Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Spanish Caravan

Monday 27th August: Day one of the Pyrenean beasting!

The first day of 'Operation: Pyrenean beasting' begins in a hell of a more civil fashion than the last operation, thankfully! Breakfast at 0745? Marvellous, isn't it?

No more of this cardboard-dried fruit garbage either. Result!

It was a surprisingly robust start from our hotel in Argeles-Gazost but I amazed myself by climbing relatively ok, and we reached the first target (Col du Soulor) without too many profanities uttered.

Corn? Maize? Mountain!

Just for proof, you understand. Car parked just out of shot...

Amazing views on the way to the Col d'Aubisque. Don't look down!

Every  view is bought and paid for!
Laurel & Hardy pushing a piano?
7000c wheels.
The only things adhering to the 25km/h speed limit are the motor and le sheep.

We had a lunch break back in A-G and then set about giving The Hautacam a shoeing. Yeah, right! In temperatures of up to 38c. With ever-changing gradients of between 5% and 13%. I was giddy (read 'stupid') enough to showboat a little and got my arse duly kicked by the mountain: it was bloody awful to be fair, hah-hah!

Plenty pleased to see this banner.
The cafe owner at the summit asked how long the climb had taken us: after he had stopped laughing in my sweat-drenched face, he said that the record was 42 minutes...and mimicked sticking a needle into his arm. Awwww, say it ain't so?

Pretty nice neck of the woods. Just a tad difficult to climb you understand!

We flew back down to A-G: actually we took the bicycles (badum-kish!) and attended to 'admin' back at the hotel i.e. hand-washing a ton of clothes before we went to the cafe in the town square for a couple of pre-dinner snifters: perhaps my favourite part of the day, when I'm not gliding up mountains of course, ahem...

The hotel dinner was fine, as per, and The Tractor's Del-Boy Franglais ensured us an extra helping of pasta.

 Never realised that the bloke excels as a dietician too, obviously. Bonnet de douche!

                                                        Day 1 Pryenean stats!

Tuesday 28th August: Day two of the Pyrenean beasting!

There was a big old thunderstorm overnight but by the time we were loaded-up and on the road at 0900 it was regulation blue skies. Fantastic!

Our first climb was the 15km trek up to Luz Ardiden and it was one that I had sort of looked forward to (albeit with no little fear) because I remembered watching the Tour de France back in 2003 when Lance Armstrong had his handlebars snagged by a kid's bag-strap and come crashing down, only to absoulutely charge up the climb and emphatically win the stage.

 Look at the extraordinary footage below...if you can see beyond the massaged words:

I watched in disbelief as he rode, or smashed his his way up and past his rivals towards the finish line in a furious charge. It was truly a great moment in sport and I remember the thrill in watching it all unfold.

2003 was also the first year that I went to see the finale of the TdF on the Champs Elysee- as Ray Wilkins would have it, "My word, my word...what a spectacle for the young man." Lance won of course, and I cheered accordingly and felt  priviliged in seeing a true sporting champion at the top of this game.

What I still vividly remember is the crowd giving Lance respect and applause of course but this was dwarfed by the acclaim, well-wishing and love for his beaten rival, Jan Ullrich, who did seem to be a much more personable guy all round. The difference in the half-million strong crowd's reaction was like night and day.

 What linked these two rivals? Well, Ullrich has admitted doping and now Lance has refused to defend doping charges brought by the U.S.A.D.A. with the result that he has been stripped of all of his seven TdeF titles. Join the dots yourselves.

A lot of people had suspected for a long time that Lance had used banned products or practices to maintain or gain an advantage over his rivals and now it seems the game is up. I only wish that he and his partner-in-crime, Johann Bruyneel, would come clean and say what they did. No harm in being an optimist, right?

So why have I wasted both your's and my time mentioning this? Well, because my climb up to Luz Ardiden mattered to me because in some ridiculously small way it somehow reclaimed a llittle piece of the sport. Believe me when I say I gave it everything: nobody passed me and even Andy was about a km behind by the summit. This probably sounds (or reads) a little childish perhaps but it meant something to me. Awww, say it ain't so, Lance? Right we'll move on before I disappear up my own tail-pipe...

Luz Ardiden dealt with. Let's go!

And below shows the beginning of the run back down...joy!

After a short break we have at the Col du Tourmalet, which has a rep as bad as George Foreman had circa 1973.

Alright, alright...we all know you've got previous.
It was like a Madonna concert (or so Mr. Eason tells me): a case of grind, grind and grind again for the first 10km until I felt alright/stupid enough to take the fight to the mountain: remarkably, the final score was a draw with me shading the second half!

A great cyclist: RIP Monsieur Fignon.

I was already praying.
Tribute to my old mate, Jens.
Alright, we'll call it a draw! Dunno who the wee scrote on the lhs is though.
The Tractor arrived at the summit's cafe shortly after me and it was (whisper it) time for a hot chocolate. My idea, to be fair and one of my better ones. Photos and then a descent of jaw-dropping proportions: did we really climb all this nonsense?

Check your brakes first.
Yours for 520 Yo-Yos. Done!

Managed to talk Shawn down: I was afraid he might've been a wooly jumper.

"The House Of Pain" vs "The Suitcase Of Courage"
With two big-name scalps dans le bag we were content (read shattered) to call it a day and head back to A-G. We go again tomorrow...bonjours!

                                                            Day 2 Pyrenean stats!