🚲 35.5miles, 1323m climbing, Cols: 🏔 Col d’Aubisque 1709m, 🏔 Col de Soulor 1474m
We set off at 9am, after a good breakfast, not in high spirits, but determined. After yesterday’s issues we decided to cut the high altitude offroad sector from today. It still constituted the “big” day, however: 4 major road cols in around 90 miles. Given we were starting partway up the Aubisque we were pedalling with renewed vigour. It was relatively cool in the morning and despite feeling sleepy, Jen still seemed to have some power in her legs. The famous climb was less steep than the earlier lesser-known cols, but long.
We took the Soulor from the easy side and the descent was fast and easy given the comparatively wide and smooth road. It was starting to feel like the gravel tyres were not quite so appropriate but they gave so much added confidence for descending they probably added to the enjoyment.
Sleep deprivation, heat exhaustion, and exhaustion exhaustion
At the bottom was another lovely village with local produce and coffee. Couscous and basque cake, grand crème and hot chocolate, and good to go again. We took the path-less-trodden along a smaller road in the valley, and I would highly recommend getting off of the main road if you’re planning a similar route – the climbing was a little steeper early on but the views were lovely and there was no traffic to speak of. As we pushed on along the valley road to Luz-Saint-Sauveur to begin our ascent of the Tourmalet the temperature began to soar, the water in our bottles rehydrated but provided little by way of cooling.
Jen limped her way into town. The plan was to refuel and recover over lunch from the supermarket but we stopped at the first available restaurant for pizza. Jen was so tired that she couldn’t eat it all… a sure sign of problems (Jen can always finish a pizza!)
Still, Alex left Jen to rest some more and popped over the road to buy snacks and dinner for later. As we set off Alex popped to find a bin as I set off. After a couple of pedal strokes, I knew I could ride no more… I stopped and burst into tears 😭. I knew that if we didn’t make our booked stop again then we would have nowhere to stay for the rest of the trip but I also knew that even if I made it up the Tourmalet, two more cols was out of the question. I felt we had failed, and so close to the start! Alex had ridden off to catch me up not realising that I’d stopped only a few feet from where he had left me. After a phone call and some distress, I joined him up the road and said I couldn’t ride anymore.
It didn’t take too long for Alex to see that we had to change our plans, but things looked pretty impossible. We agreed to go to a bar, cool off, and look into our options. For me there was only option for the day and that was to stay put. A mains socket, some Wifi, and we soon found a hotel for the night and re-booked accommodation for the following day.
The following day we would ride to Bagnere du Luchon (finishing off ‘day 3’), however, it looked unlikely we’d make it to the Mediterranean in seven days in time for our train booking. We couldn’t book a later train, as the following day was a national holiday and we couldn’t find a train that would take our bikes. 😭