I’m gonna have to write that down, Cierp Gaud, because we probably won’t remember it.
We started with a huge descent out of the ski station La Mongie below the Tourmalet. The tram heading way up the hill and hikers were eager early this morning. The descent pretty much burned out all our brake pads — steep, bumpy, lots of traffic, and weary morning reflexes.
In the Pyrenees, going down means you’ll be going straight back up very soon. Bigtime. Next was Col d’Aspin. Long leadup then it goes way up. Sweet forested climb to an open bowl full of cows and car tourists petting those cows while they crap. Bored tourists.
We dropped off the back and instead of forests maybe our most amazing view and descent. Huge open mountain landscapes and sweeping turns. Then food. The Victour takes lunch, all three of them each day, very seriously. And then you ride that belly. Up Col Peyresourde, craving the rumoured dozen pancakes for 5 euro at the summit. We met local cyclist Eric at the top and had him join us for lunch #2. Jesse’s working on his French but mostly claims his love for wine, his love for pancakes, and his love for more of “that.” The timing was perfect as Eric could confirm the brand new road up the Port de Balès was open. He road it that morning. The Tour de France just rode it this season. It’s a brand new obscure road up unknown parts. Huge climb and glorious views. And a good chance to miss some key turns.
Balès started so steep, meandered through those ubiquitous French mountain villages, and then goes up into the heavens. Narrow road, smooth and new, and built just 3 years ago, probably to get local cars over… not to give cyclists an easy ride.
We’re not sure what all those cars were doing at the top, so we dropped off the backside, which is what the Tour climbed this year. Legendary cycling road — it’s unrelenting, perfect winding hairpins, and thick forest below. And it’s endless. A pleasure to roll down, nothing easy to climb.
Next was rolling through the valley for a room and food. There is not much here. Small towns… in France we expect some fanciful meal prepared by local gourmands but instead we’re in a mysterious “hotel” no one seems to have heard of, and walking to the next town for Italian dinner. But they have wine and calories.
These monster climbs really beat you up. 150km feels like 300km elsewhere. We’re trying to convince ourselves we’ll adapt day by day.