After the Col d’Aubisque on our first day, we did a slightly gentler ride to the ski and holiday town of Gavarnie. Our course took us along the cycle path from Argeles-Gazost, up the valley alongside the river, through the little town of Luz-St-Sauveur and finally up the climb to Gavarnie. About 80 Klms in 3 and a half hours riding with an accent of around 1,2000 meters. I hope the photos and video capture a little of the beauty of this area.
Today was a huge day. We climbed 2 of the classic rides of the Tour de France – the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aspin.
Although not part of this year’s Tour, the Tourmalet is the most climbed mountain in the Tour history and has witnessed some great battles over the years.
My Garmin bike computer tells me that I spent seven and a half hours in the saddle, travelled 135 klms at an average of 17.6 klms per hour. My average cadence (pedal revolutions per minute) was 59, average heart rate 116, meters climbed 2,842 and calories burned 2,798, but none of those statistics really tell the full story.
It was one of those days that every serious cyclist dreams of, and I’m fortunate to have been able to experience it.
Our first day’s ride was up to the Col d’Aubisque, one of the Tour de France classic mountain climbs that will feature later in this year’s Tour. As an opening ride of approximately 60 klms, it wasn’t too long – about 3 hours up and 45 minutes back. The scenery was just magnificent and I kept stopping to take photos. Andrew, our leader, assured me there would be plenty more to come so I got the message that I needed to keep riding. Some of the video is a little shakey, but I hope it gives you an idea of what we experienced. The ride includes the smaller Col de Solour (1,225 meters) and the Col d’Aubisque (1,709 meters) and the scenery between the two cols was incredible. Click on the video links below.
We are staying at the Hotel Beau Site, a charming old guest-house run by an elderly couple Monsieur and Madame Taik-Colpi. (we refer to him affectionately as Mr Miagi). It (and they) have wonderful character and the meals are great. On arrival we took no time to unpack our bikes and get the ready for the first day’s ride.
We are staying in Argeles-Gazost, a typical small French town of approximately three and a half thousand people, located close to the Pyrenees National Park and the larger cities of Lourdes and Gavarnie, quite close to the Spanish border. It’s a tourist town with lots of visitors who come to ski, walk or cycle in the Pyrenees in the holidays.
After 32 hours travelling (including 10 hours of stopovers in Singapore and Paris our group arrived in Pau in the French Pyrenees anxious to see if our bikes had made the trip as well. Sadly Warren’s didn’t (it’s still flying around around the world somewhere) but all the others arrived unscathed from the clutches of the baggage handlers. Then it was an hour’s trip in our hired van and people movers to our home for the next week.
Learning the Language
To prepare me to converse with the locals as best I could, I attended a Conversational French Speaking Class at Bribie U3A (University of the 3rd Age). Click on the link below to meet my teacher and fellow class members.
I’ve had my bike for nearly 4 years now but some changes were needed for the trip. Click on the link for an explanation.
My Secret Weapon
Weight is the climbing bike-rider’s curse and with that in mind, I decided with 10 weeks to go to embark on a weight loss program. Click the link to see if it worked.
Training on Mt Mee
Although I ride my bike regularly, the trip to France presented new challenges. I would be riding up some of the classic climbs of the Tour de France and would need to build my climbing strength to cope with these. But Bribie Island is as flat as a pancake, so I had to look further afield. Mt Mee, about 50 klms from home seemed the solution, so with 10 weeks to go, I began to climb it multiple times twice a week. My wife Merryl, scared that I’d crash on the descent or be run over by a crazy motor-bike rider, waited at the bottom for me in the car for a couple of hours. That’s devotion for you!!
If you’d like to see me riding up and down Mt Mee, click on the links below.
My trip to France to ride some of the classic mountain climbs and catch up with the 2017 Tour de France came about from a chance meeting with Geoff Gibson in January this year when we were both stopped by a red pedestrian light on the Nepean Highway, Blairgowrie, Vic.
We were both wearing our Tour Down Under jerseys and I made the comment that I thought that was the closest thing to the Tour de France that I’d ever witness.
“I’m going to the Tour this year” said Geoff.
“Tell me more” was my response and within days I was part of a group of cyclists mainly from the central New South Wales coast, who were leaving for France on July 1st.