In summary: 2 alp-like climbs with epic sections to the top. Super fun fast descents, narrow though seemingly safer than the Alps. Tough tough day with most of the climbing at the latter distance of the race.
After a 15 km neutralized descent, the first group of 75 riders were shivering as we began the climb up Col du Portillon. The grade was reasonable, the pace was high though I managed to keep with the top group for awhile.
Eventually, a core group of 12 riders formed which included Marina and me. Marina was noticeably strong at the steep sections, I could motor on the 6% grades. As the grade steepened at the top, I was dropped and could see Marina get a water bottle pass-off from her support guy in the near distance.
|Riding next to Marina in the red race Leader 's jersey|
for 2/3 of the race - marathon-photos.com
I chose to use the Camelbak today and had no feed stops. Made it easy to cycle over the top to begin the descent. I zoomed the top switchbacks passing a few guys and could see Marina in sight. I zoomed by on the next set of twisty corners. A strong guy came by and I latched on with speeds of 75 kph.
Reaching the bottom, a good group of 10 guys formed, though the pace was erratic. I pulled through once and decided it was too quick and still a slight descent, so hung in the back blindspot for recovery. Marina stuck behind me.
|The lower 12% grade turning into a lovely 6% grade|
only to finish the last km on a 12% grade
We were all together for the next climb up Col du Port de Bales, each taking pulls. I took over on the lovely 6% grade sections, and would drop off slightly on the darn 12% sections.
The last 4 km up were bitterly a solid 12% grade. I was on my own though took in the amazing scenery on this Alp-like section.
|Team The Rolling Swissies with connection to The Bike Barn|
The views on our last climb
I worked hard on this next descent attempting to catch up to Marina. Thanks to David from Team Ireland, we bombed down quickly again. As we started the next climb, my shortly lost peloton was only 100m ahead. I was fatigued and trotted up the best pace possible up this long 19 km climb in the heat of the day.
|The diverseness of the terrain in the Pyrenees|
When I hit the 12% section, I thought it was all the way to the top. With 6 km go, Laetitia passed by looking fresh and climbing strongly. I could see her catch up to a few spread out racers ahead.
I was super happy when the grade was back to 6%. This was another Alp-like climb riding up to the Pyrenean ski resort Superbagneres.
Marina ended 10 min ahead, and Laetitia 2 1/2 min ahead.
The guys in the peloton were super supportive, with cheers and encouragement to keep me in our peloton when I was dropping off. Thanks! Others would look back to make sure I got on their wheel for the descent. Good comradry.
|Line-up switch... with Laetitia 2nd and Marina 1st|
|View from my hotel window with my green drink, |
Vega sport drink, Vega hydrator....
with Caroline's Black Widow jersey drying