Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cycle Touring Day 187

After driving long into the night last night, we eventually found a hilltop car park and settled down to sleep long after midnight. We awoke this morning to discover that we were in fact at the summit of the Col du Chioula - a climb used in the Tour de France four times in the past. We were en route to Ax-les-Thermes as my friend as attending a job fair in the Casino there in order to gain some seasonal winter employment - among with many hundreds of others as it turned out.

Whilst my friend as having their interview, I took the opportunity to explore the town and found the one and only free thermal pool - the Bassin de la Basse - and jolly nice it was too dipping my feet in there for 15 minutes or so. After the interview we grabbed a cappuccino each and debated where to go next. In order to add another flag to by BOB trailer, I fancied going into Andorra for a cycle, so I could do just that (add a flag of each country I have cycled in - although technically I should have cycled there rather than arrive my car). A brief discussion on Twitter with a friend from Ireland ho had visited the area put paid to that as they said it was not a very inspiring place (sorry Auntie - I will go back there eventually though as I still want to add that flag, legally). So, once back in the car we headed for the mountains and towards the apparent beautiful area west of Perpignan.

Not too far out of Ax-les-Thermes (19km in fact, according to the signpost) we reached the 2001m summit of the Col du Pailhères. My friend asked if I fancied a cycle and after initially saying no I came to my senses and said yes. We had driven down a little way by now but stopped and got the bikes out of the car to then cycle back to the summit. Oh boy! It had been a dream of mine for ages to climb a switchback mountain and here I was doing so on an actual mountain stage of the Tour de France. At the summit I wanted more so we cycled back down to the start of the climb at Mijanès / Rouze and then climbed back up again to the car. I spotted some famous names painted on the road along the way including that twat @LanceArmstrong. Remember him? He used to be a cyclist but then he became a junkie cheat. Prick!

Ok, technically I didn't do the cycle in the traditional way but I had still cycled up my first ever mountain and I felt overjoyed! I climbed to my highest elevation ever - 2001m - and in doing so I also climbed the most height I had done in one day - over 800m. Until yesterday's 538m elevation in the Gorges du Tarn, my previous best was an elevation of 500m above sea level on the Wicklow Gap in Ireland - the climb I undertook on my first ever 100km cycle in August 2009. Which is also, as I am just reminded was 25 days before I cycled with that prick Lance Armstrong.

But I digress, eventually we had to leave this gorgeous mountain, so we headed down again and on to the tiny mountain village of Mosset where we stopped in the bar for a drink and a chat with the locals. As has been the case almost everywhere I have visited, once people heard about my cycle touring adventure they want to hear about my trip and always wish me well on my onward journey. I bloody love the French!

Back towards civilisation, we explored the village of Eus by night before heading just up the road to a hilltop car park in Arboussols where we spent the night. T'was a jolly busy and thoroughly enjoyable day!

Here are some of the pictorial highlights...


The Pyrenees. Wow!



Words are not really needed to describe such a view!

The stuff of dreams. I have always wanted to cycle up a climb with plenty of switchbacks. Today I realised that dream :)

The summit! Hats off to my friend, who arrived a little while after me, for climbing it on a Specialized Sirrus commuting bike with straight bars and without toe clips even. Shocking!

A few...

...famous names...

...along the way.

This person clearly came prepared - this was painted with a roller!

Last and by all means least - The Cheat. Who knew? Well, we all did really ;) Shame. Prick!

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