increased to 7,8,9 and 10 percent!
About half way up a couple of ‘young’ cyclists from Canada passed me and cheered me on, in French. Around one of the hairpin bends Tony was waiting to take photos of me grimacing!
I followed Tony for a bit and we came across these cows. They were so cute, with the adults having bells that were ringing. It explained all the cow pats on the road that I had seen too. They seem to just wander and go where they want.
This next photo is as I entered the last km of the climb.
I was very glad to get to the top. My back had been having muscular spasms for over half the ride. I lay down on the grass and did some stretching.
There were numerous cyclists at the top all congratulating each other!
Time to descend. More clothes back on as it is always colder when descending.
We had a fast descent into Bagneres de Luchon. We were the first of the cyclists to arrive and knew we had a bit of time to kill before the van arrived. We stopped at a restaurant and had lunch and then pootled to the accomodation where we did some bike maintenance and enjoyed the sun.
Tomorrow is a rest day. The weather forecast is not brilliant putting a dampener on our previous plans, but we will wait and see what the day brings!