Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Day 3 - 2014 Haute Route Pyrenees - Recovery Ride

Day 3 - Ax Les Thermes to Bagnères-de-Luchon
162 km / 2550 m+ / 2600 m-

First pretty good night sleep with minimal coughing. It was peaceful and quiet as the hotel was 5 km out of town on a side road. Early morning start. Left the hotel with Vanessa 7 a.m. to bike into town for the 7:30 am start.

UK Team Salty Balls!
Met James, Adam and Adam's dad from team Salty Balls in UK. It was cool to find out James follows my blog and he said he started using spirulina because of my writings on the green drinks! 

Rough i-phone shot of Ax les Thermes from a race volunteer
COLD – 28 km neutral start downhill. Average 8°C. I started at the back of the first wave with the intention to keep warmer in the peloton, and to take the day riding a little easier to let my body recover.

Met up with new riders… Triple Crown rider Chris Fisher. He was looking well into his third 7-day event though mentioned he was just riding this last event into the finish. 
Denmark rider sporting a Café Roubaix jersey all the way from Cochrane, AB, Canada!! - photo Niels Gjerloev
A rider wearing the jersey from Canadian cycling store "Café Roubaix" of recent Specialized controversy fame caught my attention. Chatted with Niels Gjerloev from Denmark who was quite pleased with owning the jersey.

Saw a rider wearing La Ruta arm warmers and met Hans from Austria. We chatted about La Ruta and other epic races.

Riding near Amy, she enquired about my big ring climbing. Pretty easy to chat with anyone in the peloton.

photo Manu Molle
The best scenic view on the neutral start was making our way into the Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises with views of the huge mountain face that looked like a rock climbing haven.

The pace went hard when the neutral section was over. I chilled back and eventually was where I needed to be within a new group of riders. Amy was in there, too.

Amy Brice and Marg Fedyna - awesome company! -
The first climb up Col du Port (450m over 8 km) was relatively an easy grade yet my legs were tired. I made sure I drank consistently. The last two days of racing I was too focused on maintaining contact with the peloton and did not stop to fill up with water enough - not a good strategy in a long event.

The descent was on a narrow road snaking around. I passed a few riders as I was in a group of non-fast descenders.

The grade eventually leveled out and a peloton formed. It was a long haul in the Ger de Boutx valley over 40 km of slight descent or incline, with a strong headwind. The long line of 18 riders in a pace-line made for abit of accordion riding when I was at the back. The scenery was not overly exciting in the valley.

I was concerned with the next two upcoming climbs being how I was shelled on the prior day’s last climb. I maintained a good pace up Col du Portet d’Aspet (397m over 6 km) riding with Amy and a few other guys. It was time to use the small chain ring! and it felt good.

At the top, I took opportunity for a pee break I so much needed. I left my water bottle at the feed zone to get filled with water by the volunteer. Grabbed a few dates and an orange slice. Amy just made it up the climb and continued to ride by.

As the guys were taking their time at the feedzone, I began the descent on my own. It was a blast to go fast on another snaking descent choosing my lines. I was getting smoother and had to pass a couple guys.

Switchback up Col de Menté - photo Manu Molle
Just starting into the last climb Col de Menté (449m over 6 km) I caught up to Amy and startled her. She thought I was ahead of her. We climbed abit together. I was feeling ok so kept onward with my pace. 
Actually feel good. Grimace is due to small grade steep climb concentration in the, ahhh, small chain ring! Ha, caught on photo!- photo Haute Route
I began to catch a couple riders maintaining a consistent pace. What a great feeling than during the prior day’s last climb. This climb twisted and turned with short switchbacks.

I rode over the top and blazed into the descent. So many tight turns! I saw a couple guys way above me a couple turns behind. I managed to keep ahead for the end of the last sharp turn when a super large Swiss guy stormed by. The draft was huge behind him.

His nickname listed on his bibnumber was Erikkos from Switzerland who is Marc Streich. When we made it to the bottom Erikkos looked back to see who was following him – little me! I told him I would help him on any climbs though he was super strong for the descents. He laughed!

A few more riders latched on and we worked together. Fortunately it mostly worked out for me to get an ascent for a few of my pulls. When one was a descent, I pulled short and went to the side to the dismay of one guy. Some guys don’t understand the physics of a small body descending, or he was just tired.

Our peloton rode hard into the finish with a long 10 km stretch into the wind. Weather was reasonably warm, not hot, though had major cool drafts in the shaded valley.
hats from the village
Despite making a conscious effort for a recovery ride day, I only lost 6 minutes in the GC to Caroline. Well worth it, for feeling stronger on the latter part of the day's course.

Bagnères-de-Luchon is also popular for its thermal springs having 48 of them. Still never got the chance to try one out.

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