Thursday, September 05, 2013

Haute Route Pyrenees Day 4 - Solo Day up Tourmalet

Day 4 - Bagneres de Luchons to Argeles-Gazost, 
133 km, 4000m+, 4200m-

Summary - when stuff happens, just do your best, anything can happen! Scenery --> remarkable.

Timed section: 35 km to top of Col de Peyresourde,
Untimed Section: next 15 km descent
Timed Section: 49 km to top of Col du Tourmalet
36 km long ride to Argeles-Gazost

After a 1 km neutral start to get through the village, the peloton went a good pace up the first climb. I was feeling good at the start with a great night sleep. Within 5 min, I got an uncomfortable feeling and attempted to bare it. Feeling green, I knew to stop. Nothing but slight foilage and a ledge dropoff on the left hand side.

I layed my bike down and jumped as low as I could in the bush. Darn thorn bushes were right where I needed to crouch. Felt like a knife in my gut!  I buried my head and hoped this uterine cramp would pass. My period was expected after my return from this trip. The intense racing could have brought it on early, not sure.

Finally the cramp subsided, I crawled out with thorn scratched legs, dirt on my knees, and some foilage stuck in my shoes. I was now way back in the field, and assumed I was out of a good race with the top girls today. A hard pace too soon with no warmup usually is the cause for one of these cramps.

I joined the riders going at my normal climbing pace, calm breathing and big gear out of the saddle. I eventually passed by at least 10 women amongst the many men. It was fun to catch rider after rider and listen in on various conversations, and cheer, and get cheers!

More riders got opportunity to gawk and throw out comments about the big gear I was riding.

The cows seen up high on a trail, the riders seen climbing.
I was way back and could see the peloton in the distance.

- photo

The mountain valley was beautiful with cows commuting out for their daily graze, all in a line on the steep side of a hillside.

Closer to the top, a few switchbacks. I rode over the top and descended alone, long open stretches... the time I really needed a fast draft! At the bottom, I worked with one guy a short distance to the base of the next climb. I managed to catch up to Valerie (4th in GC) which was a good sign for getting back into contention. The timed section ended at the top of Col d'Azet.

I fueled up, and started the untimed descent. The road started out freshly paved though there was a crazy gravel section for 1 km midway down. It was super cold in the valley.

My left hand was really hurting on this descent. I stopped to remove my glove and found my blister pad was off the blistered area. Dane was kind to offer his map-sticker to help me place as cover over it. I bared the rest of the descent with a tender palm.

Started the next timed section with Dane. Held his pace for awhile then coasted at mine. Happy to catch up to Valerie who started her timed section ahead of me. Continued on with the odd rider to catch.

At the top of Col d'Aspin feed station, I asked for duct tape or any tape. Luckily a woman who was a rower ran up to me with her secret of using black electrical tape and helped me tape my hand. It helped get me through though I was compensating the pressure on other parts of the hand which also started to blister.

Started the next descent alone again, swoopy and fun though super long stretches... where were the fast descending guys?! Worked with one guy on the flats to the base of the last but hearty climb Col du Tourmalet.

Stretches of this climb reminded me of the start of Galibier in 2011. Way up top, could see the avalanche tunnels we would get to. Sauntered along with my stand climb pace, mostly alone. Quite enjoyed the climbing this day as I went hard though not over my breath-rate.

With 5 km to go, the grade turned to the expected 12-14% in many places. We all moved along at a slow consistent pace. It was entertaining to watch the huge herd of cows all over the fields and roads. Up ahead a cow with huge pokey horns led her calf across the road in front of me and then boldly jabbed another cow with her horns. That scared me, and I did my best to work my way around the cows avoiding the calves.

1 km to go was an effort. Made it! Felt good. The medic bandaged my totally swollen hand like Rocky. Re-fueled and shared stories with other racers.

Saw Marina who was distraught. Apparently she had a bad mechanical day where her shift cable broke. Mavic offered a spare bike which did not work well for her. Her bike was repaired and given back to her at some point.

Valerie and I tried to cheer her up saying it was only a stage, and she would be strong for the rest of the days. I did not know how I fared with the stop timed sections as there are good climber only racers that show up on the results on days like this.

The village was expecting us
Had fun on the fast descent, dodged a huge herd of cows that had no interest of getting off the road. The descent then got ugly with massive construction areas from the flooding that hit the area in the spring. I saw the floods in action in Canmore in June, though the affects of this one was amazingly large.

It swept through so many villages with boulders, mud and trees lodged everywhere. Construction workers were hard at work in many places. It was not much fun to ride through this section.

Hooked up with a few riders for the last tiring 20 km to town which was great for the company in the hot weather and headwind.

My pre-packaged food, a ziploc full of goodies each day.
Made for quicker logistics prep in the morning

Accom was in a trailer park. We were staying in a camping cabin the next 2 nights complete with 4 different temperatured pools and waterslides.

I rode to awards and glanced over the posted results. I was surprised to have placed 2nd after Laetitia. Marina ended up 4th with a new face Marianne Kern from Switzerland squeaking in 3rd.

My first Haute Route Leader's jersey!
Even more surprised was when I saw my name at the top of the GC results. Laetitia, Marina and myself are within 4 minutes apart! Hilarious.

Not sure what to think... going the pace of the peloton up climbs may fatigue me for the latter race, and when I go my own pace, it's all good!

 All Haute Route POSTS

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