Big Weekend

Lots of TriPurbeckites racing this weekend either at Wimbleball Ironman 70.3 or at the Bustinskins Weymouth Classic - good luck everyone! Liz limbered up for the Weymouth race with an excellent […]

Lots of TriPurbeckites racing this weekend either at Wimbleball Ironman 70.3 or at the Bustinskins Weymouth Classic - good luck everyone!

Liz limbered up for the Weymouth race with an excellent swim and run in the Bustinskin aquathon on Wednesday – on every week now until July. Derek, meantime was soloing the route for this year’s etape – finished in just over 14hrs setting the target for the others that are off in July. Might be worth checking out Derek’s report boys……

I had not ridden in the Alps or Pyrenees before but I have to say that Richie’s talk of “Etapes” raised my interest and I thought why not try? Because of a fear of crowds and an aversion to spending money I thought it would be a good idea to ride the route of the “Etape Acte 2” before the summer rush. So, 7am on a not forecasted cloudy morning saw me and my support crew (Sharon) just outside Pau facing 200km and 4 “cols” (plus a bit of the Soulor), before the finish at Bagneres de Luchon. Luckily the weather cleared and the sun started to appear over the hills so after about 30 km it was time to cast off the warm clothes before the Aubisque. A group of locals scoffed at my hesitating at the start of the climb but didn’t seem to mind when I passed them after a few km (as I didn’t mind those who passed me throughout the day!!). This climb is mostly in a narrow valley and at that time in the morning was fairly cool. Even so it was good to see the support car waiting at the top after 1.5 hrs of climbing my first Pyrenean hill. Some food and drink, a short descent then climb up the rest of the Soulor and my first Pyrenean descent – my hands ached more from braking than my legs from climbing, definitely need some wrist and finger training. Met the support car in the valley for some lunch and sent out a scout to find the way through the town of Argeles – no closed roads for me I’m afraid. Argeles to Luz along the “Gorge de Luz” is a gentle (it really is) 18 km climb up the valley to the start of the Tourmalet proper at Luz. I should have started earlier because the sun was out and the Tourmalet is an exposed valley where my “Garmin” said it was 30 degrees. I was expecting the Tourmalet to be hard and I wasn’t disappointed. It is not vicious, the highest average slope is 10%, but it is relentless at around a 7% overall average for 19km with the worst bits around hairpin bends at the end. But the views are magnificent, especially the statue of Octave Lapize at the top after just under 2 hours climbing. Needless to say my trusty support car was on hand to provide clothes (and gloves) for the descent, which I needed to ward off the mist which covered the first 4 or 5 km of descent. Whilst we have nothing like the long climbs in England, nor do we have the long descents and the 17 km from the Tourmalet summit into Saint Marie de Campan is a delight, both in itself and after having “conquered” the climb. The mist at the summit was an indicator of changed weather on this side of the mountain – now it was overcast and cooler, but not raining. From “Campan” the col d’Aspin starts immediately so there was another shedding of clothes before another 12 km of climbing. Quite thoughtfully the French have placed markers every km along these climbs and these show the distance to the summit and the average gradient over the next km. That’s fine, but when it says 8% and you start to go slightly downhill, you know there is trouble ahead! By this time there is no thought of not finishing so keep an eye on the markers, count down and hope for a lessening of the gradient (yes, you’re right, there isn’t one). A change of clothes, more food and another 13km descent into “Arreau” then about 10km along the valley heading for the final climb up the col de Peyresourde. The shortest of the climbs at 9km and only around 5% to start but, as expected, the usual 7% to 8% for the final 5km. Not since the last few km on the Tourmalet had I wished for the summit so it was great to see Sharon cheering me to the car at the top. A final “windproofing” and refuelling before the final descent into Bagneres de Luchon. Yes, it really was 14 km downhill to the finish along not too twisty roads so “semi-conscious freewheeling” might be possible. Otherwise the thought that 10 or 11 hours of riding are nearly over is enough to spin the legs for one last effort, so, why not, it was a case of racing the car down to the town. Sharon passed me on the straights and I came last.
A long and hard but enjoyable day, I might try the reverse route another time! Good luck to all those riding in July.

About Ade

What ever your goals in life may be, there is always time to achieve them. You might want to lose weight, run your first 5k, or improve your personal best, whatever your specific goals are you can achieve them with structure, time management and determination!