30 June 2006

Epic France — Day 5

Col du Tourmalet, Col de Aspin, Col de Peyresourde enroute to St. Gaudens

We had a beautiful clear morning to start the day on top of the mountain. We did find some relatively flat x-c ski trails to run on so that was a real treat. 50 minutes for nearly every one. Michael Peters did a bit more and had me wondering if he hit his head pretty hard when he crashed yesterday. We had a huge ride on the schedule today and every one was warned to be careful to save plenty for it.

After a massive breakfast we said good-bye to our mountain top home and rolled out towards St. Gaudens. There was 2 groups today as some people wanted a bit more time to relax going over the Tourmalet. I was left with Mike Montgomery, Ed, Michael Peters and Gordo so we motored right to the base of the Tourmalet which turned out to be way too hard for me. I should have cruised as it takes about 10km of solid uphill to get to the base of the Tourmalet from that side. The sun was out and by the time we hit the real meat of the climb and it was in the high 70’s. This side of the Tourmalet is a little gentler until the last km (10%), but its still 18km and 4500ft. up. I had to stop about 11km from the top to get more to drink and straighten up. I was struggling! And we still had 2 more big cols to do after this one so I thought it best to re-group. I was dead last over the top.

Mike Montgomery got the KOM from Gordo again and is slowly pulling away in that department.

We had a drink stop 4km down the other side at La Mongie and then rolled right into the Col du Aspin, down the other for lunch before the Peyresourde. Since I’m a decent descender and was f..n hungry and tired of being last I was first to lunch. Thank god we didn’t go over the Col du Aspin that way because its about twice as big as the side we went over. So that was third bitchin’ descent of the day. The friendly “Grupetto” that hard formed in the early departure group pulled in about 8 minutes after me for lunch but some of them promptly rolled right out again in order to get a head start on the next Col. It was just Gary Burgess, Colm Cassidy and I left sitting there trying to relax for a few moments when we decided we’d better get moving again instead of having thirds of everything. My gut was about to burst when we rolled out. We cruised up the Peyresourde as it was about 85 degrees F and we had a gut full of food and thought about Brown Mountain in the Aussie camp when I was about to have heat stroke. We did manage to catch the crew on the descent. We descended the longer side and then it was downhill and headwind all the way to St. Gaudens. 180km and about 11,500 feet of vertical gain. The boys were getting a little chirpy on the last 20km into town as Andrew “wrong way” Charles kept surging to the front to take pulls at 40kph to wind every one up.

At 5:15pm we drove to a small lake for a 2km lake swim followed by a fantastic barbecue at Ian and Julie’s place in Luscan. They really layed it on for us. The Sangria flowed! It was a warm summer’s eve too. Keep in mind I could be home in the middle of winter right now. Excellent.
We stayed at a decent hotel tonight and although I could have used about 2 hours more sleep it was nice to sleep in a decent bed.