Cierp Gaud now comes recommended highly from us after this morning. Left our hotel/hostel/former hospital and sought breakfast at the village boulangerie. We’re sitting in the shop powering through the pile of delicious baked goods and chatting with the lovely lady and girl working there when they start bringing us and treating us to sweets and breads special to their boulangerie to take with us. We weren’t prepared to fit an entire loaf of their “menier” local specialty, but it’s turned into our magical bread these days especially in the pouring rain. So do stop at the Arcangeli Boulangerie Patisserie next time you’re passing through Cierp Gaud.

Immediately the climb started up Col de Menté, very steep and immediately into the rain clouds. A harsh wakeup. We didnt even expect rain but it continued all day. Big descent then up the Portet d’Aspet. We passed the memorial to Fabio Casartelli. He won gold in Barcelona ’92 Olympics, then died tragically in the descent here during the Tour de France. His Motorola teammate and rogue new racer Lance Armstrong won the Tour stage the following day, looking to the heavens as he crossed the finish line, dedicating the win to Fabio.

It’s a moving tribute and soon I found myself dancing on the pedals and climbing this 10-17% steep hill at 20kmph quickly putting Elzinga way in the dust. The wait at the top meant time to cool down too much in the rain. Entertaining the other riders seeking shelter meant getting colder.

Careful descent through more rain clouds, and then we let Jesse eat a big lunch — wine, buffet, and cassoulet du maison. Would the rain pass? We made a big mess of puddles in the restaurant and left hours later.

One last col, up the Col de la Core. Jesse’s stomach handled lunch quite well as always, I think I was carrying 10 extra pounds from water logged merino layers in my bag. We hammered up until visibility was about 30 feet, I hoped we might pop over the clouds into the sunshine. No chance.

Another big wet descent into the touristy Seix and wandered around until meagre two star lodging and incomparable dinner in nearby Oust. The French they really do sauces well. Gamba, St Jacques, grenouilles, magret de canard, agneau, soufflé, millefeuille all doused in magical sauces.