155km, 6:45:48, 2,829m ascent, 12 cols, 47 total so far
The day started straight up the first climb of the day – Col du Chioula. We rode with the “Ozzie Coyotes” plus Scott, Rebecca and Peter. It was a great little group, riding friendly to keep everyone together. The Ozzies are superb to ride with, so considerate and sensible. They descend at a pace to keep the group together rather than going nuts and when they do a turn on the front they keep the effort the same thus keeping the group as one. They also all have bells on their bikes (the law in Oz) so after you do your turn as you drift back they all give a “ding ding” as a thank you. It’s really good for morale. I am going to get myself a bell for use back home.
The first ascent was great as we kept it at a pace that allowed us to chat. The descent was very sketchy on a single track road that had just been dusted with gravel. A god send to have the Ozzie on the front riding very cautiously. Then we followed the Route De Corniche which is a high level road running parallel to the valley affording fantastic views. There were lots of jokes about the pace (2hrs for 37km!) and how this “short” day was going to take 8 hours.
Finally we got a decent descent and improved our average. We saw Ian and Julie for a quick stop before hitting the main road to Foix where being in such a big group was fantastic as we each took our turn and kept cranking it along at 40+ km/h. We picked up a French cyclist along the way who we pulled along for a good 40k all the way to the Col De Porter.
This was the major climb of the day – about 1,000m over 18km. This means the gradient was about 5% and it was very constant. Almost like a slightly steep false flat. It made for a hard climb. There was chat and Ashleigh lightened the mood by marking every KM with a “ding ding” on her bell. I was feeling so much better today on the bike that I was willing to play and stuck with the strong guys as long as I could. I was AOK until they got pissed off with the French guy who we’d pulled for so long but he’d never said a word or done a turn, then halfway up the climb he pushed on. They were having none of it so went with him and soon I was dropped. A bit later Mick was and I ended up riding with him at a solid but manageable pace. That was until Ashleigh did some monster effort to catch up. Mick got us to ease up to let her get on but she blew by at a pace I could only just maintain. Then Mick went through and I was desperate not to get dropped but was really hurting. Luckily for me about 500m later we saw the van and had lunch.
Next came a sharp descent on narrow roads. It was steep enough that I was getting dropped off the back but luckily it came more to my liking lower down and I caught back up. There was a regroup at the bottom and we road together over the next climb and then along to the bottom of Le Col De Latrappe. The final 5km climb of the day.
It shows how much better I’m feeling that I was able to give it some beans. Still not able to keep pace with the strongest guys but certainly far more like my old self. At the top we regrouped over a beer before an awesome 18km descent all the way to the hotel.
The hotel wasn’t opened so we headed to a bar and before I knew it I’d had a further 4 beers as various people kept arriving so we had another to catch up with them. It was such good fun and what makes these trips so awesome.