118km, 5:47:17, 3,129m ascent, 4 cols, 100 done !!
We didn’t wake to rain but we did to low cloud. It was very nice weather to ride in as it was a little cold and a very slight drizzle as we rode as a nice calm group up the Hourquette d’Anzican. Like all of todays route I’ve ridden it numerous times and though we climbed 700m in about 17km it never quite feels like a climb. The 10 of us rode at a very comfortable pace two up rising in to the cloud. Ian was at the top with the sun almost coming through.
I followed Baz down the descent and he set a lovely steady pace. I enjoyed it despite having rather dreaded this descent remembering it as steep, narrow and a little sketchy. Perhaps I’m getting better at descending as it just didn’t seem as steep.
We had a quick coffee with Julie at the bottom before heading a few KM up the valley for the start of Col D’azet. I knew this climb was quite tough with some steep (and confusing) sections through the villages. There was a different attitude from the Coyote boys on this one and I’d decided this was the climb I’d make an effort on so I pushed a little from the start and followed those guys when they went through. Then the surging and jumping started and I tried to go with the first few but pretty soon was spitting blood and had to just settle down. I kept them in sight and worked very hard all the way up. I caught Mick but only because when he caught some other riders he just decided to sit with them. It was good fun as we’d timed it so we all came together at the top for our sandwich. It was still in the cloud so it was a rather quick stop.
The descent is superb with just switchback after switchback. It’s straight down and then straight in to the Col de Peyresourde. We regrouped and were riding quite friendly when Matt had to stop to get something from his bag. Chris surged and though I’d decided to ride this one steady I instinctively followed (well tried to) and then when he let up I just continued. It was only later it dawned on me his was a joke attack because Matt and stopped and me continuing it had meant everyone had pushed on and left Matt behind.
I decided to give it a good go so I just get working hard out of the saddle and not looking back. At the hairpin I did a quick glance and couldn’t really see anyone that near. Same at the next hairpin. It meant I was a little surprised when I heard this voice “Good riding old man” and was confused as to who it could be when Scott went flying by (he’s about 10 years my senior!), I tried to go with him but it was just too much. I talked myself in to not getting demoralised by the speed he was heading in to the distance and continued my effort. Next Baz and Mick snuck up to my wheel with only about 3k to go. They went by and I stuck with them but soon I was drifting off. Its the worst way to go and the most impressive way to drop someone. Not jump them just keep the pressure gradually on and let me drop inch by inch. It was survival now. I heard Mick tell Baz that Rich had blew but minutes later I saw Rich quickly catch me, click up and few gears, close the 10m gap and shoot straight past. Scott was way off and had crested first. Number 99 done.
WE headed in to the cafe for Crepes. After yesterday bumping in to Gabriel in the bar in St Marie de Campon, today Marc bumps in to an old friend at the top of the Peyresourde. Small world !
I ordered two dozen crepes much to the astonishment of the lady but she understood once I indicated it was for us to share. It was lovely in there and buzzing with cyclists so we hung around a bit before the ultra fast descent. I’ve done this descent loads of times so know it very well and fully enjoyed it,
Only the ascent of The Port de Bales to go. Rebecca, Marc, Baz, Rich, Mick and I rode up there at a very easy pace chatting the whole way up. It was great to collect Mel on the way and all crest together for a group photo. Then the tricky descent but again it was so much better than I remembered – wider, better surface, not as steep as I remember. Probably helped by Rebecca setting a very sensible pace on the front.
From there it was easy riding back until Marc, having discussed with Ian and Julie their rally driving which is based on hitting an average and having estimated 6 hours for our ride, he came to me at the front and said we had 9 mins for 6 hours. I asked if he wanted to go for it and he said yes. So I stuck my head down and gave it some welly. I’d done maybe 500m when Baz cruised past. I had a few minutes at my limit, as tucked as I could be to stay on and then I was ok… just had to keep concentrating. Baz is an animal – that was one hell of a pull and a brilliant way to finish the trip.
Back at Ian and Julie we all enjoyed Champagne before packing bikes and then going out for the most fantastic steak supper. What an awesome trip. Ian and Julie really make it work so well. Would fully recommend heading on one of their tours. Take a look at what they have to offer here.