Thursday, 20 June 2013

Col de Tourmalet

Rain and thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon, as we awoke to a misty morning.  We set off just before 9am to climb the Tourmalet, the highest road pass in the Pyrenees.  We already knew that it would be closed near the summit, and heard in the local bar, from Belgian cyclists that it would be two weeks before it would be open.  One of two ascents begins straight out of Luz St Sauveur.  Not long before I was passed by our Belgian friends!  But Ian managed to overtake the three who were in the bar, but couldn't catch their friends, who they described as pros, who watched what they ate and drank, and weren't in the bar!  I suspect there's a connection there!  An overall gradient of 7.4%, with a couple of kms of 8 and 9%. Ideal!  We quickly came out of the mist into glorious sunshine and spectacular views up to the snow-capped peaks.  We both enjoyed the ride, and felt quite strong but tired.  After nearly a couple of hours I reached the barrier across the road, saying risk of avalanche.  Followed Ian and the Belgians on up the road nearer to the summit, but with another 4 kms to go and another 600' to go, we all had to admit defeat and turn around, as a snow plough was busy trying to chip away at the snow.
Just time for a silly photo of me in front of a statue to Octave Lapize, in honour of the first rider to reach the summit in 1910, having walked much of the way, so they say.
The descent to Luz was lovely, not too steep to enjoy, and we could see the mist in the valley deepening to a dense fog and creeping closer.  At Barreges, we were in the fog and felt a sudden drop in temperature, by at least 10 deg C, so the last part into Luz was cold, such a shock from sweating up the climb an hour or so earlier!
Back early today and time for a rest in the afternoon, for a change.  Only 21 miles and 4000' ascent, and starting to feel less tired and sore, but still four more cols to go before the magic ten, when we get a new pair of legs and lungs!!!

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