Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A golfing weekend

So me and Mendi Prouleur (as I prefer to read his hashtag) have just returned from three days of riding in the Pyrenees.  We both agreed that we're boring both ourselves and our select and small (but beautiful) audiences with posts that consist of little more than a route description, so this one is going to be, well just that.....but this is the Pyrenees for goodness sake, not Somerset or the Peak District.

I will, however, divide the account into two, and resist telling you, for example, detail of the content of our pre-flight sandwiches on Thursday.  The riding started on Friday morning, having managed to assemble our bikes on Thursday night.  I'd been tracking the forecast all week, and it had been one of those occasions when I'd been hoping it was going to prove inaccurate.  It didn't.  To be fair, when we left Bertren, it wasn't actually raining, merely damp and misty, but a warm kind of damp and misty.  So warm in fact that when we started our first climb of the day just after St. Beat, the Col de Mente, I had to stop after a km to remove my base layer (a term we cyclists/runners use to unnecessarily glamorise what is basically a vest).  The sweat was pouring off, and not having done sufficient research on that particular col, I overcooked it on the lower slopes. I did, however, settle into a rhythm, and we wound our way to the top. As we congratulated ourselves, looked at the various signs and plaques, and had a feed, the rain started to fall increasingly hard, and with every extra 30 seconds we were there, an extra layer of clothing was added, mindful as we were of the descent.

And a jolly wet descent it was too, more wet than jolly truth be told.  And directly at the bottom the ascent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet starts, which, whilst clearly not easy, isn't the beast it's sometimes made out to be. Far out it ain't.  Obligatory photos for the second year running at the Casartelli memorial, and a rest at the top to delve into our very capacious, sensible saddle bags (which, let's face it, would get an admiring glance or two on an audax) in a search for more layers of clothing, prefaced another wet descent, a merciful few minutes of dryness, and then a wet sprint along the valley floor to St. Girons.  Our vision of lunch had been something like: seated at a characterful roadside cafe in the middle of town, doffing our cycling caps to all those murmuring 'chapeau' as they wandered past on their French way, ordering a cheeky croc-m'sieur and a couple of slices of strong coffee whilst the sun bathed us in its rays of bright light (it's its height in the sky you know).  The reality: a sandwich and coke wolfed down at the front of a supermarket, lingering as little as possible so as not to freeze too much.

The weather in the afternoon changed......for the worse.  It was bouncing off the road, necessitating a short period of respite in a bus shelter that had clearly seen less innocuous activities than waiting for public transport if the assortment of medical items on the floor was any guide. We got on our way, and bagged another couple of minor cols before finishing the day's climbing off with the Col des Ares.  I achieved a minor and rather sad ambition here of getting to the top of a not-insignificant col in the big ring of my bike. I'm sure my knees will take their revenge later in life.  At the top of the Ares we commented how ironic it would be if, when we dropped into the next (home) valley the sun were shining and the roads dry, and our hosts greeted us with increduality when we recounted our tales of storm and cloud.  And guess what?  Irony ruled, and we did have a final dry couple of miles home.  However, the black-streaked faces, dirty kit and general air of being pulled though a hedge backwards convinced those at base of our war stories.

I'm going to leave it there for now, and pick up Saturday's story later.  The weekend might even be a tale of three posts, and I shall explain the title of this one in due course.  Let's end on a note of me being an ar$e. Brain was definitely in neutral when I was unpacking for the day, and could I find the cash and credit card I'd taken out with me?  Could I heck. They weren't anywhere to be found, so we had to drive back over two cols (and this on a day when we had to go down 25km to Luchon in search of our evening meal anyway) in search.  They weren't there.  That's because they were on the floor of our room, around 1 metre away from my bed.  Still, greater humblings were to come the next day...

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