01 July 2006

Epic France — Day 6

St. Gaudens – Font Romeau via St. Girons, Cold de Port, Col de Puyrmorens

We hoped in the vans at 6am to drive back out to the lake. Ian, G-Man and John Newson came up with an Aquathon to get our run and swim out of the way quick this morning as we were looking at the longest ride of the camp today.

We did a 2.5k run/1km swim/2.5km run.

Normally we would do this sort of thing as a race for points but I suppose with the over-all difficulty of the camp already being what it is it was a good idea to just let every one decide on their own just how hard to go. But just for the record……..

G-Man, Johnny, Me, Mike Montgomery, Colm finished 1-5. It was good to finish something in front of Mike Montgomery this camp other than the race to the buffet.

I’m actually running OK these days which is a nice treat. Most of the other camps I’ve either been injured or unfit after just coming off a running injury.

After the aquathon we drove back to the hotel for a typical French hotel breakfast which was pretty decent. Excellent coffee and hat’s all I really care about in the morning. I’ve been averaging about 5-6 cups of yogurt per day on this trip because its so easy and they’re not to big on protein for breakfast over here as a rule. And you can’t find any oats in this country unless you go to a health food store.

The ride – We headed out in 2 groups today again to let the “grupetto” have a more relaxed start to their day as they were looking at about 8 hours in the saddle to cover the tough 200km on the route. Every one is given detailed maps for each day’s route, and John did brief them very well along with Ian but they promptly got lost just outside of town! So even though our group left 30 minutes after them at lunch we were about an hour ahead.

G-Man motor-paced us the first 80km through St. Girons to Massat where we had our second drink stop. Then we leisurely ascended the Col du Port which is one of the nicest of the Cols we’ve done so far. Its very gentle at between 4-6% and in the trees and just so very quiet. Cruising along on this mountain was what I had in mind when designing the trip. We don’t have to race up every mountain! It was quite a bit cooler up there too.

On the way down the other side Michael Peters crashed again! And this time really did it properly. There were 2 guys right behind him who watched the drama unfold like a slow motion horror movie as he skidded one way, then the other before flipping over slamming into the road. Lucky he didn’t break anything on his body but his rear wheel was toast and he’s quickly destroying all of his best cycling gear he brought on this trip! LOL :-). His helmet probably saved him a massive headache at the very least. John an Ian weren’t far away and cell phone reception was evident so they were summoned to get him a new wheel.

We had a quick roadside lunch after that, lathered on more sunscreen (except for Gary Burgess – silly bugger…) and got rolling again mostly downhill to Ax les Thermes. Gordo went to the front again and his efforts today probably saved our group about 20+ minutes of ride time. When we stopped just outside of Ax for more water and a pitstop the temp was a toasty 34 degrees C but at least it was a “dry heat” according to Micheal Peters.

Out of Ax the Col de Puymorens starts and we said good-bye to Mike Montgomery again. This is a long sucker with a very gradual 10km at the base, a 7-8% 2km section in the middle and then a gradual 6-7 km to finish. The support caught up with us about ½ way up with more drinks. It then cooled off considerably as we approached the top and some very big black clouds and some rain rolled in. I was very happy to see our super support crew at the top with jackets and hot coffee. The top is 1920m and very exposed so its not a place to hang around in a lightning storm. So we bolted down the other side which was a little hairy.

At the bottom of the descent we still had 17km and about 3,000ft of vertical to get to the altitude training center at Font Romeau. The rain came in with quite a bit of wind and it cooled off a hell of a lot. The training center is right up at the very top of town so we got a bit of a tour as we rode through. It looks very much like a ski village so I hope we get an hour or two to have a look around tomorrow or the next day.

Ride times for the faster guys for the 200km that was on the plan was about 8 hours. Some of the people who got lost and ended up doing 230km with approx 10,000ft. of climbing over about 10 hours. Remember we started at a few hundred feet of elevation and finished at 6,000. They got it all today – mountains, blistering heat, cold rain, mega-distance.

The accommodation here where we’re staying for 4 nights is definitely dorm style. And the meals are very basic. This ain’t the Four Seasons for sure!!! It’s a place for athletes, not tourists. The indoor 50m pool is very nice and the running and riding here is just spectacular so I hope we get a bit of good weather. After the monster day most had today the campers deserve a little pampering and this accom certainly isn’t going to give that to them. We have an easier day on the plan tomorrow though! :-)