Yesterday was the CycloSportive "Béarn Cycl'Espoir - starting and finishing just south of Pau. This one was truly "Cycling in the Pyrénées" at it's best - although the weather wasn't.
We set off at 0730 with light rain knowing what lay ahead - 184 kms (turned out to 186.73 kms - bastards, as let me tell ya I felt the extra 2.73) 3500m of climbing, the Col de Marie- Blanque, Col du Soulor and the Col d'Aubisque. This routes emulates the first part of the TDF's Stage 17 and the Etape du Tour so it was great training - roads are staring to become freshly paved in preparation for the "Big Event".
Super enjoyed the Marie-Blanque (last 4 kms averaging over 11%, with one at 13), this climb rode well but the best was being saved for last... The Col du Soulor (from the north side) and Aubisque (from the east side) provided me with spectacular views (the clouds parted enough at one point) of the Pyrénées and made the struggle (and I do mean struggle!) worth while. We decended down the Aubisque (very cold) to the valley bottom for the last 50 km run-in to the finish (head-wind all the way) - this took all that I had left out of me as there's nothing like riding into the wind!?
On arrival both Mike (riding buddy) and I looked at each other and after quite a few swear words said "this was way tougher than last week" so I'm beginning to worry about what lays ahead in the weeks to come. We we're both well and truly spent so as we sat down to the end of ride meal and toasted our wine all I could hear coming from the French was "Oh là-là c'était dur" - This ride certainly was... slept well...
P.s. Didn't take any video at the end as words weren't able to convey what I was feeling like - also forgot... and yes my ass and legs we're sore. T.
Note: for those who are riding the Etape this year - Lots of little hills on the the lead up to the Marie-Blanque which have some "sting" in them - quite surprised. The run-in to the Soulor also provides some "hidden gems" which all seem to take their toll... North side of Soulor for me is harder than the east side so I can only imagine what climbing the Tourmalet after this is going to feel like as before you even get to the Tourmalet there are a few unmentioned uphills to really make you think "what I'm I doing?".
Should be fun - only 1 month to go... happy training.